Ethnography and Condition of South Africa before A.D. 1505/Chapter 1

Ethnography of South Africa

Chapter I.

Early Inhabitants of South Africa, termed by Europeans Bushmen, by Hottentots Sana, by Bantu of the eastern coast Abatwa, of the western coast Ovatwa, of the interior Baroa.

Since the commencement of the twentieth century a great advance in our knowledge concerning the early savage inhabitants of South Africa as well as of Europe has been made through discoveries of their implements and other handiwork, coupled with remains of their skeletons found where they were buried. In Europe the successive advances and retreats of the great sheet of ice that once covered the whole of the northern and central parts of that continent, as Greenland is covered to-day, afford means for classifying in order of time the various races that once lived there, and the implements they used furnish proofs of the different stages of knowledge they had reached. South Africa, owing to its geographical position, has not been covered with ice since man first made his appearance here, or in other words since the pliocene or termination of the tertiary period as termed by geologists. There must have been great variations of climate, but these were insufficient to compel man to remove altogether from any locality to another far distant. We have here therefore a more unbroken chain of race, not as in Europe one race disappearing and another quite different taking its place, or possibly two very dissimilar races existing near each other at the same time.

It is not possible to state in years, or in centuries, or even in millenniums, the length of time that man has existed in South Africa, nor is it possible to determine with any degree of accuracy whether he has lived in this part of the world as long as in Europe, though the most primitive of stone implements, the one which Professor Sollas has named the boucher, is found in abundance here, and indeed all over Africa, as well as there.[1] By the word man is meant a being capable of communicating his thoughts by speech, understanding the use of fire, and able to make implements, however crude, of wood or stone. That such a being roamed over South Africa from an exceedingly remote period is absolutely certain from the situations in which many of his implements are found, and the crust termed the patina which has formed upon them.

The ancient mounds of shells along the seacoast are usually regarded as furnishing one proof of this fact. The first of these that was examined carefully was a heap formerly to be seen in a cave at Mossel Bay, which was for some years regarded as a curiosity more than as a record of the existence there of man at some distant period. It was even held by some amateur investigators that the shells had been brought there by seabirds. More recently many other mounds have been discovered, among them one on the left bank of a tributary of the Buffalo river at East London. Its discovery was due to the opening of a way to a quarry, for it had the semblance of a natural hill, being covered with a deep layer of vegetable soil, in which trees and shrubs were growing; and this appearance it had presented as far back as could be traced. Upon examination—which was very thorough, as over thirty-two thousand cubic metres of it were removed to fill a lagoon—it was found to consist of a mass 45.72 metres or one hundred and fifty English feet long and 12.19 metres or forty feet deep, composed of oyster, mussel, cockle, periwinkle, and other shells, mixed with bones of animals of various kinds, ashes, and pieces of coarse pottery. A very few stone implements were found in it, but stones showing the action of fire were common.

This mass of shells must have been collected by a small community, for a large number of people could not have existed at the same time upon the food obtainable within walking distance. It must have been abandoned several hundred years at the lowest estimate, to allow time for dust and sand to be blown over it, and plants to grow and decay, until at length vegetable mould half a metre in depth was formed, sufficient to support large shrubs and trees. Some pestilence may have destroyed the whole of the people who obtained subsistence there, or they may have been attacked and killed by men of their own race who lived by hunting wild animals, or they may have existed until the arrival of Hottentot immigrants some time about the year 1400 of our era, when they would certainly have been exterminated. The cause of the abandonment of the mound is thus conjectural, and all that can be asserted concerning it is that it cannot have been more recently than a.d. 1400, and may have been many centuries earlier. Of the length of time required for the collection of such a vast mass of shells no estimate whatever can be made.

