There are still some cannibals on the planet. Or maybe not. They are the Korowai, an indigenous tribe from Papua New Guinea, an island in Oceania where modern development has not yet arrived. Progress is kept firmly away from dense, dark rainforests.
Here, indigenous peoples still command on the basis of unwritten laws that are passed down from generation to generation. The latest studies speak of about 3000 individuals living.
Until 1974, the date of the first documented meeting with scientists, the Korowai were convinced that they were the only inhabitants of the planet.
Today we know that they live by hunting and what nature has to offer. They are very skilled gatherers and fishermen. They are organized into clans and it is also for fear of attacks by rival clans that they have begun to live in raised villages.
An “Elevated” Tribe
The houses are built on very tall trees that reach up to 45-50 meters in height. They are very solid, with walls of thick palm and banana leaves and foundations of wooden poles. The houses can accommodate very large families, consisting of about ten members and many pets. Family relations, in fact, are very much alive and have a sacred value.
The Korowai live with the imminent danger of flooding. The rainforest in which they live is in fact affected by heavy rainfall throughout the year, which makes the many waterways present a constant threat.
Indigenous people also fear insects, which can be lethal in this area. They are particularly ill with malaria. They are not familiar with medicine and on average do not exceed 50 years of age. When a Korowai falls ill and dies, family members think that the cause of death is a malignant demon who has taken possession of the body of the sick, devouring it from within. These evil spirits, the khakua, are guilty of a very serious crime. Usually the dying man reveals the name of the alleged murderous spirit, who must be sought and killed. But there is more. The guilt is so serious that it must be expiated and the culprit must be eaten.
The Last Cannibals of the Planet
In 2006, Australian documentary filmmaker Paul Raffaele approached a tribe of Korowai to make a report that would answer what until then had been thought to be just legends about cannibalism. The Korowai are actually the last cannibals on earth. They practice cannibalism only as a ritual of revenge, to punish evil demons. The victims are usually inhabitants of the opposing clans, who are captured and killed. After that, the members of the tribe devour the flesh and preserve the skull. It was the natives who told the journalist about their method of justice, based on punitive revenge.
Of course, more recent theories have led anthropologists to think that the cannibalism of the Korowai is a practice now abandoned. But raise your hand if you have the courage to go and check by yourself.