THE NATIVE RACES OF SOUTH AFRICA
GEORGE W. STOW, F.G.S., F.R.G.S.
1. THE ANCIENT ABATWA OR BUSHMEN
It is frequently found that the descriptions given by various travellers of the same country differ very considerably the one from the other, and yet each writer, as far as we can judge, appears to be an accurate observer and reliable in noting correctly whatever came under his observation. This diversity has arisen, not from want of ability in describing, or any error occasioned from negligence, but rather from their limited experience, from having made the examination at different periods, and under different aspects.
Each described what he saw, and described it correctly ; but then he had only examined its features in one particular light, and therefore his delineation conveyed only a portion of the truth. Thus one travelling on the western side of a certain mountain range may tell us that a particular crest is capped with enormous precipices, which are perfectly inaccessible ; another approaching it from the east, and who has seen it only on its opposite face, informs us that instead of being precipitous, the mountain in question slopes to the very top, with the exception of a few insignificant fringing precipices detached from one another, while the mountain summit may be easily gained through the open spaces.
The fact is both were right, but in either case each writer had only an opportunity of examining one side of the object described : a mountain presenting the features of " crag and tail," often met with in different portions of Southern Africa. And as such writers differ in their topographical descriptions, so they frequently disagree in their deductions, not only in regard to the country itself, but also the people who inhabit it, giving rise to erroneous ideas, which, at length, by being repeated by others even less informed than themselves, become accepted as verities, and thus, instead of progressing in knowledge, the fallacies become stereotyped and perpetuated, without further questioning, the one to the others.
This has certainly been the case with regard to the aborigines of South Africa. Much has been said and written about them, but much error still exists on the subject among those who have discussed it. Most appear to have entered upon the topic with a foregone conclusion in their minds, and thus their examinations have been confined to one side of the mountain, and stopped short at the very point at which they would have become the most interesting.
The writer trusts that a residence of thirty-six years in the country, during which time he has been animated with the desire of obtaining reliable data upon so important a question, has given him an opportunity of inspecting at leisure the typical mountain on every side, and thus enabled him to speak of it in its entirety ; and that, on the present occasion, by attempting to describe it in its different aspects and from different points of view he may succeed in clearing away some of the mists which have for so long a time hidden or obscured its true outlines.
In this attempt he is duly impressed with the difficulties which must be encountered in carrying out such a design, and also with the imperfections which must naturally cling to any endeavour to work out the primitive history of a country which never possessed a history of its own, and where sources of information can only be derived from scattered and fragmentary tribal traditions and obscure and sometimes apparently conflicting myths ; but which, doubtless, possess a germ of truth that may possibly be discovered by careful comparison and an almost microscopical examination.
Such, then, has been the somewhat presumptuous endeavour of the writer ; but he can assure those who may study the following pages that, whatever shortcomings may be found in them, and their name must be legion, it was only after long years of close investigation and research that he felt himself competent, or was justified, in making the present effort to remove some of the mystery and misconception which have so long clouded from view the true aborigines of Southern Africa. Previously, in most instances, they have been described differently from what they really were, or set altogether on one side by obtrusively thrusting others into their place who never possessed the least right or title to be classed among the primitive inhabitants of the country.
In carrying out this design we will consider in the first place —
1 . The widely extended occupation by the Bushmen in former times ;
2. Their probable origin in the North ;
3. A comparison of other races with them ;
4. Their great antiquity in South Africa ;
5. The Bushmen of Southern Africa ;
6. Their struggle for existence ; and
7. The encroachment of the stronger races.
1. The widely extended Occupation by the Bushmen in Former Times.
A considerable number of native traditions, obtained from widely separated sources, are almost unanimous with regard to the direction of the early migrations of the South African tribes, viz. from the North to the South.
They state, as a rule, that as their forefathers migrated southward, they found the entire country unoccupied, except that the plains swarmed with vast herds of game. They acknowledge, however, that the Bushmen were always to be found where the game was, and in their old myths of the origin of man they declare that when the Great Father brought men out of either the split reed or the fissure of a rock, the Bushmen had nothing to do with these ; he existed already ; therefore in speaking of a country as being uninhabited or unoccupied, the hunter race of the Bushmen was never taken into account. Other tribal traditions, again, state that when their forefathers migrated to the south, they found the land without inhabitants, and that only the wild game and the Bushmen were living in it, evidently classing the Bushmen and the game in the same category as wild animals.
