Philip Hindley: Join Us for Lunch. Iconic, Indexical, and Numeric Signposting Used by the Penan for Communicating in the Rainforest

Abstract. – The nomadic Penan hunter-gatherers of Sarawak use a signpost system to transfer information among individuals and groups while travelling through the rainforest. These signposts consist of a central pole on which are placed artefacts, here termed simulacra. Not only do these simulacra have specific meanings, but they can be associated to create complex holistic messages concerning the activities of band members. The simulacra are categorized into three types: iconic, indexical, and numeric and the interpretative pathways required to read the signposts are examined. Analyzing communication systems of this nature could provide insights into how symbolic proto-languages evolved in our ancestors. [Malaysia, Sarawak, Penan, huntergatherers, semiotics, hunting communication systems, message sticks]