Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-nmvwc Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-20T07:31:09.844Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 2 - San: Past and Present

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2022

Get access

Summary

The history of the San has been the subject of numerous books, academic articles and documentaries. The term ‘San’ itself, widely used now, results from an etymological odyssey in which historical events, anthropological thinking, historical linguistics and political correctness have all played a role. In this book we will use the term San because this is the term mostly used nowadays by San people when referring to themselves collectively, and not as a specific ethnolinguistic group, such as !Kung or Khwe. This preference was explicitly stated by delegates of the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa and the South African San Institute attending the 2003 Africa Human Genome Initiative conference held in Stellenbosch.

All San groups speak a Khoisan language and currently live in and around the Kalahari Desert, which encompasses regions belonging to Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. Botswana has the largest San population (c. 50 000–60 000), followed by Namibia (c. 38 000) and South Africa (c. 7 500). San populations were already present in southern Africa well before the arrival of Bantuspeaking pastoralists some 2 000 years ago, and archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence indicates that they were already there in the remote past. Similarities between Later Stone Age and historical artefacts suggest a continuity in cultural adaptation going back at least 20 000 and possibly 40 000 years. Although there is considerable diversity of language and cultural identity between different San groups, a degree of similarity has been recorded in the past, and to some extent still exists, in their subsistence strategies, technologies, forms of social organisation and spiritual world. The traditional San economy was highly influenced by and adapted to the seasonal environments of central southern Africa, which led to the creation of mobility patterns, effective resource exploitation and particular kinship systems based on a balance between ownership and sharing of resources such as water, honey, veld food, meat and material culture. Commonalities also exist in the worldviews of different San groups, and in their beliefs about the way in which humans may establish contact with and influence the hereafter.

Type
Chapter
Information
San Elders Speak
Ancestral Knowledge of the Kalahari San
, pp. 11 - 16
Publisher: Wits University Press
Print publication year: 2021

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×