The KhoeSan, First Capetonians
|Archaeology has shown
that the earliest human communities ever recorded lived in sight of Table
Mountain (see Prehistory). We cannot say for
certain how they lived, but since the climate is quite arid, and there is no
evidence of a complex civilisation, one can infer that they lived in small
nomadic groups hunting animals and gathering edible plants.
This is not to say they lacked sophistication - their art, some
dated at 27,000 years old, has been described as 'one of the high points of
human visual creativity' (Ross, 1999, pg. 9).
However, much further north, groups of hunter-gatherers, probably in northern
Botswana, turned to herding sheep and, later, cattle (pastoralism). Whether by
migration or cultural transmission, the practise of herding drifted south, and
was present along the rivers and coastline north and east of Cape Town at least
2,000 years ago.
Wherever there was good grazing, pastoralism became established, but it is not
suited to very arid or mountainous areas. Thus, a distinction arose between the
San people who continued to live by traditional hunting and gathering in
difficult environments, and the Khoe who herded sheep and cattle on the plains.
Genetically these groups were very similar, although the Khoe,
enjoying a better diet, tended to be taller and bigger. Their appearance was
described by the traveller William Burchell in 1811
'they were small in stature, all below five feet; and the women still
shorter; their skin was a sallow brown colour.. Though small and delicately
made, they appeared firm and hardy' (quoted, Thompson, 1995, Pg 6)
They also shared a similar distinctive language made up of clicks. And we
believe they traded with one another - for instance swapping meat for milk -
and in times of difficulty or for the sake of marriage perhaps exchanged
lifestyle. Together, they are known as 'the KhoeSan'.
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· Culture ·
In this period of Cape History: