Ethiopia's tribal groups are centered in different geographic regions and play a major role in the country's cultural and political life. The Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia is an especially interesting area of Ethiopia ethnicallyAbout 50 percent of Ethiopia's ethnic groups live there. One of the small tribes in the valley is the Mursi. The Mursi are one of the many small tribal groups in Ethiopia.
The Mursi speak a language from the Surmic language family. This suggests that they are related to the Meen and Suri peoples. Surmic is part of the Nilo-Saharan language phylum. Before the discovery of DNA, language was one of the principal tools used by anthropolgists to ascertain the relationships between tribes. Language is often, but not alwats related to ethnicity. The Suri, Mursi, and Meen are sometimes collectively referred to as the Surma. The collective numbers about 80,000 people.
Despite their small size, the Mursi are one of the most recognizable African tribes.
The Mursi are noted for their their clay lip plates and primitive life style. The women deform the bottom lip with a wooden disk. The Mursi boy here was photographed in 1995. Mursi children and men until recently always went naked. Still now most children and men wear no clothing when they are in their villages. They do, however, commonly paint their bodies. The boy in the photograph here wears nothing but has destinctive body painting. In many primitive cultures these paintings were a substitute for clothing.
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