Identification. The Fore people are subsistence-oriented swidden horticulturalists who live in the Okapa District of the Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. Although they shared a common language, they traditionally had no group name for themselves, no encompassing political organization, and no unifying collective ceremonies. The Fore are well known for being victims of an always-fatal, degenerative neurological disease, called kuru, which medical researchers now believe is caused by an unconventional, slow virus infection of the central nervous system that was transmitted in the past through cannibalistic consumption of those who died of the disease. With the discontinuation of this practice, Fore society is now recovering from the devastating effects of kuru.
Location. Fore territory, centered on 6°35′ S and 145°35′ E, is a wedge of approximately 950 square kilometers, bounded on the north by the Kratke Mountains and on the west and the southeast by the Yani and the Lamari Rivers, respectively. In this mountainous lower-montane zone, altitude varies from 400 to 2,500 meters, although most people live within the altitudinal range of 1,000-2,200 meters. Broad, grass-covered valleys occur in the north, a result of human clearing and cultivation activities. In the south, the tropical forest canopy is broken only by more recently cleared settlement sites as small groups of Fore continue to pioneer in uninhabited areas along their southern border.
Demography. There are approximately 20,000 Fore who are separated by the Wanevinti Mountains into the North Fore and South Fore regions, with the population of the latter being somewhat greater than that of the former. While the overall population density averages 21 persons per square kilometer, the North Fore people live at nearly twice the density as do the South Fore.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Fore language, with three distinct dialects, is the southernmost member of the East Central Family, East New Guinea Highlands Stock, Trans-New Guinea Phylum of Papuan languages. The Fore share territorial boundaries with speakers of seven other mutually unintelligible languages. Recently, linguist missionaries have developed an orthography for the language and Fore now exists in written form.