The portion of the continent with which we are now more especially interested is that part which has been defined as a cone-shaped mass of land terminating in the promontory of the Cape of Good Hope. This cone may be divided into three irregular concentric zones or belts, each being marked by distinct peculiarities in its physical features, climate and population. Advancing from the coast-line to the centre, these appear to rise in successive steps or terraces, the outer edges of each being fringed with ranges of mountains of greater or less elevation, the older rocks forming a rim around the great central plateau, which towards the middle forms a vast depressed, although still elevated basin, through which the great rivers 'Nu and 'Gij Gariep take their course.
The eastern or coast zone is often furnished with mountains, well-wooded with evergreen trees ; its seaboard gorges are clad with gigantic timber. It is abundantly watered with streams, meandering through every valley and ravine, while its inhabitants, such as the Amaxosa and Amazula, are tall and well-made. The next is that which embraces the more central portion of the continent, the greater portion of which was once occupied by the Great Lake region of Southern Africa, but now represented chiefly by immense slightly undulating plains, interspersed with a few scattered outliers and depressed ridges. It contains comparatively few springs, and fewer streams; the impervious water-bearing rocks, which are nearly horizontal, lying in most instances considerably below the surface. Rain also is far from either frequent or abundant, and periodical droughts visit the country. The present inhabitants are Bachoana and Basutu, a race of men inferior to the coast tribes both in physical development and warlike energy. Interspersed among these are a few insignificant and scattered remnants of the aboriginal occupiers of the country, but who are rapidly diminishing in numbers.
Image: Orange river / 'Gij Gariep Author:Keenan Pepper This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
The western zone, which includes the great plain of the Kalahari Desert, is still more level, and represents portions of the uplands of the old lake districts whose drainage supplied the streams which ran into the basin before mentioned. Here, mixed with scattered remnants of other broken tribes, are found those of Hottentot and Bushman origin, the former being the most numerous along the western coast, the latter scattered over the more sandy and arid plains of the interior.
There can be, however, little doubt but that at one time the Bushmen were, as they are described in the native traditions, the sole occupants of the entire country here indicated. We have not only traditions in support of this, but we have positive proof of this occupation, which the ancient Bushmen themselves have recorded upon the rocks, in their paintings, their sculptures or chippings, and stone implements, which are as much their unquestionable title-deeds as those more formal documents so valued among landowners in more civilised portions of the earth. Their paintings are still to be seen in Damaraland, their sculptured rocks are found on or near the banks of the Mariqua and Malopo, and in different portions of the present Batlapin country. Numerous evidences of the same kind are found among the hills of Griqualand West, along the banks of the Vaal, and throughout the Free State territory, the Malutis, the Witte and Storm Bergen. Their chippings or sculptures were found spread over the present Division of Beaufort West, and the caves and rock-shelters of the Sneeuwberg were filled with their paintings.
Bushman painting: Cave painting created by the San people in the Cederberg Cave near Stadsaal. Image owner: Valroe at English Wikipedia
Until the latter part of last century their clans were still in undisturbed possession of the present colonial divisions of Somerset and Cradock, the Tarka and Winterberg, Hanglip and the Bongolo, and throughout the entire country from the Bontebok Flats to the banks, and even the sources, of the Tsomo. Traces of their paintings are not only still found in the Transkeian Territory, but existed until very recently at Salem, near Grahamstown ; while some fifty years ago numerous paintings were preserved in many of the rock-shelters of the Kroome river, Lange Kloof, and George mountains, a few being still left as near Capetown as the hills in the neighbourhood of Worcester, Ceres, and Stellenbosch ; while the remains of their less perishable stone implements are scattered over the entire area from one end to the other. Traces of these people were, in fact, to be found a quarter of a century ago in almost every direction, both in the Colony and in Kaffirland. Even in the land of the irrepressible Zulu, although no paintings have yet been noticed, remnants of Bushman tribes are still found in the most inaccessible portions of the country, some of whom, reduced to the lowest stage of existence, have from their peculiar habits obtained the name of Earthmen.
Mr. Moffat and some other writers have considered that the Hottentots were the original possessors of the soil ; abundance of evidence will be found in the present work to prove most satisfactorily that the Bushmen, and not the Hottentots, were the true aborigines of the country, the latter being, in comparison with the former, intruders of a recent date. It is only of the Bushman race that it can be truly said that they were robbed by every other race with which they came in contact, and compelled by them to abandon for ever the land of their ancestors.
