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Сергей Гольцов
служу искусству врачебного сомнения
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Expedition to the lost world

Seems funny? Click the "like" button. Makes you ponder!? Oh, no way, it can’t be true! What cannibals these days!? However… A year after I spent 3 weeks in company with true cannibals, I can hardly believe it myself.

«Live parallel EXPERIENCE»

My dear followers, first I’d like to mention that this time we walked the path laid by the famous Russian explorer Mikloukho-Macklay having visited Papua, the southern part of one of the biggest islands of New Guinea, as part of the scientific expedition “Live parallel EXPERIENCE”. The organizer of the expedition was Andrey Georgievich Teslinov, a Russian scientist and educator, a specialist in the field of concept analysis and design, a researcher of laws of development, Ph.D. in Engineering science, Professor. The expedition could fail but for the help of Dmitriy Chernyakhovskiy, an expert in the tropical jungle, Ph.D. in Geography, an explorer, the author of the project “Secret Meridian” and a very interesting character.

 

Despite the fact that our planet has been explored far and wide there are still territories where a man set his foot on with caution, if we may put it this way. Papua New Guinea is just this kind of territory. This is due to the fact that the impassable tropical forests of Papua are inhabited by some 900 tribes who still live in the Stone Age and practice cannibalism. This is the place where Michael Rockefeller, son of the famous man of wealth and politician Nelson Rockefeller, disappeared without a tracein the early 1960s. He disappeared as if he sank into the earth. Numerous expeditions organized to search for the heir of the financial empire failed to find him. The traces of Rockefeller junior were discovered only a few years later. The missionary Jan Smith met the Papuans who told him that the Asmat people (this Papuan tribe is also called “headhunters”) boasted of having a sacred skull of a man named Michael who wore European style clothing and had absolutely unusual “iron” eyes. Anthropologist Michael Rockefeller always wore glasses with iron frame. The fact that the Asmat people knew the name of the man they had eaten just confirms the guess. The Asmat people strongly believe that if they know the name of a man and eat his head they can gain possession of his soul. They mean it as paying respect to the man and they say they let the soul of this great man stay with them forever.

But let us go back to the present day and get to know how we managed to escape the Papuan tropics keeping our heads and souls.

It is quite difficult to get to the island. We had a total of 9 flights. There are no roads on the island and the plane is something like a route taxi: there is no air terminal building, flight operations officers or tracking systems. You just come to a “specific” stop, see people there and ask them – “Are you waiting for the plane?”, then, you join the queue and start waiting. By the way, the aboriginal Papuans stand in awe of the planes as they take them for some supernaturals which rarely bring gifts. This is the place where the cargo cult originated some time ago, the cult of plane-worshipers who believe that the commodities on planes are created by their ancestors’ spirits and are appropriated by people with fair skin. All they need is to hold an appropriate ritual and a huge iron bird will give them the things (that is to say, drop a load) their ancestors sent.

On entering the jungle the explorers who are ready to end their lives see the police station with the sign that reads “Cannibalism police”. At the station the explorers have their photos taken and sign the document according to which a person takes full responsibility for the events happening. Nobody else is responsible for you, neither police nor the Government. The policeman who showed us the way said us good-bye sincerely once and for all. What do you feel at that moment? No, you don’t have that kind of a heroic steel-like glint in the eyes. When you understand that you have to face a completely unfamiliar country, a hostile environment and natives alone, and only God knows the intentions of the latter, you get genuinely shocked. We walked there having the necessary things: clothing, food and medicine. We also had a satellite phone and the possibility to call for a helicopter (if anything goes wrong!).

 

BEAUTIFUL, BUT EXTREMELY DANGEROUS

Three quarters of the Indonesia’s territory, except for the mountainous areas, are covered with a “heavy blanket” of equatorial rain forests. A humid savanna with a great number of boggy areas stretches to the south of the mountain chains, and mangrove forests grow along the coasts. The whole territory is inhabited with an incredible number of animal creatures. This country is the place where you can find the greatest variety of natural ecosystems in the region! This is the place where people discovered five types of unchangeable and 13 types of mountain equatorial forests, five types of marsh ecosystems, three layers of mountain vegetation and three types of mangrove forests apart from the richest marine life! Eleven thousand species of plants grow on the territory of the islands, and about three thousand of them are endemic, meaning that they grow nowhere else in the world (moreover, two thirds of the world’s orchids come from New Guinea). There are also about 700 birds species (38 out of 43 famous species of birds of paradise have been found here), about 200 reptiles species (including 13 species of tortoises and 100 species of snakes), as well as 300 fish species and 250 species of mammals. But the most precious jewel of the islands’ fauna is their insects – every year scientists find 3-5 new species of this class. About 450 species of butterflies inhabit the islands, including the biggest butterfly on the planet - Queen Alexandra's birdwing(Ornithoptera alexandrae) with a wing-spread of 28 cm (an interesting fact that the first specimen of this insect was obtained… with a shotgun). In terms of natural resources Papua New Guinea can be compared only with the Amazonian region but in contrast to the latter the local ecosystems have scarcely had any human influence.

