Fast Facts: The Bushmen of Southern Africa

 

Who Are They?

The San or Saan People who are also known as the “Bushmen”, are the indigenous people of Africa and believed to be the oldest inhabitants of Africa. They are known to be the descendants of the first modern man or Homo sapiens. Their name “Bushmen” came from the Dutch term “bosiesman” which means “bandit” or outlaw”. This was given to them during their battle with the colonists. Although some considered the name as derogatory because of its meaning, others, on the other hand, are proud because they interpret it as a reference for their bravery during their fight for freedom from colonists.

 

When Were They Discovered?

They have been living in Africa for almost 20,000 years now. But if you talk about their gene pattern, they date back 80,000 years, and that’s why they are considered the first descendant of the world’s first human. In 2012 there was even a discovery of a set of tools at Border Cave in KwaZulu-Natal which is believed to date back to 44,000 BCE wherein the tools discovered are identical to the tools being used by the modern San.

 

Where Do They Live?

The San or the “Bushmen” are the original inhabitants of Africa. They are semi-nomadic meaning they move from place to place seasonally depending on the availability of resources such as food and water. In the old days, they could roam from place to place freely until the 17th and 18th century when colonists started building their farmlands in the fertile areas of Africa. The San people were forced to go to areas of Southern Africa not suitable for farming such as the Kalahari Desert. Now the San or “Bushmen” are found in several countries of Africa such as Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Angola, and South Africa.

 

What Do They Do?

These people are hunter-gatherers. The males hunt for animals while the females are tasked to gather plants, fruits, insects and ostrich eggs. The San or “Bushmen” have no official leader, they make decisions as a group where male and female are equal. Whenever there is a disagreement, they take long discussions until they resolve any complicated issue.

 

Why Are They Important?

The San or “Bushmen” has a unique culture, from their rock-art, hunting methods, survival skills, knowledge of medicinal edible and toxic plants, music, dance and beliefs that are the source of what the world has today.

 

How Are They Today?

Many San or Bushmen are having very hard time of it today. Over recent history many have evicted from certain territories to make way for mines and modernization. Today there are only an estimated 100,000 San or “Bushmen” people left in Africa, some are still hunter-gatherers and others are living in cultural centres where they make a living by showing off their incredible hunting and survival skills.

 

The sad fact is that after tens of thousands of years, the San or Bushmen culture may be lost completely in the next 50-100 years, only to be found in the history books.

 

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