From the evidence of the early colonial records, Moffat, Arbousset, and other writers with opportunities of observation, each corroborating and upholding the other, there cannot be any reasonable cause to doubt that from a remote period to a comparatively recent date Southern Africa was solely in the possession of the Bushman race. As we proceed in our investigation we shall find this position still more strongly substantiated by the testimony to be brought forward, when we come to consider the subject of the intrusion of the stronger races. We will now take under consideration the second point of our inquiry.
2. Their Probable Origin in the North.
It seems almost as certain that even the aboriginal Bushmen migrated to the south as that they, at one time, were the sole possessors of the country. It seems somewhat surprising that so many writers have continued to class these people with the negroes and other dark-skinned, woolly-haired species of men ; whereas if we are to judge from their physical appearance, with the solitary exception of the hair, no two sections of the human race could be more divergent. Their closest affinities in this respect are certainly more frequently to be found among those now inhabiting the Northern Hemisphere than in any other portion of the world. It is possible that the character of the hair may point to the fact that they hold a kind of intermediate station, a kind of connecting link, but still one more nearly related to the men of the north than the splay-footed, swarthy races of Central Africa.
Even the bones of the Bushmen show a marked difference from those of a large number of the negro type. The writer in his long and frequent wanderings has had many opportunities of examining the striking characteristics which they present. This is particularly noticeable in the almost perfectly cylindrical shape of the bones of the extremities, and the extreme smallness of their hands and feet. Every observant traveller who has come in contact with any of these people has been struck with their remarkably diminutive proportions. "The stature of both sexes," writes Harris, "is invariably below five feet." " Their complexion is sallow-brown." " The women, who were much less shy, are of small and delicate proportions, with hands and feet of truly Lilliputian dimensions. Their footprints reminded us of Gulliver's adventures, and are not bigger than those of a child. Whilst young they have a very pleasing expression of countenance."
One of these Bush-people was seen by this enthusiastic traveller, whose foot measured barely four inches in length. It is, therefore, undeniable that their diminutive size of limb gives their bones a delicacy of shape entirely foreign to those of the larger and more robust races alluded to, in some of which the projecting and uncouth-looking os calcis becomes a wonderful development.
As there are few in the present day who would hazard the opinion that the Bushmen were " a special creation," adapted peculiarly to South Africa, and as they are now cut off from the more northern birthplace whence they probably sprang, by a zone of nations more ferocious than themselves, we are led to suppose that the impetus which caused these old primitive hunters to migrate farther and farther to the southward was in a period of such remote antiquity that it must have been previous to the occupation of the country by the savage black races which now form, and must have ever formed since they have taken possession of the intervening area, an impenetrable cordon of barbarism, which the weaker hunter tribes, with their puny shafts, could never have forced their way through.
The original habitat of the negro is clearly involved in this but that is a subject which must be left for future discussion. It is however almost self-evident, if we consider but for a moment the condition of Central Africa, even at the present day, as described by the most recent travellers, that these stronger nations must have presented the impregnable barrier we have alluded to, through which such a race as the Bushmen never could have broken.
What Stanley and other enterprising travellers describe the black tribes to be now has doubtless been, with such unprogressive nations, their condition for unknown centuries. Had the remote ancestors of the Bushmen commenced their southern migration after the occupation of the central lands by these hordes of savage men, the smaller and weaker hunter race, as is evident from their subsequent history, could never, as we have before stated, have broken through such a cordon of fierce barbarity. All the evidence we have been able to collect tends strongly to prove that the Bushman race alone, in their southward migrations, moved through a perfectly unoccupied and uninhabited country. The other and stronger races closed in upon their southern retreat and followed" their footsteps at a later period.
It would seem from the present researches into the construction of the Bushman language that its northern origin will be fully established. The labours of the late lamented Dr. Bleek threw much new light upon this important subject ; and it may be looked upon as one of the most primitive forms of language which has survived to the present day. And the striking manner in which it has preserved what may be termed its purity and individuality is evidently owing to the long continued isolation of the race to which it belonged. Unhappily, by the untimely death of the eminent philologist, inquiry was suspended just at the crisis when the origin of grammatical forms of gender and number, the etymology of pronouns, and kindred questions seemed likely to be solved. One of the great objects was to examine the lower or more primitive forms of speech, so as to exhibit thoroughly and fundamentally the relations in which the Hottentot language stands to some of the northern languages, such as the Egyptian, the Semitic, and those of the Indo-European family; in fact, to establish that kinship which had been indicated by the Rev. Dr. Adamson, long resident at the Cape.
