Essay by parekhviks12B, December 2003

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Pygmy groups are scattered throughout equatorial Africa, from Cameroon in the west to Zambia in the southeast. In Zaire, there are three main groups of Pygmies: the Tswa in the west, the Twa between Lake Kivu and Lake Tanganyika, and the Mbuti (also referred to as Bambuti or BaMbuti) of the Ituri Forest. According to Schebesta, the author of the earliest reliable reports, only the Mbuti are true Pygmies, i.e., under 150 cm. in height and relatively unmixed with neighboring peoples. The other groups are referred to as Pygmoids, being highly intermixed with other peoples both physically and culturally (Turnbull 1965A: 159-B). The following summary refers only to the Mbuti Pgymies of the Ituri Forest in Zaire. The Mbuti are located at lat. 0 degrees-3 degrees N and long. 26 degrees-30 degrees E. Their territory is a primary rain forest. The Mbuti have conventionally been divided into three groups, which are distinct from each other linguistically, economically, and geographically.

Each of the three groups speaks a different language (which corresponds to the language spoken by neighboring villagers), practices different hunting techniques, and is territorially distinct. The Aka speak the Mangbetu language (Sudanic family), hunt primarily with spears, and live in the north. These spear-hunters have not been extensively studied. The Efe speak the Lese language (Sudanic family), are archers, and are located in the east. The Efe were studied by Schebesta. The Sua speak the Bira language (Bantu branch of the Benue-Congo family), hunt with nets, and live to the south. They were studied by Putnam and Turnbull. The most profound difference between the three groups, the linguistic difference, is, according to Turnbull, of recent origin and is purely accidental (Turnbull 1965B 22-23). Furthermore, in spite of the fact that the three languages are very different, there are enough similarities...