Ngawbe - Settlements



The Ngawbe live in highly dispersed small hamlets ( caseríos ), which traditionally consisted of about two to eight houses occupied by families related through kinship ties. The distance between one hamlet and another is usually a kilometer or more. This pattern of dispersed hamlets existed prehistorically. Rapid population increase has led to many larger hamlets, often occupied by members of two or more distinct kin groups. Because postmarital residence is ideally virilocal, Ngawbe hamlets tend to be composed largely of patrilineally related males, their wives, and their children. The traditional house type was round, with a conical thatched roof, low walls of sticks tied together, an earthen floor, a single entrance, and no interior partitions. This house type was widespread among the indigenous peoples of western Panama and eastern Costa Rica. It is now rare among the Ngawbe; the round houses have been largely replaced by rectangular houses with hip roofs, made of the same construction materials. Each of these two types of house has an interior platform under the roof, which is accessed by a log ladder and is used for storage of agricultural produce and personal belongings. A few houses now have corrugated metal roofs. The largest Ngawbe houses have a long dimension of about 12 meters. Some houses in Bocas del Toro are elevated on poles, and these dwellings occasionally have interior partitions.


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