Nias - Settlements

Traditional villages ( banua ) are of several types. In the south, which is a distinct region culturally, villages are very large and compact, with several hundred houses. These are ranged close together along the sides of a paved plaza, dominated by the house of the chief, which is built on a much larger scale than are other houses. In the area referred to in the literature as the center (around Gomo, which is actually southeast), many smaller villages of a similar type are found (with a maximum of fifty houses), usually strategically placed on hilltops, as well as small, amorphous clusters of dwellings and dispersed temporary homesteads. In the north, villages may be dispersed or compact but they do not usually have more than between twenty and thirty houses. The present system of administrative villages (Indonesian desa ) is based on the existing pattern of settlements, sometimes amalgamating several traditional villages or hamlets under a single headman. Most villages were originally founded by a single descent group, later becoming transformed into multiclan settlements. Houses in the center and south are beautiful rectangular structures raised on high pillars, surmounted by roofs of sago thatch up to 20 meters high. In the northern half of the island, houses are oval. Because of dwindling forest reserves and the great expense of feasting that traditional building involves, simple houses of wooden planks or concrete with corrugated roofs are now the usual form of architecture. Stone monuments, which once adorned every village, are no longer erected.

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