UNESCO Registered Heritages of the region
This cultural heritage is located in South Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regional State (SNNPRS) in Gurage Zone .It is around 200 kms far from the regional headquarter, Hawassa and it is far from Addis Ababa by 87 kms asphalted roads in south-west direction. Its absolute location is at 8°26’ north latitude and 38°37’ east longitude.
Tiya megalithic stele is a world heritage site inscribed in a world heritage list by Unesco in 1980. A renowned archaeologist Francis Anfray discovered and recorded 150 stelae sites around these areas. He and later R. Joussaume stated that the Tiya stelae were the most impressive megalithic monuments. Based on the survey, Francis Anfray categorized the megalithic monuments of these areas as phallic, anthropomorphic, decorated, well- dressed, undressed, rectangular and circular or semi-circular in their features and shapes. It is easily accessibility to Addis Abeba and currently draws many tourists at home and abroad as a high standard museum and traditional handicraft Training centers are built .
Tiya is among the most important of the roughly 160 archaeological sites discovered so far in Guraghe Zone. The stelae from the region, with their enigmatic configuration, are highly representative of an expression of the Ethiopian megalithic period. The carved monoliths of the area vary in size from 1 meter low to 5 metres high. Their forms fall into several distinct categories: figurative composition; anthropomorphic; hemispherical or conical; simple monoliths. In the area there are stelaes with depictions of swords, associated with enigmatic symbols and schematic human figures. It is the remains of an ancient Ethiopian culture whose age has not yet been precisely determined (reported to be within 12th to 14th centaury) and they have been interpreted as having a funerary significance. The site contains 36 monuments, including 32 carved stelae covered with symbols
Most of the stones are engraved with enigmatic symbols, notably swords. French excavations have revealed that the stelae mark the mass graves of individuals aged between 18-30 years old.
Tiya Stele Gurage Zone
Lower Omo Valley Paleo-Anthropological World Heritage Site
The Lower Omo Valley is located in South Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) in Debub Omo Zone. It is 700 kms away from Addis Ababa in south-west direction. The site’s absolute location is 4°80` North and 35°97` East. The pre-historic site of the Lower Omo valley is well documented owing to the research undertaken during the 1930’s by Professor Camille Aramburg and from 1968 to 1976 by a team of paleontologists and pre- historians. The discoveries of humanoid fossils in the valley include jaw bones, quantities of detached teeth and fragments of the australopithecines. Further, evidence of the oldest known humanoid technical activity have been found in this region, as well as stone objects which attest to an encampment of pre-historic beings among the oldest known today.
The uniqueness of this site is that the discoveries here are representative of important developments in the domain of cultural activities qualify the lower valley of the Omo to be included in the world heritage list under criteria nos.3 although this site was placed under the protection of the Administration of Antiquities in 1969 .In the Lower Valley of the Omo, Aouche has been well preserved, although it is vulnerable to the pillage of antiquity hunters. The site has been listed as a world heritage site in 1980.It extends over an area of 165 2km. The age- old sedimentary deposits are now world renowned for the discovery of many hominid fossils, that have been of fundamental importance in the study of human evolution. Researched evidence from the site has established bio-stratigraphical, radiometric and magneto-stratigraphical scales spanning between one and 3.5 million years.
The Lower Omo Valley includes Fejej paleontological research locations with sedimentary deposit going back to the plio-pleistocene period. This world heritage other than Fejej has significant minor sites as Usno, Kibish and Shangura .They have fossils of fish, reptiles and mammals in abundance. These have produced numerous hominid and animal fossils, including fragments of Australopithecus. The deposits of human vertebrae fauna, and paleo-environmental evolution, shed light on the earliest stages of the origins and development of Homo sapiens of Africa and a marked evidence in physical evolution next to the valley of Middle Awash valley (Lucy) world heritage site.
The discoveries of ancient stone tools or achuelian tools in an encampment also offer evidence of the oldest known technical activities of the pre-historic human beings. Although excavation in the area was known beginning 1890’s through Kenya it is after 1966, that the scientific research has proved the sites’ significant contribution to the prominent archaeological, geological, paleo-anthropological and paleo-environmental studies. It also bears exceptional witness to important developments in the field of cultural development and draws many visitors. The most important and known sites for Paleo-anthropological study: Shungura (Between3.3-0.8milion years ago), Usno & Mursi (about 4.1mya), Kibish (younger sediments), formations. All theses formations are found within the lower-Omo in Debub Omo Zone.
