For more than 20 years, he has lived alone in the Brazilian Amazon, eating nuts, fruit and game — a symbol of the struggles of indigenous peoples isolated in the rainforest.
Now that the unknown man is dead, his passing made headlines around the world.
His life was marked by a massacre that made him the sole survivor of a small tribe attacked by gunmen, apparently hired by ranchers, to try to take advantage of the pristine Amazon.
On August 23, he was found dead in a hammock in the Tanaru Aboriginal Territory. Authorities found no signs of violence and believe he died of natural causes.
Local news reports said the man was covered in the bright feathers of a bird called guacamaya, a type of macaw.
The 8,000-hectare (30-square-mile) indigenous territory of Tanaru is located in the southwestern Brazilian state of Rondônia, on the border with Bolivia. The reserve is surrounded by extensive pastures.
According to Survival International NGP, it is full of rogue miners and loggers whose work is illegal and is one of the most dangerous areas in Brazil.
The NGO director Fiona Watson said Tanaru land was “like an oasis in the ocean of destruction”.
shot with an arrow
The “Man in the Hole” was first discovered in 1996 by a documentary team traveling with officials from the National Indian Foundation, a government agency investigating massacres against its tribe.
In order to give the area legal protection, it is necessary to demonstrate the presence of indigenous peoples in the Tanaru forest area.
The video was included in a documentary called “Corumbiara” in 2009.
In it, the man’s eyes can be seen looking out from inside the thatched hut. A spear suddenly sticks out, as if to scare the tourists away. But no one said a word.
Over the years, the Funai team returned with representatives of neighboring tribes to try to determine what language the man spoke and learn more about his people.
But he made it clear that he did not want to be in contact with anyone. Feeling threatened, at one point he fired an arrow that seriously injured an away player.
Watson said: “One can only imagine what this person is thinking, going through, living alone and not being able to talk to anyone, I think it’s very scary because any outsider is a threat to him because of his It was a bad experience.”
After that, authorities simply tried to patrol his territory looking for signs that he was still alive.
In the last known footage of him alive – filmed in 2011 but not released until seven years later – he is seen half-naked cutting down a tree with an axe.
In addition to showing the bows and arrows he hunts, there are gardens where he grows fruits and vegetables such as papaya and cassava.
“We saw one of his gardens full of produce — very beautifully preserved,” said Watson, who visited the site in 2005.
But what fascinated the researchers most were the many holes he dug—about two meters (seven feet) deep with sharp spears at the bottom.
Funai said officials found 53 places in the Tanaru area where he had lived, and they always had the same structure: a small thatched hut with a door and a hole.
The holes were used to trap animals, but experts believe they may also have been a place for him to hide from intruders or have some spiritual purpose.
Watson said the holes were “a mystery that died with him,” just like the history of the Tanaru.
Funai has identified 114 indigenous groups living in isolation in the Brazilian Amazon.
(Apart from the title, this story was unedited by NDTV staff and was posted from a syndicated feed.)