of those who lived more than 20000 years ago in what is now South Africa
and who are believed to be the original human inhabitants of sub-Saharan
Africa is known as the San people.
The San were hunter-gatherers
and some of them still survive in small numbers in the Kalahari Desert.
Their physical appearance is small in stature; they are brown in color
and have unique "click" languages.
The San hunter-gatherers were a Stone
Age people. They did not use metals, their weapons being made of wood,
stone and bones. They did not domesticate animals, and did not cultivate
crops. No pottery was made; instead they used ostrich
egg-shells for storing and holding liquids.
Because they were always on the move in search of game and plant
San did not build permanent settlements they preferred using rock
shelters as temporary live sites (see image on left) and or open camps;
probably weather conditions dictated the choice of sites. The San
existed in small family groups of about 12 - 30 people. A chief
controlled their resources on behalf of the group. Back in the day
before the arrival of the settlers the San lived in peace along the
coast, crayfish, mussels, perlemoen and seals were basic foods, and the
large number of fish bones found in the coastal caves inhabited by the San
indicate that they were accomplished fishermen. Slivers of bone and wood
sharpened at each end were used to hook fish, which were also caught by
means of tidal traps made with walls constructed from stacked stones.
San men were responsible for hunting and fishing and when away on long
hunting trips they would gather Hoodia Gordonii and chew the bitter
miracle plant to suppress the appetite for 24 hours. (This
plant has recently been translated into a miracle obesity cure,
P57, with a market potential of US$6 billion and have taken the western
world by storm). The women did most of the gathering of plant
foodstuffs. These included wild fruits and berries, as well as the
leaves, stems, bulbs, corns and roots of a variety of plants.
thousands of years the lifestyle of the San hunter-gatherers remained
undisturbed. However, about 2000 years ago there began a gradual but
far-reaching revolution in the economic and social systems of some of
the groups in the northern part of what is now known as Botswana, namely
the acquisition of and rearing of livestock.
is thought that these hunter-gatherers acquired their sheep from Sudanese
people from the north, and cattle from Bantu-speakers to the east. The
fat-tailed sheep that were acquired by the Khiokhoi were in fact known
in the Middle East about 4000 years before, when Semitic-speaking people
The idea of
individual ownership, a concept in marked contrast to the tradition of
the San that all the resources of the territory - water, animals and
plants - were for the people of the community. This gave rise to a
degree of conflict between the two tribes.
Khoikhoi came to perceive themselves as superior to those who did not
own domestic stock. Ownership of livestock led to the evolvement of a
social hierarchy in which the status of a person was determined by
wealth in cattle and sheep.
the conflict between the San and the Khoikhoi had far reaching effects
on both cultures This led to some of the San leaving the area to
continue the hunter-gathering existence further toward the mountainous
and desert areas whilst others joined the Khoikhoi society as hunters
and herders, some even acquired their own stock and married Khoikhoi
women to form one community namely the Khoisan tribe.
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