According to Dr Ben Smith, genetic evidence suggests they are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, peoples in the world, going back to perhaps 60,000 years. They have genetic traces that no one else in the world has, that put them at the root of the human tree – we are related to them, but they are not as closely related to us. They have unique markers that we don’t have.




The Early Bushmen

The Bushmen/San were the original inhabitants of Southern Africa and are commonly known as Bushmen or San.

They were hunter-gatherers, hunting with bows and arrows, trapping small animals and eating edible roots and berries. They lived in rock shelters, in the open or in crude shelters of twigs and grass or animal skins. They made no pottery, rather using ostrich eggshells or animal parts for storing and holding liquids. For these reasons, animals and nature are central features in the Bushmen's religious tradition, folklore, art and rituals.

Because the Bushmen lived entirely of the land, they had to be nomadic. The groups, however did not wander aimlessly or relentlessly to pursue herds of antelope. Instead, they followed a carefully planned annual route that took them to different areas of plant food, as season by season, these foods ripened.

These small mobile groups comprised of up to about 25 men, women and children. Certain times of the year groups joined together for exchange of news and gifts, for marriage arrangements and for social occasions.

There are many different Bushman peoples - they have no collective name for themselves, and the terms 'Bushman', 'San', 'Basarwa' (in Botswana) are used. The term, 'bushman', came from the Dutch term, 'bossiesman', which means 'bandit' or 'outlaw'. It was given to the Bushmen during their long fight against colonial powers.
The Bushmen interpreted this as a proud and respected reference to their valiant fight for freedom from domination and colonization. Many now accept the terms Bushmen or San. The San or Bushmen people of today are those that speak San languages.

The principal San-speaking groups remaining today live in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Angola. The South African San are refugees from the Angolan and Namibian wars. Their languages, although fundamentally similar, vary considerably from place to place. San is primarily a linguistic label, adopted by anthropologists to describe people speaking these related but distinct languages.
These languages, all of which incorporate 'click' sounds are represented in writing by symbols such as !, /, //, ‡, |.

They have been oppressed and dispossessed by both Bantu and European immigrant groups. The Bushmen were regarded as not just animals, but as vermin, and history even documents hunting of them for sport.
This has lead to the total population of the Bushmen dropping to 100 000 throughout southern Africa.