Omo Valley Research 

We conduct long-term fieldwork in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia. The Omo Valley is a culturally diverse region in southwest Ethiopia with over 12 languages spoken, and a variety of subsistence styles, including market-integrated town dwellers, small-scale horticulturalists, nomadic pastoralists, and riverine fishers and farmers. At the bottom of this page, you can find many academic resources about the groups in this region.


We use multiple methods to study human behavior in ecologically valid contexts, including long-term ethnographic field studies, behavioral ecology, experimental economics, and GPS technology. If you’re interested in learning more about fieldwork in this region or possibly joining our team, please get in touch by email. 

OVRP Team Summer 2019.jpg

Research Team Summer 2019

South Omo Research Center

South Omo Research Center


The Nyangatom are Nilotic semi-nomadic pastoralists inhabiting the border region between South Sudan and Ethiopia along the northern edge of the Ilemi Triangle. They number approximately 30,000 with populations in both South Sudan and Ethiopia. Ethnographic documentation of the Nyangatom is sparse with the majority of it by French anthropologist Serge Tornay. The Nyangatom are members of the Karimojong or Ateker cluster and closely related to the neighboring Toposa and Turkana who speak mutually intelligible languages. They also share borders with the Suri, Mursi, Kwegu, Kara, Hamar, and Dassanetch.


Although they identify primarily as pastoralists, agricultural products such as sorghum and maize constitute a significant portion of the diet for many Nyangatom and may be supplemented through hunting. Although many Nyangatom live in mobile villages, a many live in semi-permanent villages on the east banks of the Omo river and the north bank of the seasonal Kibish river.  The new (2006) market and administrative town of Kangaten is increasingly attractive as a place of settlement for many Nyangatom who move away from traditional lifestyles.


Nyangatom men negotiate bridewealth payments


Nyangatom women build a hut

Omo Valley

Nomadic encampments, Nyangatom


The Dassanetch (Daasanach) are an ethnic group living in the Dassanetch District of the South Omo Zone and number approximately 50,000. Many Dassanetch also live in northern Kenya along Lake Turkana and the Omo River.  Inland Dassanetch primarily raise livestock while Dassanetch along the Omo fish and hunt aquatic game such as crocodile. The Dassanetch language is on the East Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Most male Dassanetch are multilingual, with Amharic commonly spoken on the Ethiopian side of the border, and English and Swahili understood by most Dassanetch living in Kenya.


Dassanetch Village


Omo Valley Resources

Below are numerous academic publications on several of the groups in this region, many of which are difficult to find. If you need help locating a publication and your library can’t access it, please feel free to email me as I have pdfs of many other materials. 


Note to researchers: Anthropologists largely continue to publish in monographs and edited volumes that are hard to access, and that in many cases are nearly impossible for members of the host communities to obtain. It’s morally incumbent on us to ensure the results or our research are available for others. Please consider this when choosing what format to publish in, or consider scanning a copy of your work and posting online

Riverbank Cultivation in the Lower Omo Valley: The Intensive Farming System of the Kara, Southwestern Ethiopia. 1996. Hiroshi Matsuda
The Kara-Nyangatom War of 2006-07: Dynamics of Escalating Violence in the Tribal Zone. 2008. Felix Girke

Annexation & Assimilation: Koegu & their Neighbours. 1994. Hiroshi Matsuda
The Economy of Affection Unites the Region: Bond-partnership in the Lower Omo Valley, Southwestern Ethiopia. 2008. Hiroshi Matsuda
A problem of domination at the periphery: the Kwegu and the Mursi. 1986. David Turton
Quantitative ethnobotany of medicinal plants used by Kara and Kwego semi-pastoralist people in lower Omo River Valley. 2010. Tilahun Teklehaymanot & Mirutse Giday


The Social Organisation of the Mursit a pastoral tribe of the Lower Omo Valley, South West Ethiopia. 1973. D.A. Turton
War, Peace, and Mursi Identity. 1979. David Turton
Mursi Response to Drought: Some Lessons for Relief and Rehabilitation. 1985. David Turton
A problem of domination at the periphery: the Kwgu and the Mursi. 1986. David Turton
Warfare, Vulnerability and Survival: A Case from Southwestern Ethiopia. 1989. David Turton
Movement, Warfare and Ethnicity in the Lower Omo Valley. 1991. David Turton

"We must teach them to be peaceful": Mursi Views on being Human and being Mursi. 1992. David Turton
Mursi Political Identity & Warfare: The Survival of an Idea. 1994. David Turton
Warfare in the Lower Omo Valley, Southwestern Ethiopia: Reconciling Materialist and Political Explanations. 1999. David Turton
The Politician, the Priest and the Anthropologist: living beyond conflict in Southwestern Ethiopia. 2002. David Turton


Nyangatom Livelihood and the Omo Riverine Forest. 2017. C.J. Carr
Evil Days: Thirty Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia. 1991. Human Rights Watch
The Kara-Nyangatom War of 2006-2007: Dynamics of Escalating Violence in the Tribal Zone. 2008. Felix Girke
The Social Construction of Emotions: Gratification and Gratitude Among the Turkana and Nyangatom of East Africa. 2004. Pierre Lienard and Francois Anselmo
The Peace Generation: Reporting from the South Omo Pastoralist Gathering, Nyangatom Woreda, Kangaten, Ethiopia, November 2007. Paul Sulivan
Armed Conflicts in the Lower Omo Valley, 1970-1976: An Analysis from within Nyangatom Society. 1979. Serge Tornay
The Nyangatom: An Outline of their Ecology and Social Organization. 1981. Serge Tornay
More chances on the fringe of the state? The growing power of the Nyangatom: a border people of the Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia (1970-1992). 1993. Serge A. Tornay
Structure et événement: le système générationnel des peuples du cercle karimojong. 1995. Serge Tornay

