Eipo - History and Cultural Relations

No archaeological data are available for the Mek region, and ethnohistoric surveys are missing as well. It is probable, However, that parts of the Mek area have been inhabited for many thousands of years. Linguistic and historical research on the introduction and diffusion of tobacco shows that the Mek (and their Ok neighbors to the east) may have been central in this process, and comparative studies on religious beliefs prove that important concepts (e.g., that of a mythical ancestral creator) have traveled from east to west. While it is unknown as yet at what time the sweet potato ( Ipomoea batatas ) was introduced, one can conclude from the significance of taro ( Colocasia esculenta ) in all ceremonial religious contexts that this latter food plant was of vital importance in pre-Ipomoean times. The first known contact by outsiders with Mek peoples was made by a team of Dutch surveyors early in this century; they met a group of people near Mount Goliath in the south of the area and reported the first recorded words of a Mek language. Some other groups were contacted in 1959 in the course of a French expedition across West New Guinea. Its leader, Pierre Gaisseau, later returned with a film team and Indonesian military personnel in 1969, parachuting into the southern Eipo Valley where they conducted a small but sound survey on the area and the people. Members of an interdisciplinary German research team conducted research in the Eipo Valley and some adjacent areas between 1974 and 1980.

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