Amhara - Settlements

The typical rural settlement is the hamlet, tis, called mender if several are linked on one large hill. The hamlet may consist of two to a dozen huts. Thus, the hamlet is often little more than an isolated or semi-isolated farmstead, and another hamlet may be close by if their plowed fields are near. Four factors appear to determine where a hamlet is likely to be situated: ecological considerations, such as water within a woman's walking distance, or available pasturage for the flock; kinship considerations—persons within a hamlet are nearly always related and form a family economic community; administrative considerations, such as inherited family ownership of land, tenancy of land belonging to a feudal lord of former times, or continuing agreement with the nearby church that had held the land as a fief up to 1975 and continues to receive part of the crop in exchange for its services; and ethnic considerations. A hamlet may be entirely inhabited by Falasha blacksmiths and pottery makers or Faqi tanners. Most of the Falasha have now left Ethiopia.

To avoid being flooded during the rainy season, settlements are typically built on or near hilltops. There is usually a valley in between, where brooks or irrigation canals form the border for planted fields. The hillsides, if not terrace farmed, serve as pasturage for all hamlets on the hill. Not only sheep and goats, but also cows, climb over fairly steep, bushy hillsides to feed. Carrying water and branches for fuel is still considered a woman's job, and she may have to climb for several hours from the nearest year-round water supply. The hamlet is usually patrilocal and patrilineal. When marriage occurs, usually early in life, a son may receive use of part of his father's rented (or owned) field and build his hut nearby. If no land is available owing to fragmentation, the son may reluctantly be compelled to establish himself at the bride's hamlet. When warfare has killed off the adult males in a hamlet, in-laws may also be able to move in. Some hamlets are fenced in by thorn bushes against night-roving hyenas and to corral cattle. Calves and the family mule may be taken into the living hut at night. There is usually at least one fierce reddish-brown dog in each hamlet.

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