05 February 2010

Boa Sr dead at 85

The BBC reported today that Boa Sr died in her native Andaman Islands at the age of 85. You may not have heard of Boa Sr. She was the last of her aeta tribe in her native Andaman Islands. She has held this distinction of being the Bo language's last speaker for the last 40 years since her parents died.

(Boa Sr with Anvita Abbi)

She spoke Bo, a language that scientists believe is about 70,000 years old, and was a close cousin to the pre-Austronesian languages of the Aeta, Agta, Ayta, Pygmies, Ita, Baluga, Ati, Dumagat and at least 25 other tribes of the Philippines, the Semang of Malaysia, the Mani of Thailand and 12 other Andamanese tribes.

Her best friend Boro, who was the last speaker of another of the Great Andamanese languages, died last year.

The Sentinelese, another aeta Andaman tribe, pictured above, have rejected any time of relationship with the outside world and have enforced it with the use of shooting arrows and threatening displays of aggression. Scientists believe this xenophobia has prevented disruption of their cultural practices and of contracting fatal diseases that have deciminated Aeta tribes after contact throughout Southeast Asia. (Yes they look friendly here, but apparently that only lasts until you get close enough for arrows to hit you.)

Good bye, Boa Sr