Last Bo speaker dies in Andaman Islands
- Last member of 65,000-year-old tribe dies, taking one of world's earliest
languages to the grave
By Anny Shaw
Daily Mail, 05th February 2010
The last member of a 65,000-year-old tribe has died, taking one of the
world's earliest languages to the grave.
Boa Sr, who died last week aged about 85, was the last native of the
Andaman Islands who was fluent in Bo.
Named after the tribe, Bo is one of the 10 Great Andamanese
languages, which are thought to date back to the pre-Neolithic period
when the earliest humans walked out of Africa.
Boa Sr, who died last week aged about 85, was the last native of the Andaman Islands who was fluent in Bo.
Boa was the oldest member of the Great Andamanese, a group of tribes
that are the the first descendants of early humans who migrated from
Africa about 70,000 years ago and who arrived on the islands around
65,000. Other groups went on to colonise Indonesia and Australia.
She lived through the horrors and hardships of the 2004 Asian tsunami, the
Japanese occupation and diseases brought by colonisers in the 19th
century. Boa described the moment the tsunami struck: 'We were
all there when the earthquake came.
'The eldest told us "the Earth would part, don't run away or move". The
elders told us, that's how we know.'
Professor Anvita Abbi, a linguist who knew Boa, said the tribeswoman had been
losing her sight in recent years and was unable to speak with anyone in
her own language.
Boa had no children and her husband died several years ago.
'Since she was the only speaker of Bo, she was very lonely as she had no one to converse with,' Professor Abbi told the Times.
'Boa Sr had a very good sense of humour, and her
smile and full throated laughter were infectious.'
Professor Abbi managed to speak with Boa using a local version
of Hindi and Great Andamanese, which is a mixture of all ten tribal
languages. 'We had an odd relationship, but also a very intense one,' the
'I spent a long time with her in the jungle and shared many moments
with her. She was very proud to be the last member of the
Boa was born in the jungle of the northern Andamans and grew up in
traditional society, learning to gather wild potatoes and hunt for wild
pigs, turtles and fish.
In 1970, the Indian Government moved the Great Andamanese tribes to the
tiny Strait Island near Port Blair.Â
Boa lived in a
concrete and tin hut provided by the government and survived on state
food rations and a pension of about 500 rupees (Â£6.80) a month.
Sentinelese tribesmen, who ban any contact with
outsiders, prepare to fire arrows at an Indian Coast Guard helicopter
'She always said
she wanted to go back to the place where she was born,' Professor Abbi
'Alcohol was a
big problem. It was killing them one by one.'
Bo are believed to have lived on the islands for as long as 65,000
years, making them one of the oldest surviving human cultures.Â
The king of the Bo tribe died in 2005, leaving
only a handful of elderly members who also died over the next five
The Great Andamanese once numbered more than 5,000
and were made up of 10 distinct groups each with their own language.
today, after more than 150 years of contact with colonisers and the
diseases they brought with them,
the Great Andamanese number just 52.
The only indigenous tribe that is relatively
intact is the Sentinelese, who ban any contact with outsiders.
They were famously photographed firing arrows at
an Indian helicopter after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.
Professor Abbi said that Boa often told her how
she envied the fact
that the Jarawa and the Sentinelese had managed to avoid contact with
She recalled: 'She used to say they were better
off in the
Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, a group that
campaigns for the rights of indigenous people, urged the Indian
Government not to resettle any the Jawara or other indigenous tribes.
'With the death of Boa Sr and the extinction of the Bo language, a
unique part of human society is now just a memory,' he said.
'Boaâ€™s loss is a bleak reminder that we must not allow this to happen
to the other tribes
of the Andaman Islands.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1248754/Last-member-65-000-year-old-tribe-dies-taking-worlds-earliest-languages-grave.html#ixzz0emTOwCpY
Hear Boa Sr speak the lost language of the Bo:
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