The other mounds composed of shells and refuse that have been discovered along the South African coast are exactly similar to the one at East London in character, though not usually so large. It is only by accident that they are found, for on the surface of the undulating soil there is no indication of their existence. They are turned to account by farmers at the present day, who use their contents as fertilisers for cultivated ground. In Europe, notably along the coast of Denmark, similar mounds have been exposed, and are there termed kitchen middens, a name that might also be used here. It would be convenient if the people who lived so largely upon shellfish had a distinctive name given to them, for the word strandloopers (beach-rangers), applied to them by some recent writers, causes much confusion. That word was used in the middle of the seventeenth century by the first Dutch settlers in South Africa to denote a very different class of people, an impoverished people of mixed Hottentot and Bushman blood, speaking the Hottentot language and whenever possible following Hottentot customs, who from dire necessity were reduced at times to eke out a miserable existence in the same manner as the far more ancient men of the shell mounds, and it has since been commonly used in history to signify them alone. The others—those alluded to in this paragraph—were beachrangers, it is true, but that was their normal mode of existence, and to distinguish them from the very different beachrangers of recent times I propose to term them the Ancient Shellmound Men.

The mounds referred to, however, may have had their origin at a time not exceedingly remote, for those who have examined them carefully have found no apparent change in the physical features of the country since the earliest deposit was made. The shore was then where it is to-day, though the rocks along it may have undergone some slight alteration of form from the action of winds and waves. Much older are various stone implements shaped by human hands, which have been found in situations where they must have lain undisturbed for an incalculable length of time. For instance, they have been picked up in gravel washed by a stream into a recess when its bed was more than twelve metres higher than it is at present; in localities where considerable changes in the contour of the surface must have taken place since they were deposited; and at great depths in aeolian rock, where bones of animals and shells are also found.[2]

How long the boucher continued to be used cannot be ascertained, but at length better implements were formed. Possibly the first inhabitants had evolved by themselves something superior, or another section of people, having made an advance in knowledge somewhere else, migrated slowly to South Africa, and established new industries here. From this time forward the implements were formed, not of oval water-worn stones, but of pieces broken off a rock and then chipped into the required shapes. It might be a spearhead that was needed, or a scraper, or a chopper, or something to serve as a knife, all these could now be made. The arrowhead can hardly date back as far, for it implies a knowledge of the bow, an implement which must have been the product of much thought. But if the advance is due to immigration, not to native growth of knowledge, the bow may have been brought here by the newcomers, and the stone arrowheads found in great abundance be as ancient in South Africa as the knife or the unhafted axe.

None of them were ground or polished, as chipping comprised all the labour that was bestowed upon them. They were the products of the skill of man still in a very low stage of his existence. Workshops where they were manufactured have been discovered in various places, and to some of these the raw material, or unchipped stone, must have been brought from a considerable distance. The artisans may have lived there permanently, or, what is more probable, some superstition may have been connected with the localities. At these factories a quantity of stone from which flakes have been struck, some raw material, a very few finished articles, and a great many broken ones usually lie wholly or partially hidden by drift sand or mould, and it is generally by accident that they are discovered. They prove that already man had learned the lesson of the value of a division of labour, for it can be taken for certain that every one was not his own manufacturer, but that only the most skilful were employed in making the best-formed tools.

The implements used at this stage of man's residence in South Africa were almost as well fashioned as those of the people termed by us Bushmen were found to be when Europeans first visited the country, so that it is reasonable to assume that the race was continuous, especially as no indications can be found of any subsequent intrusions until the arrival of the Hottentots and Bantu only a few centuries ago. Several improvements, though with one exception trifling, are observable, but no race, however backward, can continue to exist for an enormously long period of time without making some progress in knowledge and in manufactures. The stone implements therefore became gradually more varied and a few of them were more nicely finished, bone came into use for some purposes, and the spherical perforated stone, which shows the greatest advance of all, and which is not found with any of the early tools, was invented. Thus there was progress, though exceedingly slow, during the countless centuries that passed away.

In the earliest stages of man's development three principal causes must have operated in forcing him to think: hunger, disease, and war. These were the elementary factors of civilisation. In favourable localities in other parts of the world commerce, as a powerful factor, came at a later period, but in South Africa that stage was not easily arrived at.

