National Geographic : 1954 Oct
494 W. Robert Moore, National Geographic Staff Leather-clad Girl Totes a Milk Gourd In her right hand she holds copper wire for a new armband. Her sandals are cowhide. away and died before the slave caravans reached the coast. Masai have no written language. They have never adopted the wheel; donkeys pro vide transport during migrations. Nor do they build boats of any kind, since they do not dwell near any large body of water. Serving the Masai as blacksmiths is a sub tribe whose status is so inferior that intermar riage is forbidden. These are the Kunono, with whom pure Masai scarcely condescend to speak. Another subtribe, the Dorobo, kill game with poisoned arrows, hunt wild honey, perform circumcisions, and provide other services. Dances and Sacrifices Mark Unoto The unoto rites have evolved out of cen turies of mysticism. They involve, among other things, much dancing, elaborate cos tumes and headdresses, and frequent use of the mystical number 49. There were numerous sacrifices of sacred oxen, and presacrificial rites were complicated and symbolic. Black oxen, for example, were fed large quantities of honey beer, then smothered to death with beaded hides. One was striped with white chalk before it was killed. Fires were ceremoniously kindled in the age-old fashion (opposite page). Forty-nine oxen were driven to a specially selected site. On this spot, toward the end of the unoto, Masai women erected the esingera, a large, circular temporary hut made of branches and dung. It was surrounded by 49 smaller huts to be occupied by 49 leaders of the age grade. Only those moran who had observed all tribal laws and customs could enter the esingera (page 512). Special unoto dances were performed al most continuously (page 516). The dancers wore colorful flowing capes, ostrich-feather headdresses, vulture-feather neckpieces, col obus monkey skins, and bells on their legs. Some wore the coveted lion-mane headdress called olowaru. The olowaru wearers constitute an elite corps. In each lion hunt, two men's special bravery is acknowledged: the one who throws the first spear, and the one who rushes in and grabs the lion's tail. Near Narok we were told that the man who caught the lion's tail was awarded the mane, but this custom seems to vary. In hunts we witnessed later in Tanganyika, the man who threw the first spear won the mane, while the tail was awarded to the hunter who grabbed it.