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Tylor papers PRM ms collections--Box 12 (excluding Howitt letters)

These letters, transcribed below, are of relevance to the development of museum anthropology at Oxford. For a full catalogue of all Pitt Rivers Museum manuscript collections see here.

HP1 Abraham Hale [1]

Ulu Ba Raw

c/o Post Office

Kwala Kangsa


July 27 1884

Dear Mr Prestwich [2]

I received two letters from you with three enclosures two days ago. I am very much obliged to you for your kindness in answering so quickly--I am very busy here at present and get very little time for anything else besides coolie driving but what little time I do get I endeavour to squeeze a little study into. I am collecting whatever I can that I consider at all valuable in the way of animals or human work the greatest difficulty to me is to know what to retain and what to discard where everything is so interesting but there are limits to one's capabilities especially out here in the jungle where all sorts of apparatus has to be brought up on the top of elephants which is very uncertain sort of transport for such articles as glass collecting jars &c. I have got together a considerable quantity of weapons from the civilised Malays of Perak but as yet the only thing that I have got from the wild Malay are a blowpipe (sumpitan) and its sheath of poisoned darts which has become a common object in museums in England and a small gourd for water when I went over to a village of wild Malays in Kintah I found simply nothing in the way of weapons or utensils they brought their water from the river in joints of bamboo or in the round gourds. They boiled their rice in pots bought from the civilised Malays and their only implements were those some as used by the civilised Malys, from whom they had bought them at least this was so far as I could understand from them they were very kind to me I had had a long walk and they gave me water to drink and roasted some tapioca roots in the ashes for me to eat after this had been done I proceeded to ask them questions and to endeavour to persuade them to sell me their clothes or anything else that they had but I could get nothing from them but promised that they would bring me things down to this place which promises were never fulfilled the most particular thing that I tried to buy was a sort of cloth or kummerbund [sic] which they make themselves from the inside bark of a tree it is called by the Malays Kan troap they had none except those the men were wearing and as it was their only garment I could not very well take it truly I had not much inclination to do so for it was in every case almost black with age & dirt More over every man and woman in the place was covered with a particularly disagreeable skin disease I do not know what to call this complaint but very many of the Malays have it as well as the Orang Saki (this is the name of the race I visited the other race of wild Malays in this district are called Orang Semang I shall refer to these two races again presently) the disease I should imagine is caused greatly by the dirty state of their skins the scorf [?] skin comes away in little flakes almost like the scales of a snake and as two days ago it dries it makes them look a dirty white sort of colour. Can it possibly be some form of leprosy? Skin disease of all sorts one may common out here [sic] the special thing for Europeans seems to be ringworms I have it myself at present as also has Mr Lister [3] and all of the few Europeans that I have seen in the last few months it is not very pleasant otherwise this seems to be a very healthy part of the state for Europeans. The Perak Malays have a saying about these two races of Orang utan, that they do never mine in any way and in fact are very antagonistic they compare compare [sic] their case with that of two species of Gibbon which inhabit Perak one called Siamang and the other Uucka. The siamang keep to the east bank of the Perak Rivers and the uucka to the west bank or at least this is where the Perak Malays say, and that the orang saki and the orang semang hate one another, as much as the siamang hate the uucka. The Malays recognize 4 species of Gibbon I have not as yet been able to get much certain information about them although we continually hear them all around us in the evening but I have not as yet been able to get one. Malays are very slow in getting anything of this sort for me ever since I have been here I have been trying to engage a hunter but have not as yet succeeded. We have great quantities of animals along but they keep in the jungle too closely for us to get at. Snakes of a great many species we see quantities of I have a boa 17 feet long which came into a Malay shop a month ago and the other day a small cobra come into the verandah of our own house I have not until the present time had enough spirits to preserve these snakes so have only kept their heads. The Perak Malays are pretty fairly clever at trapping birds they have brought us in several argus pheasants and other birds they snare them with a simple noose of ratan I heard of the spring dart which Dr Tylor mentions when over in Kuitah but did not see one the Saki said that they killed tigers and black panthers with them a black panther had killed no less than four persons from the village which I visited in alone [?] a month just before I went over there we often see the tracks of rhinoceros in the swamps the other day Mr Lister met a large black bear in the brook about half way between here and the Perak river. Mr Lister had his boy with him but no gun the boy shouted and the bear walked off into the jungle with a considerable roar of annoyance. Mr Lister got up to within 15 yards of him before the bear noticed him it was rather close quarters to be in without a rifle. I have only heard of one wild elephant about here and the Malays say that he is a very old one and furthermore sacred.-

