Thomas N. Headland
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The Tasaday ‘Cave People’

By Thomas N. Headland (1993)


The Tasaday Controversy: Assessing the Evidence
Edited by Thomas N. Headland

A special publication of the
American Anthropological Association
Scholarly Series in 1992


Click here to see photos of Tasaday in 1999.






From the Preface

In 1971 a band of cave-dwelling people called Tasaday were discovered living in a remote area of rain forest in the Philippines. These 26 individuals were reported to be following a paleolithic lifestyle, surviving solely on wild foods, and wearing leaves for clothing. After the international flurry of news articles and TV films in the early 1970s, no further word was heard about the Tasaday for thirteen years. Then, in 1986, news reports suddenly flooded the international press claiming that the whole story had been a hoax.

Are the world-famous Tasaday the most primitive people on Earth, one of the major anthropological discoveries of the century? Or were they the hoax of the decade? In this volume 19 scholars, 9 of whom did fieldwork in the Tasaday area, present their differing views on this hoax question.

The volume shows that no simple resolution of the controversy has emerged, although enough evidence, and some little-known facts, are outlined here to bring the reader to his own conclusion. Whatever occurs in the future, however, it is vitally important that the existing evidence be made available for scrutiny and debate, and this is a major contribution of this collection.

From the Foreword by Terence Hays

In 1988 the American Anthropological Association asked Thomas Headland to organize a special session on the "Tasaday Controversy" for its 88th Annual Meeting. The symposium was held in Washington, D.C., on November 16, 1989, where eighteen distinguished speakers presented papers. In my capacity as Editor of the Scholarly Series of the AAA’s Special Publication series, I invited Professor Headland to publish the essays as a volume in this series.

Terence E. Hays
Series Editor
American Anthropological Association

The Tasaday Controversy is reviewed in the following:

Cultural Survival Quarterly 1991; Journal of Anthropological Research 1993; American Anthropologist 1993; Pilipinas 1993; Anthropology Today, Feb. 1993; Philippine Quarterly of Culture & Society 1993; Philippine Studies 1994; Asian Perspectives 1994; Research & Exploration 1994; Anthropos 1994; Anthropological Quarterly 1995; Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 1995; Oceania 1996; Bijdragen Tot de Taal Land en Volkenkunde 1996; American Ethnologist 1998; Duncanville Today [Texas], Sept. 10, 1992; Arlington News [Texas], Sept. 10, 1992; Grand Prairie News [Texas], Sept. 24, 1992; The Shorthorn [campus newspaper of U Texas at Arlington], March 30, 1993; UTA Today (cable television station of U Texas/Arlington. Jan 8, 1993); The Philippine Star [Manila], May 6, 1993; and The Lost Tribe (NOVA program on PBS-TV, March 30, 1993).

From Headland's argument on NOVA national television on March 30, 1993

"The widely-hailed story that these people were Stone-Age cavemen living in cultural and linguistic isolation for hundreds of years is patently false. In that sense, it was a hoax. On the other hand, the non-hoax element is that there was a small community called Tasaday that really exist and who were living as a separate--but not isolated--group of rain forest foragers."

Other useful websites on the Tasaday