This question of the Bushman language, its nearer affinity to those of the northern hemisphere than to those of Central Africa, and its freedom from any foreign intermixture, are points of the greatest importance in support of the position which we, upon other grounds, have taken up. One cannot imagine any two sections of the human race coming intimately in contact with each other, without one or both adopting in a greater or less degree a number of words and expressions taken from each other, and understood by both, thus becoming indestructible and indelible records of this mutual intercourse.
South Africa affords a very apt illustration of the manner in which this process takes place. Thus in what is styled by some " the Landstaal," or language spoken by the frontier Boer population, there is a sprinkling of Bushman and Hottentot words, marking the time when they first came in contact with the inhabitants of the country ; after which a few Kaffir words were introduced, and during the last fifty or sixty years a number of English expressions have been grafted on it. Again, during the last sixty or seventy years a considerable number both of colonial Dutch and native words have been anglicised in the language spoken by the colonial English, such as, for example —
Spruit, for a river or valley ; Lager, for a camp ;
Vlei, for a pond ; Inspan, to yoke oxen ;
Flat, for a plain ; and many others from the Dutch.
Kloof, for ravine or glen; Kerie or Keerie, a club,}
Poort, for a pass ; Karee or Karree, a tree,}
Drift, for a ford; from the Hottentot.
Spoor, for a trail;
The natives, on the other hand, have in a number of instances availed themselves of both English and Dutch words to express objects and ideas with which they were not before acquainted.
The same rule governs the intercourse of the English with the inhabitants of India, Australia, New Zealand, etc., native words in each dependency becoming gradually anglicised and grafted into the parent language. They thus become indubitable memorials of close contact with the various races inhabiting these countries, and we may feel convinced that what we see going on in the present day must have been in operation, under similar conditions, during all past time. For this reason, therefore, we cannot imagine that the Bushman race, had they come into contact with others speaking languages differing from their own during the long series of generations which must have been occupied in their migration towards the south, would have formed any exception to this law, but that such contact must have left its impress upon them. The vanguard of the great westerly migration of the tribes of Coast Kaffirs acquired a number of clicks, after coming in contact with the aboriginal Bushmen, which are not to be found in use among the tribes that followed in their rear, and therefore only came in contact with such diminished numbers of the aborigines that their presence could make no impression upon the advancing tide of the stronger race.
The inference therefore, if not the positive conclusion, to be drawn from the foregoing facts is that the ancient Bushmen must, as we have before intimated, have gradually worked their way through a really unoccupied country, and that they were the primitive inhabitants of Southern Africa and the forerunners of every other race, a conclusion which is upheld by the most ancient traditions of every intruding tribe now found in the southern portion of the continent.
The conviction of Mr. Moffat that the Bushmen (included by him among the Hottentots) were the true aborigines was evidently forced upon his mind from some of the considerations which have been advanced. This appears when he writes : " It may not be considered chimerical to suppose that the Hottentot progenitors took the lead, and gradually advanced in proportion as they were urged forward by an increasing population in their rear, until they reached the ends of the earth." That this was the case is a demonstrable fact, which will be found enlarged upon in another portion of the present work. Their history during the last century and a half has too clearly proved that had the central portions of the continent been already occupied by any of the stronger races, similar to those which have been for the last few generations opposed to them, they could never, with their primitive weapons, have broken through such a barrier of savagedom as must thus under such circumstances have been placed in opposition to their southern progress.
It seems also certain that as the main body of the race moved on in front, detached clans lingered behind in sequestered and isolated spots, until they were overtaken, surrounded, and cut off for ever from their migrating countrymen by the advancing tide of the stronger races, which after driving them for refuge into dense jungles and nearly impenetrable forests, or the rocky fastnesses of almost inaccessible mountains, rolled on beyond them, making their isolation still more complete by the increase, in succeeding generations, of the surrounding hostile population ; and thus it is that enterprising travellers penetrating into the interior of the Dark Continent still hear traditions of communities of untamable dwarfs, who, even in the present day, hide themselves in the mysterious recesses of the primeval forests.
Such, in all probability, was the dwarf race described by Schweinfurth* ; and such those of whom Stanley writes : " In the unknown region west of Nyangwe, a region which Livingstone panted to reach but could not, and which Cameron intended to explore but did not, all is involved in mystery ; the intense superstition of the Africans has enshrouded it with awesome gloom. It is peopled in their village stories with terribly vicious dwarfs, striped like zebras, who deal certain death with poisoned arrows, who are nomads, and live on elephants. A great forest stretches no one knows how far north, certainly no one has seen the end of it."
