Pygmy

Pygmy

[pig-mee]
Pygmy or Pigmy, a racial designation of dark-skinned people who live in equatorial rain forests and average less than 59 in. (150 cm) in height. Some studies make a distinction between Negrillos, who live in Africa, and Negritos, who live in Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and the Philippines: this classification system is rarely used today, however. Anthropologists have noted that, like many inhabitants of rain forests, pygmies traditionally are hunter-gatherers who live in small, seminomadic bands with patrilineal or bilateral descent. They are distinguished according to language and culture. There are currently about 250,000 Negrillos, divided into four groups: the Binga along the Atlantic coast, including the Beku, Bongo, Jelli, Koa, Kola, Kuya, Rimba, and Yaga; the Twa in the high regions surrounding Lake Kivu; the Gesera and Zigaba in Rwanda and Burundi; and the Mbuti, Aka, and Efe of the Ituri forest in northeastern Congo (Kinshasa). Some believe that they predate neighboring agricultural peoples. Others believe that they have always had reciprocal, if somewhat subordinate, relations with other societies such as the Lese, Bira, Ltsi, and Ndaka; they commonly trade products of the forest for garden crops and iron tools. Indeed, they no longer speak their own languages, but rather that of the group with whom they have most contact, such as Bantu, Eastern Nigritic, and Central Sudanic. Recent government efforts have tried to resettle them and force them into agricultural production, and many have been displaced by deforestation. Among the Negritos are the Batak and the Agta of the Philippines, the Andaman Islanders, and the Semang of the Malay Peninsula. They speak various Asian languages, which belong to the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austronesian language family. The theory that all Pygmies are survivors of the ancestral human type, or are migrants of common stock from S Asia in prehistoric times, remains unproven. Gene studies have shown the Andaman Islanders to have a strain of mitochondrial DNA that is common in Asians.

See J. Eder, On the Road to Tribal Extinction (1987).

Species (Pan paniscus) of great ape. It was once considered a subspecies of the chimpanzee, which it closely resembles in size, appearance, and way of life. Its range, the lowland rainforests of central Congo (Kinshasa), is more restricted than that of the chimpanzee, and it has longer, more slender arms, a more slender body, and a less protruding face. Bonobos eat mainly fruits but also leaves, seeds, grass, and small animals. They form communities of 50–120 individuals. A striking feature of their social lives is that they engage in sexual activity with great frequency, often as a means of settling quarrels, and with little regard for gender or age. Populations are shrinking, largely because of hunting and habitat destruction, and bonobos are an endangered species.

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Member of any human group whose adult males grow to less than 59 in. (150 cm) in average height. The name is also sometimes loosely applied to the San of southern Africa and the so-called Negrito peoples of Asia (such as the Philippine Ilongot). Besides their short stature, Pygmies are notable in having the highest basal-metabolism rate in the world and a high incidence of sickle-cell anemia. The Bambuti of the Ituri Forest are a well-studied example. See also race.

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