Do you want to understand what the nature of Papua New Guinea is? You may watch “Avatar”. There is the same magnificence and beauty: giant orchids with no less giant hibiscus, and with nuts of the most poisonous plant on the Earth falling on people’s heads. The territory we moved through into the island is located at the equator, and it means that the same temperature of 36-37°C and 100% humidity are observed here all the year round. First it was a complete nuisance for us as for people used to dry clothing. You can get a dry T-shirt out of the moistureproof bag and you have to squeeze it in 5 minutes. It was interesting to watch the sunset as if somebody just switched off the light. I even tried to take a photo of this phenomenon, but in the photo you can see only a bright line like the light of a car moving in the night. The forest we walked through was a two-level ecosystem: with bushes beneath, tall 30-50 metres high trees with pleached dense tops above and a hot, humid and sticky “sweating room” in between. From the plane above you can see just an endless sea of vegetation. And the “sea” is a hive of activity. I have never seen so many insects and reptiles anywhere. By the way, there is one rule when walking in the jungle – you should always be on the move. Once you stop you feel something crawling over your body or biting you or laying eggs under the skin. If you fall down do not snatch at lianas under any circumstances because actually they are not lianas but snakes taking rest. Here you can find a great number of poisonous plants, insects and reptiles. This is a habitat of a relict bird cassowary sometimes 1.5 metres high, capable of killing a man with its leg. This “sea” lives its own beautiful but extremely dangerous life, dangerous for us, for modern people.

 

 

 

WAY TO THE TRIBE

Wewereverylucky. Our guide was the native of the Korowai tribe named Anton. Well, yes, it is a Russian name, and it was tattooed on his chest. Some time ago the missionaries took him from the tribe and somehow or other assimilated him into the civilized society. But anyway he did not forget the way home. Moreover, he was a guarantor of our safety: he would lead us to the right place and try to save us from being eaten.
 

Crossing the line between the civilized world and the jungle, marked by the Cannibalism police station, we took some weird long boats and went 170 km, 10 hours down the Brass river swarmed with crocodiles and other bloodthirsty creatures. Then we walked 40 km inside the jungle chopping 5 km of the path with machete a day. Hasn’t the guide known the secret paths to his tribe, you may ask? The matter is that the chopped path stays the way it is just for several days, than it grows over. Anton took readings of the signs no one else knew. We closely walked across the dangerous foreign territory suffering from heat, humidity and fatigue. In a few days of our journey I lost more than 10 kg of my weight.

People say that almost all natural instincts of a modern person have been atrophied. I don’t know if it is a true statement. But once I felt that somebody was looking at me calmly and closely out of the jungle. I raised my eyes and saw an arrow, a pulled bow-string and a pair of eyes glowing in the distance. In dramas they usually say “My whole life flashed before my eyes”.Oh, no. A precise plan of actions was activated in my head: I quietly tapped Anton on his back and cautiously pointed at the hunters. Anton cried something in his language, the arrow went down and the hunter disappeared. Just later you realize that moment could be the last one in your life.

 

THE KOROWAI TRIBE

We visited 9 tribes: the Asmat, Yali, Kombai, Kapayaki people and etc. Their socialization, culture and technologies are in the Stone Age, and they differ only in their attitude to the resource. For example, the Asmat people live by the river and they prefer the crocodile meat, and the Korowai people like eating insects baked with the sago flour. They are not tall – 150-155 cm. Facial characteristics are as those of an Australopithecus – a square lower jaw bone. The anatomy of male genitals is different from that of the European people: the Korowai men have a very small penis (which they cover with a walnut shell or a leaf) and a massive scrotum. They mostly clothe themselves in palm inflorescence and always have a rattan thread to start up fire. I should say they are quite skilled in this. Under conditions of high humidity lighters and matches do not function, and, for example, it took me 10 minutes to make a fire with a lighter. The Korowai managed to make a fire in a minute and a half.

The Korowai met us in a friendly way: they recognized Anton and were pleased to see him. This was the tribe which had never seen a man with fair skin before. It was worth seeing their surprise when they met the fair-skin giants who were weirdly dressed and smiled broadly displaying all 32 teeth. Once Anton pulled me aside and asked me to stop smiling. His tribesmen took it as an evil grin demonstrating power and aggression and they couldn’t understand why the man wanted to frighten them.

