Toraja traditionally resided in isolated mountaintop settlements; however, the Dutch relocated many of these villages into the major valleys for administrative convenience. Today the population of villages averages 4,170, although there is variety in size and constellation. Traditionally villages consist of clusters of elevated plaited bamboo houses, rice barns, and kindred houses ( tongkonan ). The tongkonan is a most significant aspect of Toraja culture. The tongkonan is more than a physical structure—it is a visual symbol of descent (see under "Kinship"). According to ritual prescriptions, the tongkonan must face north. Tongkonan are constructed of wood, without nails, and are raised on stilts; they also have arched bamboo roofs, although today these are being replaced by corrugated iron. In precolonial times, elaborately carved tongkonan were associated with the nobility. Commoners were restricted to carving only specified sections of their tongkonans and slaves were strictly forbidden to carve their tongkonans. In front of the tongkonans one finds a plaza that is used for ritual occasions. Across this ritual plaza is a row of rice barns. They vary in construction, but all rice barns have a lower deck area that is used for receiving guests and socializing. Rice barns may be constructed of wood with elaborate stylized motifs or they may be of simple plaited bamboo. Surrounding the village are gardens and rice fields. Today villages also have Buginese-style houses elevated on stilts, and modern cement homes. Most villages also have a church and a school nearby.