The Batak

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A Batak couple, circa 1914–1919



Batak is a collective term used to identify a number of ethnic groups predominantly found in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The term is used to include the Alas, Kluet, Singkil, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Toba, Angkola, and Mandailing which are distinct but related groups with distinct, albeit related, languages and customs (adar).

As early as Marco Polo’s visit to the east coast of Sumatra in 1292, the Batak were known as eager cannibals. Numerous gruesome reports of ritual cannibalism were reported through the ages. The influence of Islam probably reduced the cultural importance of cannabilism after 1816 although it continued. The Dutch banned the practice in regions under their control in 1890, but rumors of Batak cannablism continued into the early 20th century.

The photo at left shows a Batak couple, circa 1914–1919 (courtesy of Wikipedia)