Hanzai Tribe

The Hanzai Tribe is a group of indigenous people who resided in the southeast region of Brazil near a strato volcano. Not much is known about the tribe which was discovered by Spanish Explorers in the 17th century, noting their cultural social practices. Recently, an archeological team discovered artifacts and skeletal remains near a volcano which indicated a reason why they disappeared.

Geographical location:

The geographical location of the Hanzai Tribe has the following coordinates: 15° 27′ 32″ S, 22° 67′ 0″ W.  It is in the southeast region of Brazil near Mt. Sasma, an active stratovolcano. The vegetation comprises mostly of less dense forests and savanna meadows. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) estimates the stratovolcano near the village is 23,000 years old based on measurements of isotope decay rates and carbon dating.  

Culture: Social Practices

Little is known about the Hanzai Tribe which was discovered in the 17th century by Spanish explorers Juan Artaga and Jose Garsea who described the different social practices of the tribe. Artaga noted in his journal titled, Encounters with the Hanzai people, on January 1, 1632 in which he said, “The Hanzai males and females socialize differently to attract mates. Males would do ritual dances wearing large yellow feather headgear, which symbolize masculinity to attract females. Females would paint their faces with red and black stripes and would display red feathers to attract males.” Another feature of the tribe was their religion, which was recorded in Garsea’s journal: Bird Gods.  Garsea notes the various large granite stones, which were carved into large birds. He described their religious practices on April 3, 1632 as, “The tribe would meet at the southeastern part of the village near a large mountain. Men and women would place fish and bones at the feet of the statues and would dance around the stones chanting songs.”

Archeological artifacts & reason for disappearance

On March 3, 2012, a team of archeologists from the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University unearthed several skeletal remains near a cinder cone volcano at the site where they were covered in volcanic ash preserving many of the remains. Pottery with fossilized fish remains, arrowheads made of obsidian, and various cutting tools were discovered.  The team hypothesized that the volcano must have erupted which helps explains the tribe’s disappearance.  

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