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Monday, 16 October 2006

Adam and Noah were tall, black and bearded

I've made a side study of anthropology and over the years I've collected quite a few Creation and Flood stories. But here's a new one I just ran across, from the Andamanese culture, most of which had no historic contact with the rest of the world prior to 1858 when a British penal colony was erected at Port Blair.

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After Puluga had made the world, he created man and called him Tomo. He was black in colour like his modern-day descendants but much taller and bearded. Puluga showed Tomo how to use fire and especially how to cook pigs which in those days were easy to catch as they had neither ears nor noses. Later Puluga also created a woman whose name was Chan Elewadi. The original couple had two daughters and two sons. When pigs became plentiful enough to be a nuisance, the clever woman drilled holes into their snouts and heads, thereby enabling them to hear and see to avoid danger and procure food for themselves. Puluga then covered the whole land with jungle in which the newly-equipped pigs could hide, thereby becoming much more difficult to catch. Puluga came to the rescue of the people by showing Tomo how to hunt with the help of bow and arrows as well as how to build canoes and how to fish. He showed Chan Elewadi how to weave baskets, make fishing nets and to use ochre and white clay. He also set down a number of rules and regulations such as a prohibition on noisy work at night during the wet season. Puluga also gave the people their language, A-Pucikwar. In those days Puluga lived on Saddle Peak and being so near could visit and instruct his people. The canoes of those early days were not, according to legend, equipped with outriggers and were made of the hollowed out trunk of the pandanus tree which was said to have grown much bigger then. The creeks so characteristic of Greater Andaman are also said to have been made at that time: Tomo had harpooned a large fish which in its frantic efforts to escape hit the land repeatedly with its snout and caused the indentations that turned into useful creeks. Tomo himself was said to have lived to a great old age and to have seen his descendants increase in number to such a degree that the original homeland could no longer accommodate them all. Puluga then interfered again and had them all equipped with weapons, implements, fire and their own language before they scattered in pairs all over the country. Tomo and his wife later drowned and were turned into a whale and a small crab respectively.
Tomo's successor was his grandson, Kolwot, who distinguished himself by being the first to catch turtle. After Kolwot's death, the people became remiss of the commands given to them at the creation. Puluga ceased to visit them and then without further warning sent a devastating flood. Only four people survived this flood: two men, Loralola and Poilola, and two women, Kalola and Rimalola. When they landed they found they had lost their fire and all living things had perished. Puluga then recreated the animals and plants but does not seem to have given any further instructions, nor did he return the fire to the survivors. They suffered grievously. At this critical moment, one of their recently-drowned friends reappeared in the form of a kingfisher. He noticed their distress and flew up to the sky where he found Puluga seated beside his fire. He sized a burning log and tried to fly to earth with it. The kingfisher-spirit dropped the log on Puluga who suffered burns and angrily hurled the log at the bird. It missed its mark and instead fell near the four survivors people who thus had their problem solved for them. The legend at this point adds that since that time until the present day, the Andamanese tribes have never been without fire, thanks to the precautions they employ to guard against its extinction. The survivors received no such help with the other skills of daily life which they had to recover by themselves. The pigments for body-painting were said to have been rediscovered accidentally by women searching for edible roots.

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Note the following historical elements in this myth:
1. Creation of a single couple: man first
2. Close communion with God, later lost
3. Physiological change from the original human prototype
4. Long Lifespans and rapid population growth
5. Global dispersion accompanied by language change
6. Cataclysmic flood

Now, another interesting element in this myth has no direct counterpart in recorded history, but it is shared by other myths across the globe: Fire from Heaven. Distinct to this myth is the admission that the use of fire had been lost earlier. Fire is the most basic technology that distinguishes Man from Beast. All men make use of nurtured fire; no animals do.

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