chapter  6
23 Pages

Wildmen of western Indonesia and Mainland Southeast Asia

Biogeographically, the island of Sumatra is of a piece with Borneo and the Malay Peninsula, all of which in geologically recent times were joined by the Sunda shelf. Borneo is further linked with Sumatra in being the only other location where the orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus) is known still to survive. Given the evidence for these apes playing a large part in the Sumatran representation of ‘orang pendek’, one might therefore expect to find comparable images both in northern Sumatra and in Borneo. But while the inference is supported for northern Sumatra, it is less so for Borneo. What is more, images of hairy hominoids appear to be almost as common in the Malay Peninsula and western Java, where modern populations of orang-utans are not attested.