A Hypothesis of Tasaday History before 1971

By Thomas N. Headland (in 1992)

The following is taken from the conclusion of the book The Tasaday Controversy: Assessing the Evidence (published by the American Anthropological Association in 1992, page 218.

While we still know little about how the Tasaday lived in the recent past, from the data available it may be inferred that the Tasaday were a group of foragers who during the first half of the twentieth century lived much like other hunter-gatherer groups in Southeast Asia such as the Agta, Batak, Batek, Negrito, and Semang. Linguistic analyses of the Tasaday language data by Elkins, Molony, Johnston, and Reid provide strong evidence that the Tasaday separated from a Cotabato Manobo agricultural group recently--sometime in the 19th century--and moved deeper into the rain forest of South Cotabato near the site where they live today. Their economy then shifted from farming to a seminomadic forager subsistence. They probably lived in simple huts, sleeping in rock shelters only occasionally when on overnight foraging trips. They ate wild foods, but also domestic foods. Some of the domestic foods they may have planted themselves in tiny plots, but they secured most of it by trading minor forest products with Manobo farmers. In this hypothetical scenario they lived separate--but neither alone nor isolated--from other Manobo groups. They had at least periodic interaction based on trade with other peoples living in South Cotabato, especially with the people of Blit, the name of the agricultural village located in the late 1960s just 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) southwest of the Tasaday cave.