Sentinel Island and the Aborigines of the Stone Age. India. Description.

North Sentinel Island: the mystery of inaccessible land

This picturesque island, lost in the Indian Ocean, looks like a place of paradise, which was created for luxurious vacation. But in fact, it harbors a deadly threat to all who attempt to land on it: the indigenous people living here are very hostile to outsiders, greeting them with stones and showering them with a hail of arrows. The North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal is a wilderness area that is better kept off-limits to the modern tourist.

The little-explored tribe rejects all contact with the outside world and attacks outsiders who try to approach their territory. There are only a few photos taken from a decent distance, and not a single video of the natives. Also, no one knows their exact number: some say that no more than forty islanders live here, while others claim a number of several hundred.

Independent Island

Located in the Bay of Bengal, a piece of land, where not only tourists but also scientists have not set a foot, belongs to the Andaman Islands – an archipelago that lies between Myanmar and India. It still has many pristine corners, closed to tourists. It consists of 204 islands of varying size, of which only twenty-six are inhabited by people.

northern sentinel island

Although these lands are formally governed by the Indian authorities, the territory in question today is independent, and its inhabitants are a primitive people, not even aware of civilization. The mysterious North Sentinel Island, whose population consists of natives, exists in an interesting state of uncertainty.

Terra incognita.

Considered an autonomous region of India under established international law, it is a sovereign corner, and its inhabitants have never signed any agreements with the state.

North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal

Initially, the territory, which is located in the Andaman Islands, where the British used to exile political prisoners, was of no interest to anyone. In the XVIII century, the first mentions of it appear: travelers who sailed nearby, leave records that the uncooperative local population, not allowing to get off the ground, meets everyone with arrows. Strangers who dare to disembark never return alive. And a hundred years later, a merchant ship from India was wrecked here, and the surviving sailors on land were only saved from imminent death by the intervention of the military from the ship that rushed to their aid.

Getting to know the natives

It was not until the 1960s that anthropologists, who had studied a large number of different tribes, decided to get to know an isolated, closed people and went with photographers to the natives. As soon as the savages of the North Sentinel Island saw the approaching boats, they threw arrows at the scientists, who were not embarrassed by the attack. Despite their aggression, the explorers, eager to learn more about the culture and life of the islanders, left coconuts, colorful plastic buckets and a pig on the shore and quickly departed. This is the traditional way of “getting to know” the wild tribes: in this way the scientists send a message that they have peaceful intentions and are eager to communicate with the inhabitants.

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The natives enthusiastically accepted the offerings, but they ate the coconuts instead of planting them, the pig was killed and buried without eating the meat. Curiously, out of the huge number of plastic buckets, the natives kept only the red ones, finding this color the most attractive.

However, the next time Europeans tried to approach the island again, they were met with spears and stones. After that, scientists decided to leave the aggressive savages alone, declaring the North Sentinel Island (India) a closed territory. To this day, no one knows not only the exact number of inhabitants, but also their culture.

Rejecting all contact with civilization

In 1981, the island was stumbled upon by the captain of a ship whose crew was attacked by locals who tried to shoot sailors with bows. Only a violent storm and primitive weapons prevented them from doing so. The terrified crew were unharmed by the belligerent men defending their scrap of land. The government of a country in South Asia has declared that it has no desire to interfere in the internal affairs of the natives and their environment.

northern sentinel island area

Thirteen years ago, the 72-square-kilometer North Sentinel Island was destroyed by a terrible earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The disaster severely damaged the Andamans, and it is impossible to give an exact number of casualties.

An Indian helicopter flew over the land for several days to deliver humanitarian aid to the population. Surviving Sentinels pelted the flying object with sharp-tipped arrows, and it was not possible to drop food. The people, aggressive to outsiders, even now reject any contact with civilization.

A closed territory for scientists and tourists

Eleven years ago, on the outskirts of the North Sentinel Island, reputed to be the most inaccessible place on the planet, two poaching fishermen were accidentally found and ruthlessly killed by bloodthirsty savages. A helicopter was sent for the bodies, but the families of the Indians were unable to retrieve them. The Sentinel warriors fired on the aircraft, the strong wind from its blades scattered the sand, and the pilot managed to see the buried corpses. After that, the government of the country officially announced that it was stopping all attempts to communicate with the natives and warned tourists about the dangers.

north sentinel island population

It is now impossible to get to the mysterious North Sentinel Island. Indian authorities have placed armed guards in the coastal waters, so that no adventurer can even come close to the closed territory. Anyone who tries to do so is fined and hauled away.

Aggressive people are the most vulnerable on our planet

There is a nongovernmental human rights organization that monitors the rights of tribal peoples. It supports the Aboriginal people’s desire to preserve their ancestral territory. Survival International is concerned with the health of the Sentinels, who are considered “the most vulnerable people on earth” because they have no protection against common diseases like the common cold or measles. Any epidemic would cause irreparable damage to the indigenous population, for whom a simple cold can be fatal.

savages of northern sentinel island

The same organization believes that the inhabitants of the North Sentinel Island are so aggressive to the Europeans, because in the past the visitors were violent and hostile to them. Armed to the teeth men have landed here, wishing to possess the riches of the land, as well as treasures from the ships wrecked near the shores.