I enclose one copy of a betrothal settlement I was at the feast as an invited guest and signed it as a sort of ancillary witness much to the gratification of all parties I have sent Mrs Hunt [?Hart] an account of the proceedings if you wish it I have no doubt but she would sent it to you but of course these were civilised Malays and really the more one mixes with them the more civilised they appear. In our Kampong here we have a most mixed lot of people Mandahayleng [?] from Sumatra very clever miners there. Javanese road makers and the natives of Perak who do more of the house building and wood cutting these are the three principal races but we have besides one or two men from each of a great many of the other native states. All the Malay however are more or less disinclined to do much hard work we are getting in Chinese to do the mine work as fast as we can they are very energetic indeed. Now and then we get a visit from two or three of the Sakis who are not too afraid to be seen (these [illegible] are however continually being converted to Islamism and adopting Malay dress and customs it is only up in the main range that the real wild men exist then I am assured they still use stone axes and build their houses in the branches of trees high off the ground. Concerning the different games played by the civilised Malays I will do my best to procure boards and men as Dr Tylor requests and will forward them on to you. I have seen a f... [illegible] and g... [illegible]  board but have never seen the game played by Malays I will however make enquiries. present to the Museum or to Dr Tylor himself whichever he chooses [sic] I will send it on to you as soon as it is finished. I have a Malay here who is [insert] a [end insert] very clever wood carver and has done several things for me which I shall send home soon to Filston. A peculiarity of this man rather amused me the other day, like nearly all of the Perak Malays he is very fond of chewing sere this    ? becomes somewhat inconvenient when he is at work as he cannot blow away the small chips of wood his mouth being full of sere juice and saliva consequently he uses the breath from his nostrils for this purpose in the same way as we should blow with our mouth. The Mandahayleng [?] are very great gamblers as bad almost as the Chinese they play several games with English cards one game called mani chabool is played just like vingt-un only the endeavours [sic] to make the hand up to thirty one instead of twenty one!

Please let Professor Moseley know that I will endeavour to get the specimens of hair that he wishes for. [4] I shall be going over to Kintah again in about a week's time and will then revisit the Saki village beyond Kending and see what I can do. The company that I am working for having succeeded in getting tin profitably here propose taking up some land at Kending above to the Dato Penghina of Kintales Mine there which is very rich and I am going over to prowl out the boundaries for the Government survey we have already bored the ground. 

If there is any thing further that I can do I beg that you will not hesitate to make use of me, it is true that I have not very much time for anything beside work here but what little spare time I have cannot be more profitably spent I imagine than in looking about me. I should like very much to get into government service they are continually sending people into the interior to look about but unfortunately I have not got the necessary influence and being obliged to earn some money to keep me going makes it impossible for me to leave this until I hear of something certain in exchange not truly that I have any desire to leave this at present Mr Lister has ben very kind to me indeed and I am quite happy about my work still it is always perhaps a good thing to have two strings to one's bow. Should I be able to get into the government service of course I should reassume my proper name in fact I only retain the name of Blake now because I started my banking account with it and got to know people under that name. But more of the people that I know out here know that my name is not Blake but Hale and that I only assume that name from purely private reasons which we are not do not occasion the further use of it except as a matter of convenience. When I first came out here I met Cameron Eng [?Esq] F.G.S. [5] who was working under the government of Selangor and also for the Asiatic Society he offered me work with him, but I had then already promised Mr Lister to come up here with him and assist by opening up this place so I could not stay at Selangor with Mr Cameron at that time. Since then Mr Swettenham [6] has come here from Selangor as Resident pro tem and I understand is anxious for Mr Cameron to come here also to do some exploring in the interior of Perak perhaps I may be able to get some work with him then but at any rate for the moment I must stay here especially as Mr Lister himself has accepted a post under government and will leave me to do the entire management in about a month's time. I send you a tracing taken off the Asiatic Societies map of the Malaysian Peninsula so that you may know exactly what part of the country I found the Sakis I do not fancy Europeans have knew these before. In the map the names in italics and the dotted lines are my own the course of the Bakow [?] is only guessed at also the position of the places marked. I have made a fine translation of the Malay betrothal contract but not yet being a perfect Malay scholar refrain from sending it as I am certain that if you think it worth anything you will be able to find a friend who knows the Arabic characters, to translate it. I have by this mail sent a letter to Nature I do not know if they will consider it worth publishing or not. [7] I missed seeing Rev J. Wood when I came through K. Ranges five months ago and have not been down there since I quite agree with him suggestion in his letter [sic] to "Nature" last May there is a great lot of tin to be had here if people will only have pluck enough to supply the capital to work it! Excuse the disjointed and gossipy stile [sic] of this letter I have been writing amidst continual interruptions from coolies asking questions &c. 

