Skip to content

Nineteenth-Century Ethnography in West Timor and the Wider World: The Case of J. G. F. Riedel

Pages 205 - 225


Universidade da Beira Interior, Covilh, Portugal

1 Tomé Pires, The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires. An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, Written in Malacca and India in 1512–1515, and the Book of Francisco Rodrigues, Pilot-Major of the Armada that Discovered Banda and the Moluccas. Rutter of a Voyage in the Red Sea, Nautical Rules, Almanack and Maps, Written and Drawn in the East Before 1515, ed. by Armando Cortesão, 2 vols. (London: Hakluyt Society, 1944).

2 Duarte Barbosa, O Livro de Duarte Barbosa, edição crítica e anotada, prefácio, texto crítico e apêndice por Maria Augusta da Veiga e Sousa, 2 vols. (Lisbon: CNCDP / IICT, 1996–2000). For an old English edition, see The Book of Duarte Barbosa. An Account of the Countries Bordering on the Indian Ocean and their Inhabitants, Written by Duarte Barbosa, And Completed About The Year 1518 A.D. Translated from the Portuguese text, first published in 1812 A.D. by the Royal Academy of Sciences at Lisbon, in Vol. II of its Collection of Documents regarding the History and Geography of the Nations beyond the seas, ed. and annot. by Mansel Longworth Dames, 2 vols. (London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1921 [rpt. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1989]).

3 The Timor zone is composed of the island of Timor itself and the neighbouring islands Savu, Roti, Solor, Alor, Andonare, Lembata (Lomblen), Pantar, Wetar, Ataúro and Kisar, as well as of eastern Flores.

4 This voyage was under the command of António de Abreu. See José Manuel Garcia, The First Portuguese Maps and Drawings of Indonesia. The Book of Francisco Rodrigues (1512–1514) (Lisbon; CEPESA, 2000); J. H. F. Sollewijn Gelpke, “Afonso de Albuquerque's pre-Portuguese Javanese Map, Partially Reconstructed from Francisco Rodrigues' Book”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 151.1 (1995), pp. 76–99. The Rodrigues atlas and his drawings were recently published in full in José Manuel Garcia, O Livro de Francisco Rodrigues. O primeiro atlas do mundo moderno (Porto: Editora da Universidade do Porto, 2008).

5 Pigafetta's manuscript was first published in full by Carlo Amoretti, Primo Viaggio intorno al. Globo terracqueo ossia Ragguaglio della Navigazione […] fatta dal Cavaliere Antonio Pigafetta […] Ora pubblicato per la prima volta, tratto da un Códice MS. della Biblioteca Ambrosiana di Milano […] Con un Transunto del Trattato di Navigazione dello stesso Autore (Milan, 1800), pp. 1–204. A new Italian edition: Andrea Canova (ed.), Relazione del primo viaggio attorno al mondo (Padua: Antenore, 1999). For an English rendering of this edition: Antonio Pigafetta, The First Voyage Around the World, 1519–1522: An Account of Magellan's Expedition, ed. and introd. by Theodore J. Cachey, Jr., Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian library series (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Pr., 2007).

6 See the following annotated bibliographies: Kevin Sherlock, A Bibliography of Timor Including East (formerly Portuguese) Timor, West (formerly Dutch) Timor and the Island of Roti (Canberra: Australian National Univ., 1980); Rui Manuel Loureiro, “Os portugueses e Timor nos séculos XVI e XVII. Bibliografia breve”, Revista Camões 14 (2001), pp. 125–134; Ricardo Roque (co-ordination), History and Anthropology of «Portuguese Timor», 1850–1975 A Bibliography, version 21st December 2011, available at accessed on 12–05-2013.

7 See for the various, sometimes confusing designations, the section below “The nineteenth-century science of man and environment”, and Han F. Vermeulen, “Göttingen und die Völkerkunde: Ethnologie und Ethnographie in der Deutschen Aufklärung, 1740–1815”, in Hans Erich Bödeker, Philippe Büttgen and Michel Espagne (eds.), Die Wissenschaft vom Menschen in Göttingen um 1800. Wissenschaftliche Praktiken, institutionelle Geographie, europäische Netzwerke, Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008), pp. 199–230.

8 Presently, the island has the name of Sulawesi, but since early modern history and through the colonial era it was known as Celebes. For this reason, and also in order to be consistent with quotations from traditional sources, it appears as Celebes in the present article.

9 J. G. F. Riedel, De sluik- en kroesharige rassen tusschen Selebes en Papua (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1886), pp. v–vi.

10 Chr. G. F. de Jong, “Inleiding”, in Als hunner één: brieven van Piet en Jet Middelkoop, West-Timor, 1922–1942 (Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 2006) pp. 1–43, 9–10; Steven Glen Farram, “From ‘Timor Koepang’ to ‘Timor NIT’: A Political History of West Timor, 1901–1967” (PhD thesis; Darwin: Charles Darwin Univ., 2003), p. 44.

11 Reinhold Grundemann, Johann Friedrich Riedel, ein Lebensbild aus der Minahassa auf Celebes (Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1873), part 1, p. 21.

12 Maria J. C. Schouten, Leadership and Social Mobility in a Southeast Asian Society: Minahasa 1677–1983 (Leiden: KITLV Pr., 1998), pp. 105–109. In western Timor, the Dutch Missionary Society suspended its activities in the middle of the nineteenth century discouraged by the very low success and bleak perspectives. See Chr. G. F. de Jong, Een Methodist op Timor De tragische geschiedenis van Geerlof Heijmering (1792–1867), 2013, available at, accessed at, 22-10-2013.

13 Grundemann, Johann Friedrich Riedel, part 5, p. 3.

14 Sources leave it open whether this was an “ordinary” doctorate or an “honoris causa” degree.

15 Biographical data are from Grundemann, Johann Friedrich Riedel; David Henley, Fertility, Food and Fever. Population, Economy and Environment in North and Central Sulawesi, 1600–1930 (Leiden: KITLV Pr., 2005), p. 46; Indische Gids 34.1 (1912), p. 396 (short obituary news); Nico de Jonge, The Religious Art of the Southeast Moluccas. Masterpieces in the Collection of the Museum of Ethnology and their Cultural Context (Leiden: Digital Publications of the National Museum of Ethnology [c. 2001],

16 For a list of his works of that period, see M. Schouten, Minahasa and Bolaangmongondow: An Annotated Bibliography (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1981).

17 Han Vermeulen, “Early History of Ethnography and Ethnology in the German Enlightenment. Anthropological Discourse in Europe and Asia, 1710–1808” (PhD thesis; Univ. of Leiden, 2008), pp. 6–7; George Stocking, Victorian Anthropology (New York: The Free Pr., 1987).

18 Statutes 1870, p. 1, cited by Sonja Fatouretchi, “Die Achse Berlin-Wien in den Anfängen der Ethnologie von 1869 bis 1906” (Diplomarbeit Mag. Phil.; Universität Wien, 2009), p. 34.

19 Fatouretchi, “Die Achse Berlin-Wien”, p. 37; Hermann Pohle, Festschrift zum hundertjaehrigen Bestehen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte. Vol. 2. Fachwissenschaftliche Beitrage (Berlin: Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, 1970).

20 Gonçalo Duro dos Santos, A Escola de Antropologia de Coimbra 1885–1950 (Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, 2005), pp. 53–54, 72. The history of the “naturalistic” school of anthropology in Portugal is well presented in this book.

21 Ricardo Roque, Headhunting and Colonialism. Anthropology and the Circulation of Human Skulls in the Portuguese Empire, 1870–1930 (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

22 A famous example is the letter by Alfred Russel Wallace, from faraway Ternate, to Darwin (1858) which was the trigger for Darwin's writing of The Origin of Species and his presentation of the evolution theory at the Linnean society in London.