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Now the area is considered a security zone – a kind of reservation with posted posts. Once the natives join civilization, their unusual culture will be lost forever. Protective practices exist in different countries where there are unique sites, and thanks to this tribe with its identity is not lost.

What is known about the aggressive savages?

The language of the primitive people, of whom little is known, is radically different from that of their neighbors, and this is evidence of the absence of any contact with the outside world. The Sentinels, who have never left their island, have no boats, and live on what the fertile land and the ocean provide. It is true that the few pictures taken from a helicopter at different times do not show any vegetable gardens.

northern sentinel island india

There is no evidence that the tribe cultivates the land or engages in any production. Most likely, the population lives on fishing, hunting and gathering.

Stone Age inhabitants

The inhabitants of the North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal do not look like Hindus: they are distinguished by their short stature, dark skin color, and curly hair. It is assumed that the aborigines who lived in the Stone Age about 60,000 years ago migrated from Africa to Asia, settling there permanently. They appeared when the Andaman archipelago was still part of Indonesia. Soon a breakaway piece of land swept away the land-dwelling people. The Sentinels, who defended their independence, live on the northernmost island, which is far away from the rest.

Andaman Islands

Indian scientists have made the assumption that several families, consisting of older and younger generations, live here. They do not know how to use fire, know nothing about civilization, and make primitive weapons from metal found on sunken ships. The warriors of the tribe skillfully create them by embedding iron in spears and arrows. They have both sharp and blunt tips for hunting and defending their territory.

Encounters that will end unpredictably

Despite all the precautions taken by the Indian authorities, tourists do not give up hope of ever visiting the North Sentinel Island of the Andaman Archipelago and meeting its inhabitants. However, such communication may be the last for the Europeans, because any meeting will end unpredictably, and contact with civilization does not bode well for the savages living in the Stone Age.

Sentinel Island. No Entry or Welcome to the Stone Age.

Sentinel Island (officially called North Sentinel Island)-one of the least explored on the planet. Beautiful, tropical, green, but inaccessible to modern man.

You can get on it, but it is extremely difficult to get out alive. No, there aren’t thousands of poisonous snakes like on Keimada Grandi. They just won’t let you in… the natives. Yes, this island is inhabited by people who first shoot arrows at you and then … shoot arrows at you again. Welcome to the Stone Age.

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Sentinel Island

North Sentinel Island

Where is it

The Sentinel Island is part of the Andaman Islands. It lies 37 km west of South Andaman Island.

The nearest civilization is the town of Wondur, 37 kilometers to the east.

Sentinel Island

General description

The island is shaped like a square with sides up to 8 kilometers long. The total area of about 60 km2.

Sentinel Island is surrounded by coral reefs. Extremely dense forests cover it almost entirely, leaving only a small strip of sandy beaches on the coast. Just beyond the beaches, the island rises sharply by 20 meters, then gently to another 40-50 meters. Closer to the center of the island is up to 122 meters above sea level.

At 500 meters from the southeast coast of the Sentinel lies a small island of Constance.

Sentinel Island is formally part of the South Andaman Administrative Region. And it, in turn, is part of the Indian Union of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. That is, the island formally belongs to India since 1947. But in fact it is a sovereign island under its protectorate.

An earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004 tilted the tectonic plate under the island, raising it by 1-2 meters. Large sections of the surrounding coral reefs also rose. As a result, Constance Island was practically united with the main island.

The natives of Sentinel Island

The island became the only home to the local Sentinelese Aboriginal tribe. They are one of the so-called non-contact peoples of the world. That is, they completely reject any contact with the outside world and remain virtually untouched by modern civilization.

According to scientists, the population of the island is between 50 and 400 people. And they settled the island about 55,000 years ago. For thousands of years, the islanders did not let anyone close to them. It is now impossible to accurately count the population of the island. Dense forests and the hostility of the inhabitants do not allow to do so.

In fact, the Centeneles are an endemic people. Any intervention from the outside can “kill” all the inhabitants, as they have no immunity to modern infections.

The tribe’s diet consists mainly of coconuts and fish, which they catch in the shallow waters off the coast. They also eat sea turtles and small birds. According to scientists, they are hunter-gatherers, and agriculture is not known to them.

Interesting fact – During the tsunami of 2004, many islands of the archipelago were damaged. Coastal settlements were subjected to severe destruction. But the people of Sentinel retreated to high ground inland before the disaster. It is as if they knew of the danger beforehand, or someone warned them.

Practically nothing is known about the Sentineles tribe. If it were not for their arrows with metal tips made from the hulls of sunken ships, they could be called Stone Age people. For example, their canoes are very primitive and suitable only for fishing in shallow waters.