This is apparent if the physical condition of the country be considered. The land rises from the ocean level in terraces or steps, until a vast interior plain is reached. Deep gorges have been worn by the action of water, in some places internal forces have caused elevations, in other places depressions, and everywhere along the margins of the terraces distortions may be seen. There are no navigable rivers, and the coast is bold and unbroken. The steep fronts of the terraces, which from the lower side appear to be mountain ranges, and the absence of running water in dry seasons over large surfaces, tended likewise to prevent intercourse between the different parts of the country. The rude people of each section were left to themselves, without that stimulus to improvement which contact with strangers gives. There was very little necessity to exert the mind to provide clothing or habitations, for since the close of the ice period in Europe and the corresponding fluctuations of temperature in the southern hemisphere the climate has been uniformly mild, and even on the elevated interior plain snow never lies long on the ground. Like the wild animals, man on occasions of severe weather could find some temporary shelter. In this respect a savage is far more callous than a civilised man.

Hunger must have forced him to think, to plan the destruction of game, to search for edible plants, and to reject those that were noxious; but after becoming acquainted with the flora in his locality and with the use of poison in the chase, that factor would lose much of its potency. The cultivation of the ground or the domestication of animals could no more enter the mind of a savage in the palæolithic stage than into that of a child learning to walk. Disease would compel him to think, but only in an exceedingly slight degree when compared with a modern European, for his ailments were few and were in general attributed to witchcraft. War, whether against his fellows or the powerful carnivora, would be a more important factor in obliging him to exercise his mind, and to it was probably due the gradual though tardy improvement in his weapons by the selection of harder stone[3] and by fashioning them more carefully. But slow indeed was the progress in cultivation from the hunter who used the stone weapons of early times to the Bushman who shot his bone-tipped arrow at an antelope at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Where the race of savages who occupied this country so long, the race now termed the Bushmen, had its origin can only be conjectured, and the highest authorities are not agreed as to the locality. That it once spread over the whole of Africa, a portion at least of Southern Europe, and South-Eastern Asia appears to be absolutely certain, but where did it have its birth and its early childhood? That is the doubtful question.

Dr. Peringuey believes in Africa, and he gives reasons for his conclusion that members of it migrated to Europe at a time so remote that there was a passage by dry land over the centre of what is now the Mediterranean sea. He does not allude to the section of the race in South-Eastern Asia, but confines himself to Europe and Africa.

Professor Sollas, on the contrary, holds that the migration was from Europe to Africa, and assigns it to the same remote period as Dr. Peringuey.[4] He gives a graphic description of the Bushmen in Southern Europe, who lived there in what is termed the Aurignacian period, nearly in the middle of the palæolithic or rough stone age. They were negroids of small size, with short twisted hair. Their faces were almost vertical down to the bottom of the nose, and they had prognathous or projecting jaws and retreating chins, exactly similar to the Bushmen of South Africa. This is ascertained from two of their skeletons found in the Grimaldi caves at Mentone.

Their weapons and tools were the same in form and size, so much so that if a handful of Bushman arrowheads and scrapers were thrown into a heap of similar implements say in the museum at Brussels, they could not be separated again except by some one with a thorough knowledge of the composition of the rocks from which they were taken.

Engravings on pieces of ivory of the mammoth, now long extinct, made by these people, similar in character to Bushman engravings on stone, are familiar to students in the great museums of Europe. Many paintings on the walls and roofs of caverns, their work also, have been found during recent years in France and Spain. They are of exactly the same style as those of the Bushmen of South Africa, but of course represent different animals.