* Might be: Georg August Schweinfurth was a Baltic German botanist, explorer of East Central Africa and ethnologist. (from Wikipedia)
Du Chaillu* also alludes to traditions of a race of wonderful dwarfs inhabiting some portion of the country which he visited ; and it is highly probable, when the evidences of Bushman occupation are better known, — such as his chippings on the South African rocks — than they are at present, that similar traces of his migrations will be found even still farther to the north.
* Might be: Paul Belloni Du Chaillu was a French-American traveller, zoologist, and anthropologist. (from Wikipedia)
Mr. Moffat considered that the Bushmen have descended from the Hottentots, and gives what he supposes to be a parallel case, in the Balala, a tribe to be noticed in the sequel ; but so much evidence has since been obtained which proves this hypothesis to be untenable, that we should only be led into error should we adopt it in pursuing our inquiry. The Korana traditions appear conclusive on the point of the prior existence of the Bushmen in the country, at the time their forefathers migrated from tropical Central Africa to the western coast, and thence to the Cape.
That both Hottentots and Bushmen may have descended from the same original stock seems more likely. In that case, however, such a length of time elapsed between the migration of the two offshoots that the language had completely changed, and when they again came in contact they were not able to understand one another. With regard to the language of the Hottentot race, Mr. Moffat remarks that "genuine Hottentots, Koranas, and Namaquas meeting for the first time from their respective and distant tribes could converse with scarcely any difficulty," while the Bushmen " speak a variety of languages " (? dialects)" even when nothing but a range of hills or a river intervenes between the tribes, and none of these dialects is understood by the Hottentots." Again, this writer considers the present condition of the Balala will explain the difference. It may explain the difference of the variety of dialects among the Bushmen themselves, but not the wide gap between the language of the Hottentots and that spoken by the Bushmen.
We have also another proof of the length of time which must necessarily have elapsed between the two migrations. Not only had the language completely changed, but the tribes of the later migration had advanced from the purely hunter to the nomadic pastoral stage of existence, while a noticeable alteration had taken place in their physical development. They were no longer tribes of diminutive dwarfs, but they had become a taller race of men, although still inferior to the more robust and manly Kaffir. A period, however, of no ordinary duration must have intervened to have effected changes of so marked a character.
From the foregoing one cannot doubt but that we are authorised in drawing the following deductions, viz. —
1. That the Bushman is not a development of the south, but that he must have had his origin somewhere in the distant unknown north.
2. That his language, his artistic talents, and even his physical characteristics, have closer affinities to some of the northern races than to that of the negro type.
3. That he migrated from the north to the south at a remote period.
4. That that period was so remote that the stronger black races could not then have occupied Central Africa.
5. That therefore the Bushman was the true aborigine of the country.
We can advance still a step further. The Bushman tribes, with regard to their artistic talents, were divided into painters and sculptors. This difference marks two distinct divisions of the Bushman race, and judging from the relics which they have left of their former ownership, they entered the widespread territories of Southern Africa by two different lines of migration. The sculptors moved to the southward through the more central portions of the country, crossing the Zambesi and traversing the country by the Lake Ngami, the Mariqua, and the upper Limpopo, thence to the Malalarene and the 'Gij Gariep or Vaal. In the valleys of these two rivers and in that of the Gumaap or Great Riet river they appear to have established their headquarters. Some of them spread to the westward and occupied the mountains of Griqualand West, others extended to the east, and left the records of their occupation upon the rocks of the Wittebergen, a branch of the Maluti range projecting into the Free State. Others again pushed farther to the south, and sculptured over the rocks and boulders as far into the Cape Colony as the present division of Beaufort West, whence some of them migrated as far as the Sneeuwberg.
River Zamebsi . Image owner: Hel-hama. Image license: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Beaufort West: Image owner: Htonl. Image licence: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
The painters, on the other hand, appear to have advanced through Damaraland along the western coast. On arriving at the great mountain ranges in the south, they turned to the eastward, in which direction they can be traced as far as the mountains opposite Delagoa Bay. The main body of them, however, settled in the country now occupied by the Divisions of George, Uitenhage, Albany, Beaufort, Victoria East, Somerset, Cradock, Graaff Reinet, Queenstown, and the Transkeian Territory, thence to the Stormberg and the 'Nu Gariep or Upper Orange river, occupying the whole of the Colesberg and Aliwal districts, and crossing the river, filled every rock shelter to the east and northeast with their cave paintings.