Please convey my respects to Mrs Prestwich 

and believe me

Yours truly

A Hale


[1] Abraham Hale (?-1919), district officer, inspector of mines in Kinta and later land revenue collector. He was the author of the papers 'On mines and miners in Kinta Perak' and 'Folklore and the Menangkabau Code in the Negri Sembilan'  published by Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 1886 and 1898. He published two articles on stone tools from Perak, JAI vol XVII page 66 and Nature vol XXXII p. 626 [see note 5]. His obituary was published in the same journal [Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society] in 1920 written by RO Winstedt. See 'Raja Bilah and the Mandailings in Perak: 1875-1911' by Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, Salma Nasution Khoo; page 147 includes a drawing of Hale by Abu Bakar, annotated 'Mr A. Hell (Hale) became Collector Land Revenue Office Kuala Lumpur ...'. This site, shows a photograph of him, and says he was Collector of Land Revenue for Ipoh before KL. There is a collection of stone tools that he made in the Perak Museum. This site also says:

After retirement to England he became an assistant agent for the Malayan Information Agency in London and wrote a humourous nook entitled "The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya (1600-1605). A road was named after him in Ipoh Old Town. There is much more about Hale and his travels as Mining Inspector in the book "Kinta Valley: Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Development".

His full name is given in 'Malay Magic: An Introduction To The Folklore And Popular Religion Of The ... by Walter William Skeat, Charles Otto Blagden and other sources. According to a short notice in the Singapore Free Press &c 28 April 1919 he first joined the service of the Perak government in 1884, and served with the Federated Malay States administration before retiring to London.

The tenor of the letter suggests that Hale might have been Prestwich's student at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, he seems well acquainted with him and Moseley?

[2] Prestwich (1812-1896) was the Professor of Geology at the OUMNH until 1888.

[3] H.M. Lister, (?-1895) later private secretary to the acting Resident of Perak, Frank Swettenham and Resident of Negeri Sembilan, see 'Raja Bilah and the Mandailings in Perak: 1875-1911' by Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, Salma Nasution Khoo; page 147  

[4] 'Sakai' is considered an offensive term for a group more often now known as Semai. There are 41 hair samples from A. Hale in the PRM collections, from Perak in Malaysia. These items were transferred from the OUMNH in 1886 with other collections. They are recorded as having been received through Professor Joseph Prestwich in February 1885. 

[5] This must be William Cameron F.G.S., a British Surveyor who the Cameron Highlands is named after

[6] Frank Swettenham (1850-1946) first Resident General of the Federated Malay States from 1896. From 1882 he was Resident in Selangor. 

[7] The letter entitled 'Stone Axes, Perak' was published in Nature, October 29, 1885, vol 32 page 626. It reads:

'A curious Malay superstition has come to my knowledge concerning these implements. They appear to be very rare out here, and those found are treasured by Malays as lucky things to have about the house. I have as yet only been able to procure two specimens. One of these I described in a paper on the Sakaies read before the Anthropological Society in June last. This nearly resembles Fig. 55 of Dr Evans' "ancient Stone Implements of Great Britain," and is made of a soft description of slate which can be scratched with a thumb-nail. The other is of a much harder description of slake almost like greenstone; it much resembles Fig. 76 of the same work. It is 7 3/4 inches long, 1 7/8 inches wide at the widest end, which is sharpened, and 1 1/2 inches wide at the other end, which is not sharpened. The faces are flatter than those figured by Dr Evans and the sides perfectly squared. It is beautifully polished, but several depressions are left all over it, showing that it had originally been chipped out. The Malays call them Batu-lintarh--i.e. thunderstones--and account for their presence by saying that they are the missiles used by angels and demons in their continual warfare.

