Tribes are something most people never really give a second thought, so it is hard to think that there are individuals in this world who live in total isolation, cut off from the outside world. No modern technology, no designers clothes or vehicles. Just living off the land as they have done for centuries before.
Here we have five remarkable tribes who live in some of the most remote communities in the world.
Those who have read Christopher McDougall’s best-selling book “Born to Run” will know all about the Tarahumara Tribe. They call themselves Raramuri and live in and above the canyons of Northern Mexico. They are there because they were forced to retreat to this remote area five centuries ago by the invasion of the Spanish, and have stayed there ever since.
The Tarahumara are shy, private people who live far apart from each other in small wooden houses and caves. They live a very simple life and are known to be quiet, thoughtful people who are able farmers. However, more interestingly they are exceptional runners. The tribe call themselves Raramuri and when translated means running people, and their running abilities are almost superhuman, defying our understanding of human endurance. They regularly run races of up to 300 miles non-stop, through the mountain terrain and it is believed their record run is over 400 miles in just over 48 hours! That's 16 times further than a marathon. They never seem to get tired or injured, and their races are done non-stop in either barefoot or sandals made from tyres and deer skin.
Many have entered long distance running events such as the 100-mile run in Colorado, and they have dumbfounded fellow competitors by running in their sandals, often beating their rivals running in their high-tech trainers. You would think they must eat a ridiculous amount of food as their runs burn thousands of calories, but oddly enough there diet is mainly corn, beans, potatoes and apples, and they brew their own alcoholic drink made from corn; which apparently they will drink until they pass out!
As well as being able to run long distances the tribe have barely any illnesses, and things like cancer, diabetes and heart disease are basically non-existence. However they do have an unusually high infant mortality rate, and apparently, the average woman gives birth to around ten babies in hopes that three or four will survive into adulthood. It's thought that the Tarahumara can run these incredible distances because it is their tradition and their only mode of transport. From a young age they start running and continue up until their deaths, their life expectancy was first thought to be 45, but there is no solid proof of this, and some records show them living into their 80's and above.
The Tribes incredible endurance has fascinated experts for years, and they believe they are able to do this due to their environment, minimal footwear and natural running form. In running shoes, the heel strikes the ground first, and ground reaction force travels from heel and foot through our centre of mass. In the last few years, there has been much speculation and research going on about this very issue whether wearing running shoes works for us, or perhaps, against us.
One thing is for sure, the Tarahumara have shown us the capabilities of the human body, and they continue to fascinate us with their extraordinary ways.
The Suri, Mursi and Me’en are three tribes that live separately but who are collectively known as The Surma People. They live in South Sudan and Ethiopia and share similar cultures and beliefs. Their homes are built in remote mountainous areas, and they are known to have a fierce rivalry with neighbouring tribes such as the Nyangatom. This rivalry has become more deadly in recent years with all parties having access to automatic weapons. The areas where these tribes live is extremely dangerous for outsiders.
They have a violent culture and stick fighting is a common practice for the men, especially when proving their prowess when seeking a wife. It is not unknown for them to suffer serious injury or even death in pursuit of a bride.The men are ominous looking too, with their bodies completely shaved, and wearing little or no clothes.
The women have an unusual beauty regime that starts from a young age. This involves having their bottom teeth removed, and their lips pierced and stretched, in preparation for a clay lip plate to be inserted into their bottom lip. Some of these are a staggering 16 inches round, with the belief the bigger the plate, the more cattle the woman is worth, and the more attractive they are to potential suitors. Albeit in recent years it is thought this practice is not so prevalent as it once was. They also use white clay paint to dot over their faces and paint their bodies.
In a bizarre ritual of self-harm, the Suri people pride themselves on how many scars they have on their bodies. These self-inflicted wounds are performed by slicing their skin with a razor blade and a thorn; the open wound is then left to heal and scar. These rituals are extremely painful and thought to be a form of controlled violence, to help the children get accustomed to seeing blood and feeling pain so that they can cope with their violent surroundings.
Families live in communes that range from 40 to 1,000 people, they share food and livestock, and some of the elder men can be seen with a fur crown, indicated they are the most respected member of the tribe. The households however, are always run by women, and they are allowed to earn money from fields that they own and keep the profits for themselves. Although all the decisions in the villages are made by men, and women have no say in these.
3The Ruc People
We have all heard of the Vietnam war, but many of us may not have heard of the Ruc people, and no one in the world did until the end of 1959 when North Vietnamese soldiers saw a group of very timid, naked forest people in the woods.
