The Ju/ ‘ hoansi- Introduction: A Voyage of Discovery
-the people in the !Kung San of the Kalahari Desert were virtually unknown to the outside world until
the 1950s, and the author went the land in October 1963, to make a year long study of them, as he
describes them as fierce and independent.
- the exact location is Kalahari,Botswana and it took the author a long time to get there, he arrived there
around the next year during August.
-The people in Kalahari still did contemporary hunting and gathering. But 12,000 years ago, it had been
the universal mode of human subsistence. (The term foragers or foraging people is a convenient
shorthand for groups with this kind of adaption.) Thus the surviving foragers such as the San,
Inuit(Eskimo), Australian aborigines, have a lot to teach since our ancestors evolved as foragers, and all
basic human institutions-language,marriage,kindship etc were formed when we lived by hunting and
-In order to learn their lessons, there are two things to keep in mind. One is that to keep in mind that
the foragers are not “missing links” and are part of other human group. Second,nowhere will people find
foragers today living in Pleistocene conditions, that is as hunters living in a world of hunters.
A Waterhole Called Dobe
Based on the author’s observation:
-October is the hottest month of the Kalahari year,and by 9am, the sun was already high in the sky
-went to Land Rover,the dry pan of Dobe.
-A few native people who lived there approached them. They were all short, the men about five foot
two,and the women well under five feet. Their brown skins were deeply seamed with lines from
exposure to the sun. They were dressed in sueded leather, the men in tight-fitting breechclouts, the
women in beaded aprons and soft skins. Both sexes were naked above the waist and wore their densely
curled hair cropped. Women wore necklaces, arm bands, and hair ornaments of beads made from
ostrich eggshells. Each men wore a bow and quiver in a sling over the shoulder, and two of them had
- The nine people were core members of the Dobe camp, a strongly independent group of people who
had been associated with the waterhole for over 30 years and preferred to live on their own in the
“bush” rather than share a waterhole with cattle and goats. They were a group who were related to one
- The experiences that the author had with the Dobe people which were asking them to learn their
language and getting sympathetic look when the author said it was difficult to make the click sounds
they use for the language (and how they refused the offer to learn about English in return) & the old man’ s speech about critizing the author for not coming sooner while managing to welcome him yet he
pointed out that if the author brought something to share with his kind he shouldn’t do that and just
share with the old man’s family. (in other words, he stated that he is going to keep everything to
himself), by those experiences the author realized that the fieldwork isn’t going to be easy
-The author realized that for his fieldwork which is to make sense of the thriving contemporary Ju/’hoan
culture with all its complexities and contradictions, he had to count the people,learn their language, find
out what they ate and what ate them(both physically and spiritually),and make sense of the paradoxes
of generosity and selfishness that seemed to lurk beneath the surface of their lives.
The People of the Dobe Area
-The Dutch explored the Cape of Good Hope in the seventeenth century, and they found two kinds of
people living in the society. One were the numerous cattle and goat-herding people who are known as
the Hottentots, Second were the non-herding people, the San or Sonqua similar in language and
appearance to the Khoi (means “aborigines” or “settlers proper”) , but they didn’t keep livestock,
instead they lived by eating wild plants,animals,and shellfish. They were elusive and shy and lived in
- For thousands of years the Khoi and the San occupied most of southern Africa west, but as White
settlement expanded north in the eighteenth century, bitter conflicts arose with the native people. By
the late nineteeth century,the San had been virtually examined within the boundaries of the present-
day Republic of South Africa, and most writers wrote them as a dying race.
-However, in the Kalahari Desert, thousands of Sand continued to live as hunter-gatherers relatively
Who Are The San?
-A cluster of indigenous people in southern Africa who speak a click language and who have a tradition
of living by hunting and gathering
-They are to be distinguished from the Khoi, whom they resemble physically, by the Khoi’s possession of
livestock,and the physical,linguistic,and cultural differences.
- San come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many are short and pale-skinned, while others are tall and
dark-skinned. This divides into “Yellow” and “Black” San.
- The Black San include people in southeastern Angola,western Zambia,and eastern Botswana who
speak languages of the Tshu-Khwe group and whose economy is based on mixed
herding,farming,foraging,and wage labour. Also includes the Nama and Ju/ ‘haon –speaking Hei//kum in
northern Namibia. Are genetically Indistinguishable from surrounding Bantu populations, and it is likely that their gene pools have been augmented by the influx of Bantu-speaking refugees from the colonial
wars and raiding of the nineteenth century.
- The Yellow San are found in southern Angola, western and central Botswana,and northern and eastern
Namibia. They speak languages of three different language families: the Northern!Kung-Ju/ ‘ hoan, the
Central Tshu-Khwe,and from the Southern!Xo. They are linguistically diverse, and they are physically
similar to one another: short, pale-skinned, deep-chested, with straight foreheads and small faces and
jaws. Have puberty, and economically, the Yellow San include full-time gatherer-hunters, mixed farmers
and herders,and since the 1960s, a growing number of farm and migrant laborers.
Studies Of The San
-Modern ethnographic studies of the San begin with the expeditions of Laurence and Lorna Marshall in
1951, their many field trips since 1952 have produced a distinguished series of books and films by John
-The more southerly/Gwi San of the Central Kalahari have been studied by
-The southernmost of the contemporary San, the !Xo, have been studied by Hein,Eibl-Eibesfeldt and
- The Naron,a populous,settled group living on farms and cattle-posts have been studied by
Bleek,Guenther, and Barnard.
-Research on !Xo linguistics has been done by Traill,Vierich,and Hitchcock have done detailed studies of
San economic change in the eastern Kalahari. A comprehensive overview of studies of all the San and
Khoi peoples has been published by Barnard.
-The most extensively studied San group has been the Ju/’hoansi-! Kung- of the the Dobe area. Starting
in 1963 with a two person team consisting of Irven DeVore , the Kalahari Research Project has grown to
include over a dozen specialists in many fields.
-Today the Dobe Ju/’hoan are probably the world’s best-documented foraging society.
-In addition, Ju/’hoansi economics and exchange systems have been studied by Wessner he has written
on Ju archeology,etno-history,ecology,and political economy.
The Dobe Area
-In 1963, it consisted of a cluster of 10 waterholes north and south of the Aha Hills in the northwest
Kalahari Desert. The area can be conveniently divided into three divisions.
-> The more northern waterholes are strung out along the length of the !Kangwa Molapo, a 100-
kilometer-long dry river valley that has its source in the Nyae Nyae are of Namibia and wends its way
eastward through Botswana before disappearing in the desert west of the Okavango swamps. Traverses an area of limestone and granite outcrops. The Ju/hoansi name the area, N!umsi meaning the
permanent waterpoints,the!Kangwa valley has a hinterland of gathering and hunting areas to the
north,east,and west of about 3000 square kilometers.
-> South of the Ahas a samller dry river valley, the /Xai/xia Molapo, forms the main axis of settlement,
with its one major waterhole at Xai/xai Pan and a hinterland containing many smal