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They are monogamous, and, unlike the Nicobarese, marry for life. The position of the women is apparently a satisfactory one, for they are regarded as little or in no way inferior to the men.
The men obtain the food, the women prepare it. Rattans are collected in the jungle by the men, and by them carried to market; both sexes together prepare it, by scraping and splitting, for sale. When bringing articles for barter, the men bore the spears, and the baskets and cloth were carried by the women, and generally such things as were obtained in exchange were immediately handed over to the latter.
All those met with seemed quiet, stolid, and timid in disposition; but a cupidity for the goods of their neighbours at times overcomes the latter characteristic amongst the less accessible of the aborigines, and many are the murderous attacks they are said to have made on the Nicobarese for the purpose of loot.
No infants or young children were seen, although surprise visits were paid to several of the villages, neither were any old people en evidence, but the ages were judged to vary between ten and forty-five years.
The language differs from all others in the islands, but here and there are individuals who know sufficient of the coast speech to hold converse with the Nicobarese.*
Their carelessness with regard to their water-supply-for any muddy pool or stagnant brook is made use of—is probably sufficient reason for the large number of cases of elephantiasis occurring among them; the only other affection besides this, that seems to be in anyway chronic, is the common body ringworm of the tropics.
*“Each community of the tribe appears to possess a dialect more or less distinct, but this is what might be expected when we consider the isolation of the several encampments and the difficulty of inter-communication, apart even from the hostile relations in which they stand towards one another."--E. H. Man, Jour. Anthrop. Inst., vol. xv.
Iron Buffalo and Pig Spears.
The Evolution of the Nicobarese-Description-Character-Language
Legends of Origin-Origin of Coco Palms—Invention of Punishments Superstitious Beliefs Diseases - Medicines - Marriage – Matriarchal System - Divorce - Polygamy - Courtship - Property - Takoia-Headmen-Social State-Position of Women and Children-Domestic Animals -Weapons — Tools-Fishing—Turtle-Food-Beverages-Narcotics and Stimulants — Cleanliness - Clothing-Ornaments-Coiffure-Amusements -Arts and Industries-Cultivation Produce—Traders and Commerce.
IF the Shom Pen are not racially pure, the Nicobarese or coastdwellers are still less so, and what components have gone to form them as they now exist is an interesting ethnical question.
To account for a certain similarity in all the people of the Archipelago, we may suppose that not all, but most, of the islands were occupied by groups of the aborigines, who everywhere but in Great Nicobar—where, because of its size and forest-clad nature they could find a refuge—became either exterminated or absorbed by successive arrivals of colonists that have since made the presence of the former almost indistinguishable.
In spite of the partial likeness of type, it is doubtful whether all, or nearly all, the islands were occupied by the aborigines. Tilanchong, for instance, is uninhabited, and it is questionable whether such forestless islands as Kar Nicobar, Chaura, or Kamorta, etc., could be suitable habitats for such a primitive people. In Kachal, Nankauri, and Little Nicobar we have islands of a similar character to Great Nicobar, although in them no traces of a rude people are to be found. It is probably on account of the smallness of these areas that the immigrants succeeded in eradicating the first inhabitants, who, in the other island alone, hostile causes notwithstanding, * have preserved for themselves a separate existence.
To account for such features as are common to both peoples everywhere, we may conclude, therefore, that while many of the latter aborigines survived separately, the others were absorbed by settlers on the coasts, who, by communication and intermarriage with islands not possessing an indigenous element, carried the Shom Pen strain throughout the Archipelago.
The arrival of numerous colonists from the eastward would account for the lighter complexion of the Nicobarese ; for it is only natural to suppose that if a separate branch of the same people, the one living in the open on the coast would be darker in complexion than the other, instead of which the contrary is the case.
As to the component parts of the Nicobarese, various suggestions have been made. They are Malays modified by a Burmese element;f the descendants of Malays before Mahommedanism spread among them (close of thirteenth century), but separated
* Such hostility being now active on their side only.