Being captured by a savage tribe, roasted at the stake, and then eaten sounds like a scene out of a King Kong movie. I even read that in a book once, and it didn’t seem pleasant. This is the sort of outlandish storyline that’s become commonplace in modern lore, inspired by true stories of native discoveries as told by the likes of famous explorers Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo.
Today, anthropologists know that tribal life isn’t quite that simple; but it’s true that tribes that have never been seen before keep cropping up in places like the deep, dense jungles of the Amazon, lending to the possibility, always, of other hidden civilizations somehow managing to avoid modern-man and his world. These are ten cases of the most isolated people on earth, past and present, who have wanted absolutely nothing to do with anyone else.
10. New Guinea tribes
When Michael Rockefeller took the 10-hour swim to a New Guinea shoreline for help after his 40-foot pontoon boat capsized, he didn’t think he would run into any problems with the natives. In November of 1961, Rockefeller was greeted on the beach by 50 awaiting natives. They took the man they had met before to their leader, who ordered him tortured, and beheaded. The natives then proceeded to butcher him, roasting and eating his body parts in a sacred, ritualistic form of cannibalism.
9. The Surma
Famous photographs of the Surma people wearing their giant “lip plugs” have circulated for years; apart from the photos, however, this isolated tribe of Ethiopia has avoided the outside world for centuries, surviving by cattle ranching in one of the earth’s most remote corners. When Russian doctors in the 1980s made a rare attempt to contact the tribe, the children of the tribe reportedly ran away from the village thinking the men were the walking dead; they had never encountered anyone with pale skin colour before.
8. The Mashco-Piro
The Mashco-Piro tribe of Peru used to stay well out of sight. In recent years, however, several sightings of the previously uncontacted tribe have been made, as their natural territory is increasingly destroyed by the logging, gas, and oil industries. Researchers have known about the Mashco-Piro for decades, but the isolated people were always clear that they didn’t want to mix with modern man. In 2010, the Mashco-Piro actually killed the member of a different tribe, Nicolas Flores, who had been trying to make formal contact with the Indians for decades.
7. The Sentinelese
In 2006, when two drunken fishermen happened to get too close to the island occupied by the Sentinelese people and were killed by the fiery locals, no one from nearby India dared to appeal to the people to claim the bodies. That’s because they knew from past encounters that they would almost certainly be attacked with a slew of arrows sprung from the bows of the natives. The Sentinelese people of the Andaman Islands are largely regarded as possibly the most isolated civilization on the planet earth today, and are justifiably wary of outsiders.
6. Russian Old Believers, of the Taiga
When geologists started a project in Russia’s remote taiga region in 1978, aerial research showed an image of what appeared to be a tiny cabin, truly in the middle of nowhere. When they set out to find the cabin located 250km away from any civilization, they were stunned to discover a group of 6 people living in it. The Lykov family revealed they had been living in isolation for 42 years, in an effort to protect their religion; thus they became referred to as “the Old Believers” of Russia’s taiga territory.
5. Pintupi Aboriginals
An isolated group of nomadic aboriginals from the ancient Pintupi tribe was discovered quite by accident in 1984 when they stumbled upon a settlement in Australia. The isolated family had been overlooked years before when the British rounded up all of their fellow tribesmen to place them in safer settlements during times of missile testing in the territory. Thus separated from their relatives and clansmen, the lone family wandered on foot from waterhole to waterhole, sometimes drinking the blood of monitor lizards to survive during droughts.
4. The Last Native American
The last sole surviving member of the Yahi tribe of native Americans shocked the modern world of 1911 when he emerged one day from the forests of California into the modern sprawl of society. The police were reportedly so stunned by the sight of the native, in full Indian dress, that they arrested him on the spot; an interpreter was brought in and the native was able to tell his story. Unable to tell his name, as no one remained to speak it, an anthropologist named him Ishi, the Yahi word for man.
3. Brazil’s Amazonian Tribes
The Brazilian government regularly sends aircraft over the Amazon jungle to try to photograph and assess the numbers of tribes living isolated from the world, who clearly want to keep it that way; one such photographer came under fire from a tribe, who shot arrows at the low flying aircraft. There are reportedly dozens of tribes living in the most remote sections of Brazil’s rainforests. Recently, sightings of the tribes have become more frequent. Last year, one tribe emerged from the jungle for weeks on end, stealing food, axes, and machetes from a Brazilian village near the Peruvian border, reportedly frightening the women and children by making sounds like monkeys.
2. The Man of the Hole
Of the dozens of uncontacted tribes estimated to be living in the Amazonian rainforests, one clan is said to be consisting of just one man. Sometimes referred to as “the loneliest man in the world,” this tribesman has been encountered by several people, each time quickly escaping before anyone has had a chance to make proper contact with him. His home-base well known to researchers, the lone man has shot arrows to those who have come too close, even once hitting a man from Brazil’s Indian Affairs department. The man managed to recover from his injury.
1. The Vietnamese Ruc
During the Vietnam war, sections of the jungle suffered brutal bombings, forcing a never before seen tribe to emerge from the devastation. Vietnamese soldiers were reportedly stunned at the sight of the tribe, who had never before had any contact with members of the modern world. Border guards approached the tribe for months, describing the mysterious tribe as naked and timid, living in mountain caves, and able to climb trees and cliffs like chimpanzees. The guards eventually convinced the Ruc to leave their caves and join a nearby community.
Over fifty years later of trying to adapt to society, the Ruc’s primitive way of thinking has not changed, and they continue their mysterious way of life, with many still choosing to live within their beloved deep caves.