Bushmen in Ancient History
gathering as a survival economy has been the longest lasting of
all, when one considers that this can still be found today amongst
many scattered people around South America, Indonesian Islands and
confirms that they were genetically the closest to the same African
core stock from which Homo Sapien (All of us) emerged. Of those
that did not migrate North into Arabia, some moved south and from
those the Negroid emerged, possibly splitting initially between
15 - 25 millenia ago. It has generally been accepted that there
was then a parallel development of both, in isolation from each
other. Early Blood Group studies found there were groups of unusually
pure Bushmen which had a much smaller range of variations in blood
type, skull shapes and features which suggested a people who kept
very much to themselves or maintained a high level of isolation
from the other groups who were expanding out from central Africa.
The The Ju/'hoansi of Namibia still exhibit a strong social resistance
to intermarriage and procreation with outsiders, with distinctive
features dominant throughout the group, showing little variation.
This would indicate
that the Bushmen emerged from a single focal point possibly from
northeast or east Africa and expanding out from there to populate
most of the continent. It has been generally accepted that they
occupied the Late Stone Age Period but were physically very different
from the preceeding Homonoid types that dominated the Middle Stone
Age. This reinforces the belief that they emerged from and migrated
out of a specific region replacing any pre-existing hominoids during
their expansion.They would have been at that time the most sophisticated
and technologically advanced form of mankind, giving them a massive
advantage over Homo Habilis or some other, as yet undefined, predecessor.
An alternative theory, that is losing popularity, is that they emerged
spontaneously in several different locations at around the same
time. The tight nature of their genetic characteristics would however
suggest otherwise and, I am sure, subsequent DNA studies have disproved
Earliest evidence of Bushman (or Bushman-like) activity can be found
in Egypt, Sudan & Ethiopia. Digs have produced many artefacts,
evidence of technology and physiology almost identical to the Bushmen
of today in Southern Africa. Rock engravings in Tibesti Mountains
in Libya were undoubtedly Hunter/Gatherers and illustrate a time
when the Sahara was a well-watered and lush environment. There is
a rumour of Egyptian mummies of Bushmen having been discovered,
which would indicate that either Egypt's trading reach went far
down into Africa or, more likely , that the Bushmen were not too
far away. I am currently trying to verify this.
and other heaps of coastal artefacts in Southern Africa show that
Bushman-like people were populating much of that region, suggesting
that at some stage they were very wide spread.
in the form of stories, legend and the occasional emergence of children
bearing striking Bushman-like features can be found throughout East
and southern Africa. Pockets of people can be found like the Sandawe
& Hadza of Tanzania, which although having little physical similarities
have in the past had a hunter/gatherer economy and a similar language
using click consonants.
There is a general
assumption that the later classical Negroid type spread out from
central Africa at a later stage, adopting a pastoral economy and
spreading east and south, absorbing the indigenous Hunter/Gatherers.
This was not necessarily a massive military type sweep wiping out
large numbers of people. While not suggesting that there wasn't
some conflict, the Bantu in southeast Africa of pre-Zulu days did
not seem unduly violent. However, the Hunter/gatherers initially
would have perceived the cattle as rather docile wild animals (having
no concept of ownership of animals or land) and helped themselves,
with inevitable response from the Bantu. Similar patterns were evident
during early white settler days, which then resulted in frequent
Commando raids to wipe them out.
As the Negro
culture spread eastwards and southwards their skin progressively
lightened, which suggests interbreeding with (absorption of) the
much lighter skinned Bushmen. A study of blood types and skull shapes
backs this up along with a significant amount of Arab or Middle
Eastern interbreeding. The Arabs had by this time established coastal
trading routes that eventually stretched as far south as Mozambique.
By the time the Bantu reached the South Africa of today they were
much lighter skinned and, interestingly, had adopted many of the
click consonants, unique to the Khoisan languages. This is another
indication that much of the interbreeding may have been consensual.
