The San Bushmen Ethnic Group!

Lexi Kaltenberg and Maddie Farnsworth

~Geography!~ (MF)

Where do they live, or where did they live??

  • Around the rivers in Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa!

  • There's a significant linguistic difference between those who live in the northern areas compared to the southern areas!
  • Those who live in the northern areas have some main geographical features such as: The Okavango River, Etosha National Park!
  • Those who live in the south also have prominent features to their land such as: The Molopo River, and the central Kalahari!

How is the location like of the San Bushmen compared to other tribes in the area??

  • The original location of the Bushmen was a prime spot, until they were displaced by other African tribes.
  • The San are believed to have inhabited the entire southern region of Africa until the migration of the Bantu groups
  • The Bantu groups consisted of the Zulu, Nguni, Sotho, Khoi Khoi, Nama and any other groups that spoke a Niger-Congo language.
  • The Bushmen didn't keep any livestock, so they didn't appear to have any use for the fertile pastures.
  • Thus, they retreated northward and permanently occupied the drier regions.
  • It is by their adaptation to the the Kalahari, which means great thirst, that they have earned a name for themselves, "the ultimate survivors".

What would happen if their main resource was earsed? How would the San Bushmen adapt??

  • The Bushmen's most valued thing in life is water, and a drought has actually happened before!
  • Droughts may last months and waterholes may dry up in Africa. When this happens, the Bushmen use sip wells.
  • To get water this way, a San scrapes a deep hole where the sand is damp.
  • Into this hole, a long hollow grass stem is inserted.
  • An empty ostrich egg is then used to collect the water retrieved. Water travels from the sand, into the straw, and then into the ostrich egg.
  • This is other reason why the Bushmen have gotten their nickname as "the ultimate survivors".

Why haven't the San Bushmen tried to reclaim the southern land?

  • The Bushmen are very peaceful people and don't believe that fighting is the way to answer conflicts.
  • Children have no social duties besides playing, and leisure is very important to San of all ages. Large amounts of time are spent in conversation, joking, music, and sacred dances.
  • Women have a high status in San society, are greatly respected, and may be leaders of their own family groups.
  • They make important family and group decisions and claim ownership of water holes and foraging areas.
  • Women are mainly involved in the gathering of food, but make also take part in hunting.

Will the Bushmen improve their way of getting water?

  • They have been using indigenous techniques and ways of life forever and are confident in their ways of life.

Do other tribes near the San's support their way of life?

  • Other tribes who used to live their left because of the lack of resources.
  • The San Bushmen have a very unique style of living.


The San people are usually only grouped into small bands of about 30-100 people!

Check out some to the pictures of the San!!


Did they create any type of art?

  • They are very skilled at drawing and are famous for their cave paintings.
  • Their ancient rock paintings and carvings (collectively called rock art) are found all over Southern Africa in caves and on rock shelters.
  • The half-human hybrids that were drawn were believed to be the medicine men or healers.
  • Their depictions of the medicine men give humans evidence that they did healing dances.
  • According to Thomas Dowson, "a lot of rock art is actually in symbols and metaphors." San also used rock art to record things that happened in their lives.
  • Several instances of rock art have been found that resemble wagons and colonists.

How would you explain the Bushmen's language?

  • They have a remarkably complex language characterized by the use of click sounds.
  • The Khoisan languages are the languages of Africa that have click consonants but do not belong to other language families- very unique.
  • Khoisan languages are best known for their use of these click sounds as well as phonemes. These are typically written with symbols such as an !.

What are some of the examples of food they eat?

  • Their food varies a lot!
  • They have been nomadic hunter gatherers of wild food in traditional social units of small hunting bands for a very long time.
  • Sometimes Bushmen may form larger groups to hunt for special occasions, but these groups are loose and temporary.
  • They usually possess only what they can carry!

Why have they not changed their habits?

  • The San have a strong belief which is, whatever their ancestors did is the path they should follow as well!

What would have happened if the Bushmen didn't leave any cave paintings behind?

  • We would be unable to track where they lived and what their daily life was like.
  • This also showed their religious beliefs, which are very spiritual centered!
  • If they didn't leave paintings, we also wouldn't be able to identify why they kept so close to their ancestors and ancient techniques.

Does anyone in the Bushmen tribe follow modern customs?

  • Some people do, but on an incredibly small number of people.
  • One of the major beliefs in Bushmen culture, as stated before, the Bushmen trust and honor their ancestors.

The term "Bushmen" was given to them by Dutch settlers in the 17th century!


What did they live in?

  • They built huts of grass. Men gathered branches and women gathered grass to set up the hut layers.
  • The huts were waterproof to provide shelter from and storm.
  • They slept in sleeping spots that were dug out of the sand and covered with grass and a fur covering to fight against the cold weather.
  • Huts were usually built in a circular formation around a fire.

How was their ways of life passed down?

  • The elders where the top experts that held all of the experience and knowledge that was passed down for future generations.
  • While the parents are hunting, the elder usually gives children wise information in stories and song.
  • The elders are in charge of spiritual life.

