The Semang are a Negrito
The Negrito are a class of several ethnic groups who inhabit isolated parts of Southeast Asia.Their current populations include 12 Andamanese peoples of the Andaman Islands, six Semang peoples of Malaysia, the Mani of Thailand, and the Aeta, Agta, Ati, and 30 other peoples of the Philippines....

 ethnic group of the Malay Peninsula
Malay Peninsula
The Malay Peninsula or Thai-Malay Peninsula is a peninsula in Southeast Asia. The land mass runs approximately north-south and, at its terminus, is the southern-most point of the Asian mainland...

. Lowland Semang tribes are also known as Sakai, although this term is considered to be derogatory by the Semang people. They are probably the indigenous peoples of this area. They have been recorded to have lived here since before the 200s Common Era
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

 (CE). They are ethnologically described as nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...


They are thought to be related to other Negritos, such as the natives of the Andaman Islands
Andaman Islands
The Andaman Islands are a group of Indian Ocean archipelagic islands in the Bay of Bengal between India to the west, and Burma , to the north and east...

 and the Aeta
The Aeta , Agta or Ayta are an indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of Luzon, Philippines. They are considered to be Negritos, who are dark to very dark brown-skinned and tend to have features such as a small stature, small frame, curly to kinky afro-like textured...

s of the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

. Their languages, however, are Aslian
Aslian languages
The Aslian languages are the original languages of the Orang Asli, the aboriginal inhabitants of Malaya and peninsular Thailand, and a branch of the Mon–Khmer languages, in the Austro-Asiatic language family...

, in the Mon-Khmer family.


The Semangs live in caves or leaf-shelters that form between branches. A waistcloth for the men, made of tree bark hammered out with a wooden mallet from the bark of the terap, a species of wild bread-fruit tree, and a short petticoat of the same for the women, is the only dress worn; many go naked.

A tattoo is made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. Tattoos on humans are a type of body modification, and tattoos on other animals are most commonly used for identification purposes...

ing, or rather scarring, is practised. They draw the finely serrated edge of a sugarcane
Sugarcane refers to any of six to 37 species of tall perennial grasses of the genus Saccharum . Native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, they have stout, jointed, fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar, and measure two to six metres tall...

 leaf across the skin and rub in charcoal powder.

They have bamboo musical instruments, a kind of jaw harp, and a nose flute. On festive occasions, there is song and dance, both sexes decorating themselves with leaves.

The Semang bury their dead simply, and place food and drink in the grave.

They would use Capnomancy
Capnomancy signifies a method of divination using smoke. This is done by looking at the movements of the smoke after a fire has been made. A thin, straight plume of smoke is thought to indicate a good omen whereas the opposite is thought of large plumes of smoke...

 (divination by smoke) to determine whether a camp is safe for the night.

Further reading

  • Bernatzik, H. A.
    Hugo Bernatzik
    Hugo Adolf Bernatzik , was an Austrian anthropologist and photographer.Bernatzik was the founder of the concept of alternative anthropology.-Biography:...

    , & Ivanoff, J. (2005). Moken and Semang: 1936-2004, persistence and change. Bangkok: White Lotus. ISBN 9744800828
  • Gomes, A. G. (1982). Ecological adaptation and population change: Semang foragers and Temuan horticulturists in West Malaysia. Honolulu, Hawaii (1777 East-West Rd., Honolulu 96848): East-West Environment and Policy Institute.
  • Human Relations Area Files, inc. (1976). Semang. [Ann Arbor, Mich: University Microfilms.
  • Rambo, A. T. (1985). Primitive polluters: Semang impact on the Malaysian tropical rain forest ecosystem. Ann Arbor, Mich: Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan. ISBN 0915703041

External links

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