The New International Encyclopædia/Battaks

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BATTAKS, bät′tȧks, or BATTAS, bät′tȧz. The natives of the northern interior of Sumatra. Physically they are somewhat darker, taller, and stronger than the coast Malays, and are mesocephalic in head-form. One of the most individual of East Indian peoples, they present marked contrasts of culture and seeming savagery. A well-developed village life, agriculture (even including a plow), cattle-breeding of a notable sort, metal-working (even gold-weaving), and the arts of reading and writing, with an alphabet modified from the characters of the Asoka inscriptions, flourish on the one hand; while on the other there exist debt-slavery, permissive polygamy, exocannibalism, and man-eating as a punitory institution, together with primitive ancestor and spirit worship, influenced, as the mythological names, etc., indicate, by Hindu sources. The Battaks proved remarkably unresponsive to the world of Islam, with which they have for centuries been in more or less close contact. The house-architecture of the Battaks, solider than the general Malay type, is a modification of the pile-dwelling of a shore people, to suit the highlands, while in parts of the area the primitive tree-house still survives. Their palisaded kampongs (villages) and other war devices are of interest. A collection of 60 views of houses, landscapes, natives, etc., from the Battak country was published in 1880 by the Penang Photographic Studio. Since the account of the Battaks by Junghuhn in 1847, there have been several studies of this interesting Malay people, the chief of which are: Schreiber, Die Battaländer in ihrem Verhältniss zu den Malaien auf Sumatra (Barmen, 1847); and Brenner, Besuch bei den Kannibalen Sumatras (Wüizburg, 1893).