The Remarkable Khoi And San People Of The Past

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  • These people dominated the sub-continent for millennia before the appearance of the Nguni and other black peoples. This is evident from their marvelous animated paintings on rocks and caves walls as far afield as Namaqualand, the Drakensberg and southern Cape. They lived - and some still do today in total harmony with nature, posing no threat to wildlife and vegetation by over-hunting or gathering.

    The Remarkable Khoi And San People Of The Past

    The semi-nomadic existence of the San was and is governed by the seasons and the movement of game. The San have short, slight bodies, small hands and feet and yellow-brown skin that wrinkle early. The women tend to store fat in their buttocks and have sharply hollowed backs. They look exactly like the characteristic profiles depicted in the San rock paintings.

    The Remarkable Khoi And San People Of The Past

    They store fat in their buttocks - a natural adaptation to their precarious existence in a harsh environment. In time the whites encroached upon the San's traditional hunting grounds.

    The Remarkable Khoi And San People Of The Past

    Some Bushmen went to live with them and others moved on west and north in search of land where they could live freely. Today they are found only in the northwestern Cape, the Kalahari, Namibia and Botswana.

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    Most groups today are less nomadic than their forebears are. However, the desert San lives much as their ancestors did. They move in small clans, each with its clearly defined territory.

    The women gather wild melons such as tsamma - a source of food and water, roots and edible berries.

    The Remarkable Khoi And San People Of The Past

    The men hunt with wooden bow and arrow and use clubs and spears if necessary. The arrowheads are tipped with poison made from insect grubs. It acts slowly on the victim's nervous system. The Bushmen, known for their stamina, may sometimes have to pursue their prey for a great distance before the animal finally drops, ready for a kill.

    They are superb trackers and may follow a herd for many days before getting close enough to use bow and arrow.

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    After such a kill, the whole group joins in the feast, singing and dancing in a trance-like ritual around the fire. When game is scarce, the group splits up into smaller parties to search for food.

    The Remarkable Khoi And San People Of The Past

    In severe, prolonged droughts the women chew the bark of a particular tree which acts as contraceptive, so preventing an increase in the number of mouths to feed. Snakes, lizards and even scorpions are eaten. To provide liquid in dry areas and for times of drought, the San store water in ostrich shells, which they bury deep below the sandy desert surface. They recover the shells with uncanny accuracy.

    The Remarkable Khoi And San People Of The Past

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    The Remarkable Khoi And San People Of The Past