But the peculiarity of the superstition is this: the Malays aver that the soft implement which I have described has been made by an angel or a demon and buried in the earth to become hard and fit for use, and support their argument by saying that these objects have been found freshly made of clay and quite soft, buried in the earth, where they have lately been deposited by some angel or demon for a future time of battle. The Malays say that the batu-lintarh is hard to procure in this state, as it almost invariably drops to pieces. For this reason they do not value it much, and more particularly because it has never inflicted a wound. The hard polished celt which I have just described, however, they value very highly, because they say it has been used in the aerial warfare and has inflicted a wound on one or more of the combatants. They adduce this supposition from the fact of the several depressions left by the chipping out of the implement, and say that these marks were caused by its contact with the body of one of the demon combatants. This last idea is very closely connected with another Malay belief, and most probably took its rise from it. This belief is that if the blade of a kriss or spear is bent or in any way damaged, it has most certainly wounded if not killed a man or some wild animal, and is therefore proportionately of much greater value. A Malay who professes to be a good judge of a kriss will, if asked to appraise the weapon, invariably first glance along the blade to see if it is bent ever so slightly, and if it is he will certainly add two or three dollars to its value because it has "m'nikam orang" (struck a man). I have very little doubt that if some of the fine limestone caves of this district were thoroughly examined, they would yield a rich harvest of anthropological material, 

A. Hall [sic

Batu Gaja, Kinta, Perak, September 6.


HP2 Abraham Hale

Ulu Ba Raw

C/0 Post Office

Kwala Kangsa


14 August 1884

Dear Mr Prestwich

I have paid my visit to Kintah which I spoke to you about in my last letter but did not unfortunately get time to go up into the Saki country as I hoped my friends had not however quite forgotten me and my wishes for when I got to Kending I found some of the native cloth ([word crossed out][sic] Kain trap as it is called waiting for me together with a sort of wicker work [illegible] or basket which they use to carry things about in I am shortly going to send a box home when I iwll forward this to you as well as anything else that I can pick up in the meantime I have not yet succeeded in getting the fox & geese board but have heard of it I have a set of chessmen I will at the same time send some samples of human hair with descriptions of the owners I sent Mr Leech the collector & chief magistrate [1] of Kintah and Kending on business concerning our mining ground there and went with him to a Malay village called Sambone I think that I have marked it on the sketch which I sent you we went to see some hot springs there and also to see whether we could get a rhinoceros we did not see any of the latter but the hot springs were well worth a visit. The water comes out from under a large bluff of limestone which is very christalleous [?] there is sufficient water to form quite a large stream larger than what is called Twitton stream you will I daresay recognize the name where it bubbles up it is sufficiently hot to hard-boil an egg in about 4 minutes I had no thermometer with me & consequently can give no other criterion of its heat it does not deposit any siliceous or other substance and when cool is quite tasteless and has no precipitative scent but it appears to decompose the limestone very quickly I did not myself find any animal in it but Mr Leech told me that a friend of his who had been there to shoot rhinoceros had caught a small fish in the quite hot water--the limestone bluffs from under which the water exudes is pierced by a great many caves as are all [insert] most [end insert] of the limestone hills out here we examined one of them which the Malays have a ....tion [illegible] for as an old [insert] chief [end insert] of note was buried there a long time ago--Rajah M Usoph [?] the actual Malay ruler of Kintah was with us he took the opportunity when at this place of saying his evening prayers the entrance to the cave was also quite crowded with old burnt out torches placed there by devout Malays. This ancestor worship I suppose is a remnant of Hinduism? It seems a curious [illegible] to see a proposer of Islamism still retaining this relic of former times Some Chinamen also had been to this cave to worship and stuck a lot of their joss sticks about amongst the Malay [?] torches very much to the disgust of Rajah Usoph and his followers the Chinamens idea was I suppose to drive away the bad ghosts of which they are very much afraid in new places. These Chinese miners are really the true pioneers of the Malay peninsula we only follow them after all. Certainly Mr Leech & myself were only the second party of Europeans who had visited that place but there was already a part of Chinese miners in a large Kongree [?] house with quite a fine garden of vegetables, they had heard that tin was to be found in the district from the Malays and had gone to see they told us that it was very good but they had not yet lifted any we rather cursed them for driving away the rhinoceros. 