Generational Systems on the Threshold of the Third Millennium: An Anthropological Perspective. 1998. Serge. A. Tornay

Modernization in the Lower Omo Valley and Adjacent Marches of Eastern Equatoria, Sudan: 1991-2000. 2009. Serge Tornay
Environmental Change, Food Crises and Violence in Dassanech, Southern Ethiopia. 2012. Yntiso Gebre
Inter-Ateker Discord: The Case of the Nyangatom and the Turkana. 2012. Gebre Yntiso
The Nyangatom Circle of Trust: Criteria for Ethnic Inclusion and Exclusion. 2014. Gebre Yntiso
Ethnic Boundary Making in East Africa: Rigidity and Flexibility among the Nyangatom People. 2016. Yntiso Gebre


Ethnic Conflict in the 'Tribal Zone': the Dizi and Suri in Southern Ethiopia. 1993. Jon Abbink

Famine, Gold and Guns: The Suri of Southwestern Ethiopia, 1985-91. 1993. Jon Abbink
Reading the Entrails: Analysis of an African Divination Discourse. 1993. J. Abbink

Authority and Leadership in Surma Society (Ethiopia). 1997. Jon Abbink

Ritual and Political Forms of Violent Practice among the Suri of Southern Ethiopia. 1998. Jon Abbink

Violence and political discourse among thé Chai Suri. 1998. Jon Abbink
Violence, Ritual, and Reproduction: Culture and Context in Surma Dueling. 1999. Jon Abbink

Violence and the Crisis of Conciliation: Suri, Dizi and the State in South-West Ethiopia. 2000. Jon Abbink

Drinking, Prestige, and Power: Alcohol and Cultural Hegemony in Maji, Southern Ethiopia. 2002. Jon Abbink

Plant use among the Suri people of southern Ethiopia: a system of knowledge in danger? 2002. Jon Abbink

The Fate of the Suri: Conflict and Group Tension on the South-West Ethiopian Frontier. 2009. Jon Abbink


Turkana And Their Wildlife. 1996. Anthony J. Barrett
Notes on the Turkana Tribe of British East Africa. Part I. 1921. Juxon Barton

Notes on the Turkana Tribe of British East Africa. Part II. 1921. Juxon Barton

Blowback Kenya’s Illicit Ammunition Problem in Turkana North District. 2008. James Bevan

Ethnic conflicts in North-West Kenya: Pokot-Turkana Raiding 1969-1984. 1990. Michael Bollig

The Universality of African Marriage Reconsidered: Evidence from Turkana Males. 1996.  Rada Dyson-Hudson & Dominique Meekers

Children of the Dancing Ground, Children of the House: Costs and Benefits of Marriage Rules. 1998. Rada Dyson-Hudson, Dominique Meekers & Neville Dyson-Hudson

A Preliminary Survery of the Turkana. 1951. P.H. Gulliver
The Karamajong Cluster. 1952. P.H. Gulliver

The Turkana Age Organization. 1958. P.H. Gulliver

The People of the Grey Bull: The Origin and Expansion of the Turkana. 1988. John Lamphear

The Evolution of Ateker 'New Model' Armies: Jie & Turkana. 1994. John Lamphear
Marriage and bridewealth negotiations among the Turkana in northwestern Kenya. 2007. Itaru Ohta


Baseline Survey on the Most Prevalent HTP and Sanitation Practices among the Community of the Hamer, Dassenech, and Nyangatom Woredas of the South Omo Zone in the SNNPRS, 2011. ATEM Consultancy Service

Violence Extended into the Middle Omo Valley: A View of Recent Raiding Conflicts in Malo, Southwest Ethiopia, 2009. Takeshi Fujimoto

Traditional coping mechanisms for climate change of pastoralists in South Omo, Ethiopia. 2012. Fama Gebresenbet & Asnake Kefale
The Karamajong Cluster. 1952. P.H. Gulliver

Ethiopia: The Last Two Frontiers. 2011. John Markakis
The Peace Generation: Reporting from the South Omo Pastoralist Gathering, Nyangatom Woreda, Kangaten, Ethiopia, November 2007. Paul Sulivan

Exploration in the Lower Omo Valley of Southwestern Ethiopia between 1890 and 1910. 1981. David Turton


The Hamar are Omotic agropastoralists living in the Hamer District of the South Omo Zone, in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia. They number approximately 50,000 bordering the Dassanetch to the south and the Nyangatom to the west across the Omo River. While most Hamar reside in relatively fixed villages, men often spend a significant portion of their year at remote cattle camps in Kisso and in Mago National Park. While the pastoral lifestyle is predominant among the Hamar, there has been an increasing shift to farming in recent years, with sorghum being the main crop produced.


Day hut for working in the fields


Married Hamar woman

Hamar girl carrying her brother