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Chapter 6 - Day 2 Afternoon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2022

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Summary

MM40/69/92 Fire Sticks

This object, labelled as a fire stick and comprising three pieces (figure 6.1), was not considered by the elders as belonging to their group. They said that they might have used the reed as a tgitno, a pipe handle for smoking, but would not have made a fire lighter in this way. A number of features indicated to us that this was nevertheless a composite hand drill used to make fire. The wooden board displays a burnt pit with two adjacent notches to diffuse the heat laterally. The tip of the drill has a burnt end that corresponds to the size of the pit on the wooden board, and its opposite end has been thinned to insert into the reed shaft. Sinew has been wrapped around the end of the reed to avoid splitting under pressure during use.

MM40/69/1989 Fire Board and MM40/69/1032A Drill

Tsamkxao ≠Oma and Joa Cwi immediately identified these objects as a fire board (figure 6.3) and a drill used to make fire, but said that their group does not use these woods because they are not available in their area. George Silberbauer reports the use of Catophractes alexanderii for the upper fire stick among the G/wi. Tsamkxao ≠Oma demonstrated how the sticks are used (figure 6.4), and in doing so mirrored a photograph taken by Louis Fourie of a man doing the same thing a century ago (figure 6.5). We know that equipment used to make fire is kept in a hunter’s quiver, so we asked whether fire sticks were only for men. They replied that this was indeed the case, and not for all men, only some. What happens if a fire dies and the men are away? A woman would call her oldest son, or one who she thinks may be able to make fire, and show him what type of wood to use and how to do it. Alternatively, she could ask for fire from a neighbour. However, Leon pointed out that the loss of fire was unlikely because the fire never dies in a village.

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San Elders Speak
Ancestral Knowledge of the Kalahari San
, pp. 73 - 102
Publisher: Wits University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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