You do not usually adopt the tongue of a vanquished enemy.
If one looks
at more recent interaction between Tswana and Bushman, there has
been a tendency of using Bushmen to look after their cattle, with
Tswana often implying an ownership of these people. There were benefits
to both sides with this arrangement and the opening of a channel,
albeit one sided, to interbreed. There are many instances of Tswana
taking BaSarwa (San) women as wives/concubines
By this time
pockets of Bushmen, still retaining a high level of racial purity,
could be found in areas less hospitable to cattle owners. Deserts
and mountainous areas became their domain. Certainly some of those
had taken to refuge in the mountains early on, but those in the
desert regions, by and large, appeared to have been there for eons.
once had a freshwater super-lake covering much of the central &
northern region, which would have been a magnet to all. However,
as more recent evidence suggests, it would have been rife with Tsetse
Fly, which would have made it less attractive to the cattle owners.
Geological shifts later diverted the rivers that once fed this lake
and it eventually dried up leaving the Okavango Delta and the Makgadikgadi
Pans as the last remnants. Victoria Falls was formed in this geological
upheaval, diverting the Zambezi from the super-lake.
in the area would have adapted to the changing conditions, becoming
real desert survivors. There is some interesting clues that many
of those in the Kalahari are in fact Khoikhoi who have somehow lost
their sheep, goats and/or cattle and reverted to the traditional
Bushman hunter/gatherer economy as a matter of survival. These people
speak a Khoikhoi language, as opposed to a Bushman tongue and there
is some oral evidence that some kept livestock in the distant past.
Perhaps their sheep & goats fell prey to the ravages of the
Tsetse Fly in eons past or died of thirst. It has also been noted
that their hunting equipment is more crude than that of the pure
!Kung Bushmen in Namibia and their use of poisons a little less
sophisticated. All this suggests a devolution back to past patterns
are the Khoikhoi?
These were a
people bearing strikingly similar physical characteristics to the
Bushmen and speaking a related language with click consonants. They
did however keep fat tailed sheep, goats and latterly cattle while
subsidising their diet by hunting and gathering. They bore no similarity
to the Bantu in anything other than the keeping livestock. There
seemed to be quite a variety of physical type, with evidence of
Arab blood and generally taller in stature.
These are all
clues as to their origins. The Fat tailed sheep is a Middle Eastern
type similar to the Arab "Sha". We know that there was
an Arabic trading post in Mozambique near Maputo in the 12th century
AD and contact with Bushmen, with records stating the existance
there of strange, small, click speaking Wak Wak. It is reasonable
to assume that there was interaction and perhaps slavery or some
form of indentured service. Whether the Arabs brought down the fat
tailed sheep to Beira is not known but there would have been some
cross-pollination of ideas with respect to animal husbandry and
a measure of interbreeding.
idea is that there may have been more than one instance of prolonged
Bushman/Arab contact. Kenya has been long associated with Arab traders
and it would be reasonable to assume that in earlier days this occurred
when Hunter/gatherers were more common. But an interesting series
of rock paintings in Ethiopia shows cattle and fat tailed sheep
being attacked by lions. This evidence, coupled with archaeological
finds of distinctly Bushman-like artefacts and physiology, would
indicate that this was another point of contact, which specifically
identifies these distinctive sheep and their protection against
predators. (Remember the use of Bushmen by the Bantu to look after
their cattle in southern Africa).
of Arab interaction, interbreeding and acculturation may explain
some of the variety of distinctive physical types found amongst
the Khoikhoi. They may well have filtered down south (from their
various origin points) predating, but in a similar manner to the
Bantu with needs closely tied to their livestock. An interesting
observation since recorded African history, is that the Khoi universally
despised the Bushmen, a not uncommon behaviour pattern found amongst
breakaway groups who have changed social structures, religion or
patterns of economy (seemingly placing themselves in a superior