Largely hunter-gatherers, their territory spans several nations and they have called the region home for tens of thousands of years.
The San are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, where they have lived for at least 20 years. The term San is commonly used to refer to a diverse group of hunter-gatherers living in Southern Africa who share historical and linguistic connections. The San were also referred to as Bushmen, but this term has since been abandoned as it is considered derogatory.
This term was given to the San during their long battle against the colonists. The San interpreted this as a proud and respected reference to their brave fight for freedom from domination and colonization.
Many now accept the terms Bushmen or San. Like the first people to inhabit other countries San bushmen of the kalahari desert the world, the San have an unfortunate history of poverty, social rejection, decline of cultural identity and the discrimination of their rights as a group.
Yet, the San have also received the attention of anthropologists and the media with their survival and hunting skills, wealth of indigenous knowledge of the flora and fauna of Southern Africa, and their rich cultural traditions.
Made up of small mobile groups, San communities comprise up to about 25 men, women and children. At certain times of the year groups join for exchange of news and gifts, for marriage arrangements and for social occasions.
Clans and loosely connected family groups followed seasonal game migrations between mountain range and coastline. They made their homes in caves, under rocky overhangs or in temporary shelters. These migratory people do not domesticate animals or cultivate crops, even though their knowledge of both flora and fauna is vast.
The San categorized thousands of plants and their uses, from nutritional to medicinal, mystical to recreational and lethal. San men have a formidable reputation as trackers and hunters. Their skills even enable them to distinguish between the "spoor" of a wounded animal and that of the rest of the herd.
At about the beginning of the Christian era a group of people who owned small livestock sheep and perhaps goats moved into the northern and western parts of South Africa and migrated southward. Coincidently in the eastern parts of the country another migration was occurring - the BaNtu speaking peoples were moving southward bringing with them cattle, the concept of planting crops and settled village life.
Contact with Nguni and Sotho-Tswana farmers is depicted in the San rock art. The artists started including representations of cattle and sheep as well as of people with shields and spears, in their paintings.
Unfortunately, hunter-gatherers cannot live permanently alongside a settled community and thus problems arose. When the San fought against the BaNtu, they were at a huge disadvantage not only in numbers but also in lack of weapons. With the Europeans, they were at an even greater disadvantage.
The Europeans owned horses and firearms. In this period, the number of San was greatly reduced. They fought to the death and preferred death to capture where they would be forced into slavery.
Colonialism destroyed the San migratory way of life, they were no longer allowed to roam freely and trophy hunters destroyed the vast herds of game that formed their principal supply of food.
Both Black and White farmers built up huge herds of cattle that destroyed the foods that had been the San staple diet for centuries. Enslavement and sometimes mass destruction of San communities, by both White and Black farmers, followed.
Many became farm labourers and some joined Black farming communities, and intermarried with them, which added to the destruction of the social identity of the San people. The San have no formal authority figure or chief, but govern themselves by group consensus.
Disputes are resolved through lengthy discussions where all involved have a chance to make their thoughts heard until some agreement is reached. Certain individuals may assume leadership in specific spheres in which they excel, such as hunting or healing rituals, but they cannot achieve positions of general influence or power.
White colonists found this very confusing when they tried to establish treaties with the San. Leadership among the San is kept for those who have lived within that group for a long time, who have achieved a respectable age, and good character.
San are largely egalitarian, sharing such things as meat and tobacco. Land is usually owned by a group, and rights to land are usually inherited bilaterally.
Kinship bonds provide the basic framework for political models. Membership in a group is determined by residency. As long as a person lives on the land of his group he maintains his membership. It is possible to hunt on land not owned by the group, but permission must be obtained from the owners.
The San will eat anything available, both animal and vegetable. Their selection of food ranges from antelope, Zebra, porcupine, wild hare, Lion, Giraffe, fish, insects, tortoise, flying ants, snakes venomous and non-venomousHyena, eggs and wild honey.
The meat is boiled or roasted on a fire. The San are not wasteful and every part of the animal is used.The San (“Bushmen”) of the Kalahari Desert Angela Krantz ANT Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Professor Michael King October 17, I have chosen to identify and describe the kinship system of the San (“Bushmen”) of the Kalahari.
The San of the Kalahari were first brought to the globalized world's attention in the s by South African author Laurens van der Post. In , Van der Post was commissioned by the BBC to go to the Kalahari desert with a film crew in search of the San.
The filmed material was turned into a very popular six-part television documentary a year later. Distance, and the isolation of the Kalahari Desert and its surrounding regions, proved to be the San’s salvation.
Nearly 80, San are found there today, with smaller numbers in .
In the s, the southern Kalahari San were in crisis due to the alienation of land, severe restrictions to their mobility in a fragile desert ecosystem and the famine caused by settler over-hunting. San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert The San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert A well-known foraging community in the southwest region of Africa is the San Bushmen.
These hunting and gathering bands have lived in the Kalahari Desert region for thousands of years. The hardiness of the San allowed them to survive their changed fortunes and the harsh conditions of the Kalahari Desert in which they are now mostly concentrated.
Today, the small group that remains has adopted many strategies for political, economic and social survival.