Image owner: Rémih
They do not appear to have penetrated as far to the north as the Vaal river : that valley was already thickly peopled by clans of the other division of the family. They also came into contact with the sculptors of the north along the line of the Sneeuwbergen, where some of the clans appear to have amalgamated, as their artists combined both styles of art for the ornamentation of their rock shelters. A small clan of these painters appears to have penetrated as far as to the hills to the north of Griquatown, where a few isolated caves were filled with paintings, while chippings or sculptures alone are found in the country round. This was probably a fugitive clan, that had fled so far to the north whilst their countrymen were being ruthlessly hunted like wild beasts in the southern portions of the country.
Besides these there were numerous clans who lived in the centre of the great plains, thus filling up the intervening spaces with inhabitants, and who were neither painters nor sculptors. The painters were the true cave-dwellers, and delighted in ornamenting the walls of their rock shelters ; the sculptors lived in large communities, but they preferred the stony hills covered with projecting rocks and boulders, which they sculptured over with their carvings. Their great places were permanent residences, from which they started on their hunting expeditions ; their huts were small spherical structures, opening to the east. The occupants of the plains lived in, fragile portable shelters, constructed of withes and small rush mats, which they rolled up and moved as fancy and the game might lead them.
Image owner: NordNordWest. Image licence: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
3. Comparison of other Races with the Bushmen.
It appears a remarkable coincidence that we should find that all the representatives of the smaller races of men have been, as a rule, driven into the extremities of the various continents in which they are found, and that although they differ considerably from each other in many particulars, there is still a kind of general resemblance which is somewhat remarkable. A number of them seem to have inherited the germs of similar arts, and in some instances even similar modes of thought. They evidently started on their migrations when the hunter state was the most advanced stage of existence, when the use of metals had not been discovered, when language was still in its infancy and shackled with its early imperfections, and bone, flint, and horn afforded the only means of giving point to the weapons which they employed in the chase.
If we can imagine such a people emanating from a common centre, it must have been at some immensely remote period, before the development of the stronger races, who as they gradually came upon the scene, as gradually drove the smaller and weaker ones before them in various directions, until the latter became imprisoned for a vast cycle of ages in the uttermost comers of the earth ; each race becoming, through a variety of degrees, more and more adapted to the requirements of its own peculiar position, until they became so widely divergent from the original type in language and physical features, that all trace of connecting links which once probably bound them together have been destroyed, and only a certain general resemblance, such as we have suggested, has escaped the ravages and changes of time.
We will now, for the sake of comparison, give a rapid sketch of such of the races of man which, although in the present day widely separated from each other, still possess certain affinities that appear to be common, and would, therefore, seem to indicate a closer relationship in a remote past than that which they bear to one another in our time. In doing this we wish to avoid asserting anything dogmatically, but merely desire to point out, from a South African point of view, the direction we imagine such inquiries will have to take if the great problem of the true descent of the Bushmen of this country is to be correctly solved.
One very striking feature in the pure Bushman race is their remarkably dwarfish stature. Judging from the descriptions of various trustworthy authors, there appear to be many seeming affinities between them and some of the branches of the Mongolian race, the only marked difference being in the hair, the one having black, straight, strong, and thin hair ; whilst in the other the hair, although black, is in small tufts at distances from each other, but when suffered to grow it hangs in twisted tassels. This twisting is frequently increased by artificial means, as it was looked upon by some of the clans as a type of beauty.
The Mongolian, Dr. Pickering states in his Races of Men, "is pre-eminently a beardless race, the chin often remaining perfectly smooth, even to extreme age." The same might be stated of the Bushmen; and even when a few scattered patches do appear, they never attain more than the fraction of an inch in length, like a curly mop.
It is surprising how little notice appears to be taken of the Bushman, and how seldom the race is mentioned by many of the later European writers. This may arise from two causes : first, that the term Hottentot and Bushman have frequently been used synonymously, an error which even the writers of the earlier Dutch records seem to have constantly fallen into, giving rise to a confusion of ideas which has certainly led to erroneous impressions ; and in the second place, because for the last two or three generations these unfortunate people have been so harried and hunted like wild beasts, by every race of men who have intruded themselves into their ancient hunting-grounds, driving them into the most inaccessible portions of the country, and treating them with far less consideration than the most viciously outrageous of condemned criminals, that little opportunity has been afforded to visitors from other lands of studying them from any point except that permitted by their bitterest enemies.
With regard to the Bushmen, however, it can be confidently stated that there is no characteristic feature indicative of a certain affinity between the Hottentot and Mongolian tribes, which is not even more strongly marked in them. There appears no reason to doubt but that the Bushmen belong to a more primitive, and therefore purer stock, than the tribes of Hottentot origin ; and, as a consequence, it is amongst such a people that we may expect to be able to discover signs of closer connection between these at present widely geographically-separated branches, by striving to trace them back as near as possible to that point where the stream of life separated, than between the same original stock and the later wanderers who followed on the trail of the hunter race and occupied the intermediate area.
