African History

The San People Of Southern Africa (Bushmen)

The San people, known by some, as the Khwe, Basarwa or the Sho tribe are widely regarded as the oldest tribe in the southern part of Africa with history tracing their origin back to 20,000 years.

The San people, also known as the Bushmen are mainly hunters living around the Kalahari desert. They are generally of small stature, light skinned and with wrinkles visible on their body at their early stage in life.

Spread all over some Southern African countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Tanzania, Angola and South Africa, the name ‘San’ was said to have originated from a Nama language which means the ‘Outsiders’

According to history, the people of San are said to be nomads from Stone age, temporary living in caves and under rocks hanging.

They were destroyed in 1652 by the first Europeans that arrived in South Africa because they were inferior and unexposed and were seen as wild animals, that was were the derogatory tag ‘Bushmen’ came from.
The extermination, saw the death of over 200 thousands of the San People back 200 years ago while some were sold out into slavery.

In a study, Doctor Ben Smith, claimed that their gene came from the root of the human tree as we are related to them but they are far related to us. He went further to explain that their existence has been thousands of years before the Bantu people came into existence, furthermore, claiming they might have been existing back since 60 thousand years ago.

The San painting on rocks were seen in Namibia and was radiocarbon-dated to have been drawn 26 thousand years ago which depicts their culture, social and belief lifestyle.

A panel was found and carried to the South African museum in Cape Town from Linton Farm in East Cape in 1917. The panel which is now called the Linton panel has an image which is now in South African Coat of Arms.

Having been treasured in the museum, the Linton panel is among the most secured treasures of South African rock arts.



While the San men do the hunting, their women in groups spend three or four days every week gathering wild plants both for medicinal and consumption purposes.

Some plants are being used either to treat wounds and some sicknesses while other were used for ceremonial purposes like performing rites for fertility, protection, making Rian and the rest.

In general, the San people have complications with it comes to health as they are likely to lose 50% of their children to death mostly from gastrointestinal infections.
With an average life expectancy of 45-50 years as most of them die of malaria, respiratory infections and other major illnesses while just few scale past 60 years of age.

The people of San believes in private marriage between the bride, and the bridegroom. They believe in no wedding celebration aside the agreement between the two parties.

Every female San undergoes a cleansing rite after her first menstrual experience in which she is being isolated in her hut while the women of the tribe perform an Eland Bull Dance, imitating the mating behavior of an Eland Cow with a man playing the part of the Eland Bull with horns on. It is believed that this ritual will make the girl free from hunger and thirst, beautiful and peaceful while their boys have to kill a dangerous animal first, before being considered a man.


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Buchi Prinzy Henry
A lazy writer, and a freelancer. An African who believes in reviving back the African history and tradition back to our memories. Mental emancipation is my mission. I write on History Category at 54history.com

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