The Tasadays (c. 1800- ) were a lost Stone Age tribe found in the Philippines in 1971 in the middle of the thickest forest in the world. They made the news on the BBC and across the world. They made the cover of National Geographic in August 1972. Some called it the greatest anthropological discovery of the 1900s. But others said it was the biggest hoax of science since the Piltdown Man!
- Population: 26
- Economy: food gathering – they neither hunted nor grew food
- Technology: stone and wood, not metal
- Housing: caves
- Clothing: skirts and loincloths made of long leaves
- Food: grubs, crabs, frogs, fruits, yams
- Language: only 800 words.
- Sex: They knew neither divorce, adultery nor wife sharing
- Violence: They had no word for “war”, “enemy” or “weapon”. They seemed strikingly gentle.
They thought they were the only people alive!
The government moved quickly and closed off 182 square km (the size of Brooklyn) as Tasaday tribal lands. No one was allowed in without the permission of the National Minority Protection Bureau. The head of the Bureau was Manual Elizalde, Jr, a friend of Marcos, then dictator of the country.
- Their caves were too clean.
- They buried the dead under a thick layer of leaves – yet there were no bones to be found anywhere.
- Their diet would have made them skin and bones – there were not enough yams growing wild in that part of the forest.
- The nearest village was only three hours away on foot.
- What about inbreeding?
The doubters were banned from seeing the Tasadays. And after 1976 no one could.
Anthropologists were not allowed to spend much time with them. Most of what was known came from National Geographic or Elizalde’s Bureau. And it was Elizalde who provided the interpreters.
In 1986 the Marcos government fell and the Tasaday lands were open to the outside world.
Reporters Oswald Iten and Joey Lozano saw their chance and went to see the Tasadays. But when they arrived at the caves no one was there. No one had been there for years. They found the Tasadays living nearby in houses made of wood, wearing T-shirts and blue jeans!
A week later German reporters arrived. The Tasaday were back in the caves wearing leaves – but under the leaves you could see underwear and bras!
News of a hoax spread. Two of the Tasadays said the government had forced them to play cavemen, promising money as well as protection from the fighting in the region. But later they said reporters had bribed them to say it was a hoax!
In the 1990s Lawrence A. Reid of the University of Hawaii studied their language and those of their neighbours. He says the Tasadays had fled into the forest some 150 to 200 years ago and had become cut off from the world till the 1950s.
The tribal lands are rich in mahogany, copper, silver and gold. A French reporter found an open-pit copper mine there. It was owned by Elizalde.