The Man of the Hole

The Man of the Hole is an indigenous man living alone in the Amazon rainforest. Authorities believe that he is the last survivor of a tribe otherwise wiped out by illegal loggers.

Amazon rainforest
Neil Palmer/CIAT, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brazil classifies more than sixty indigenous tribes within the Amazon rainforest as “uncontacted.” This means that they do not habitually engage with outsiders, and the government explicitly avoids direct outreach to change that status. In fact, according to Title VIII of the Brazilian constitution, these indigenous tribes have rights over the lands they occupy; those rights precede the creation of Brazil:

It is recognized that the indigenous peoples have the right to their social organization, customs, languages, beliefs and traditions, and their original rights over the lands that they have traditionally occupied, it being the duty of the federal government to demarcate these lands, protect them and ensure that all their properties and assets are respected.

Brazilian Constitution

This has not stopped illegal loggers and ranchers from battling indigenous inhabitants for the Amazon rainforest. And one of the most famous victims of this conflict is the Man of the Hole.

This man lives alone in the rainforest. He is called the Man of the Hole because – when he sets up temporary homes within the jungle – he digs narrow deep holes. And these aren’t insignificant holes; they can be up to two metres deep. No-one is sure just why he does this. Are they animal traps? Is it a religious tradition? Or is it just a place to hide?

The Brazilian government believes that he is the sole survivor of a tribe otherwise wiped out by intruders. His territory, several thousand hectares in size, is protected from development or intrusion. The government agency tasked with protecting uncontacted tribes sometimes leaves him gifts – but no-one has directly talked with him. It would be difficult to do that anyway, because no-one knows what language he speaks. Or if it’s even a language we know.

The Brazilian government has been keeping track of the Man of the Hole since 1996; they released some video footage of him in 2018:

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