SIL International Home

SIL International Media Release

Agta Demographic Database presented at American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting

(21 November 2007) SIL International announces the release of their newest on-line publication, Agta Demographic Database: Chronicle of a Hunter-Gatherer Community in Transition. This database is the result of a fifty-year research project on the demography of the Agta, a Negrito hunter-gatherer population in the Philippines. SIL anthropologist Dr. Thomas Headland will demonstrate the database in a formal poster session at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, DC, on Thursday, 29 November, which is open to the public.

For the past half century, Thomas and Janet Headland studied demographic change among the Agta. Results were first published in 1998 as Population Dynamics of a Philippine Rain Forest People. The Agta Demographic Database now provides access to the raw data upon which that study was based.

The Agta Demographic Database provides a keyhole glimpse into how humans may have lived and died in prehistory. Content will be of particular interest to anthropologists, students of human history and demographers, as well as the Agta themselves. Researchers may use this data to check these and other demographic parameters, as well as to test their own hypotheses of prehistoric populations.

The Agta population has vital statistics that are extreme compared to industrialized humankind. Today's Agta have an infant mortality rate of 230/1000 (vs. 7/1000 in the USA), a high total fertility rate of 7.0, and a life expectancy of just 23 years (vs. 78 years in the USA).

The online demographic database consists of the records of 4,000 Agta individuals—who lived and died over the past 100 years—including the 600 Agta alive today. Vital statistics are complete for all San Ildefonso Agta since 1950.

The main table shows 30 fields for each person, and links to four supporting data tables with 20 more fields for each person. There are 11 reference tables. Fields include body measurements, marriage and birth histories, genealogies, 645 facial photographs and other vital statistics with dates of births, deaths, migrations and marriages. Uncompressed files, including photographs, total 115Mb; compressed files total 48Mb.

During the 1980s, printout portions of the content became available to the Agta themselves. Today they value these records to document their history, and computer-literate Agta anticipate using the database for generations to come.

Related links of interest