In about a fortnight I am going to leave this place and live in my own house on the Perak Rivers at the mouth of this river until I find something to do, I have asked the government for work but have not yet received an answer. I want very much to go up in to the Interior but cannot afford it on my own account so must first earn some money. I think that these limestone caves would pay for exploring if the Government would only stand the cost. The next time I write I hope to give you a slight insight into Malay village life as it is in Perak my new home will be quite away from civilisation. Please give my compliments to Mrs Prestwich & believe me

yours truly

R. Blake [2]


[1] 'Kinta Valley: Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Development' Salma Nasution Khoo, Abdur-Razzaq Lubis page 54 names two local magistrates with the name Leech, but it seems that probably the correct one is 'The aggressive colonization of the Mandaillings mainly took place during the term of J.B.M. Leech as district magistrate in the early 1890s.' This name is confirmed by 'Raja Bilah and the Mandailings in Perak: 1875-1911' by Abdur-Razzaq Lubis, Salma Nasution Khoo; page 249. This must be John Bourke Massy Leech or Massy-Leech listed in the Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute and other places online.

[2] This is the second reference to Abraham Hale also being known as Blake, it is not clear why he used a pseudonym, and why Petherick would know about it. See letter 1 above for more references to it. Note that the initial definitely looks like an 'R' not an 'A'.


H1 Abraham Hale 

Note at top in Tylor's handwriting: '[illegible] to [illegible] re these at Colonial Exhib Feb. 12. 86'

Batu Gaja [?]

Kinta Perak

May 13 1885

Dear Sir

My collection of Sakai objects of interest [1] I have already promised the Acting Resident to send to England for exhibition in the next year's exhibition of colonial productions with some other collections of Malay weapons &c. made by officers in the Perak service. [2] Having made this promise of course I must fulfill it but on the closing of that exhibition if you still wish to obtain possession of them I shall be most happy to hand them over to you for the Pitt Rivers collection. In the matter of reimbursing me the expenses of collecting them we can write further about but to give you some idea of it. The journey up country which I took some months ago and during which I procured the greater half of them cost me about $100 altogether including the purchase of beads, cloth tobacco and other things that I carried to give the Sakais. Nearly all these articles are described in a short paper which I sent to Professor Prestwich some time ago [3] the remainder of the articles I procured of a friend here who procured them from another district. I gave him in exchange for them a collection of Malay [illegible] which had cost me about $60. I did this in order to get a more complete collection of Sakai things for the exhibition. Should you wish for them after the exhibition they will cost nothing for packing or transport as the Perak Government undertakes to defray all expenses of exhibits from here. For my part if you will make me a member of the Anthropological Society I shall consider myself very highly repaid. I say this not knowing what are the rules entrance fee subscription of the Society so that if I ask too much pray forgive me, I do it in ignorance. I append a rough list of the objects that I shall send home 

About 10 sumpitans [blowpipes] with their dart cases.

Case of Ipoh poison and utensils for preparing 

Several tinder boxes (abt 6)

Carrying baskets & mat bags several specimens

Bark cloth several specimens

6 Head dresses of bark & grass

Bamboo baskets 4

About 12 necklaces of seeds coins beetles leg cases & other objects

Bamboo flutes 2 description

Bamboo string instrument 

[insert] several [end insert] Wooden & bamboo combs and hair disentanglers

Bamboo rat trap

Bird springs

Bamboo spears for [illegible] 

Spool of native string

Several ornamented bamboos

Stone axe (probably not Sakai)

Bracelets & waist bands of rattan &c

And several other sundry articles of daily use.

At present the articles displayed on the walls of my house take up a space ten feet high and 16 feet wide but they are too crowded to shew properly

