Qaalluu, Smith and Metal: Traditional Conflict Resolution Mechanisms in the Medium of Metals among the Oromo of Northeast Wollega, Ethiopia
The introduction of metals, particularly iron, has always been seen as an important stage of socio-cultural, economic, and political departure of human development. Nevertheless, since its appearance in the form of utilitarian or armaments, iron has occupied an ambiguous position in any society. It has played both the role of production by increasing fertility or prosperity, and destruction by furnishing the process of or terminating life. This ambivalent position of the material is also evident in the position of the workers in their respective societies. Consequently, its workers (the tumtuu) are both feared and respected. This ambiguous position/role of the material and the artisans has long attracted heated debates amongst
archaeometallurgists. Although the double roles of iron tools among the Oromo traditional believers in Wollega can never escape such debates, engagement in such a debate is beyond the scope of this article. This article, however, departs from the search for the destinations of iron tools once they left the production sites in the operational sequences i.e. traditional ritual site of the Qaalluu. The data for this discussion have emerged from my current ethnoarchaeometallurgical research in northeast Wollega, which aims to documenting different destination of iron/metal products after they left the cottage of the smiths. This article attempts to draw on the secular meaning of metal tools in order to attain the symbolic significance derived from it. Utilizing the data from traditional spiritual sites in northeast Wollega (Butaa Nadoo and Sagro Guddina), the article outlines the peaceful resolution of various forms of conflicts at the traditional ritual sites in the medium of metal tools or by invoking their symbolic value.
Key words: Oromo, Wollega, Qalluu, Siida, Sibila Gurracha, conflict resolution