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Geschichte und Sozialordnung der Sherpa (History and Social Structure of the Sherpa)

Geschichte und Sozialordnung der Sherpa, by Michael Oppitz. Innsbruck-Munich, Universitätsverlag Wagner Ges. m.b.H., 1968. 170 pages, 21 photographs (one full page colored), 11 schedules and charts, 6 genealogies, 2 maps.

History and Social Structure of the Sherpa is the first part of Professor Friedrich W. Funke’s work on Sherpa Research. “Sherpa Research”, in turn, is part of Khumbu-Himal, a research work on Nepal Himalaya sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation under the authorship of Professor Dr. Walter Hellmich of Munich.

An introduction by F.W. Funke to the entire work as well as Michael Oppitz’s book relates the research of Everest and the Sherpa that had been carried on up to the year 1961 and subsequently through the years 1965 to 1967 when the field work of his Nepal-Himalaya research team began. The team was composed of a group of scientists specializing in various fields, topography, medicine, hygiene, anthropology, psychology among others. The author, Michael Oppitz, was the youngest member of the team covering the sociological aspects of the project. The author’s particular assignment was the anthropological study of the Sherpa.

In the course of their work members of his team discovered important documents, the oldest dating back perhaps 400 years, which led them to certain conclusions regarding the origin of the Sherpa, their subsequent migrations and final settlement in the Solo-Khumbu area. The author describes the social structure of the Sherpa clan, customs and rules governing marriage, inheritance, divorce. A selection of legends and stories follows which provide some lighter reading. There is also a bibliography, ageneral index and an index of names in Sherpa-Tibetan language. A seven-page comprehensive summary in English is of particular help to the reader unfamiliar with the German language. The book is full of information and of great value to the student of Sherpa history. The reader will be impressed by the thoroughness of the research work on which the book if based.

Horst Von Hennig