2 11.2 f Ema (Timor, c)
The Ema, a sedentary farming people of central Timor, live essentially in villages in hilly country. Their houses are built on stone terraces which allow fast and safe draining even in torrential rains. There are two types of building: the house (uma) and the granary (lako), whose enclosed upper part is used to store grain, other foodstuffs and objects such as musical instruments. The open lower part serves as a meeting place, a workplace for the women and as a place to put up guests during ritual ceremonies.
Both the houses and the granaries are built on piles, on which rest the wooden beams which form the supporting frame of the house floor. The floor is built in two parts: namely, the entrance and a large all-purpose room separated from it by a wall made of planks fitted in between wooden posts. A single wooden door opens through this 1.8 m (6 ft) high wall. It is usually adorned with two sculpted breasts, a buffalo horn and carved spirals. The three other walls of the room are made of vertical bamboo laths which are held in place by wooden crossbars running through the posts. The whole of the house floor is sheltered by a roof thatched with Itnperata cyimdrica, which nearly reaches the ground. The roof structure is supported by a mast resting on a crossbeam, itself supported by two posts, one 'male' and one 'female', which are embedded in the eastern and western walls of the house and planted in the ground. The upper ends of these posts form tenons which fit into mortises at either end of the crossbeam. The roof therefore rests on a beamwork of horizontal and vertical frames fixed on trusses.
All houses are built according to the same plan. They vary only in size, workmanship and the shape of the roof The roof is either circular or oval in plan (in this case with a ridge). A urban Dutch house stairway leads from the terrace through an opening in the low mside wakaiiar fort roof to the entrance and to the door, which opens into the single square room. The room is divided into two areas, one female (on the side of the 'female' post) and one male (on the side of the 'male' post). The 'female' area, which is the smaller one, contains a hearth with five stones - the 'mother' and her four 'children' - over which hangs a wooden lattice used to store dry goods. The sacred objects of the house are kept in the bigger 'male' area.
Although all houses are built according to the same plan, they differ by their status. The lineage house, built within the limits of the ancestral villages, which are located nearest to the hilltop, symbolizes the unity of the group that claims descent from a founding ancestor and original builder of the house. It is called a 'sacred house' for it contains the heirloom of the ancestors and the various objects required to perform the ritual. The building or rebuilding of a lineage house is surrounded by numerous rituals which run for a period of several months. Elder and younger brothers, whether biological or classificatory, who can claim to be part of the lineage of the founding ancestor of the house, take part in these rituals together with their wife-takers
and wife-givers. The most important ritual is the one that accompanies the physical completion of the building and also makes it symbolically complete. This ritual gives rise to a great feast called 'eating the house' which can gather over a hundred people. Animal sacrifices, fecundity rites, invocations of ancestors, distributions of food and ceremonial exchanges between the members of the house and their wife-takers and wife-givers take place during the feast. Thus, on the occasion of the rebuilding of the lineage house every ten years or so, the cohesion of the group is reinforced while its relationship with its affines is reaffirmed.