The best of these paintings yet discovered in Europe is a herd of bisons on the roof of the cavern of Altamira in Spain, in which various colours were used. Equal as a work of art, if not superior to it, is a hunting scene from a cavern in the mountains bordering Griqualand East in South Africa. Two stone slabs became detached from the roof of this cavern, and fell upon a heap of dust and debris, which preserved the painting perfectly until the slabs were discovered and removed to the South African museum in Capetown, where they can now be seen. When pieced together, the painting is 2.39 metres in length by 92 centimetres in width, and represents seventeen elands, the largest thirty-two centimetres in length, beautifully drawn and shaded in colour, with grotesque figures of hunters using their weapons. Some of the elands are foaming at the mouth from exhaustion, and from the nostrils of one, which is in the attitude of falling, blood is actually dropping. One hunter is hamstringing an eland with a battle-axe, which together with iron-headed arrows, shows that the picture cannot be very old, as it must have been painted after the intrusion of the Bantu into that part of the country, not three centuries ago. An opinion held by most investigators that the older pictures are better as works of art than the more recent ones is thus proved to be incorrect. At all times there must have been a few individuals who excelled as painters and sculptors, while there were many who could only produce daubs.

No figures of human beings have yet been discovered among the paintings of the Europeans, but statuettes made by them have been found at Mentone and other places, which represent the Bushman type of body, with its steatopogy or very protuberant buttocks of adipose matter. There can hardly be a question therefore of the identity of race, the only difference—though a very important one if the measurements can be relied on—observable between them being that the skulls of the European branch were a little longer in proportion to their breadth (horizontal cephalic index 68 or 69), and the cranial capacity or size of the brain was much greater.

What became of the negroid inhabitants of Southern Europe no one can say. They were there before the close of the great ice age, and then they disappeared as other races had done before them. This was in Professor Sollas's mind when he conjectured that they migrated into Africa; but they might have been exterminated entirely, or partly absorbed and partly exterminated by an invasion of a stronger race. This has ever been the law: progress in knowledge and skill and become invincible, or perish. And they were the least progressive of all mankind. Ages later this was the fate of their kinsmen in South Africa, who continued to exist so long solely because of their perfect seclusion.

In South-Eastern Asia there are people living to-day, such as some of the inhabitants of the Philippine islands, the Andamanese, and the Semang in the Malay peninsula, who are so like the Bushmen that it is almost certain they are of the same stock. The type must have been fixed in their common primeval home in some far remote time, and the changes in each that have since taken place have been so small that the close relationship may still be seen. Mentally especially this is the case. Their power of thought on subjects of any nature outside of their ordinary occupations is not greater than that of a European child six or seven years of age, and they have all the credulity of such a child. There are no means of ascertaining whether this was the case with the section of the race in Europe, but the probability is very strong that it was.

The points of resemblance between the Bushmen and the Semang are so numerous that they cannot be accidental.[5] The average height of Semang men is 1491 millimetres, of Bushmen of South Africa 1444 millimetres, and of pygmies of Central Africa 1400 to 1450 millimetres. The average horizontal cephalic index of the Semang is 78.9 (of their women 81.1), but this index is variable. This hardly differs from that of Bushmen. The cranial capacity of the Semang is 1348 cubic centimetres, which is greater than that of Bushmen, but still very low. The noses of the Semang are remarkably broad and flat, and the root is depressed; the chin is feebly developed. The cheek bones are broad, the ears are small, and very few of the men have any beard. The hair is spirally curled, the mouth is large, and the jaws are prognathous. They do not practise circumcision, nor do they tattoo their bodies.

They are nomads, use rock shelters or screens of leaves for habitations, coil themselves up to sleep on a heap of leaves without a pillow, make baskets and mats, eat anything and everything edible, sometimes consume raw flesh, produce fire by the friction of two pieces of wood, and cook their food in the most primitive manner. Their implements of stone are not ground or polished. They do not make canoes or rafts, but harpoon fish, and use baskets as nets.

Their marriage rites are of the slightest kind, they bury their dead entire, there is no trace of an actual cult among them, they make traps, pitfalls, and snares to catch game, their only domestic animal is the dog, they have no words for any numeral higher than three or four, and yet they are decorative artists. On ornaments for the heads of their women and on their quivers they trace geometrical patterns, outlines of animals, and figures believed to be charms.

