In the Kalahari, the largest desert of Southern Africa, the little San have lived for more than 44,000 years (some scientists even venture 100,000 years).
The latest research on the genetic code, the DNA of various populations of the world, has established that the San represent the most ancient human type, the one that comes closest to the ancestors
of the entire human species.
On Wikipedia, I found this interesting study:
Although the presence in their territory has been demonstrated for at least 20,000 years, there are much older remains of skeletons compatible with this population dating back to 100,000 years ago; it is the so-called people of the Strandlopers or boscopoids of the coastal region of Namibia. Strandloper means beach walker in Afrikaans, referring to the lifestyle of this ancient people who lived by collecting
shells and other organisms stranded along the coast of the sea. The interesting thing about these skeletons is the theoretical relationship between the weight of the brain and the body, superior to any other Homo sapiens that existed from the past to the present: the boscopoids had a capacity of the skull 30% higher than that of modern man, on a pygmy body. With these large skulls, it is assumed that they had an out of the ordinary intelligence and indeed some small ingenious fishing traps were found among the finds; moreover, there are the first testimonies of ritual burials. Another factor of interest is their lifestyle linked exclusively to the sea, which distinguished them from any other more archaic Homo sapiens.
In Namibia then the San have adapted to the difficult conditions of the desert, which is not, as you can imagine, just sand, but also scrub and bush, which has adapted to the low rainfall. And in the bush they hunt, move, live. Hence the word Bushmen, men of the bush.
Unlike the Himba, a people of breeders, the San are hunter-gatherers, who hunt their prey with ingenious traps and with arrows with tips soaked in poison. In the northern Kalahari, the most commonly used poisonous substance for arrows is that derived from the larva and pupae of chrysomelid beetles in the genus Diamphidia. The added poisonous latex of Commiphora and Euphorbia virosa served as an adhesive agent.
Now reduced to a few thousand, I was lucky enough to meet them for the first time in 2017 after many trips to Namibia.
May I assure you that being in contact with these people gave me an incredible emotion?
Struck by their small bodies, their heart-shaped faces, with full lips and sharp eyes, fair peach-coloured complexions compared to Herero or Himba, I could not help but reflect on this population, which still today, in some cases, it survives globalization and the appeal of modernity.
In the Kalahari, few San still live as they did 10,000 years ago. Today you have the opportunity to learn about their habits in the Living Museums. These are authentic villages constructed for demonstrative purposes, to which visitors have unhindered access, while the community lives nearby in the private homes. In these demonstrative villages, clad in authentic and original attire, they introduce visitors to their culture, tradition and how their way of living. These living museums help the San community to earn a living without being estranged to their roots.
Witnesses of their culture and artistic activities are the famous rock engravings of Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1255), in Damaraland, Namibia’s first World Heritage Site. Some of the 3 500 engravings here – so far Africa’s biggest known accumulation of engravings – date back 20.000 years and bear testimony of the artistic skills and transcendent expressions of the San and their spiritual leaders. Rock paintings spread all over the desert regions of Namibia evidence the presence of these brave little hunters through the ages.
I was fascinated by the paintings of Ai Aiba in the Erongo massif, which testify to a fine art. Using iron oxide, ochre, animal blood, and albumen from ostrich eggs, they reproduced hunting scenes, giraffes and elephants, hunters, men and women with extreme accuracy.
Evidence of a still obscure past, few scientists dare to interpret them. Many questions are still unanswered: The fauna that was there, the sacred places, the limits of a tribe's hunting area? Erongo's rock art remains a mystery.
Hunter's Prayer to Grandma Canopus (star)
Give me your heart that you have in abundance
And you take mine, which is terribly empty,
That I too can be as full as you.
Because I'm hungry, but you seem to be fully satisfied,
You who are so small.
Because I'm hungry, give me your stomach which is full
And take mine, may you too
Give me your arm, my wrong aim,
And strike the prey for me.
Read Wilbur Smith's “Burning Shore” and discover the world of the San!