23 In the beginning, women were excluded from the meetings, due to the “somatic issues” that sometimes were discussed (Pohle, Festschrift, p. 21). But times changed. Johanna Mestorf, considered the first female professor in Germany (in Volkskunde at the Univ. of Kiel) was elected to an honorary or “corresponding” membership in 19 learned societies, including, in 1891, the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory.

24 Just as Riedel, Wilken had been born in the Minahasa region of northern Celebes the son of a Protestant missionary.

25 Cited in Maarten Kuitenbrouwer, Tussen oriëntalisme en wetenschap. Het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde in historisch verband, 1851–2001 (Leiden: KITLV Uitgeverij, 2001), p. 85. See also Jos Platenkamp and Michael Prager, “A Mirror of Paradigms. Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-century Ethnology Reflected in Bijdragen”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 150.4 (1994), pp. 703–727, here p. 706.

26 See Vermeulen, “Early History”. Many prominent German anthropologists had visited Southeast Asia, such as Adolf Meyer, Rudolf Virchow, Adolf Bastian, and (Norwegian-born) Johan Adrian Jacobsen.

27 Meyer paid special attention to this in his contribution to the First International Conference on Ornithology, held in Vienna, April 1884, at which he reported on the new bird species he had personally collected in the Sangir Archipelago, and dozens of new species from eastern Indonesia, most of which had been sent by Riedel.

28 A. B. Meyer, “Anthropological Miscellenea”, Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 14 (1885), pp. 85–87. This short article, discussing the custom of artificially deforming the head of young children in some societies, appears to be a summary of “Über künstlich deformierte Schädel von Bórneo und Mindanáo im Königl. Anthropologischen Museum zu Dresden, nebst Bemerkungen über die Verbreitung der Sitte der künstlichen Schädel-Deformierung”, Meyer's contribution to the Gratulationsschrift an Rudolf Virchow, published in Leipzig in 1881 (37 p.).

29 Ernest Théodore Hamy, first director of the Musée d'Ethnographie (founded 1878) at Trocadéro, Paris (author's note).

30 Daniel Oliver, Keeper of the Herbarium, Royal Gardens, Kew (author's note).

31 A. B. Meyer, “Exploration of Timor”, Nature 21 (4-12-1879), p. 108.

32 See Platenkamp and Prager, “A Mirror of Paradigms”, pp. 706–707.

33 Maria Isabel d'Oliveira Pinto da França Tamagnini, Diário de uma viagem a Timor (1882–1883), introd., ed. and notes by António Pinto da França, presentation by Ivo Carneiro de Sousa (Lisbon: CEPESA, 2002), p. 42. In the original: “Os indígenas são quási todos selvagens, muito maus. Em Fevereiro atacaram o convento onde vivem os missionários e mataram 3 homens. O seu maior gosto é de cortar cabeças aos brancos; agora estão mais sossegados.” In fact, there were regularly skirmishes in the Larantuka zone. See R. H. Barnes, “A Temple, a Mission and a War. Jesuit Missionaries and Local Culture in East Flores in the Nineteenth Century”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 165.1 (2009), pp. 32–61; J. G. F. Riedel, “Timor en Onderhoorigheden in 1878 en later”, Indische Gids 7.1 (1885), pp. 1–12, here pp. 1–3. On the other hand, the district commissioner E. F. Kleian reported that his walking tour through the upland of Larantuka in the 1870s worked out very favourably, although he had been strongly dissuaded to undertake it. See E. A. Kleian, “Eene voetreis over het oostelijk deel van het eiland Flores”, Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 34 (1891), pp. 485–532.