The Korowai people feed on different kinds of insects. The Korowai women gather spiders, grasshoppers, bugs, locusts, cicadae, etc. The favorite dish is the grub of a sago palm weevil, it looks like a grub of a cockchafer.
 

First we didn’t know how to cook it and ate raw grubs. It’s disgusting. But later the Korowai people gave us sago scones baked with grubs and they turned out to have pleasant sweetish taste.
 

Every two weeks the tribesmen set off to cut the sago palm. All parts of the palm are used: the bark, the inflorescence and the pulp. When all the palms are cut down on the territory of the tribe’s habitat the tribe relocates.
 

The Korowai people live in houses built high in the trees. Sometimes the house is 60 meters above the ground and it accommodates several tribesmen. A ladder leads to the house and the space around the house is well within view and exposed to shooting. This way of living is a kind of protection: if someone from a hostile tribe dares get into the house he can hardly reach half of the ladder leading to the house as he will be shot with an arrow accurately released from a bow. If a family member dies the whole family moves into another house. They do not know the notions of hygiene, sanitation or healthcare.

The lifespan of the tribe’s people is short, 40 years maximum. As a doctor I can see that the majority of them suffer from various infectious skin diseases. I took a large supply of medicine with me and I used it all: I treated my companions and the Korowai people, and the latter were greatly astonished at this fact.

Anyway, Papua New Guinea is located on the territory of the state of Indonesia inhabited by quite civilized people who use mobile telephony and Internet, have higher education and their own attitude to the people living in the country. The Government of Indonesia is concerned with the problem with the tribes and tribal warfare. From time to time the Government tries to “help” the tribes: they clean some plots in the jungle and build small villages with little houses but… the Papuans do not settle there. Thus “ghost” villages appear. At the best case the villages are inhabited by Indonesian migrant workers who built those houses. When the tribal warfare hits a bloody climax the Government finds no other way as to burn the tribes’ territory to the ground: no people – no problems.

 

 

SPERM WARS

The wars between the Papuans are specific: this doesn’t involve the seizure of a territory or slaves. As a rule, the aim of a war is the abduction of women or revenge. The matter is that the greatest value among the tribes is a woman yet not as an object of admiration (as in our world) but as a commodity, currency unit or gold. She can be exchanged for food, ritual things and arms. The woman gives birth to a child and does a lot of  hard work.
 

One can consider this as an extensive tool for natural self-regulation. A modern person clearly sees the danger of sexual relations between blood relatives as in this case the risk of contact of one and the same pathological genes and thus the risk of devolution significantly increases. The Papuans still living in the Stone Age do not know this fact but Nature guides them to the proper behavior even if it is expressed in such specific sperm wars.

There is one more mysterious and ancient phenomenon in the Papua’s jungle – the Amazons. Their existence has been proved by several explorers. And this is what the Korowai people say.
 

Once a year the Amazons attack the tribe, seize the men and force them to coitus. All the time during the coitus with an Amazon (which lasts just a few seconds but every coitus with the Korowai men leads to pregnancy and they do not assume the opposite) their mates hold a bow with an arrow in a pulled string at the man’s head. They say that the girls born in the Amazon tribe are brought up as new tribe members and the boys are eaten.

Evidently there are several Amazons tribes on such a vast territory (as the researchers claim) and some of them are less aggressive and bloodthirsty. There are Amazons who build shelters in the jungle near the tribe they are interested in. Then they put a flower at the place of a man they like and the latter then seeks for an “occasional girlfriend”. In case boys are born they can be left in the father’s tribe or can be killed.

Some researchers think that the reason for the Amazons tribes appearance is the women abuse. They probably leave their tribes and form stable groups with their own culture. Though no one can claim this for sure as like it has been said above nearly all inhabitants of the Papua’s jungle, whether being the tribesmen or the Amazons, are cannibals, thus, carrying out any considerable research there can be life-threatening.

 

 

CANNIBALISM

At one of the camps while sitting by the fire our guide Anton told us about his life. The conversation was as follows: a question in Russian was translated into English, then from English into Indonesian, from Indonesian into the Korowai language – like “broken telephone”.
 

Anton told us the story which made our skin crawl despite the hot and sultry weather. Some time ago when he lived with his tribe the Kapayaki people attacked their tribe and abducted his sister. He swore to get revenge. Some time later he killed a Kapayaki man and… ate him. “How come?” we asked bewildered and deeply inside counted on the inaccuracy of the interpretation. No, it was a word-for-word interpretation. And you felt like something disgusting was creeping inside – this very man was the guarantor of our safety, he shared food and shelter with us… What was he really up to? Being dinner for Korowai cannibals was completely outside our plans.
 

