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The San Bushmen

The San Bushmen were traditionally hunter-gatherers obtaining there food from wild plants and animals. These days, however, this tradition has mostly been replaced with farming or pastoralist activity, due to government-enforced modernisation programmes.

The oldest people in Southern Africa

The San Bushmen are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa and have lived here for approximately 20,000 years. They have contributed much to anthropology and genetics with the discovery that San people had the highest genetic diversity among the 121 individual African populations that were part of the study. The San are also known to be one of the 14 population clusters from which all known human beings descended.

Of course what cannot be denied is their incredible wealth of information of the fauna and flora of the region, and their rich culture. With the San’s incredible hunting and survival skills in the unforgiving climate of Southern Africa, their knowledge will be used for centuries to come.

The San’s traditional knowledge, especially in tracking and natural medicine, has garnered interest globally, contributing to cultural tourism and conservation efforts. Tourists to Southern Africa often seek authentic experiences with San communities to learn about their unique way of life and ancient customs.

Daily Living of the San Bushmen

The San Bushmen tend to share responsibilities and ideas in their group. There are no chiefs as they are egalitarian, however, those bushmen who show strengths in hunting and healing will be called upon first to carry out these duties. The land is shared and owned by groups who share food and duties. They can hunt on other people’s land, but permission is required to do so.

Hunting will be carried out by the team, but the bushman who makes the kill has the right to distribute the meat. The women will forage for plant foods which are given to the immediate family. They will forage for edible mushrooms, bulbs, berries and melons. The children will remain at camp, but if they are still babies, they will be carried on the women’s backs.


Rock art

The San are renowned for their rich traditions, including rock art, which is one of the most significant aspects of their cultural legacy. These paintings and engravings found in caves and rock shelters across Southern Africa depict various aspects of their daily life, beliefs, and spiritual practices. The rock art serves as a window into the past, showing scenes of hunting, dancing, and mythical creatures, offering insights into the San’s deep connection with their environment.

The San Bushmen of Southern Africa are not only a symbol of the region’s rich history but also bearers of invaluable traditional knowledge and cultural wealth. Their resilience and profound connection with the land continue to fascinate and inspire, making them an integral part of Africa’s diverse cultural landscape.

About Bronwyn Paxton

Article by: Bronwyn Paxton
on March 26, 2024
Filed under  Africa Blog 
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