African Tribes: The San


Figure 1.--The San people of the southern African Kalahari are better known as the Bushmen. The San are a hunter gattering people that eke out a living by hunting wild game and gathering roots and tubers. There range has become more limited in the past two millenia as first the more advanced Bantu-speaking tribes pushed them from the more fertile areas into the Kalahari. Here we see a San mother and child in 2005. Note the resemblance to Nelson Mandela.

The San people of the southern African Kalahari are better known as the Bushmen. The Kalahari is a vast desert that extends over South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. The population is believed to total about 45,000 people. The San are a hunter gattering people that eke out a living by hunting wild game and gathering roots and tubers. They are noted for their "click " language. The San may be the oldest culture in the world with a history dating back over a 100,000 years. They are believed to have first appeared in the Kalahari about 30,000 years ago. San rock paintings may be the oldest art work found in Africa. The San were still found in many parts of southern Africa where game and veld food was once plentiful. The San have no written record, but San rock art can be seen throughout southern Africa. There range has become more limited in the past two millenia as first the more advanced Bantu-speaking tribes pushed them from the more fertile areas into the Kalahari. White farmers more recently intensified this process. [Thomas] The San today live in isolated groups in the expansive semi-desert regions of the Kalahari. Traditionally they were hunters and gatherers who migrated in small family bands. The San are actually a modern concep and include six diverse peoples: Xu, the Nar, the Kxow/Mbarakwengo, the Hei-||om, the |Auni and the N||en. There once was littkle interaction between these peoples. This has begun to change as these peoples are beginning to persue their common interests with the national governments in which they have to deal (primarily Botswana and Namibia).

Bushmen

The San people of the southern African Kalahari are better known as the Bushmen. This is not because their original homeland was limited to the bush, or arid inhospbitable area of southern Africa like the Kalahari. Rather the more advanced Bantu people began mugrating south (800-1000 AD). The Bantu tribes with iron age technology gradually drove the San drove the San from more fertiles area into the harsh environmrnt they now inhabit.

The Kalahari

The Kalahari is a vast desert that extends over large areas of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

Population

The San population in the early 21st century is believed to total about 45,000 people.

Culture

The San are a hunter gattering people that eke out a living by hunting wild game and gathering roots and tubers.

Language

The San are noted for their "click " language. They are the only modern people known to have a language utilizing these click sounds.

History

The San may be the oldest culture in the world with a history dating back over a 100,000 years. They once ranged over much of southern Africa. The history of early man is little understood, especialt the migration out of Africa which may have taken place about 60,000 years ago. Until recently there was virtually no way of learning about the early migrations. The development of DNA methods has provided a new tool to historians. And recent studies suggest that it was the San that began the migration out of Africa. The first migration followed the coast of Africa, Arabia, and South Asia to Australia. DNA markers habe been found connecting the San, South Asians and Austrralia aborigines. As a quirk of history, scientitists have developed the DNA tools to follow these ancient migrations at the same time that human mobility is reaching the point of mixing to a degree that the ancient DNA markers will no longer be traceable. Notice the facial features of the San and you can see elements that can be found in those of all the major modern races. The San are believed to have first appeared in the Kalahari about 30,000 years ago.

Art

San rock paintings may be the oldest art work found in Africa. The San were still found in many parts of southern Africa where game and veld food was once plentiful. The San have no written record, but San rock art can be seen throughout southern Africa.

Range

There range has become more limited in the past two millenia as first the more advanced Bantu-speaking tribes pushed them from the more fertile areas into the Kalahari. White farmers more recently intensified this process. [Thomas] The San today live in isolated groups in the expansive semi-desert regions of the Kalahari. Traditionally they were hunters and gatherers who migrated in small family bands.

Diverse People

The San are actually a modern construct and include six diverse peoples: Xu, the Nar, the Kxow/Mbarakwengo, the Hei-||om, the |Auni and the N||en. There once was littkle interaction between these peoples. This has begun to change as these peoples are beginning to persue their common interests with the national governments in which they have to deal (primarily Botswana and Namibia).

Sources

Thomas, Elizabeth Marshall. The Harmless People. This is the ground-nreajing study of the San people. Thomas has updated the book with The Old Way: A Story of the First People (Picador, 2007).









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Created: 7:13 AM 5/1/2008
Last updated: 11:37 AM 10/6/2010