With regard to the Bushmen this would be rendered more easy from the remarkably isolated existence into which they were forced by their southern migration, which thus, for unknown centuries, kept them unmixed from the stronger races that pressed upon their rear, until the former found themselves hemmed in by the southern ocean. This isolation, however, enabled them to retain unchanged not only their primitive habits and customs from a very remote antiquity, but also their original and special physical characteristics, in a degree of purity seldom met with in other races.
If the prehistoric artists alluded to by various authorities on the American Indians were of the old Mongolian stock, it is certainly a most remarkable coincidence that this early tidewave of human migration to the east and south carried with it the same artistic tastes as that which was carried along with a similar wave which spread itself more directly to the south, and which went on developing itself in productions of a kindred nature, until they ultimately arrived at the perfection displayed in some of the Bushman paintings and sculptures in South Africa.
We are not aware of any of the ancient negro race who ever excelled in artistic productions of this kind ; such efforts appear to have been foreign to their nature, and this fact would seem to give us an additional assurance that we must look to some other source for the origin of the primitive artists of the earth. This idea is strengthened when we consider that there were, as has been demonstrated, ancient races possessing not only many of the physical characteristics which are common to the Bushmen, but also that they seemed to have inherited similar art germs, of so identical a description that they shadow forth the possibility of a common parentage in some remote period of the past.
Surprising as such coincidences as these appear, they are still more so when we learn that there are among the descendants of other primitive races which possess, not a similarity in artistic talents, but a wonderful identity in their respective modes of thought, although for unknown time the vast expanse of the Indian ocean has most effectually separated them.
This fact is clearly evinced by Dr. Bleek's remarks upon Resemblances in Bushman and Australian Mythology. He says that African researches have given the most emphatic confirmation to the idea that mythological notions, or the outward forms of religious beliefs, are primarily dependent upon the manner of speech, a fact which was first pointed out by Professor Max Miiller in his Essay on Comparative Mythology, and which is now generally allowed to be one of the most fertile and efficient for the purpose of understanding rightly the natural history of religion and mythology. These African investigations " have especially drawn our attention to the fact that the modes of thought, and among them the religious ideas, are dependent upon the forms of the language, and upon the stimulus which these forms give to the poetical faculty, etc."
The sex-denoting languages possess mythologies, while the prefix-pronominal languages, where no distinction is made, are merely addicted to ancestor-worship. The first filled the heavens with objects of adoration — the sun, the moon, the stars, and other natural objects ; whilst those nations whose languages are clearly different, and never have been sex-denoting (such as Kaffirs, negroes, etc.), are almost entirely devoid of the myth-forming faculty, and possess hardly any myths or true fables, excepting where, by contact with sex-denoting nations, these have, to a small extent, been adopted from the latter. The knowledge of this fact advances us another step, by learning that the languages of the negro, Kaffir, etc., and that of the Bushman, differ radically in their construction, thus affording us further proof that their origin must have been derived from different sources.
Where myths are found among nations whose language is at present non-sex-denoting, it would seem to indicate that they had been derived originally from more remote languages of that character, and thus may afford evidence of the former state of the language.
“In fact, upon the evidence of the mythological notions which are found to exist among the nations speaking them, the great mass of those genderless languages which Professor Max Muller calls Turanian (from which, however, the Malay-Polynesian as originally prefix-pronominal are at all events to be excluded) must be concluded to have lost the sex-denoting character, just as the Persian has done in more modern times."
“The mythological conceptions of certain aborigines of Australia offer some curious points of resemblance to those entertained by the Bushmen of South Africa, as is pointed out in the following comparisons." In giving them Dr. Bleek says that it is not the special coincidences of belief between the Bushmen and the Australians, which he should conclude to have been derived by them from a common source, " but rather the spirit of mythological conception in both nations, due probably to similar causes. Both these nations are generally considered the lowest of the low in many points of human civilisation, as, for example, in their very imperfect numerical system, the Bushmen having no numerals beyond two or three,N and the Australians generally none beyond three or four. Yet by their mental and physical characteristics they lay claim to a nearer kindred with ourselves than do many far more civilised nations, especially those of the Kaffir and negro type. And certainly the possession of similar mythological notions, of which both Kaffirs and negroes are, generally speaking, destitute, is of no small moment in gauging their real affinities."
