Daily Stone Age Life – The Sohi Village

The Sohi people live at the edge of a lake, near its outflow. There are a hundred and fifty people in the village. They all live in houses constructed from roughly-hewn wood, bamboo, palm leaves and grass thatch.

The women and children live in family huts, alongside the family pigs which are highly prized and will be sheltered indoors. The men of the village all live together in a long hut.

The huts are neatly-constructed. The basic design is one that we might recognise as a gable-ended shed. The major structural members are made of wood, the minor structural members of bamboo. Dried leaves are woven between the bamboo to make the house reasonably windproof, and the grass-thatched roof is waterproof.

The huts last about fourteen years, before they need replacement due to deterioration of the structural elements. The new men’s house will be built alongside the old one, then the old one will be demolished. The women’s houses are also rebuilt, but fourteen years later the replacement house may well be for the next generation, for the women are likely to give birth during their teens.

The huts are elevated above the ground, so that a cooling breeze may circulate underneath. This also keeps away many ground-borne parasites, and as a result the Sohi people appear to be in generally good health. There are no stairs to the “front door”; instead there is a notched, sloping log which requires a little balance and agility to negotiate. The “front door” may simply be an opening, or may have a rectangular panel that can be moved into the opening to block it off.

Each hut will have a fire pit: an area of baked clay where a fire may be lit. The men’s longhouse will have a number of these at regular intervals along the house. Although cooking is generally done on an outside fire, the indoor fires will be lit in the evening and will be kept burning throughout the night. The smoke keeps away the mosquitoes that carry malaria.

The men will gather round the fires to tell their stories – stories about what they’ve been doing, all the news and gossip, and also myths and legends about their past. They talk of their ancestors, and their land, and how things came to be. This shared cultural memory, the stories passed from generation to generation, still contains fragments from their distant past.

Next: The lake.

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