The thick jungle was vibrating with energy. Birds scattered into the canopy, leaves bristled in anticipation, shaking off residue from the storm just recently passed. An enormous growl penetrated through the dense brush in an overwhelming, rhythmic throb – an inescapable pulse pounding through the bloodstream. The entire forest was alive in retreat.
Breaking through the protective barrier of dense brush, a young man, bare except for the thick belt strapped around his waist, stumbled out onto the empty beach. The air around him was swarming with cyclones of sand whipped up by a ferocious, gleaming object hovering high above, just out of his bows reach. It bobbed unsteadily, stationary and blindingly bright, stunning the sensitive eyes of the slender figure still adjusting to this utterly foreign disturbance taunting him from overhead. He let a few arrows fly in a gesture of warning, knowing all the while that if this giant flying beast were to attack he would stand no chance, but out of pride and sheer courage he shot at it anyway.
The immense entity jerked back in response and hovered still further, and the island’s defender could make out faint bleating cries that were entirely incomprehensible. The slender archer reached for another arrow and pulled back his bow once more, his final warning for this unexpected interloper. With the final volley the glittering craft turned on its heel and wobbled, unsteadily, into the fading sun of the far horizon, the deafening beat of its wings diminishing as it went. The young warrior did likewise, melting into the jungle and out of reach of his alien caller…
This would mark one of many encounters between outsiders and the North Sentinelese islanders, one of the very last ‘untouched’ civilizations of the modern world. The Sentinelese are defined by their long-term isolation that has extended for hundreds if not thousands of years, and are thought to have originally migrated out of Africa over 60,000 years ago. Given the state of their culture and technology, many have taken to calling the Sentinelese the last “stone-age” or “preNeolithic” peoples, these people are by no means primitive or unable to adapt. In 2004, an earthquake conclusively proved that the Sentinelese are highly capable of adjusting their ways of life and ultimately can fend for themselves and prosper without the help of the outside world.
With a population estimated between 50-500, this kind of long-term isolation represents an amazing feat for the Sentinelese. Known to be excellent marksmen, the Sentinelese choose to volley outsiders with waves of long arrows tipped with salvaged iron from shipwrecks, a trademark that has cast them in the light as one of the most hostile indigenous groups in the world. Little is known of the Sentinelese because of their violent hostilities and the fact that they share no language or culture with neighboring Islanders, which only adds to the allure and mystery of this tribe. Rumors started in the era of Marco Polo in the 13th century that the North Sentinelese were cannibalistic, roasting unlucky victims on a spit. The rumors have since been attributed to a neighboring tribe who dismantle their dead and burn their remains in order so their spirits do not come back as demonic entities.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the North Sentinel Islanders is found in the dominant description: The People With No Fire. The notion sounds completely absurd on first glance, but the idea that an isolated civilization has persisted into modern day without the knowledge of how to make fire does correspond to the rough estimate of the earliest exit out of Africa, which occurred roughly 2 million years ago and before the advent of human knowledge related to the creation of fire. While current estimates place the exit of the Islanders at approximately 60,000 years ago, this is a rough scientific guess based on the genetic phenotypes and mitochondrial DNA extracted from the teeth of Victorian-era skulls collected by Anthropologists. This is added to the fact that there is a sheer lack of archeological evidence to extend the timeline further, which only proves that we are unable to piece together physical evidence. Is it more likely that the North Sentinelese exited Africa before this knowledge became evident, or did they simply lose this knowledge due to thousands of years of isolation?
Due to the fact that neighboring Andaman Islanders do possess the knowledge to create and control fire, the mystery only deepens as to why the Sentinelese prove to be the exception… Could this be a product of their deeply secretive cultural ethos that has proved to be inaccessible to anthropologists and linguists alike.
The case of the North Sentinelese Islanders is fascinating in that it definitively proves to be an exception to the linear model of development put forth by evolutionists. The model that all humans progress along similar lines marked by ‘checkpoints’ of progress such as that of creating and controlling fire has become the accepted mainstream theory, but by no means encapsulates all possible trajectories and deviations for human civilizations.
Top on the list of personal theories is that perhaps the Sentinelese view the outside as utterly alien and incomprehensibly foreign, and see our visits as something from another world, wholly outside the refuge of their island bordered by ocean and coral reefs on all sides. The analogy that our planet is just an island in a sea of other Worlds hits the target in attempting to explain this idea. In this sense, outsiders like you and me are just as alien to the Sentinelese as extraterrestrials may be to us!
Perhaps the Sentinelese view fire as something holy, an asset from the Gods of the sky… not meant for the manipulation of man. Of course, this is pure conjecture, but the mystery of these people and their secret civilization inspires such and we encourage you to send in your ideas regarding these fascinating people. Just remember folks… probably not the best spot to book your next vacation, despite the raving reviews on Google!!
Written by Amber Rae Bouchard