Notes: These simple numerals were (that is, among the Central and Eastern Bushmen) xa, one ; t'oa, two ; 'quo, three ; any higher numbers were expressed by repetitions, thus :
T'oa-t'oa _ four.
T'oa-t'oa-t'a _ five.
T'oa-t'oa-t'oa = six.
T'oa-t'oa-t'oa-'ta = seven.
T'oa-t'oa-t'oa-t'oa = eight.
T'oa-t'oa-t'oa-t'oa-'ta — nine.
T'oa-t'oa-t'oa-t'oa-t'oa — ten.
It is certain, however, that the constant repetition of the numbers three, five, and seven, their 'quo, t'oa-t'oa-'ta and t'oat'oa-t'oa-'ta in their symbolic representations in the valleys of the Gumaap and the Vaal evidently indicate that they had a mystic or sacred meaning, now lost, but known and understood at the time by the initiated.
“The aborigines of Victoria (especially the Booroung) believe that the earth was in darkness until an emu's egg was prepared and cast into space, when the earth became light. This was effected by one who belonged to an earlier race of people, who then inhabited the earth, but who were translated in various forms to the heavens, before the present race of men came into existence.”
“The Bushmen believe that there was a very dim light over the earth, and that the sun (who was a man) only shone round the place where he lay sleeping (the light proceeding from one of his armpits) ; so two women (of the old race who inhabited the earth before the BushmenN) sent some children to lift up the sleeping sun unawares and throw him into the sky, where he, becoming round, thenceforth remained, rendering the earth light and warm."
Notes: The Bushmen believe in an ancient race of people who preceded them, some of whom possessed magic powers, and some of whom have also been translated as stars into the sky.
“The Bushmen say also that the moon was made by a being who is both mantis and man, who, being inconvenienced by the darkness, threw up one of his shoes into the sky, and ordered the shoe to become the moon and to make light for him."
"These Victorian aborigines term Jupiter the Foot of Day, while the Bushmen call it Day's Heart. The Australians say that (either the whole, or part of) the Milky-Way is the smoke of the fires of the old race of people who preceded them. The Bushmen say that a girl belonging to the ancient race made the Milky Way by throwing wood-ashes into the sky.”
“The Australians say that the star Arcturus is the discoverer of the larvae of the wood-ant, of which they are very fond, and their teacher when and where to find it. The Bushmen say that Canopus is the rice-star, who comes carrying 'Bushman rice’.N By appearing it shows them when to seek it."
Notes: Bushman-rice " is what is commonly called ants' eggs but which are really the pupas or chrysalides of the ants.
"The Magellan clouds are, in this Australian mythology, believed to be male and female birds called 'Native Companions,' and by some of the Bushmen they are considered to be a male and female steenbok."
Some of these coincidences are very remarkable, especially that of the belief in the existence of an earlier race of men. Some of the Bushmen, however, still assert that remnants of this race yet exist in the deep and almost unknown recesses of the Kalahari. In corroboration of this latter assertion, an old traveller, Mr. A. A. Anderson, who has spent a number of years in the interior, assured the writer that in one of his expeditions into that portion of the country he came upon a small clan of very diminutive and degraded people, who declared that their forefathers had inhabited this part of the world before the Bushmen came into it.
At the time Mr. Anderson encountered them they acknowledged subjection to the Bushmen of the Kalahari, who are said to treat them not only as degraded vassals, but as an inferior grade of beings. Their habits, as described by this traveller, certainly approach nearer to those of wild animals than to those of the most abject people yet known in South Africa. They build no huts of any description, but shelter themselves under bushes or projecting rocks, or the leeside of large boulders, while their food is frequently of the most loathsome description, as, with the exception of these people, it is only among the lower animals that the placenta is devoured after giving birth to their offspring. Further information with regard to this race would certainly be most interesting, and might possibly supply one of the missing links which are being so eagerly sought for in the world of science.
From the facts advanced in this chapter we would seem justified in concluding that the Bushman race belongs to a type of humanity altogether distinct from that of the negro or the Kaffir; that the races which display the closest affinities to them are some of the earlier races whose migrations radiated from the northern hemisphere as from a common centre ; that at the time of their separation from the main stock these races had arrived at the hunter state, and carried with them, into widely separated countries, similar germs of primitive art, and there, by means of their kindred artistic talents, they were enabled severally to leave memorials upon the rocks of the country, thus recording for future ages the different portions of the earth's surface which they had respectively occupied.
The Native Races of South Africa
01. Editor's Preface
15. The Koranas
17. The Griquas
24. The Barolong