The last tribe of cannibals in the world


In the west of New Guinea, there is a tribe of about 4,000 individuals living 10,000 years ago: living in the jungle, believing in witchcraft and eating human flesh.

Cannibalism has been practiced since prehistoric times and has been seized by the 19th century in remote areas of the South Pacific, especially in the Fiji Islands. Currently, Korowai is the last confirmed cannibal tribe. They usually live at a distance of 150-160 km from the shore of the Great Arafura, beside the Ndeiram Kabur River. In this area, Michael Rockefeller, the son of the Governor of New York at the time, disappeared in 1961 as he collected artifacts. His body has never been found. Most members of the Korowai tribe do not know anything about the surrounding world and rarely conflict with one another.

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The New Guinea Island, the second largest in the world, after Greenland, is divided into two: the independent state of Papua New Guinea, in the east, and the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. Korowai live in the southeastern province of Papua. They kill almost anyone who violates their territory and they fear those with "pale skin". It is said that very few Korawai have seen white people, whom they consider "laleo", ie demons or ghosts. Although for the rest of the world, the act of eating a man is called cannibalism, for them it is not.


For Korowai, cannibalism is an act of revenge for a demon who possessed a man and ate another. This does not happen often, but when it happens, the victim is eaten almost entirely by the tribe's adults. All that remains of the victim's body are bones, teeth, hair, genitals and nails. The bones are left to be seen as a warning, and the skull is kept as a trophy by the one who killed the victim. Returning to Korowai, cannibalism is part of a crucial ritual for their safety against the demon "khakhua." Khakhua is a wizard, a creature that takes the form of a close friend or a family member of the next victim. Once the victim falls asleep, Khakhua begins to devour her hair, killing her gently. If the victim grabs a name, it means to the other members of the tribe the name of the demon who ate it. The named person will no longer be considered a man, but a demon, and then he will be killed with an arrow made from the bones of a native bird. Once killed, khakhua is dismembered and cooked just as we cook a chicken or a pig.

I repeat, Kurowai does not think he's eating a person but consuming the khakhua demon. Basically they answer the same coin: one of them is eating another member of the tribe and is considered possessed then as revenge, it is the same thing he did to the victim. So for Kurowai, cannibalism is an act of righteousness that will be served to anyone. Even a child can become khakhua, but, according to tradition, it is not eaten until it reaches puberty. Although a child can eat, only adults can take part in the "meal".
The good news is that this ritual is happening less and less because Kurowai is more and more exposed to the outside world.

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