Weyto (African caste)

For other uses, see Weyto.

The Weyto, also referred to as Wäyto or Watta,[1] have been one of the castes among the Amhara people of Africa.[2][3] Their endogamous strata has existed in the hierarchical Amhara society, one of the largest ethnic groups found in Ethiopia and neighboring regions.[4] Their hereditary occupation was hunting and leather work (tanning).[2]

The Weyto people were socially outcast among the Ethiopian ethnic groups for hunting and eating Hippopotamus.[5]

The Weyto people are described in historical texts as a group of hippopotamus hunters in Ethiopia around Lake Tana, Lake Zwai and Bahir Dar.[1] Due to their diet on hippopotamus meat, the Weyto have been considered an outcast people and despised by Amhara and other ethnic groups.[6] Enrico Cerulli linked them to two other outcast groups of Ethiopia with similar names and live primarily as hunters: the Watta or Manjo of the Gibe region and former Kingdom of Kaffa; and the Watta amongst the Borana people.[7] Similar castes with hunting occupation live in other parts of the Horn of Africa, states Ephrem Tadesse, such as "the Watta among the Oromo, the Fuga or Mana among the Gurage, the Manjo among the Kaffa, the Kwegu among the Mursi/Bodi, the Hadicho among the Sidama, and the Mijan and Yibir among the Somali".[8]

The Weyto have been a small part of more elaborate Amhara caste system, ranked higher than slaves in its social stratification system. It, states Donald N. Levine – a professor of Sociology specializing on Ethiopian studies, consisted of: (1) endogamy, (2) hierarchical status, (3) restraints on commensality, (4) pollution concepts, (5) each caste has had a traditional occupation, and (6) inherited caste membership.[9] Scholars accept that there has been a rigid, endogamous and occupationally closed social stratification among Amhara and other Afro-Asiatic-speaking Ethiopian ethnic groups. However, some label it as an economically closed, endogamous class system or as occupational minorities,[10] whereas others such as the historian David Todd assert that this system can be unequivocally labelled as caste-based.[11][12][13]

The Weyto were known to speak the Weyto language, likely belonging to the Cushitic languages.[1] Weyto language became extinct at some point in the 19th century.[14] According to the 1994 national census, 1172 individuals were reported belonging to this ethnic group; it was not an ethnic choice in the 2007 census.[15]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Matthias Brenzinger (1992). Language Death: Factual and Theoretical Explorations with Special Reference to East Africa. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 398–399. ISBN 978-3-11-087060-2.
  2. 1 2 Donald N. Levine (10 December 2014). Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society. University of Chicago Press. pp. 195–196. ISBN 978-0-226-22967-6.
  3. Abebe Haile Gebremariam; Million Bekele; Andrew Ridgewell (2009). Small and Medium Forest Enterprises in Ethiopia. IIED. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-84369-720-6., Quote: "Well known castes include the fuga among the Gurage, the wato among the Oromo and the weyto among the Amhara."
  4. Central Statistical Agency, Ethiopia. "Table 5: Population Size of Regions by Nations/Nationalities (Ethnic Group) and Place of Residence: 2007" (PDF). Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census Results. United Nations Population Fund. p. 84. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2009. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  5. Kassam, Aneesa; Bashuna, Ali Balla (2004). "Marginalisation of the Waata Oromo Hunter–Gatherers". Africa. Cambridge University Press. 74 (02): 194–216. doi:10.3366/afr.2004.74.2.194.
  6. DH Koester (2013). A Backpacking Adventure In Ethiopia, Volume VIII. Africa Press. pp. 89–90. ISBN 978-1-4787-1016-5.
  7. Enrico Cerulli, "The folk-literature of the Galla of Southern Abyssinia", Harvard African Studies, 3 (1922), pp. 200-214
  8. Ephrem Tadesse (2015), Psychosocial and Educational Experiences of Students from Potter Family at Primary Schools, College of Education and Behavioral Studies, Addis Ababa University, page 9
  9. Donald N. Levine (2014). Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society. University of Chicago Press. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-0-226-22967-6.
  10. Teshale Tibebu (1995). The Making of Modern Ethiopia: 1896-1974. The Red Sea Press. pp. 67–70. ISBN 978-1-56902-001-2.
  11. Todd, David M. (1977). "Caste in Africa?". Africa. Cambridge University Press. 47 (04): 398–412. doi:10.2307/1158345.
    Dave Todd (1978), "The origins of outcastes in Ethiopia: reflections on an evolutionary theory", Abbay, Volume 9, pages 145-158
  12. Lewis, Herbert S. (2006). "Historical problems in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Wiley-Blackwell. 96 (2): 504–511. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1962.tb50145.x.
  13. Niall Finneran (2013). The Archaeology of Ethiopia. Routledge. pp. 14–15. ISBN 1-136-75552-7., Quote: "Ethiopia has, until fairly recently, been a rigid feudal society with finely grained perceptions of class and caste".
  14. Ethnologue Report for Weyto
  15. 1994 Population and Housing Census of Ethiopia: Results for Amhara Region, Vol. 1, part 1, Tables 2.10 (accessed 9 April 2009)


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