Partial view of Lower Omo Valley
Konso Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site
Konso Cultural landscape was inscribed by Unesco as world heritage site in June 2011. Some of the major Cultural properties that constitute the Konso Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site are:
1. The traditional stone walled towns (Paleta) and their organization and associated cultural properties including the Kanta (Ward system), Mora (Cultural space), with its men -house (Pafta), Generation marker tree (Olayta), erected stones (Daga-hela and Daga-diruma)
2. The dry stone terrace (kabata), used for water and soil conservation
3. The traditional maintained grooves (forests) which serve as a refuge for many endemic plants
4. The burial marker statuettes (Waka) made of wood and unique to Konso people
5. The ponds (Harta)
6. The active traditions of Konso (erecting stelae)
The aforementioned cultural properties are listed on UNESCO world heritage sites.
The Konso have adapted a terrace agricultural system and the core Konso area is characterized by extensive dry stone terraces. Theses terrace retain the soil from erosion and create terrace saddles that are used for agriculture favorably. The terraces are the main features of the Konso landscape and the hills are contoured by the dry stone terraces that could reach at some places up to 5m high. The terraces retention walls are built with heavier blocks at the base. The saddles that are prepared for agriculture are between four and eight meters wide at most places.
Agricultural terracing practices in Konso woreda
The walled towns (Paletas)
The Konso live in dry stone walled towns (Paleta) located on high hills selected for their safety strategy and defense purpose. The Konso villages are remarkable for their beauty and simplicity of workmanship, constructed entirely from natural materials, cultivated or constructed from the surroundings. The village is ringed by dry stonewalls, at least a meter thick and three meters high.
Konso Paleta (Walled town)
Moras are cultural spaces of Konso located at the centre of the main central enclosure and at different locations within the walls, and sometimes outside the walls. Paths from all gates lead to these Moras. Usually moras consist of, or are associated with various cultural, ritual, public and ceremonial features like pafta (big huts used as men’s sleeping place), dancing field, pala (public seating floor made using large stone slabs), dhaka dhirumas (manhood stones/steles), olayta trees (tall juniper trees erected for a past generation as the new generation takes over traditional power), waka (wooden grave statues erected often on graves for heroes, but sometimes for clan leaders (poqolas), and wives of clan leaders, poqoltata), arumda (often oval stones used to sharpen ritual hunting/battle spears), dhaga khakha (swearing or oath taking stones), khorata stone (a stone, found in some moras, where wrongdoers are fined), tomatasha (pebble and pit playing wooden structure), shapa (stretcher to carry sick people to health centers or corpse to burial places), kawula (wooden sticks used as musical instruments during ritual dancing) and living trees (usually standing with olayta trees and thus sacred as an olayta tree).
The Moras retain an important and central role in the life of the Konso. Moras are places where the society discuss and solve its problems. They are also places where justice is administered and places for chatting, playing and dancing. Children stay and play at moras in the day times when their families go to farm. Guests who are tired and need a break or travelers who need a safe place to pass a night freely rests or pass nights in moras, inside or outside the towns. As moras are at junction of main avenues of the towns, old people and weavers sit and weave in or around moras. Meantime these old people and weavers control and see the movement of persons in the town when adults go to farms.
Typical Mora with Pafta (Mora Shilale, Gamole Paleta); source: Konso Management Plan; 2011
The term waka refers to wooden statues erected by Konso people for the memory of their heroes. By definition waka means a portrait of a hero. Hunting has been a highly prestigious occupation for Konso males, but only the lion and leopard confer honor on their killers. Hunting is significant to the Konso as the analogue of warfare, requiring bravery and skill...” (Hallpike, 1970:40). Although Hallpike’s statement is limited to the killing of lions and leopards, we have learnt that men who killed buffalos enjoy the same honour as heroes.
The Konso perception of heroism has brought the erection of monuments on the graves of hedalitas (heroes) an important part of their culture since a long time ago. Although a waka is (by terminology) a wood-made portrait and it refers to a wooden statue erected in memory of a hedalita .It does not mean that they erect a single waqa to represent only the person himself. Rather, they erect a number of statues upon the same grave at the same time. For example they erect statues representing enemies those killed by him. In addition, if he used to kill one of the big wilds, the figure of the wild would be curved out of wood and be placed on the same grave in front of the statues. The practice of curving figures to represent his weapons (spears & shields) and erecting along with the waka is also a traditional experience. In general, Konso waka could be understood as existing evidences about the story of the lives and heroic deeds of the hedalitas they represent.
Waka(wooden -made statues for Konso Heroes)
Poqola Bamale and his wife’s Wakas placed in their residence; (source: Konso Cultural Landscape nomination file