The Hadza are a small tribe of hunter-gatherers who live close to Lake Eyasi in Tanzania. They have been the subject of numerous anthropological studies, but all have omitted any significant observation of their houses and village settlements. We studied these structures for the first time in detail on one of our first research expeditions.
Although they now have some metal in their lives, usually traded with tourists or adjacent tribes, the Hadzabe huts can be constructed without any iron tools. All that is required are pointed sticks, to make the first holes in the earth. The hut has three essential components, a primary structure of large branches, sourced from locally growing shrubs and trees, young Baobab are preferred although many species are suitable. These are ‘planted’ into holes in the ground and brought together at the top where the branches are skilfully woven together. No ties are required. A secondary structure of smaller twigs is then woven tightly into these main branches to create a loose basket shell, and then a cover is applied which can be from a wide variety of materials, according to local availability. In lowland areas, near the lake, they will be thatched with long grasses, in the forests, grass, liana, and even the separated layers of rotting tree trunks are used (see the video). These will be applied over a period of a few days, more being added until the structure is reasonably showerproof.
The hut is only one part of the settlement, and more than a house, it could be thought of as a bed chamber in a larger community building which is hewn out of the bush (in the case of the village we studied, a sisal thicket). In this, areas are set aside for cooking, for women and for men (who live separately during the day), and for ritual dancing.
The huts are not really waterproof, and in the rainy season the groups move to the high mountains where they occupy systems of caves. During Spring and Summer they will move about every six to eight weeks, as the game in the local area reduces so they move on to find new hunting grounds.
The tribe is under threat from a number of sources. The governmant has tried to settle them on more than one occasion and their hunting grounds are rapidly being settled by encroaching tribes. Nevertheless, we found them to be a very happy people, there is almost no crime in their community and they build strong social structures.