ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS
The Andamanese population is decreasing to an alarming extent. It
is now taken at under 2,000, while up to a generation ago it must have
been about 5,000. The children number only a fourth of the adults.
The cause of the diminution of the population is infectious and
contagious disease, the result of contact with an advanced civilization.
Epidemics, all imported, of pneumonia (I868), syphilis (I876), measles
(I877), and influenza (I892), together with exposure to the sun and
wind in cleared spaces, the excessive use of tobacco (but not of
intoxicants), and overclothing, have been the chief means. Disease,
introduced by the carelessness or callousness of individuals in the first
instance, and spread broadcast among the savages by their own ignorance
in the next place, has worn down the actual numbers of the tribes,
and has apparently rendered the union of the sexes infructuous in
The Nicobarese population is stationary. In the Census of I901 the
Shom Pen tribe and foreign traders were included, but not in that
of I883. Excluding the extra figures, the population rose only from
5,942 in i883 to 5,962 in I901. This result supports the abstract
argument that savage and semi-civilized populations quickly reach the
limit of increase, that limit depending on the method of gaining their
livelihood in the area they occupy. As long as such people adhere to
their habits of life, the population remains stationary after a short period
of occupation of a new territory. When the territory occupied consists
of islands, the population is especially limited by habits as to food
production and by the area of productive occupation.
The Andamanese are a standing puzzle to ethnologists. The various
tribes form one race of Negritos, speaking varieties of a single funda-
mental language. The safest thing to say about them is that they are
probably relics of a race now represented by themselves, the Semangs
of the Malay Peninsula, and the Aetas of the Philippines, which in very
ancient times occupied the south-eastern portion of the Asiatic continent
and its outlying islands, before the irruptions of the oldest of the peoples
whose existence or traces can now be found there. In this view the
Andamanese are of extreme ethnological interest, as probably preserving,
in their persons and customs, owing to an indefinite period of complete
isolation, the last pure remnant of the oldest race of man in existence.
The antiquity of the Andamanese on their present site is proved by the
kitchen-middens, rising from 12 to 15 feet and more in height, and
in some cases having fossilized shells at the base. These show that the
Andamanese still get their food just as they did when the now fossil
shells contained living organisms.
It is not easy to present a brief, clear, and yet adequate account of
the Nicobarese, and quite impossible to present an authoritative one.
Their complicated system of civilization has not been sufficiently studied;