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The history of the island

Most people have never heard of this island or its natives. Nevertheless, it has been known for a long time. In addition to the people of nearby islands, Europeans have known about it since the 13th century. Residents of other islands called the Sentinel Chia daaKwokweyeh.

The famous navigator Marco Polo, passing by the island, described the natives as “a most cruel and savage race with heads, eyes, and teeth like dogs. They are very cruel, killing and eating any stranger.”

The inhabitants of the island are in every way preventing any invasion. When they see a boat approaching, they immediately occupy the coast and begin to shoot with primitive bows. With all their looks, shouts and gestures, they show that they do not want contact.

Natives of Sentinel Island

This is usually the way the natives greet the strangers.

The militancy of the local population and the lack of interest from the conquerors caused the island to be forgotten until 1867.

An interesting fact – Despite the fact that the natives are members of the Andaman group of peoples, their language is not understood by anyone, even the population of neighboring islands. Most likely affected by the long isolation of the Sentineles tribe.

The first battle

The first recorded contact of the aborigines with the outside world is registered in 1867. Then, off the coast of the island crashed an Indian ship called Nineva. There were 106 survivors. They set up camp on the coast and after a few days were attacked by locals. The sailors managed to fight off several attacks before they were rescued.

Attempt to study the natives

An expedition led by Maurice Vidal Portman landed on the island in January 1880. The group found a network of trails and several abandoned huts in the jungle. They also captured six natives (an elderly man and woman and four children). All were taken to Port Blair in South Andaman.

Unfortunately, the elderly couple fell ill very quickly and died (they were immune to the infections of the outside world). The children were immediately returned to the island with gifts.

Portman then tried to make contact with the natives in 1883. He landed on the island several times from 1885 to 1887. But all efforts were in vain. The language of the Sentineles was incomprehensible, and the hostility of the islanders nullified all attempts at communication.

The Indians had been trying to establish relations with the islanders since 1967. None of the attempts were successful. The natives even attacked or attempted to attack ships that ran aground nearby.

One such incident occurred in 1981. The ship Primrose ran aground in the coastal reefs. A few days later, sailors noticed the locals preparing bows, arrows, spears, and boats. A storm was raging at sea at the time, so the sailors could not be rescued. But the islanders could not reach the crew either. Eventually the crew was rescued by helicopters.

Wreck of the ship Primrose

The wreck of the ship Primrose.

Recall that the metal arrowheads were made by the islanders from the hulls of ships stranded off the coast. As a result, the ships decided to dismantle in 1991.

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Shipwreck off the coast of Sentinel Island

There’s contact!

Triloknath Pandit, director of the Indian Anthropological Survey, and his colleagues had been observing the islanders from afar for 20 years.

In late 1990, Pandit began frequently leaving various gifts and coconuts on the shore.

On January 4, 1991, the first recorded relatively peaceful contact with the islanders took place. On that day a group of natives approached Pandit quite peacefully. One even climbed into a boat.

Contact with the Sentinel Islanders

First contact with the aborigines of Sentinel Island

Pandit later recalled that the contact was something incredible and surprising to him. But there was still distrust on the part of the natives. For example, when Pandit was standing in the water with the natives, a boat swam away from him. One of the natives immediately drew a knife and pointed it threateningly at Pandit. Evidently he thought the stranger was going to stay on the island. However, the boat returned and Pandit sailed away.

So what next?

It would seem that there is a fragile interaction; we must develop it. But there wasn’t. Pandit’s contact was the only peaceful one so far. After him, the attacks continued in standard mode.

Anthropologists, a photographer, and a National Geographic film crew, accompanied by armed police, landed on the island in 1974. They hoped to win the friendship of the natives by using centuries-old methods of colonization. Generous gifts and friendly gestures did not help; the natives immediately began firing bows. No one was killed, but one of the strangers got an arrow in the leg. The entire group quickly left the island.

In January 2006, the natives killed two fishermen who were fishing too close to the island. When their bodies were attempted to be removed by helicopter, the Aborigines generously pelted it with rocks and showered it with arrows.

In November 2018, American preacher John Allen Chow was murdered. He had planned to become a missionary, but arrows from the island prevented that from happening.

John Allen Chow, American Preacher

John Allen Chow is one of the Aboriginal victims

Interesting fact – No one ever prosecuted the Aborigines for murder or made any claims or demands on them. Surely you can see why?

Sentinel Island nowadays.

The Tribal Protection Ordinance of 1956 ensures the inviolability of Native tribes in the region.

Since 2005, the Andaman Islands leadership has stated that it will not interfere in the lives of the aboriginal people of Sentinel Island. In addition, it refuses any further attempts to contact the tribe.

The Indian government declared the island and its surrounding waters an exclusion zone. And since 1997, visits to the island have officially ceased completely.

An interesting fact – Of course, no treaties with the Sentineles tribe were signed and no negotiations were held. Therefore, in fact, the Aborigines have not given up their sovereignty. That is, they do not even know that they are subjects of India.

The Sentinel Island is one of the last inhabited but unexplored islands on the planet.

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