Pygmies

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Pygmies

 

a small people inhabiting the forests of tropical Africa. The earliest information about them is contained in ancient Egyptian inscriptions of the third millennium B.C. Other early information is obtained from ancient Greek sources, such as Homer’s Iliad and the writings of Herodotus and Strabo.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Pygmies were mentioned as Matimba in accounts of travels through West Africa. Their existence was confirmed only in the 19th century, by the German explorer G. Schweinfurth, the Russian explorer V. V. Iunker, and others who explored the forests of the Ituri and Uele river basins, where the Aka (Akka), Tiki-Tiki, Bongo (Babonga), and Twa (Batwa) Pygmies lived. Important groups of Pygmy tribes were discovered by P. Schebesta, who discovered the Bambuti Pygmies (1929–30), and M. Gusinde, who discovered the Efe and Basua Pygmies (1934–35).

Pygmies live in the forests of Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Zaire, and Rwanda. They live among the larger tribes and peoples of the Negroid race, from whom they differ physically by virtue of their short stature (between 144 and 150 cm for adult men), light brown skin, dark curly hair, comparatively thin lips, large torso, and short arms and legs. The physical type of the Pygmies represents a distinct race (Pygmoids). The total number of Pygmies has not been determined but is estimated to be between 40,000 and 200,000. Their chief occupations are hunting and gathering. Pygmies do not make stone implements, and until recent times they did not make fire but carried it with them. Their hunting weapon is a bow with iron-tipped arrows, often poisoned. They trade for iron with their neighbors.

Pygmies speak the languages of the peoples surrounding them, including Efe, Aswa, and Kimbuti. Pygmy dialects have certain phonetic distinctions, but so far no distinct Pygmy language has been identified.

D. A. OL’DEROGGE