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A Semang (picture published in 1906)

The Semang are a Negrito ethnic group of the Malay Peninsula.Lowland Semang tribes are also known as Sakai, although this term is considered to be derogatory by the Semang people.[1] They are probably the indigenous peoples of this area.[citation needed] They have been recorded to have lived here since before the 200s Common Era (CE). They are ethnologically described as nomadic hunter-gatherers. See also badjao and [aetas]]. [2]


The Semangs live in caves or leaf-shelters that form between branches. A loincloth for the men, made of tree bark hammered out with a wooden mallet from the bark of the terap , a species of wild bread-fruit tree, and a short skirt of the same for the women, is the only dress worn; many go naked.[citation needed]

Scarification is practised. The finely serrated edge of a sugarcane leaf is drawn across the skin, then charcoal powder rubbed into the cut.[citation needed]

They have bamboo musical instruments, a kind of jaw harp, and a nose flute. On festive occasions, there is song and dance, both sexes decorating themselves with leaves.[citation needed]

The Semang bury their dead simply,[clarification needed] and place food and drink in the grave.[citation needed]

They have used Capnomancy (divination by smoke) to determine whether a camp is safe for the night.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hajek, John (June 1996). "Unraveling Lowland Semang". Oceanic Linguistics 35 (1): 138–141. doi:10.2307/3623034. JSTOR 3623034. 
  2. ^ Fix, Alan G. (June 1995). "Malayan Paleosociology: Implications for Patterns of Genetic Variation among the Orang Asli". American Anthropologist, New Series 97 (2): 313–323. doi:10.1525/aa.1995.97.2.02a00090. JSTOR 681964. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernatzik, H. A., & Ivanoff, J. (2005). Moken and Semang: 1936-2004, persistence and change. Bangkok: White Lotus. ISBN 974-480-082-8
  • Gomes, A. G. (1982). Ecological adaptation and population change: Semang foragers and Temuan horticulturists in West Malaysia. Honolulu, Hawaii (1777 East-West Rd., Honolulu 96848): East-West Environment and Policy Institute.
  • Human Relations Area Files, inc. (1976). Semang. [Ann Arbor, Mich: University Microfilms.
  • Rambo, A. T. (1985). Primitive polluters: Semang impact on the Malaysian tropical rain forest ecosystem. Ann Arbor, Mich: Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan. ISBN 0-915703-04-1