ETHNIC AND CULTURAL GROUPS

The San People of Southern Africa

The San and the Khoekhoe peoples are aboriginal to southern Africa. This means the San and Khoekhoe are descendants of the first people who ever lived here, before black or white people migrated into the region.

Archaeologists tend to agree that the San are the descendants of the original Homo sapiens (modern day man) who occupied South Africa for at least 150 000 years. Geneticists say that the oldest gene pattern amongst modern humans is that of the Khoe-San. It dates back to about 80 000 years ago. All other peoples on the planet, Europeans, Black Africans, Asians, North and South Americans, Australians are all descendants from this original gene type. The only possible exception is that of the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers of Tanzania who split off very early from the Khoe-San.

From about 25 000 years ago, there is evidence of cultural practices that were still being followed until recently by southern African hunter-gatherers – such as the making of ostrich eggshell beads, shell ornaments, the bow and arrow and rock art. This jump in culture is possibly linked to rapid changes in the ability of the human brain and body structure to cope with complex language production.
The migration of homo sapiens out of Africa took place from about 40 000 years ago, coinciding with the possible acceleration of our language skills. Each group of people who left Africa took with them new language families. At that time all humans were hunters and gatherers.

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