34 The name Alfur was used for the population of Dili and Adonara by, for example, J. Adrian Jacobsen, Reisen in die Inselwelt des Banda-Meeres (Berlin: Mitscher & Röstell, 1896), pp. 62–63. Regarding the Moluccas, we may refer to one of the jewels of Dutch Literature, the novel De tienduizend dingen by Maria Dermoût (1955, trans. into English as The Ten Thousand Things, New York: The New York Review of Books Classics, 2002), which conveys in a magisterial way the threat and mystery of the “wild headtaking mountain Alfurs” on the island of Ceram.

35 See Hans Hägerdal, Lords of the Land, Lords of the Sea. Conflict and Adaptation in Early Colonial Timor, 1600–1800 (Leiden: KITLV Pr., 2012), p. 20; Andrew McWilliam, “Harbouring Traditions in East Timor: Marginality in a Lowland Entrepôt”, Modern Asian Studies 41.6 (2007), pp. 1113–1143, here pp. 1128–1130; Arend de Roever, De jacht op sandelhout. De VOC en de tweedeling van Timor in de zeventiende eeuw (Zutphen: Walburg Pers, 2002), p. 235.

36 Armando Marques Guedes, “Rituais igualitários. Ritos dos caçadores e recolectores Atta de Kalinga-Apayao, Filipinas” (PhD thesis; Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 1996), pp. 24–28.

37 The Negritofrage (Negrito question) was introduced by Virchow in 1870. See Andrew Zimmerman, Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2001), p. 301; Adolf Bernhard Meyer, “Über die Beziehungen zwischen Negritos und Papuas”, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 7 (1875), pp. 47–48.

38 H. G. Schulte Nordholt, The Political System of the Atoni of Timor (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1971), pp. 184–185.

39 Hägerdal, Lords of the Land; De Roever, De jacht op sandelhout.

40 This is what James Fox in his Harvest of the Palm: Ecological Change in Eastern Indonesia (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Pr., 1977), p. 64, says about the Topasses: “… of mixed origin, including the descendants of Dutch deserters, they had settled on the islands, had intermarried with the local population, spoke native languages, and could deal effectively with the traditional rulers of Timor and Flores. From Larantuka, via their enclaves on the north central coast of Timor, the Black Portuguese were able to exercise undisputed influence in the interior to obtain for themselves the major share of the sandalwood trade.” See also Charles Boxer, The Topasses of Timor, offprint from Koninklijke Vereeniging Indisch Instituut, Mededeling no. LXXIII, Afd. Volkenkunde no. 24 (Amsterdam 1947), pp. 1–22; De Roever, De jacht op sandelhout, pp. 280–282.

41 De Roever, “The Partition of Timor. An Historical Background”, in Maria Johanna Schouten (ed.), A Ásia do Sudeste. História, cultura e desenvolvimento (Lisbon: Vega, 1998), pp. 45–55. To consolidate the strengthening position of the Dutch, the VOC entrusted Commissioner Johannes Andreas Paravicini with a mission that resulted in a cluster of treaties with dozens of princes and chiefs on Timor and the neighbouring islands in 1756. Cf. Albertus Heyman, De Timor-tractaten (1859 en 1893) (Leiden: Van Doesburgh, 1895), p. 11; Hägerdal, Lords of the Land, pp. 376–381.

42 In particular in the realm of Wehale, and also on the island of Alor. See: Heyman, De Timor-tractaten, p. 11; René Pélissier, Timor en guerre. Le crocodile et les portugais (1847–1913) (Orgeval: Pélissier, 1996), pp. 92–93.

43 Mardijkers were inhabitants of foreign (often mixed) descent who stood under the jurisdiction of the Dutch, Papangers were descendants of soldiers of the Philippines, originally making part of the Spanish armed forces and later transferred to the Dutch. See M. J. Schouten, “Quelques communautés intermédiaires en Insulinde Orientale”, in R. M. Loureiro and S. Gruzinski (eds.), Passar as fronteiras. II Colóquio Internacional sobre Mediadores Culturais, séculos XV a XVIII (Lagos: Centro de Estudos Gil Eanes, 1999), pp. 245–264.

