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Is this video fake? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyHYbsXt05k

Most of the links according this video have no information besides the video itself and are very recent. How should I proceed to get more information about this expedition?

  • have a read: skyvington.blogspot.com/2011/06/human-contacts.html – user3821 Jun 24 '11 at 16:56
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    Funny how the aboriginals are surprised to meet the white guy, but the cameraman filming them coming through the grass, then crossing the fast stream to film them coming over the bridge doesn't faze them. – Mike Dunlavey Jan 18 '12 at 18:50
  • @MikeDunlavey What are you referring to? – endolith Jan 18 at 15:56
  • @endolith: From 0:18 to 0:33 in the film, the tribe seems to be unaware that they are being filmed. How is that possible? Is the camera, and the cameraman, that well hidden? It looks a little fishy to me. – Mike Dunlavey Jan 19 at 19:14
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The description of the video claims that "Tribe in Papua New Guinea meets white man for the first time. Filmed in 1976. They have never seen modern civilization, or any modern technology." First of all, it is not from 1976. The date is incorrect on many videos because, most likely, someone misread the following disclaimer, at the bottom of the original upload:

Copyright Disclaimer under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976
All rights reserved to the owners the same.

Finding the original upload gives us also a lot more information to go with, from it's description box:

Using that information, I was able to find The hunt for authenticity, an article published in the peer-reviewed journal The Journal of Pacific History, in which the author claims the video is fake but not in the way you would expect. To quote the abstract,

Living neither as cavemen nor as colonized subjects, the Ankave-Anga (Papua-New Guinea) are sufficiently isolated for journalists to have seen them as a “lost tribe”, even though their “contact” with the outside world dated from the 1950s. Nonetheless, decades of interactions with the state, church and marketplace have not deeply altered their society. Australian archives and accounts of life “before the white man came”, even though they refute journalistic dreams of authenticity, paradoxically portray places and times that history can hardly explain.

Unfortunately, there is no English version of the article freely available online. There is, however, a French version of the article which can be read here. According to the article, it is apparently largely documented that Jean-Pierre Dutilleux was not the first white man to meet the Toulambis. From the 2004 English translation:

Although they intermarry with the groups from the two other valleys (who are at a distance of one or two days’ walk), are initiated at the same time as them and visit them regularly, they are sufficiently isolated for every European who passes through to feel compelled to take photographs of them. Prior to their appearance in the Stone Age in Paris-Match, they had allowed at least three anthropologists to photograph them: Jadran Mimica in 1979, myself in 1985 and Pascale Bonnemère in 1987.

Situated downstream of the trade route that has historically provided the rest of the Ankave tribal group with steel tools ... the Yoye Amara/‘Toulambi’ abandoned their stone adzes at least 50 years ago. ‘At least’, because our informant Idzadze Erauye, who was born around 1945, had never seen any stone adzes in use; or again, because Witi Dzadze, Erwanguye Patse and Idzi Erauye (all about 60 years old in 1990) were very young initiates when the first steel blades arrived. The length of time that has passed since this move ‘from stone to steel’ is confirmed by a patrol officer who crossed the southern part of Ankave territory in August 1950. Though ‘worn almost paper thin’, metal tools were rare and were used communally, but they were well known, particularly to the ‘Toulambi’ who traded them.

The Australian colonial archives also indicate that ‘Toulambi’ territory was visited by at least six government patrols between 1929 and 1972:

Interestingly, Jean-Pierre Dutilleux is also cited in the article, defending himself that:

“If the Toulambis are actors, we should give them a César Award.”

In either case, if you are fluent in French and are curious to see the whole documentary, it can be purchased online here for about three euros.

