In some stories from north-central Timor, people emerge together with water out of caves on mountain peaks, in other stories they emerge out of springs closer to the coast. What is also interesting is that in many of these stories, those that emerged from the mountain peaks are said to have spread out from there to populate the world beyond, some even travelling across the seas, returning later with the heightened knowledge of fire and metals, water and wet rice production. While some of these 'explorers' returned to their original mountain and dry land rocky abodes, others are said to have returned to settle by the springs which are scattered across Baucau's coastal marine terrace zone. From this point the stories tell us they began producing wet rice. Meanwhile another group is said to have arrived into the region from Luang (Leti) by way of Laga and travelled up to (re)settle in the mountains of Matebian. Major Ko'o Raku refers to these people as the Butu generation (other named groups with a similar migration pattern are called Luang, Dala Hitu (see below) and Makasar). Overtime these Butu people began to descend from the high rocky outcrops of mountains and settled in the savanna plain to the south of Baucau. As they were largely dry land farmers, these Butu people are counterposed with the wet rice farming people from the coast[i]. They are also characterized as 'hairy people' with extremely long facial and armpit hair, even hairy mouths. While the Butu people eventually established relations with the coastal zone growers of irrigated rice, the division between largely dry land peoples and those living around the rice paddies and lush spring groves of the marine terrace zone was for a long time a jealously guarded boundary. A Makasae ritual poem (masa) recounts:

'Butu usa, nasa nasa loi casa 

Gel bobo, bobo casa gel

Loi Lau Kati Lau mu'a gasi

Rim liu gas rini'

'I Loilau Katilau [ancestors of a founding house of Boile Komu in Baucau] 

make my rice fields and swidden here

I ban you from descending

You live in your place in the rocks up above'. 

Overtime Butu men, some of whom descended through underground water sources, married into the families of these coastal irrigated rice growers and the cultures intermingled resulting in complicated ritual governance relations (see Chapter 4 and 6). According to Major Ko'o Raku, Butu people have a sacred or lulik connection to futu, a Makasae word meaning subterranean termites. 

[i]Butu in this context can also mean growers of dry land cereals.

Related entries

Label / Notes Owner Date Modified
Lisa Palmer 18-Jan-2012 22-Sep-2013