We had hardly escaped from shock when Anton continued his story. Having known about their tribesman’s death the Kapayaki people came for revenge. Anton’s parents were very weak and couldn’t run into the jungle. So Anton banged their heads and sucked out their brains. “I took their souls with me not to leave them to the enemies”.

Cannibalism practiced by the Korowai tribe can be considered from different points of view. For example, for fighting hunger. The matter is that the habitat of the Korowai tribe lacks mammals and meat-producing animals. Completely. No doubt one may catch a cassowary, but it is very difficult. Some time ago the missionaries brought pigs to the island and they bred quite fast there. But the Papuans eat them faster than the pigs can produce their offspring and accumulate in sufficient number. By the way, some researchers suppose that to a great extent cannibalism is a kind of tool for the population control in case of demographic explosions and territorial conflicts.

There is a suggestion that the main reason of cannibalism may not be hunger or lack of food products but terror in order to frighten and subdue the neighboring tribes. This phenomenon also cannot do without a ritual explanation when the murder and cannibalism are desired by some spirits. A man takes on some properties of an eaten one. By the way, the Korowai tribe has a custom when a boy having reached a certain stage of development must go through the coming-of-age ceremony: go into the jungle, kill an enemy and bring his genitals, or ears or a lower jaw bone (it is the most valuable thing).


There was a cook with us (a Papuan from the Lani tribe, a mountainous part of the island). When the Korowai people reached close him I felt that they looked at him as if he was a piece of food. Poor Therron (it was his name) told us: “Do not let me go or they will eat me”. In my presence they didn’t kill or eat anybody, but I saw the human remains and I imagined how it had happened. If you once saw someone cooking a lamb you can understand me. One butchers a lamb and cuts it, and then a skilled cook prepares the meat which is later merrily eaten with good appetite. This situation is just the same the only difference being in the human meat prepared instead of the lamb. Just as we feel the bliss of satiety and the joy of interaction when we eat tasty food, they eat human meat with sincere kindness and delight. This is not to demonstrate cruelty or lust for blood, but enjoy food and make a specific ritual.

 

 

WHAT IS THE WORLD STRUCTURE?

The community of the Korowai people is organized quite specifically. The majority of the Korowai has the so-called free love, and a man has the right to have any woman. But they are far from filth as the coitus feast is held just once a year when the sago palm is blooming, all the rest of the time they refrain from having sex. There are families there. 

I heard a story that once a Kapayaki man got lost and found his way near the Korowai tribe. His fate could be very sad and he would be certainly eaten but the girl who had met him in the jungle married him. He still lives with the tribe but he should always wear a special identification mark.

The absence of the stable form of marital relations may somehow transform the concept of being parents for the Korowai people. Many of our notions embarrass them. For example, I ask: “Who are your parents?” and get astonishment in reply; or ask: “What’s this?” “How old are you?” and get the same response. They do not keep chronology. Why should they and how should they keep it if every new day reminds of the previous one with obsessive constancy? The tribe shows no signs of medicine. Neither shamans with a tamburine and rat tails nor healing herbs. From the doctor’s point of view there is an unprecedentedly high incidence of diseases there. One can see a great number of fungus diseases and some skin troubles. Besides, their lives are extremely short – 30-40 years.

The Korowai’s children get names of plants. A modern human being may find something romantic or mythological in it, but the matter is far more prosaic. A baby is born, the parents see a plant nearby and here is the ready-made name.  
 

There is no social ranking inside the tribe. The oldest representative of the tribe is appointed a man in charge of the tribe. The Korowai people can neither write nor count.
 

The Korowai people do not wear clothing for special occasions though as well as casuals. Advertising booklets of travel agencies are filled with photos of weirdly dressed up feathered Papuans. Actually this is just a tourist trap. As a rule, women are dressed in nothing but the palm inflorescence while men are completely naked. The latter just put a special case (penis gourd) on the penis, the case being made of a half of a walnut shell or a dried-up pumpkin.

However the Korowai people have their own idea of the spirits world. According to the description spirits and the devil are very much alike. It is the evil which should be huggled with food, songs, dances and sacrifices. They have no idea of good spirits. In fact many principles whcih provide basis for the society development do not exist there. There is no game of controversy: good – evil, need – no need, soul – body, love – hatred. There is no dualistic vision of the world which forces us to constant manoeuvring thus developing the system, the society. The Korowai people do not have anything of this kind. I just can imagine how our guide Anton had to challenge his consciousness as in a short span of time he crossed a hundred-year period of the human civilization development.

