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Coconut Harvest in the Stone Age

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Coconut Harvest in the Stone Age

Post by frugivore on Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:08 pm

William Fisher Alders description of the Kia-Kia of eastern Indonesia, still living in stone age conditions in the early twentieth century, gives us a glimpse of how coconuts were harvested and opened in prehistorical times:

"One of the things that comes to our notice is the way the women gather cocoanuts. When the family larder is low, one of the men will call the attention of one of the women to the fact and she dutifully prepares to replenish the stock. Her preparations are interesting. It is a considerable distance straight up in the air to the crown of a full-bearing cocoanut-palm, and the nuts cluster well up in the lower fronds about forty feet from the ground. ...When about to ascend the trunk, the woman first gathers a bunch of long grass which she twists into a rope and ties snugly about her ankles. This done, the feet are placed against the trunk of the palm, with the soles gripping it, while the grass binding on the ankles serves as the fulcrum of a lever of which the lower leg forms the long end. The legs are bowed outward so that with set muscles a surprising grip is obtained. With the feet in this position, the arms grasp the trunk and lift the body upward six or eight inches and the legs are drawn up to a higher position. In this manner the native proceeds upward like a great inchworm, in a series of humps and stretches. When the top is reached one hand only is clasped around the trunk, while the other twists the nuts off their stems. This is done by merely grasping the lower surface of the nut and rotating it until the fibers of the stem are broken. The nut is then allowed to drop to the ground, where it lands with a thud and a bounce that make one shudder at the thought of what it might do were it to land squarely upon one's head. When a sufficient number of ripe nuts are gathered, the woman descends the trunk much as she climbed upward, though this seems to be a more arduous undertaking. ..When a Kia Kia is thirsty he goes to the pile of nuts beside the house and selects one that appeals to him, walks to a shady place, and leisurely sits down. He places the nut between his feet, which are drawn well against the body, and with a deft blow of his stone war-club breaks the thick husk at the small end of the nut. This he grips in his teeth and peels off, holding the nut between his palms, with his elbows raised. After the husk is removed one blow of the club opens the end of the nut and the cool water is attainable."

(Alder, William Fisher(1922)The isle of vanishing men : a narrative of adventure in cannibal-land. Century Co., New York)
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