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Konso People


About 600KMs south west of Addis Ababa lies the widely cultivated Konso land that is embraced by Precambrian serpentines and granites. The Konso peoples speak eastern Cushitic language and are agriculturalists and weavers. These peoples are cryptic beyond visitors' imagination which is demonstrated in the distinctive idealization of the figures and heroic lives of their deceased symbolized with wooden totem.


The Konso are an eastern Cushitic speaking people, who live in the highlands of southern Ethiopia. Lands of Oromo peoples, to whom the Konso are culturally and linguistically related, surround their traditional territory. A Cushitic people, the Konso are of mixed Caucasoid and Negroid ancestry. They are intensive agriculturists who subsist primarily on millet and maize, which is grown primarily on an extensive system of stone terraces. They live in nucleated villages with approximately 1500 persons per village. The Konso are one of the last remaining people, who continue to produce, use, and discard stone tools for their own use on a regular basis. In addition, to the documentation of the Konso stone-tool practices, we have an opportunity to test the hypotheses associated with the source for lithic technological variation. In particular, it is imperative that we study the Konso because they are the only remaining stone tool-using culture, where women predominantly make and use stone-tools.

Unlike most Ethiopian peoples, the Konso live in large villages, each governed by an independent council of elders. The social status of all males, and of some females, is defined by a generation-grading system. Although a generation grade supposedly encompasses the men in an entire region, it does not actually function beyond each town's borders and therefore does not prevent conflicts between towns. Kinship is reckoned in nine existence clans and in lineages that are headed by priests and through which property is inherited. Craftsmen form a distinct social class. Although polygamy is accepted, few men can afford more than one wife.
The economy of the Konso rests on an exceptionally intensive agriculture involving irrigation and terracing of mountain slopes. Corn is the staple crop, and cotton and coffee are cash crops. To protect the fields the Konso maintain their cattle in stalls and feed them by hand. They use both the milk and the meat of cattle and the meat of sheep and goats as food, and the animals' dung is collected for fertilizer. Numerous other animals are taboo as food.
The Konso are notable for the erection of Wakas, memorial statues to a dead man who has killed an enemy or an animal such as a lion or a leopard. These stylized wooden carvings are arranged in groups, representing the man, his wives, and his vanquished adversaries.




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