 

FROZEN BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION

A scientific expedition is the same sacred action, a ritual, during which the scientists obtain some secrets from Nature and make discoveries. The objective of the expedition “Live parallel EXPERIENCE” was to study the culture of the Papuans, their social and biological constituents.

From the scientific point of view Papua New Guinea is of great interest as it is a real isolated reservation area created by Nature. It is impossible to reach this island from the sea: a ship or a boat will just break on sharp reefs. When the ancestors of the present day Papuans came to this land they turned out to be cut off from the Australian continent due to the tectonic fault of plates. And all that time they had lived detached from the world. They had no opportunities to move to the north or south. But at the same time they found themselves under ideal climatic conditions. Life on the island didn’t develop either in cultural and social aspects or in terms of biological evolution and in fact preserved undisturbed. The man didn’t have a need to acquire any new skills: weather changes didn’t threaten him and thus he didn’t feel the need in clothing and permanent houses; flora and fauna didn’t change as well so he didn’t have to explore new sources of food using the technologies of team work. As a thousand years ago they ate the sago palm the same way they do nowadays. They faced the threat of overpopulation but they successfully solved this problem by means of wars and cannibalism.
 

One of the ruling theories states that life on the Earth originated in this very place - at the equator, unde the perfect conditions when the temperature didn’t change and thus all the other contributing factors remained stable. Some time later when living organisms started moving to the North and South they began to change, to evolve. For example, according to the Darwinian theory evolution came through natural selection, in other words the most adapted human beings who possessed useful ancestorial characters survived. The Lamarck’s theory states the “law of inheritance of acquired characters”. According to Lamarck the giraffe has a long neck as generation after generation it pulled its neck up trying to get leaves from the trees and thus exercised the neck every time making it longer and longer.

Biological evolution is a non-reversible historical development of wildlife which is accompanied by change in the genetic profile of populations, building up of adaptations, formation and extinction of species, transformation of ecosystems and biosphere as a whole. As to the Papuans of New Guinea the biological evolution seems like being frozen as they didn’t have to acquire any new useful characters – nothing changed in the world around them.


There is one funny statement, they say, by labour fire is got out of a stone. Many a true word is spoken in this jest. Modern scientists think that human sociality is of productive but not of biological origin. Every time the humanity gained some new complicated technology it made a big shoot forward. As a rule these technologies were collective, they required formation of a team the boundaries of which were limited not by instincts like in case of other animals but by the degree of complexity of a new technology, and that is not a biological factor by definition. That is why human sociality is noted by special not biological but productive origin. The greater the production technologies are the larger and the more compound the society is.

Why didn’t the the Papuan community manage to step forward out of the Stone Age? They couldn’t acquire themselves the technology of metal processing. And due to their isolation from the outer world they didn’t manage to adopt this technology from the others. We tried to offer the Korowai people a metal machete. Itseemedawkwardtothem. Maybe this was for the better. After all in this case it was not a technology we would bring them but just a tool which would make it faster to cut down the sago palms as well as easier to kill people. Though there is no denying the fact that like any other human beings the Korowai people are extremely curious and they are interested in everything new. If you could only see their interest and joy when they were getting the presents: flashlights, clothing and decorations.

Many people in our expeditions were afraid of catching some deseases from the jungle inhabitants. And as being a doctor I had to explain that it was not them but us who constituted a threat; it was all about us, the people with the immunity trained due to vaccination, fighting with antibiotic drugs, desinfectants and other delights of civilization. We bring here a stable microbiological “bomb” which will be able to destroy the jungle inhabitants as time passes.

Anyway the human expansion into the last virgin places will certainly go on...
 

Evolutionary transformations will influence them for sure. But this time they played just another trick on us – having turned them into bloodthirsty man eaters in our consciousness. And nobody knows how we would behave if we were under those conditions armed not only with technologies but with various means of eliminating of similar beings.
 

Maybe this was what Anton was thinking about, a Korowai, our guide, the cannibal who ate many enemies and the man who saved his parents having killed them but not having left them to the enemy, a Papuan who knows the laws of the green as well as of the grey concrete jungle, unlike us and his tribesmen. And it seemed to me this jungle is easier for him to live in, more honest, somehow...

A feeling of sadness seized us and the Korowai for the twentieth time on this island far away from our Motherland. We were taking leave in silence and we knew that we would never see each other any more.

The jungle warriors and lords, the tribes lost in time with static culture and evolution taught to us much during these days. What did we teach you? Nobodyknows... But I hope we didn’t do harm at least...