They could be seen climbing cliffs and trees with incredible agility, and after gaining the trust of the soldiers, some of them were persuaded out of their caves and huts and settled in Ruc Lan Valley. However, many of the Ruc people preferred to live in a primitive lifestyle so stayed where they were. Today the Ruc people are considered one of the least known tribes in the world, as those who did not settle in Ruc Lan Valley are still believed to be living in tents and caves beside the mountainside. They do not have schools, clinics or markets, or even family names.
The cave system in the area is thought to be vast and complex, with many areas still unexplored. It is believed that the tribe sleep sitting up and have retained very strange witchcraft rituals, which are unknown to other tribes. These include a fertility spell and a contraceptive spell, both of which are a complete mystery to outsiders.It is also claimed they have a secret sound they make that will ward off wild animals.
Unfortunately, it is feared that the Ruc people who have lived by very primitive practices for many decades are at risk of a severe population decline as the elders die taking their secret rituals with them. The younger members of the community are getting more and more drawn into the modern way of life, and it is thought that in under 100 years the Ruc Tribe will be completely gone.
2The Lone Tribesman
In 1996 the existence of an incredible lone tribesman came to light when loggers reported seeing a wild man lurking deep in the Amazon Rainforest. The sighting led to investigations being carried out by Brazil's government agency responsible for looking after remote Amazon tribes.
Officials at first were unable to trace him. However, there was evidence of a small thatched hut, with a garden growing modest crops, surrounded by a number of spiked pitfalls which are usually used for catching wild animals. They kept searching and also found markings carved in trees that seemed to have some unknown spiritual meaning. After entering the hut, they found hand carved arrowheads and torches, and it became apparent to investigators that the man was living alone and had not been separated from any known tribe.
As more searches were carried out throughout the forest, more of the dwellings were found, characterised by a hand dug rectangular hole in the middle of the hut about 5ft deep. It didn't appear to serve any purpose and had never been documented in any other tribes in the area. It was concluded that the man moved between his shelters possibly on the run from the outside world. Eventually, he was located, but he made it very obvious he did not want contact with anyone. He hid, and only fleeting glimpses were ever caught of him.
On one occasion he fired an arrow that hit an investigator in the chest. The man survived the attack, but investigators decided to back off, and give the man space to live his life as he wished. The decision was also made to make a 31 square mile area surrounding where the man was thought to be living, off limits to any kind of development or intrusion from the outside world.
The lone tribesman is still roaming the forest, hunting and living in complete isolation, with no one to talk to apart from the animals and his own mind. It seems this is how he will live out his last days and take with him the knowledge of what happened to his people, keeping the secret of his culture and language forever. It appears he is the sole remaining member of his unknown Amazonian tribe.
He’s the only person in the world who retains the customs and language of his people so making contact with him could be like finding a treasure trove of information, and the stories and knowledge he could share about how he has survived by himself would be truly remarkable.
The Korowai tribe are different from many known tribes. They live in a remote rainforest in Indonesia New Guinea, and it is thought that up until 1970 they were totally unaware of the existence of other people apart from rival tribes.
This theory becomes more plausible when you think that they live perched 140 ft up into the canopy of the least explored jungle in the world. The tribe have built unique treehouses that tower above the forest resting on spindly wooden stilts over 100ft above the ground, with no cranes or use of modern machinery these incredible structures are built entirely by hand using primitive hand made tools.
A towering ladder is constructed to reach their homes, and the houses have walls and floors made of tree bark and roofs made of leaves. The original reason and design purpose of their homes was to protect the tribe from rival clans and cannibalism.
The tribe have maintained their age-old traditions, with a strong belief that their dead ancestors can return to living at any moment. They have had very little contact with the outside world, and most of the Korowai tribe still live with little or no knowledge other humans. It has widely been reported that the tribe still practice cannibalism, and although Anthropologists believe recently, that cannibalism is no longer practised by them, there is no real way of knowing for sure if this is true.
In 2006 Australian reporter Paul Raffaele from Smithsonian Magazine went on an expedition to meet the tribe, and he claims when he first encountered them, he had to eat human meat to gain acceptance from them. He was also presented with the skull of a tribesman who had recently been killed and whose brains the tribe had dined on. The tribe believe that if someone dies of disease or unknown reasons it is likely the witch man Khakhua is responsible, and he has possessed the person's body and eaten their insides.The Khakhua will be one of the tribesmen, and they will kill who they think it is and eat him as a sort of revenge-based justice.
Supposedly, they will only eat men and although it's hard for us to understand, in their culture it is perfectly normal. The Korowai still live in a remote rainforest in Indonesia and are one of the world's most mysterious and isolated tribes.