Meet the Real-Life Tarzan Tribe of New Guinea

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The Pacific Island, the Amazon, Andaman Islands, and even Africa are known to be the homes of the last remaining tribes in the world. People should be aware that even with the advancement of technology, there are still those that live an indigenous lifestyle and have ceased contact from the outside world.

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One of them are the Korowai tribe or the Korowai people, one of the few ethnic people that reside in Papua New Guinea; and like many of their counterparts around the world, they practice cannibalistic acts.

The Korowai Tree Houses

The Korowai tribe live in tree houses that stand at almost 50 ft above ground or as even as high as 140 ft. These houses are hand-crafted and have garnered the Korowai people the nickname the Tarzan Tribe.

Unlike the fictional hero Tarzan, they don’t go swinging from trees. But their houses do come pretty close. A helicopter ride through the rain forests of Papua New Guinea oftentimes gives outsiders the glimpse of these impressive structures.

The towering tree houses are said to be built that way because of flood and defense from rival tribes that capture women and children for slavery.

Life of the Korowai

The Korowai dress depending on their gender. The males are naked while the females wear skirts made up of leaves. They wear necklaces made of real animal teeth, and like some of their fellow ethnic groups, they follow a certain hierarchy. Each role in their own society is symbolized by different ornaments.

A total of ten people can live in a single tree house, which sports open air that creates a rather cool atmosphere. The Korowai people have made use of dried leaves to serve as the roof and rattan as the house’s foundation.

Korowai children strolling in the forest for a lesson in hunting

Korowai tribesmen holding their hunting tools

Discovery by Western Civilization

According to history, the Korowai people had not known of the existence of the outside world until they were discovered by American anthropologist Peter van Arsdale during the late 1970s. The expedition composed of geographer Robert Mitton and community developer Mark Grundhoefer. They did not immediately welcome their appearance, calling the foreigners a ghost demon or laleo.

Boas, a member of the tribe, volunteered to leave and help the outside world learn more about the culture of the Korowai people. He has since lived in more developed area of Papua New Guinea after his venture.

Cannibalism

The Korowais are the remaining tribes that are said to practice cannibalism. They have preserved the practice of killing witch doctors or khakhua over the years. If anyone is convicted of being a khakhua, they are immediately placed on trial and later on killed with an ax. The body is then chopped and divided by each member of the tribe with the exception of pregnant women and children.

A couple of anthropologists have written this article after visiting the Korowai:

Kilikili’s brother Bailom, produces a human skull from a bag. “It’s Bunop, the most recent khakhua he killed,” “Bailom used a stone ax to split the skull open to get at the brains.” Later, the group discusses how the food is divvied up. “I like the taste of all the body parts,” Bailom says, “but the brains are my favourite.” Kilikili nods in silent agreement.

So just how exactly does a tribesman get suspected of being a khakhua? Korowai folklore has it that a  dead person thought to be killed by witches will appear in a dream to their family members and will whisper the name of the khakhua who cursed them.

It may sound terrifying, but it is a thousand-year-old belief preserved by the tribe. As outsiders, people must bear in mind the need to protect their culture. Contrary to prejudice, they do not kill Westerners for sport, and with that being said, these real-life Tarzans deserve equal respect.

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Lessons an African Tribe Taught This Tourist