The Story of the San Bushmen

Posted by Crooked Compass

The fascinating story of the San Bushmen is one that begins in the remote regions of Namibia, Botswana and Angola and concerns nearly every human on Earth.  At the beginning of time, the San tribe were the first Neanderthals on Earth to stand up, the first to have spoken language, the first to make tools, and the first to discover how to make and control fire. It was because of these significant technological advancements that they were also the first to migrate from their caves and share their newfound knowledge with the rest of the world.

san, san bushmen, hunting
San Bushmen demonstrating their hunting skills

There is historical evidence that dates the San People living in Botswana's Tsodilo Hills region to over 70,000 years ago. Stone tools used for cutting and rock paintings found at this site and are considered to be the earliest forms of art and pre-date any archaeological finds in Europe. Traditionally the San where semi-nomadic hunters, moving seasonally to regions that have a high availability of resources such as water, animals and edible plants. In 2010, the San population within Botswana has been estimated to be between 50,000 and 60,000.

San Bushmen
The San are 1 of 14 known extant "ancestral population clusters".

Africa has a well known reputation as the Birthplace of Humankind, and that could not more true than within the San Bushmen whose DNA can be found in almost all of the Earths population. The majority of Australians, being Caucasian, will have a DNA starting block between 1-4% San Tribe with the rest of our DNA being totally unique and dependant upon how our own ancestral line mixed after the first African Neanderthal/European Hominin contact. Many other races, including Asians, Chinese, Africans & Hispanics have higher levels of San DNA, ranging from 1% to 41%.  A recent study found that a sub-group of the San, the Khomani San, along with the Sandawe and Hadza people of Tanzania, are the most genetically diverse of any living humans studied.

Australians are likely to have a DNA starting block of between 1-4% San Tribe.

The San Bushmen have faced many threats to their lifestyle over the last two centuries, from colonialism, explotation by South Africa's apartheid regime, and in more recent years unemployment, HIV-AIDS, poverty and alcohol abuse. During Namibia's fight for indepence in the 1970, the South African military employed San Bushmen to track freedom fighters along the Angolian border in return for medicine, housing and education. When Namibia won its independence in 1990, thousands of San people chose to settle across the border in South Africa, in fear of reprisal from the newly formed Namibian government. Whilst border disputes may have resided since then, the San Bushmen now face issues common for many in the 21st century of alcohol abuse, poverty and unemployment.

The San are some of the most genetically diverse of any living humans studied.

Interested in visiting the San Bushmen? Crooked Compass offers small group tours departing in April and September that allow you to be actively involved in their daily lives and contribute to conserving their culture and traditions. The tour includes four nights at the Nhoma Safari Camp that was built by Arno Oosthuysen with the help of the Nhoq’ma community, within the traditional area of the Ju’hoan San or Bushmen (as they are commonly known in Namibia). Your stay in the camp allows the community to generate income, which in turn buys food and supplies not provided by the surrounding environment. Without the camp and the economy it creates, the community would have had to have left their ancestral land.

The San Bushmen have struggled in recent years due to issues including poverty and alcohol abuse.

Want to learn more about the fascinating San Bushmen? Explore Namibia with us and make this experience yours!