Also known as: Atahori Rote; Hataholi Lote; Rote; Rotinese

Like its neighbour Savu, Roti is dry and not very fertile. Historically, the islanders subsisted primarily upon the sap of the lontar palm, which grows abundantly on the island. The indigenous Rotinese religion involved two classes of spirits: spirits of the inside (benevolent ancestral spirits), and spirits of the outside (malevolent spirits of unknown origin). While Christianity has been practiced on Roti for centuries, most of the population did not convert until well into the twentieth century.

Show Map of Location

Traditional Culture(1843)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Absent (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 342-368
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 342-368, 346
Ancestral spirits Present, and the principal focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 342-368, 346-349
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 342-368, 348
God(s) Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 342-368, 346, 353

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 347

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 354, 363-363
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Principal determinant of one's afterlife (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 358-363
Culture hero(es) Absent (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 342-368

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 346

Classes of Tapu

Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Fox (1973), pp. 363-363


Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Mana as a personal quality Present (Source)
Blevins (2008), pp. 261
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Blevins (2008), pp. 261
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 214
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Fox (1973)
Largest religious community Larger than a local community, smaller than the society (Source)
Fox (1968), pp. 1-169, 120-187
Fox (1977), pp. 85
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Fox (1968), pp. 120-187
Social Environment +
Population 40000 (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 149, 151
Population of largest political community 10,000-99,999 (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 151
Importance of Patrilateral descent High (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 213, 214
Importance of Matrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 213, 214
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 214


(No) external warfare Rare or never (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 127-159
Conflict within community Moderate (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 214
Fox (1977), pp. 81
(No) internal warfare Rare or never (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 79-80
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 61-159
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 12.0 (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 212
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to nearest continent 459.0 (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 212
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Present: Clear evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Fox (1973), pp. 346-368
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Carnegie (2010), pp. 460
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 214
Fox (1973), pp. 346-368
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Medium (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 27-47, 29, 41-43
Fox (1993), pp. 213
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 213
Land-based gathering Principal (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 23-24, 29
Fox (1993), pp. 213
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 213
Agriculture / Horticulture Major (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 29-30
Fox (1993), pp. 213

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 28
Fox (1993), pp. 213
Fox (1973), pp. 345-346
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Major (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 28
Fox (1993), pp. 213
Water-based gathering Medium (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 28
Fox (1993), pp. 213

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Medium (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 17-47, 36
Metalworking Absent (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 213
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Fox (1968), pp. 1

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Tectonic (Source)
Harris (2011), pp. 163, 167
Island Size (km²) 1250.0 (Source)
Fox (1968), pp. 1
Maximum elevation (meters) 430.0 (Source)
Fox (1968), pp. 1


Latitude -10.7 (Source)
Fox (1968), pp. 1
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 123.2 (Source)
Fox (1968), pp. 1
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1843-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +


Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process. (Source)
Fox (1983), pp. 15
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 214
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Carnegie (2010), pp. 460
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Absent (Source)
Fox (1977), pp. 129

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
Fox (1983)
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 212
Immigration Absent (Source)
Carnegie (2010), pp. 460-462, 466
Language shift Low (Source)
Carnegie (2010), pp. 466-467
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 212

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Carnegie (2010), pp. 462
Fox (1993), pp. 213
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present but minor (Source)
Fox (1993), pp. 213
Carnegie (2010), pp. 462

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Partly voluntary (Source)
Carnegie (2010), pp. 462
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Carnegie (2010), pp. 462, 471

Modern Infrastructure

Sea port Present (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009), pp. 162
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Carnegie (2010), pp. 460
External Links
Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from

Brunton, R. (1989). The Abandoned Narcotic: Kava and Cultural Instability in Melanesia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Carnegie, M. (2010). Living with Difference in Rural Indonesia: What can be Learned for National and Regional Political Agendas? Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 41 (3), 449-481. DOI: 10.1017/S0022463410000263.

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014).

Fox, J. J. (1968). The Rotinese: a study of the social organisation of an Eastern Indonesian people (Doctoral thesis, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.). Retrieved from

Fox, J. J. (1977). Harvest of the Palm: Ecological Change in Eastern Indonesia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Fox, J.J. (1973). On Bad Death and the Left Hand: A Study of Rotinese Symbolic Inversions. In Needham, R. (Ed.), Right and Left: Essays on Dual Symbolic Classification. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Fox, J.J. (1983). Adam and Eve on the Island of Roti. Indonesia, 36, 15-23. Retrieved from

Fox, J.J. (1993). Roti. Encyclopaedia of World Cultures (Vol. V, pp 212-215). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from

Harris, R. (2011). The Nature of the Banda Arc–Continent Collision in the Timor Region. In D. Brown and P.D. Ryan (Eds.), Arc Continent Collision, Frontiers in Earth Sciences. Berlin, Germany: Heidelberg.

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009). World Port Index Nineteenth Edition. Bethesda, MD: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Trainor, C.R. (2005). Birds of Tapuafu Peninsula, Roti Island, Lesser Sundas, Indonesia. Forktail, 21, 121-131.