Why are the Bushmen so peaceful?

  • They believe that war isn't the way to answer things and that remaining peaceful and sticking to what they know will lead them to success.
  • The world of a honored Bushmen are quoted below,
  • "A long, long time ago,we, the Bushmen, roamed these mountains, masters of the unpredictable ways of nature. We were nomads then, moving with the great herds of game and the changing of seasons. When the animals migrated we followed, leaving no houses or roads to mark our presence here. All we left behind was our story painted in the rock, in the shelters, the story of sacred animals and our journeys to the spirit world. These mountains once gave us shelter and the herds of antelope gave sustenance, and meaning to our lives. Especially the eland, for its is the animal of the greatest spiritual power. For us, it is the animal of well being and healing, of beauty and peace and plenty. The eland could take us on journey's to the world beyond and connect us to God."
  • This Bushmen leader summarized how their attitude towards life and towards their habitat will is a great way to go about life, which is what will bring them to God.

What is the relationship like between the Bushmen and their animals?

  • Extremely strong!
  • They believe that their animals are sacred which is one of the reasons why they are on all of the cave paintings.

How does the world rate and view the cave paintings??

  • It has really varied over time!
  • Originally, when the Europeans first encountered the rock art of the Bushmen about 350 years ago, they considered it primitive and crude, like the people how made it. They considered them flat perspective, two-dimensional accounts of hunting, fishing, and daily life.
  • 20th century scholars developed an appreciation for their aesthetic aspects, with fine detail and exquisite color, but still believed them to be simply portrayals of hunter-gatherer life.
  • Another dimension to these paintings emerged!!
  • In the Kamberg Nature Reserve of South Africa, a type of "Rosetta Stone" for the paintings was found and published in Scientific American in 1915. These paintings showed how hunters gained power from the animals they killed!
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~Government~ (LK)

What are the ways of getting around?

  • First hunter-gatherers in southern Africa
  • Tribes are well-known for their connection with their land and the knowledge of the natural world.
  • San Bushman People are one of the world's most self-sufficient and sustainable societies with their last communities surviving on the hunt for food.

Is there a conflict between the San Bushmen People and the African Government?

  • The government is forcing the San Bushmen group look for natural water
  • Many governments around the world know about the battle for the San Bushmen people searching for water and having the struggle to find it. Many Attorneys from these different parts of the world are trying to help win the battle against the government

Did they leave this area?

  • Most of the groups have moved out of the Reserve.
  • The people in Botswana are threatened, abused, and are being forced to get their only water from plants and trees?

Why can't the San Bushmen people get the water from the ground?

  • Their major problem is their geography. They are in the middle of the world's richest diamond field with many gems.
  • The government will not allow them to get their water from the ground because they could be possibly be digging the gems up.

How could they improve the water source without digging up the ground for water?

  • They have tried using reeds in the past to get what water is in the ground.
  • They have now found water in the tsamma melon (which is now their main source of water) that the leaves can be used as vegetables and the seeds are used as a source of protein and oil.


An estimated 50,000 people remain in the Bushmen ethnic group!
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~History~ (LK)

Who are they?

  • San Bushmen were the first hunter gatherers in southern Africa.
  • They have been in South Africa thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans.
  • Language involves clicks.

How do they hunt?

  • The hunters are very good at spotting the animal tracks and can base it on the species, sex, size and age of the animal.
  • The men hunt with bows and arrows and communicate only through hand signals and signs.
  • When using the bow and arrow, they tip the arrow with poison from beetles, scorpions, snakes and tree gum.

What is important to them?

  • Birth is not a big issue that they usually have labor behind a bush.
  • The most important ritual is the Great Dance. They say this dance creates a kind or spiritual power that is like electricity. They use this power to heal, hunt, removing tensions and making rain to drink.

Will the future battle with the government take them over? What can be done?

  • San Bushmen will keep fighting to stay here. Unfortunately, survival is getting hard for many.
  • They have won many fights over the government for violence and evictions.
  • Many are now trying to help the San Bushmen by allowing many to donate to help the survival of the San Bushmen group.


Use symbols

• / (Forward slash) - denotes a frontal dental click similar to the English "Tsk-Tsk" of disapproval. /? is a Glottal variation & ?/ is a nasal type.

• // (2 Forward slashes) - denotes a lateral dental click similar to the sound used to urge a horse. • ! (Equals sign bisected by a forward slash, “not-equal sign”) - denotes a sharp alveolar click made with the tongue against the roof of the mouth.

• ! (Exclamation mark) - denotes a sharp palato-alveolar click made with the tongue on the back of the gum ridge. Cork popping sound.


"Bushmen." - New World Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2015. <>.

"Bushmen." - Survival International. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2015. <>.

"The San." Anonymous. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2015. <>.

"The San Bushmen of the Kalahari." National Geographic. N.p., 21 Aug. 2014. Web. <>.