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The Mursi

Many anthropologists consider the Lower Omo Valley, in Ethiopia, to be the cradle of Mankind. Several ethnic groups currently inhabit the region, living in surroundings that seem nearly unchanged from the Bronze Age.

The Mursi occupy the Mago area, a 2,162 sq km National Park, on the eastern bank of the Omo River. Numbering at around 4,000, they are reputed as fierce warriors and are feared by the tribes living around their territory. They are also renowned for their colorful body decoration. The men, viewing the human body as a living canvas, draw intricate patterns and designs with clay from the riverbank. Lip plates are the most famous feature of the Mursi women. They are one of the three last tribes in the world to share this unusual and mysterious custom with their neighbors, the Surma, and the Kayapo of the Amazon.

Unfortunately, the Mursi could be in immediate danger of government removal from their traditional lands in order to make way for a privately managed park.