In the course of my duties here (I am Inspector of mines for Kinta) I came across a Malay mine in the mountains in the north of this district the mine belonged to an old Malay who did all the [insert] late [end insert] Dato [?] P... of Kinta's business with the wild tribes in former times, he apparently had taken advantage of his position to press the Sakai into his service to mine for him and the result has been the most extraordinary piece of mining engineering that I have ever seen, the Sakais made him a headrace about four miles long damming a s.. [illegible] stream and bringing this water down to the mine over many rocks and rough ground out of the four miles there is more than 1 mile of bark troughs carrying the water across gullies and round precipitious rocks in several instances lengths of bark troughs of from 20 feet to 30 feet are literally hung up to branches of trees by rattans and one place it is carried round a corner of a rock and 68 feet of it is suspended from a height of 33 feet over a precipice which is not les than 200 feet sheer down the process having been to let down the bark in 6 feet lengths from the top & suspended by two rattan the first length being fixed at the downstream end when a boy got into it and fixed it with clay and [insert] then [end insert] followed on into the next length and so on until all the pieces where suspended & properly fixed this 68 feet killed two boys and one girl the girl was about eight years old and the daughter of a chief she was the last one who fell through and after her death the Sakais refused to work for two years but were ultimately induced to finish the whole of the head race. There is also on this race an acquaduct [sic] strutted with small timber which is nearly 100 feet high and a wonderful piece of ingenuity in its architecture being only bound together with rattans. Their mine was opened nearly 40 years ago and has been in constant work ever since. But now as the Sakai labor is not available it is not profitable as the head race costs too much to keep in repair using Malay labor.

Concerning the Malay game, I fancy [illegible] must be the same as main [illegible] a kind of backgammon which I have seen played here but have not learnt the rules the other two games I have not seen nor can I hear of them I will endeavour to get boards & men prepared for you.

There are two out of doors games played here by men and boys I do not know if you have heard of them the one is called Main belote [?] and is generally played on the sandy banks of a river it is a sort of prisoner boss sides are chosen and one party guards a line drawn on the sand which the other party endeavours to pass & repass during which if one of them is touched by one of the party guarding the line that the parties change places. It is a very simple & easy game the only qualification required being address in feinting to dash and making the dash at the proper moment. The other game is called main rago [?] and consists in keeping up a hollow ball of rattan about six inches in diameter this is done by several men standing in a circle and kicking the ball into the air by the inside of the right foot tis is very difficult for Europeans as it requires great flexibility of the knee & hip joints it is a very favourite game with Malays. No sides are chosen for this. Should you desire it I will from time to time write to you concerning customs &c of the natives I am

yours truly

A. Hale


[1] It seems that the OUMNH [and therefor ultimately the PRM] did not acquire this further collection of more varied objects. It is not clear who is the recipient of this letter, it could have been Prestwich as the person to whom Hale had already been in contact, but it seems more likely that it was Tylor, acting as Keeper of the OUMNH. The reference towards the end of the letter to a 'Malay game' suggests that the recipient may have been Tylor who was always writing to correspondents about games. Tylor's papers contain other letters addressed to other people and obviously referred to him for action. In any case in the previous letter Prestwich was addressed by name. The OUMNH did acquire other ethnographic objects so the precedent had been set, but was not followed in this instance. It may be that the hair samples that Hale did provide made Prestwich or Tylor write to Hale to see if they could get him to donate more objects. it is not clear why they did not go ahead and acquire this collection, a later letter suggests it may have been because Hale was asking for too much money, it is a shame that they did not.

[2] Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886, held in South Kensington in London and open for 164 days. Pitt-Rivers acquired items from this exhibition for his own 2nd collection

[3] This article is presumably now lost. 


H2 Abraham Hale

Kinta Perak

6 April 1886

Dear Sir

Thanks very much for your letter of Feb 12. and the information contained; of course it is very evident to me that you cannot buy my things without seeing them and in point of fact if I can possibly manage it I want very much to retain them myself, but whether I am able to or not will depend very much on the simple question of pounds shillings and pence. I am sorry to say that our Government here is not quite so liberal in the matter of salaries as I should like them to be and if I find that I must realise--why I must--and in that event I shall be very pleased to give you the first offer of the collection for your museum, I may add that I have valued the collection to the government of Perak at $250 for insurance purposes, this being about the amount of my expenditure in respect of it. The packing and transport to England is paid by the Perak Government as it is an exhibit in the Colonial Exhibition. With respect to games I have been too busy too [sic] do much lately but I will send you a board prepared fro the games of [2 words illegible] and perang shortly with the men.

I have lately been finding some very interesting stone implements here. I have sent drawings and notices of them to the President of the Anthrop. Institute the originals I have deposited in our museum here at Thaiping [Taiping]. [1] I believe that if some of the limestone caves here could be scientifically inspected a great deal of interesting matters would come to light; as soon as I can afford it it is my intention to see what I can do about it myself on my own account.

