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Definition: Pygmy or Pigmy from Collins English Dictionary

n pl -mies

1 a member of one of the dwarf peoples of Equatorial Africa, noted for their hunting and forest culture


Summary Article: Pygmy
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Member of any of several groups of small-statured, dark-skinned peoples living in the equatorial jungles of Africa. The most important groups are the Twa, Aka, Mbuti, Binga, Baka, Gelli Efé; their combined population is less than 200,000. They were probably the aboriginal inhabitants of the region, before the arrival of farming peoples from elsewhere. They live nomadically in small groups, as hunter-gatherers; they also trade with other, settled people in the area.

Pygmies have been known outside their own area since ancient Egyptian and Greek times, and are found in parts of the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Burundi, Gabon, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. They traditionally live in single-roomed, beehive-shaped structures made from sticks and leaves.

Mbuti The Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri forest in Congo are thought to have been isolated in the jungle for nearly 10,000 years and, along with the San, have the best credentials for being genetically the most pure African. Their small size (males average 4 ft 10 in/1.47 m, females 4 ft 8 in/1.42 m), thought to decrease heat exhaustion and improve sweating, is believed to be an adaptation to the hot and humid conditions of the jungle. The Mbuti live in small bands of about 30 households which change size and composition according to the availability of game and vegetable resources. They also rely on neighbouring agriculturalists for metal and cloth, for which they trade forest products and occasional labour. They perform certain rituals for the villages, such as circumcision. The association with their neighbours has led to the loss of the original Pygmy languages, and most speak the language of their neighbours. With destruction of their forest, they have either retreated deeper into it or been absorbed into farming communities.

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