Another prehistoric of “BATAK” sumatra

September 4, 2008 at 6:45 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

The Trans-Sumatra Trade and the Ethnicization of the ‘Batak’
By: LEONARD Y. ANDAYA
Early visitors to Southeast Asia were fascinated by rumours of a cannibal tribe called the Batak in the interior of Sumatra. When John Anderson travelled along the east coast and its interior areas in the early part of the nineteenth century, he met a Batak who told him of having eaten human flesh seven times, even mentioning his preference for particular parts of the body. Two other Batak confirmed having also participated in this practice and ‘expressed their anxiety to enjoy a similar feast upon some of the enemy, pointing to the other side of the river. This they said was their principal inducement for engaging in the service of the sultan. Such reports simply reinforced myths and partial truths which had circulated about these people since Marco Polo’s oft-quoted story of a Sumatran people (presumably the Batak) who consumed their ill (Latham 1978:255). European perceptions were also influenced by stories commonly told in east coast Sumatra by ‘downstream’ (hilir) people that those ‘upstream’ {hulu), that is, in the interior, were hostile and grotesque. A Portuguese chronicler even repeated downriver stories of an inland group possessing tails ‘like unto sheep’ (B. Andaya 1995:542).


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