Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/246

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counts exist of their origin. Some say that their ancestors came down from the sky. Another account traces their descent from the daughter of a Batta chief of Sumatra, who, having been expelled from her home for unchastity, was set adrift in a canoe, landed in Nias, and had children by a son who was born to her there. They themselves believe that they are descended from several ancestors who settled at different places on the island, and originated the various tribes into which the people are divided. They may be supposed to number about three hundred thousand. They are of medium stature, are easily tired out, and are not unlike the Malays in physiognomy. Their costume is primitive, and consists, for the men, of a strip of cloth wound around the loins and between the thighs, and so girt as to leave the ends hanging low down in front; for the women, of a square cloth, ornamented on the lower border, wrapped around the hips so as to constitute a short petticoat open at one side. In addition, the men sometimes wear a kerchief, jacket, and belt of cloth or leather, and, on festive occasions, a sarong thrown over their shoulders. The women, when they would be more fully dressed, wear a jacket and a slendang, or long cloth thrown over the shoulders, and carry a brass-mounted staff with a leaden head; while their hair is done up with brass, silver, or golden pins, and encircled with a brass or pearl-embroidered fillet. The most conspicuous of the golden ornaments is the crown, a conical framework structure fitted to the head, and adorned with golden leaves stamped with a human face, miniature palm-trees, and other curious decorations. The weapons consist of a lance, a knife or sword, and a shield; armor of overlying thick jackets or coats of buffalo-hide, and helmets woven out of palm-leaf or cocoanut fibers. A few possess old rusty guns or small cannon for festive occasions, but the introduction of fire-arms is forbidden by the Dutch Government. Their beds are mats, their pillows blocks; and for dishes they have porcelain-ware or pisang leaves, which do not have to be washed. The housekeeping outfit also includes pork-trays, scales for weighing pork, and a smaller balance for gold, a cupboard made of hollowed logs, the rice-stamping apparatus, earthen cooking-pots and wooden troughs, and, for tools, knives, a primitive hatchet, a chisel, a file for the teeth, and a smith's stand. The houses stand about six feet above the ground, on posts which are set upon stones, a style of building which prevails without respect to situation; for it serves a good turn for defensive purposes, and affords room for the pig-pens beneath. The shape is oval, and the palm thatched roof is very steep, and ridged instead of pointed. The entrance opens into the principal apartment, which occupies a middle position, with rooms at either end; and all the rooms