44 Farram, “From ‘Timor-Koepang”’, p. 41, note 38.

45 Heyman, De Timor-tractaten, pp. 14–18.

46 Emanuel Francis, “Timor in 1831”, Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch-Indie 1.1 (1838), pp. 353–369, here p. 360.

47 Heyman, De Timor-tractaten; Pélissier, Timor en guerre, pp. 27–41. The borders were permanently settled only by decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 1914, and officially acknowledged on Timor in 1916.

48 See, for example, Farram, “From ‘Timor Koepang”’, pp. 54–55; Antoinette Schapper, “Crossing the Border: Historical and Linguistic Divides among the Bunaq in Central Timor”, Wacana: Journal of the Humanities of Indonesia 13 (2011), pp. 29–49.

49 Affonso de Castro, “Résumé historique de l'établissement portugais à Timor, des us et coutumes de ses habitants”, Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 11 (1862), pp. 465–506, here p. 506.

50 Barnes, “A Temple”, pp. 44–45. Pélissier, Timor en guerre, p. 26 note 25. In the period of their “pacification of the Outer Islands”, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Dutch in practice had fewer qualms and followed the example of the Portuguese. A recent article on what is known as the Flores Expedition of 1907–1908, reports that the commander of a raid against rebels in Ende promised the soldiers of the Dutch army a ringgit (two and a half guilders / rupiah) for the head of each slain enemy. Thus, one soldier earned 52 ringgit for killing 52 people, including women and children, who had taken refuge in a cave (Karel Steenbrink, “Dutch colonial containment of Islam in Manggarai, West Flores, in favour of Catholicism, 1907–1942”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 169.1 (2013), pp. 104–128, here p. 109).

51 J. G. F. Riedel, “Timor en Onderhoorigheden in 1878 en later”, p. 3.

52 ibid., p. 2.

53 ibid., p. 5.

54 ibid., p. 2 note 1.

55 However, several earlier expeditions seem to have followed trajectories different from Riedel's. See J. S. G. Gramberg, Eene maand in de binnenlanden van Timor (Batavia: Bruining and Wijt, 1872); J. H. P. E. Kniphorst, “Een terugblik op Timor en onderhoorigheden”, Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch-Indie 14.2 (1885), pp. 401–483.

56 Riedel, “Timor en onderhorigheden”, p. 2 note 1.

57 J. G. F. Riedel, “De compromitteerende aftocht van den resident W. G. Sikman van Molo (binnenlanden van Timor) in October 1881”, Indische Gids 7.2 (1885), pp. 1264–1267, here p. 1267.

58 Riedel, “Timor en onderhorigheden”, p. 3 note 2.

59 W. F. Sikman, “Een zelfverdediging van den heer W. F. Sikman”, Indische Gids 7.2 (1885), pp. 1123–1125.

60 The official decree was dated May 5, 1880. However, in June he was still active in the Residency Timor, as we can conclude from the episode related by Barnes (“A Temple”, pp. 49–53), in which Resident Riedel attempted to prevent a massive headhunting raid.

61 Zimmerman, Anthropology and Antihumanism, p. 301 note 53.

62 See for a discussion of phenotypes Schulte Nordholt, The Political System, pp. 21–23. See also Maria J. C. Schouten, “Antropologia e colonialismo em Timor Português”, in Lusotopie – Timor, les défis de l'indépendence (Paris: Karthala, 2001), pp. 157–171, here pp. 160–165. Compare H. O. Forbes, “On Some of the Tribes of the Island of Timor”, Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 13 (1884), pp. 402–430, plate 26.

63 Riedel, De sluik- en kroesharige rassen, pp. 401, 402, 431, 435.

64 Ernst Rodenwaldt, Die Mestizen auf Kisar, 2 vols. (Batavia: Mededeelingen van de Dienst der Volksgezondheid in Nederlands-Indie, 1928), I, p. 36.

