The San are the people of southern Africa who traditionally lived as hunter-gatherers, grouped in small groups of 30 to 100 individuals. They were also called Bushmen, but that term is now considered derogatory.
Today, the only surviving hunter-gatherer (San) can be found in Botswana, Namibia and Angola. The San population is estimated to be around 50,000 (as of 2001). They camp in one place for just a few weeks and hunt and gather in an area of up to 600 square kilometers around the camp.
The term "Bushmen" (Boschimanner) was given to the small hunter-gatherer peoples of South Africa by Dutch settlers in the 17th century.
Today, the Bushmen are mostly confined to the arid and inhospitable environment of the Kalahari Desert (Namibia, Botswana and Angola) and adjacent subtropical grasslands of southwest Africa. The Namib Desert has virtually no precipitation.
The Kalahari Desert has 102-254 mm (4-10 inches) of rain in a year. Moving north (towards the equator) the region becomes wetter and contains one of the most diverse game reserves in Africa. The famous Etosha National Park is also in this region.
Archaeological and historical evidence shows that groups of Bushmen once extended north and east into Basutoland, Natal and Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia).
Outwardly, the Bushmen have many similarities with the Bolds. They are short in stature (5 feet 4 inches) but lack the bulging mouth, thick lips, and large eyes characteristic of both Negroes and Negroes.
The territory where the Bushmen live is a large plateau, about 2,000 meters above sea level, with huge mountain ranges to the east. The climate is subtropical and, except in the extreme southwest, it is a land of summer rains. Rain is abundant on the eastern half of the great plateau.
Abundant rainfall gave rise to dense forests on the mountains and coasts in the east, giving way to expanses of tall grass, thorny bushes, and finally barren sand and stone deserts in the west. Aside from the forests, precipitation is uncertain everywhere, and this uncertainty is greatest on the desert coast of the Kalahari and in Namibia. The Kalahari Desert is characterized by ephemeral streams. The average annual precipitation of 50 cm in the north and about 15 cm in the south does not show the real variability of the precipitation.
Standing water is only found in depressions in riverbeds and in swamps or low-lying pools that cross the water table. In areas with the highest rainfall and at the height of life, there is a blanket of tall grass punctuated by spiky, stunted trees, but elsewhere there are only patches of short "grass" with acacia groves. But even in the driest parts of the desert, some legumes thrive, especially the famous "Bushman melons", i.e. tsama and naras.
The Bushmen's habitat, which includes forests, grasslands and thorny bushes, is unique and famous for its abundance of big game. Numerous herbivores and carnivores evolved and spread over vast areas. Many antelope species, large such as the greater kudu and small such as the duik and steenbok, occur in large numbers.
Other herbivores include the giraffe, ostrich, zebra, elephant, rhino, hippopotamus and quake which feed on a large number of carnivores such as lion, leopard, wild cat, lynx, hyena and jackal. Bushmen also eat small animals such as ants, lizards, frogs, bees and grasshoppers. Edible fruits are less plentiful, but the food supply for animals is much more plentiful.
Bushmen are basically hunters. Hunting plays a larger role than plant foraging, but it implies a close correspondence with this seasonal alternation of generalized abundance, followed by the migration of game to a few preferred locations. Therefore, the territory of the Bushmen must contain permanent sources of water on which both animals and humans depend.
Crossing tribal lines is dangerous unless past relationships are friendly. A hunter can follow injured animals to neighboring areas, but must visit the gang and share their prey, if caught they will be attacked. But these movements are irregular and individual.
No lasting alliances are forged, and continued transgressions or murders for whatever reason lead to an entire gang feud that can be maintained through sporadic encounters over several generations.
The Bushmen band and their territory is a kingdom in miniature; it consists of several families, each with their own huts, and it is only in the dry season that these families usually gather near a watering hole.
For the rest of the season, they spread out over common territory and pass it on to their offspring. Their camps are chosen by the oldest man, who lights a fire before the women begin building shelters.
Each family produces its own food. The women collect roots, berries, larvae, insects and small animals such as turtles, frogs and lizards, as well as firewood and water.
When the ground is hard, the digging stick usually has a horn tip and is weighted with a perforated stone. The water is collected and brought to the camp in ostrich eggshells or dried deer gizzards, as the Bushmen always camp several kilometers from their wells, especially in the dry season.
The men also go hunting almost daily and, when they are not after wounded game, they return to the main meal.
Hunting methods vary depending on the season and the prey. Usually a man goes out alone with his son or another relative who is training and a dog. Moves towards a well of water or salt with a poisoned bow and arrow.
The hunter crawls to leeward and Endeavor gets as close as possible, as the range and impact of his arrows are not great.
