Where Do Pygmies Live?
The best-known pygmies are a people known as the Bambuti, who live in the African republic of the Congo. They are nomadic hunters and eat wild plants. They seldom stay in any one place for longer than a month, during which time they live in simple huts made of sticks covered with phrynium leaves, in the shape of a beehive. Pygmies, known as the Bushmen, live in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, Southern Africa. There are also pygmies called Negrito in some islands of the Malay Archipelago. No records have been discovered of pygmies in prehistoric times.
There are at least a dozen Pygmy groups, sometimes unrelated to each other. The best known are the Mbenga (Aka and Baka) of the western Congo basin, who speak Bantu and Ubangian languages; the Mbuti (Efe etc.) of the Ituri Rainforest, who speak Bantu and Central Sudanic languages, and the Twa of the African Great Lakes, who speak Bantu Rundi and Kiga.
“Pygmy” is the word used to describe groups or races of people who are less than 59 inches tall. They are found only among primitive peoples. The word is used to describe a racial type. Thus a man from New York, for instance, is not a pygmy if he is only 46 inches tall.
The term is primarily associated with the African Pygmies, the hunter-gatherers of the Congo basin (comprising the Bambenga, Bambutiand Batwa). The term Pygmoid is a morphological racial category for the Central African Pygmies considered a subgroup of the Negroidcategory.
The term Asiatic Pygmies has been used of the Negrito populations of Maritime Southeast Asia and other Australoid peoples of short stature. The T’rung (Taron) of Myanmar are an exceptional case of a “pygmy” population of East Asian phenotype.
Why Pygmies Are so Short?
Various theories have been proposed to explain the short stature of pygmies. Some studies suggest that it could be related to adaptation to low ultraviolet light levels in rainforests. This might mean that relatively little vitamin D can be made in human skin, thereby limiting calcium uptake from the diet for bone growth and maintenance, and leading to the evolution of the small skeletal size.
Other explanations include lack of food in the rainforest environment, low calcium levels in the soil, the need to move through dense jungle, adaptation to heat and humidity, and as an association with rapid reproductive maturation under conditions of early mortality. Other evidence points towards unusually low levels of expression of the genes encoding the growth hormone receptor and growth hormone compared to the related tribal groups, associated with low serum levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 and short stature.