65 As a matter of fact, this was a settlement of refugees from eastern Timor, founded in the early eighteenth century. For more details on the Makuva language and its relationship to other languages in Timor and to languages on Kisar, see Aone van Engelenhoven, “The Makuva Enigma: Locating a Hidden Language in East Timor”, Revue Roumaine de Linguistique 53.2 (2010), pp. 161–181.

66 For example, in his account of the Southwestern islands, as has been pointed out by Nico de Jonge and Toos van Dijk, The Forgotten Islands of Indonesia: The Art and Culture of the Southeast Moluccas (Amsterdam: Periplus Editions, 1995).

67 J. G. F. Riedel, “Prohibitieve teekens en tatuage-vormen op het eiland Timor”, Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde uitgegeven door het Bataviaasch Genootshap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen 49 (1907), pp. 181–187, here p. 183.

68 J. G. F. Riedel, “Die Landschaft Dawan oder West-Timor”, Deutsche Geographische Blätter 10.2 (1887), pp. 227–236; 10.3 (1887), pp. 278–287.

69 According to Schulte Nordholt, The Political System, p. 18, the people refer to themselves as the Atoni Pah Meto, “the people of the dry land”. Andrew McWilliam, Paths of Origin, Gates of life. A Study of Place and Precedence in Southwest Timor (Leiden: KITLV Pr., 2002), prefers the name Meto, while the name Vaiqueno is mostly used by Portuguese, when referring to the inhabitants of the enclave of Oecusse.

70 Anna Forbes, Insulinde. Experiences of a Naturalist's Wife in the Eastern Archipelago (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1887), p. 66.

71 Roy Ellen, “The Contribution of H. O. Forbes to Indonesian Ethnography: A Biographical and Bibliographical Note”, Archipel 12 (1978), p. 135–159, here p. 140. About Anna Forbes, see Renée Valeri, “La position de la femme dans la société traditionnelle des Moluques Centrales”, Archipel 13 (1977), pp. 53–78, here p. 56 note 4.

72 Ellen, “The Contribution”, p. 140.

73 Forbes, Insulinde, pp. 286–301; Tamagnini, Diário de uma viagem, pp. 53–63.

74 Forbes, “On Some of the Tribes”; Henry O. Forbes, A Naturalist's Wandering in the Eastern Archipelago. A Narrative of Travel and Exploration from 1878 to 1883 (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1885), pp. 415–523; Forbes, Insulinde, pp. 274–279.

75 L. E. S. Brink, “De Schoolkaart van Insulinde van R. Schuiling: Een overzicht van de Indische cartografie in 1898 op vijf m2”, Caert-Thresoor 25.1 (2006), pp. 13–19.

76 Riedel, “Die Landschaft”.

77 H. C. ten Kate, “Verslag eener reis in de Timorgroep en Polynesië, part 4”, Tijdschrift van het Koninklijk Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap 2.11 (1894), pp. 659–700, here p. 694.

78 J. G. F. Riedel, “De tiwoekar of steenen graven in de Minahassa”, Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde uitgegeven door het Bataviaasch Genootshap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen 14 (1864), pp. 379–380.

79 J. G. F. Riedel, Prohibitieve teekens en Tatuage-vormen op het eiland Timor (Batavia: Albrech & Co., 1907); an excerpt is provided in the short article “Verbodsteekenen op het eiland Timor”, Adatrechtbundels 12 (1916), pp. 257–258.

80 As in most museums, the selection of the collection on display and the arrangement of the exhibits are periodically subject to change.

81 This term alludes to the title of the comprehensive book about the history of the collection of objects in the Archipelago, ed. by Reimar Schefold and Han F. Vermeulen, Treasure Hunting? Collectors and Collection of Indonesian Artefacts (Leiden: CNWS Publications, 2002).

82 See Nico de Jonge, The Religious Art; Nico de Jonge and Toos van Dijk, The Forgotten Islands.


Export Citation