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  • Interesting that the upload mentions 1998; Dutilleux's website mentions 1993 but it would make sense that the people being filmed were not the first people from the tribe that were contacted. This could explain the differences. Did you happen to find a confirmation on Dutilleux's site for the 1998 date? – MrHen Jun 24 '11 at 19:25
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    @MrHen: I found an article tearing the documentary into pieces that dates back to 1996. – Borror0 Jun 24 '11 at 21:56
  • Thank you. I gave my answer an update pointing here. Good sleuthing; +1. – MrHen Jun 24 '11 at 22:48
  • Note that in the same paper, Lemmonier says that he was sued for slander and lost the case. From his own account: "In the case of the ‘Toulambi’, which I discuss at some length here, this has resulted in my being attacked by journalists and being summoned to a legal court to provide ‘proof’ of the absence of any unknown tribal group in a region where Jean-Luc Lory of the [CNRS] and I were doing research amongst communities more than 20 years ago." – endolith Jan 18 at 17:21
  • "Sued for defamation, the author lost the legal proceedings brought against him, as ‘belief in the likelihood of his assertion that the report was essentially fictional is not sufficient to ensure his good faith’ (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, 1st chamber, 1st section, verdict of 12 May 1997). Warm thanks to the 17 colleagues who took the time to testify in my favour before the tribunal." – endolith Jan 18 at 17:21
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Update: Borror0's answer suggests that the video is either fake or, at the very least, disingenuous. The video appears to be correctly attributed but the date of filming does not match some of the YouTube uploads. The contended issue is the declaration that the tribe in the video had not encountered white skinned people before. Borror0's research heavily suggests that this is not true.

The information below is still accurate but I reckon that it should be filed under "interesting" instead of "evidence". The counter-evidence makes too strong of a case against it.


Jean-Pierre Dutilleux is credited as the maker of the film. He has a personal website with a full biography. IMDb also has a page for him. Notable achievements include being nominated for an Academy Award for his 1978 film Raoni.

His own website gives this information about the video being reposted on YouTube:

Other [tribes] previously known have left their villages to move deeper in the forest to escape conflicts or the religious zeal of evangelical preachers only to be rediscovered and labeled as lost tribes. European explorers first encountered the Toulambi in 1993.

The pictures from that page also match the people in the video (note the distinctive nose piercing):

Toulambi man

So the information provided by the filmmaker is coherent and matches the video on YouTube. I was unable to locate secondary references to the video or a tribe named Toulambi.


EDIT: Actually, this is a different upload of the same video I was using to find the above information. The video linked claims this was from 1976; Dutilleux's page claims that the tribe wasn't encountered until 1993.


Wikipedia provides an entirely unsourced comment about Papua New Guinea's tribes that may help provide some credibility to a tribe not being contacted until the video:

Papua New Guinea is one of the most heterogeneous nations in the world. There are hundreds of ethnic groups indigenous to Papua New Guinea, the majority being from the group known as Papuans, whose ancestors arrived in the New Guinea region tens of thousands of years ago. Many remote Papuan tribes still have only marginal contact with the outside world.

The listing for "minor ethic groups" simply says Wopkaimin and over 700 others (again unsourced.)

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This article claims it's fake:

The article says that several knowledgeable anthropologists denounced the fake video after it was shown on TV. From the article (sorry about the bad quality automatic translation):

[Pierre] Lemonnier knows well the tribe. In an article entitled "The Hunt for Authenticity" , published in 1999 by the magazine "Land", he writes:

[From the 2004 English version:]

Goaded into tasting matches, spitting out rice and taking fright at his own image in a mirror, the principal actor in this sketch played out in the name of authenticity told me that he had later cried in shame at his part in this charade. The Toulambi could only follow to the letter the stage directions dictated to them according to some vision of the Stone Age by the Papuan guides who had been sent out to meet them. Having hidden their metal tools and taken off their chestbands of plastic beads and the pieces of European clothing they were wearing, they followed the orders given in the name of the male nurse who had previously spread the news of their ‘discovery’. For people who live four days’ walk from the nearest dispensary, in a region where malaria is endemic, a little quinine is well worth participating in such a farce.

[back to Google translate:]

Dutilleux, for his part, has maintained his story "If the Toulambi are actors, they deserve an Oscar," he said.

Still, before Dutilleux, had left the Toulambi photographed by three anthropologists: Jadran Mimica (1979), Pierre Lemonnier (1985), and Pascale Bonnemere (1987)

Here's some additional information on Pierre Lemonnier, one of the anthropologists reporting the video as fake:

Note that additional information about Jean-Pierre Dutilleux, different from his 90's styled homepage, is very hard to come by.

Given all these informations, I'm starting to be convinced that the video may be false indeed. If somebody who speaks french could perform some additional research and provide further insight, that would be appreciated.

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    Check my answer. I'm fluent in French and found a peer-received article by Pierre Lemonnier addressing the documentary. Also, welcome to Skeptics! :) – Borror0 Jun 24 '11 at 21:59
  • That's a great job you did with your answer, I didn't notice it before writing mine. And thanks for the welcome! – Ricardo Sanchez-Saez Jun 25 '11 at 2:19

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