Human Ecology

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 151-185

First online:

The possibility of independent foraging in the rain forest of Peninsular Malaysia

  • Kirk EndicottAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Dartmouth College
  • , Peter BellwoodAffiliated withDepartment of Prehistory and Anthropology, Arts, Australian National University

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This paper examines the question of whether hunter-gatherers could live in the tropical rain forest of Peninsular Malaysia without access to cultivated foods. It considers the wild food sources used by the Batek De', a contemporary foraging-trading group of Kelantan state, historical and ethnohistorical evidence concerning the Batek economy in the past, and archeological evidence for independent foraging in the Pleistocene and early Holocene. The conclusion reached is that small nomadic groups of foragers can live off wild resources alone in that environment and have done so in the past, although trade for agricultural produce makes life much easier. This suggests that nonseasonal tropical rain forests vary in their potential for supporting human foraging, depending upon the particular species of plants and animals present.

Key words

hunter-gatherers tropical rain forest wild yams Semang Malaysia