Some of the Bushmen, especially those of the Kalahari, are very skilled at dressing up and imitating the cries of young animals.
Arrow venoms are obtained in various ways from plant sap, snake sacs, and dried spider bodies. The hunter who follows the trail of wounded animals must reach them before the hyena or vulture snatches the prey. The success of the hunt is guaranteed by magical customs that vary in different parts of the country.
In the wet season, large animals can be driven into treacherous swamps, where they can easily become trapped. During the height they (animals) change their hooves; Animals can be run over on foot and eventually incapacitated with the studded throwing stick. Individual hunters also build snares and traps.
At the height of drought in desert areas, poisoned drinkers are often brewed. Occasionally, when more food is needed, an entire group of Bushmen will join forces in a carefully prepared frontal assault. Drivers move in a wide arc on higher ground. The group also builds large traps, sometimes four meters long and deep, covered with a thin layer or weeds, along a trail that leads to a well.
Each man hunts or gathers for his own immediate family and can and does establish private ownership not only in what is brought back but also in resources found and left to be collected at a later date. This is usually done by sticking an arrow into the ground near the "hive" nest of ostrich eggs or root patches that the explorer wishes to preserve.
The arrow establishes the identity of the owner through its individual marking. When a big game is played, it is usually split. The hunter preserves the valuable hides and sinews and directs the division and distribution of the meat.
The abundance of game and wildlife in the Bushmen's territory makes for a fairly plentiful supply of hides, bones, and sinew. Bones and tendons are of great importance as they provide the bone marrow for the strong tendon and shaft. The leg bone of an ostrich or giraffe, broken, shaved and crushed to the point, makes the best arrowhead. The skins, mainly deer, are used for clothing and bags.
A bushman's clothing is scarce. A man wears a triangular loincloth, the end of which is pulled back between his legs; A woman wears a square front apron slung from a belt, while older women sometimes also wear an apron behind their back and throw it over their shoulder. But the most important element of a woman's costume is the mantle, known locally as a cross.
It is as much a garment as a bag. Strapped across the right shoulder and waist, baby, food and firewood are held in its folds on the daily journey back to camp.
Men also often wear a light cloak over their right shoulder and cover their back; some groups wear fur hats and hard leather sandals.
The ostrich egg serves as a container for water. The large ostrich eggs not only provide containers for water, which are carried in net bags, but also the material for the bushmen's beads.
The shells break into small slivers. These chips are planks shaped like rough disks. Ostrich Eggs are exchanged for Iron Knives, Spearheads, Millet and Tobacco. They also trade honey, wax, feathers, ivory, fur and pearls.
The Bushmen way of life is integrated into their environment. The small size of the Bushmen's communities allows them to continue their traditional hunting and gathering without depleting the country's resources. At least eighty species of animals are hunted in their region.
Their knowledge of animals and plants and their cooperation with neighboring Bushmen allow them to have an adequate supply of food. As they have few belongings less babies and children and share their belongings, they enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement.
The effective organizational unit in traditional San society is the band, whose members are linked by elaborate kinship networks. While polygamy is legal, most marriages are monogamous. Religious practices are not clearly institutionalized, despite the existence of a rich and complex mythology.
Magical and medicinal practices are closely related to the states of dance and trance, forming a system of physical and psychological healing. The San are known for the beautiful paintings they and their ancestors made on the walls of caves and rock shelters.
Attuned to life in the desert, Bushmen have a strong sense of survival. In times of drought, women stop getting pregnant; When they hunt, they are careful not to injure the females and young of their prey. they make a fire with a minimum of firewood; they store water in ostrich shells; and they use almost every part of the animals they hunt.
As the water supply is scarce, its supply determines the animal population and therefore the size of a Bushmen community. In short, the Kalahari Bushmen have adapted perfectly to their natural environment.
The way of life and fulfillment of the basic and higher needs of the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert is a good example of people with simple technology facing a difficult environment (living space). A Bushman, small bow and arrow in hand, hides by covering his crouching body with an ostrich skin mounted on a frame.
He approaches the flock cautiously, so deftly imitating the movements of these large birds that they do not suspect his presence until one of them is under his arrow. These people's water needs are critical as the Kalahari Desert they inhabit is one of the most inhospitable desert habitats in the world.
They fill ostrich eggshells during the short season when the wells are not dry, or use their intimate knowledge of the earth to find roots, tubers, and melon-like fruits that retain moisture or retain liquid.
Even the most stagnant pond (pond) does not intimidate them, since in these cases they put grass filters at the bottom of the hollow reeds with which they suck water. The Bushmen way of life is a modern example of man's symbiotic relationship with his physical environment.
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