As you observe Mr Berkely [sic Berkeley] Portman is in another district of Perak--Larut--and I only know him by repute. [2]

I am

yours truly

A. Hall

Dr Tylor


[1] He published two articles on stone tools from Perak, JAI vol XVII page 66 and Nature vol XXXII p. 626. There is a collection of stone tools that he made in the Perak Museum still.

[2] Berkeley Portman is probably the surname, I cannot identify the individual.


HP 3 Abraham Hale

Kinta Perak

30 December 1886

Dear Professor Prestwich

I was very much gratified the other day by a paragraph in one of my father's letters. He wrote that you had expressed wonder to him at not having received a letter from me. If I had for a moment thought that I could write any thing worth your reading believe me I should have long ago written to you on different matters that have come under my notice in this country for my life takes me into all sorts of out of the way places which are seldom visited by other people and consequently I see some curious things sometimes but however interesting hey might be to myself I--knowing you to be very busy with your new book lately--did think that anything new which I could tell you would only bother you especially as I am sorry to say I have wofully [sic] neglected my geology out here turning all my spare attention to the study of the different races of the country. It is a pleasant life which I lead here and a very instructive one I am never more than a week in a month in my own house at the station nearly all my time is spent in riding along the different mines of the District which is a wide one of course I see more of the geology than most people but the rocks are not fossiliferious and so to an amateur rather uninteresting I will tell you what I know about it or at least the conclusions which I have deduced for myself and are most likely incorrect.--

The only rocks visible in excavations and on the surfaces are in order from below upwards 1. The mountains which consist of granitic rocks and form parallel chains running in the same direction as the peninsula and giving out spurs on either side. 2. A formation of what the Rev Julian Wood called paleozoic slates & clays and which he says are between the granite and 3. A highly crystaline [sic] limestone non fossiliferous and in which it is very hard to detect any stratification 4. Recent river and sub-aerial deposits.

