Transmission of Body Decoration Among the Baka Hunter-Gatherers

  • Yujie PengEmail author
Part of the Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series book series (RNMH)


Tattoos are usually considered as a sort of body art or body decoration in human societies. Two questions are usually highlighted when considering tattoos: why the Baka want to have a tattoo (or multiple tattoos) on their body and how they think about their tattoo(s). This chapter describes various forms of body decoration among the Baka, focusing on differences in adornment patterns by age and sex, and it shows the environments and pathways through which these forms are socially transmitted. Baka body decoration, particularly piercing, branding, and tattooing, appears to be mostly the domain of women nowadays. Getting tattooed may be a strategy adopted by Baka females for enhancing desirability, marriageability, and finding mates, but tattooing and other body decorations also seem to be a means through which children and adolescents confirm their cultural identity with older generations.


Hunter-gatherers Children Adolescent Learning environment Body decoration Tattoo 



This research was funded by the “International Training Program (ITP)” of Kyoto University in 2010 and by the project “A Study of Human Learning Behavior Based on Fieldwork Among Hunter-Gatherers” of Kobe Gakuin University from 2010 to 2014. I would like to express my gratitude to Drs. Hideaki Terashima, Barry S. Hewlett, and Jerome Lewis and Mr. Sonoda for their helpful advices and comments on this paper. Thanks also to Ms. Devena Haggis for the text correction. Lastly, I would like to thank all the Baka informants of the East Province of Cameroon.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Asian and African StudiesKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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