The Bataks, that infamous tribe of former cannibals, inhabit the interior plateau of north central Sumatra, surrounded by mountain peaks and centered on Lake Toba.
For centuries the Batak lived a way of life which developed largly in isolation. Their bloody feuds and guerrilla attacks on each others villages gained them an apparently well-earned reputation for ferocity, although they also had a remarkable developed culture as well as a system of writing.
They also practiced ritual cannibalism in which a token piece of flesh - of a slain enemy or one judged guilty of a major violation of traditional laws - was eaten. The heads and hands of war captives were sometimes preserved as trophies.
Bataks are also renown for their traditional architecture - houses built on stilts around two meters off the ground. The houses are made of wood, slotted and bound together without nails, with a concave roof made from sugar palm fibre. The gables of the roof are embellished with mosaics and carvings of snakes, lizards, serpents, magic birds, monsters known as singa, manlike figures and double spirals. Water buffalo horns also hang from the gables and the jutting roof points, and whole carved water buffalo heads with arched necks and lowered horns glare down from the blind dormers. Carvings are painted in red, white and black, which are considered holy colours by the Batak.
Batak houses had no doors or windows and were entered by a ladder leading to a trap door in the raised floor. Perhaps this was a defensive mechanism in the past, but these days of course one would realy have to ask, "but what about the view?" >>> more .....