It requires a more clever geologist than myself to generalise on the matter of how these strata came to be as they are with any hope of being believed. But this seems to me to be about how the deposition occurred. I must first remark that the paleozoic clays if they are paleozoic--occurs above as well as below the limestone if I understand Father Woods application of the designation but whether above or below does not alter the important part of my speculation which is this that the limestone was deposited on a sea bottom in very early geological times that all the area included in the general term of the Malay peninsula & archipelago of course without Papua & the islands pertaining to Australia was during this deposition of limestone subject to upheaval and with it volcanic action of a very severe form. This force of upheaval by pressure from below continued until the seabottom was elevated and at the same time along lines of weakness the granite was forced through it probably not at that time forming mountains of any considerable height. Then the limestone by this volcanic heat solidified and became crystalline but being elevated into dry land it became subject to the denudating agency of the atmosphere [insert] and again [end insert] to which it has ever since been subject. These agencies have worn it away enormously leaving in some places precipitous bluffs of two up to five hundred feet high and in others taking it clean away and this in my opinion is the only geological event of great importance that has occurred here. All over this peninsula there are hot springs & in Java Sumatra &c there are volcanoes still remaining the relics of the old unheaving force what exact time to ascribe to these events I do not know how to determine I should think--surely it must have been--paleozoic--At any rate whenever it occurred it would appear that no deposits other than sub-[illegible] have been made since. Unless it should happen that there were lagoons and lakes left about on the recently elevated lands which became filled up with the paleozoic clay of which Father Wood spoke whilst there was still volcanic forces existant and that the contortions of these clays were caused by that volcanic force I do not know about this for I am not satisfied about the Paleozoic clay as yet if it was under the limestone when the volcanic action occurred surely it would not look anything like the almost friable clay full of ironstone which some of the small hills are composed of. One would imagine that such an enormous "period" as must have elapsed since the land first took [insert] assumed [end insert] its present levels should have left a very interesting and readable history in its rivers deposited clays sands and gravels. I fir at first and for a long time could not understand how it was that bones, the shells of land molluscs and other interesting matter was not found in the beds of drift which the mines turn only for the tin sand contained in them. I begin to see now somewhat of the cause of it and it is most surprising and wonderful take for instance the vegetable matter of the dense jungles here one would imagine that at least there should be a foot or two of rich black vegetable mould composed of the ever falling leaves twigs boughs and even enormous trees and yet it is no such thing in the densest forest with your hand you brush away a few freshly fallen leaves and you come to the bare rock perhaps limestone or granite perhaps a stiff clay you wonder where all the vegetable matter has gone. turn to a fallen tree of some of what by English builders would be considered the very best and hardest wood. A year ago perhaps you remember the tree alive and erect if you think the enormous trunk now it will all crumble to dust. It is the ants weevils & hundreds of other vegetable eaters who have done it they have just cut it up into such fine portions that it is only as it were by their lightness that the huge bole still keeps its position kick it and it crumbles to dust then after if you come again to look at it in six months time you will find no trace of it the rain has washed the ground as clean as if the log had been carted off to another country--except under such circumstances as a very heavy flood which just blocks up a big river by a raft of debris then over flowing its banks carries out on the surrounding low lands a thick coat of sand and mud and so comes up the vegetation which it is still growing I do not see how any vegetation is to be fossilized here and this does not occur very often you may depend on it. Then as to animal remains it is the same I have never seen a bone lying on the ground which could have been lying there more than a year either in the jungles or near a village. They are all eaten up by rats dogs cat and animals of all sorts I have an elephants tusk which a Sakai picked up in the jungle and which was recognized by its former owners as the tusk of an elephant which came home from the jungle one morning minus a tusk it had got knocked out in fighting this occurred three years before it was picked up in that time the hollow part at the root had been gnawed I suppose by rats from the thin edge until they had rendered a thickness of about half an inch I have an elephants molar also which was found in the jungle and which has fallen to pieces just like the fossil molars found in the brick earth at Crayford. Rats have eaten all the horn buttons and bone buttons off my coats they will gnaw and entirely eat up a cocoanut shell which is saturated with oil having been used as a food vessel. These seems to me very little chance for any animal or vegetable remains to be retained in the river drifts what the rats leave ants termites and worms finish up before it has a chance to get covered up. Yet such remains should be there because I have found iron tools and pottery which was of the same pattern in the pottery used today at a depth of twelve feet in solid drifts and I have seen axes & adzes made of stone from all sorts of sands & clay here. I have got quite a large collection of stone implements but only axes & adzes it is as I expected the axes & adzes were at any rate in most instances roughly chipped out and only ground just at the edge I got one the other day recently bound except just at the edge it is as roughly chipped as a palaeolithic celt. I have in my possession about forty [illegible] one of which except the above mentioned is as smooth and highly polished as the best specimens of neolithic work I am now concerned that this has been done by Malays top grinding on their emery [?] wheels and by using them as knife sharpeners sometime ago I alluded to them in Nature. [1] A curious thing about these weapons or implements is that a great many are so soft that you can scratch them with your thumb-nail I suppose that they were fastened into a club to make it more effective they are made of a sort of clay slate light greyish in color which scratched by the thumbnial gives a white streak the stone placed to the tongue adheres like a peice [sic] of dried g... [illegible] clay. These circumstances serve well to carry out the Malay legend concerning them--that they are made by genii out of clay and then laid out to dry and harden in the sun in regular rows on exposed places more than once I have been told this and after cross examining my informant on oath I have only got the same story from him and two quite independant [sic] and mutually unknown Malays of good standing have asserted to me on oath that they have seen the stones so laid out to dry. Funny is it not. Malays are very rarely known to swear to an untruth. And this reminds me of another thing which is very evident to any body living amongst such a community as this I mean the very beneficial influence of Mohamadinism [sic] on such a race as Malays. Since they are lazy as they can be--true they will cheat and [illegible] their neighbours in all bargains [illegible, possibly True] their religion allows polygamy Once they love gambling allowed all these improprieties yet compare Mohamadan [insert] moral [end insert] rule with protestant and the result is very surprising. There is no drunkenness and fighting they are lazy only because they can get their few necessary requirements [insert] easily [end insert], perhaps they dont cheats more than we do and their marital relationships make them as virtuous as the average their modesty is their greatest of all virtues in the quarters allotted to prostitutes in Singapore & Pendang not a Malay woman to be seen but there are plenty of Europeans But others have noticed this besides myself and I am sure I weary you with this rambling letter. Please give my compliments to Mrs Prestwich and Believe me

yours very truly

A. Hale


[1] 'Stone Axes, Perak', published in Nature, October 29, 1885, vol 32 page 626.


Transcribed by AP February-March 2013


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