Every assertion in these paragraphs applies to the Bushmen, and though there are some characteristics mentioned in addition to these, which are not applicable to those people, they are such as might have easily arisen from their different environments. These are that the Semang have round bright eyes, straight and far apart; their foreheads are low and rounded, and their cheeks are full; their heads are covered with frizzled hair more closely than those of Bushmen. They do not use skins or feathers for clothing, but make bark cloth, and wear girdles of fungus peel; their women wear magic combs, with patterns engraved on them. They do not make pottery; their musical instruments are all formed of bamboo; they use bedsteads made by lashing half a dozen thick bamboo poles together, and raising this platform on supports. They have no great fear of ghosts; and they have a dim belief in mythological personages, of whom Kari is their highest god, and is obeyed by Tuhan and Pie.

The chief difference is that the skin of the Semang is of a dark copper colour, or chocolate brown to shiny black. The skin of the Bushmen is yellowish brown, darker or lighter according to the locality frequented by them. In every case the shade of the skin seems to denote that it was acquired for a purpose of the greatest utility.

The Semang, living in forest gloom, required a very dark skin in order to conceal themselves. Their remote ancestors may have been of quite a different tint. The Bushmen on the arid plains and bare mountain sides of South Africa were of the colour that was most advantageous to them, for they were almost invisible at a short distance, so closely did the tint of their skin resemble that of the dried-up soil. Even their scantily covered scalps were of advantage to them in this respect. After rains when high grass sprang up, through which they could creep covered with a few tufts, or in a bushy country where they could adopt disguises, their colour would be a matter of little importance, but on the plains of South Africa it meant much, for it enabled them, by keeping to leeward and making use of anthills or boulders or shrubs, to stalk their prey until within reach of their arrows.

Is it not reasonable to suppose that the same guiding mind which coloured so many of the lower animals in accordance with their environment should have exerted its beneficent power in aid of savage man in the same way? In the far distant time when the ancestors of the Bushmen made their first appearance in South Africa, they may not have been of the same colour as they were when Europeans first saw them. In the early years of the nineteenth century the traveller Burchell observed that the Bushmen north of the Orange were differently coloured from those south of that river, though each section had the tint best suited to its surroundings. Many others have noticed this peculiarity since Burchell wrote, though no such accurate records were made as could be desired. This cannot be accidental. Of course when clothing came to be worn by primitive man such changes were useless, and consequently ceased to take place.

It is certain that the whole of the continent of Africa at a remote period was occupied solely by people of the Bushman race. In the gloomy forest west of the Albert Nyanza they are found by European travellers of the present day, and the descriptions of them given by Schweinfurth, Junker, Stanley, Casati, Von Wissmann, and many others could be applied with perfect accuracy to the Bushmen of the southern extremity of the continent.[6] They could not have migrated to that locality through a country inhabited by stalwart negroes, by whom they were always regarded as noxious animals, and as such destroyed, nor could the section of their race south of the Zambesi have moved down through Bantu tribes. They must have occupied the country alone for countless generations, before invaders of greater strength destroyed or absorbed all of their kindred except the puny remnant that was forced into the depths of the forest where they could not be pursued. Just so, at a later date, they were exterminated or absorbed all the way down to the Zambesi, except possibly a very few who made their escape across that river.

Of their existence far north in the continent there is ample proof, but only after other races had settled along the Mediterranean shore and peopled the valley of the Nile as far up as Abyssinia. As they could not have migrated there after the arrival of those races, they must have preceded them as inhabitants. There are references to them in the earliest histories that were written, though the dates were modern compared with the memorials of their existence that their stone implements supply in the southern part of the continent. The first of these in order of time shows us a long-established kingdom of Egypt, with a people far advanced in civilisation, and a form of hieroglyphic writing in extensive use. Nubia too had then a settled population. Many inscriptions in hieroglyphic characters have been translated into English,[7] and among them is more than one record of expeditions being sent southward to obtain Bushmen or pygmies to amuse the king by dancing before him.

Thus one official in the time of the fifth dynasty has placed his services on record. He states among other notable occurrences that he was sent to the land of ghosts, that is to the unknown country beyond the farthest part explored, to bring back a pygmy for the purpose indicated, and that he went by the way of Nubia to Punt, where he managed to secure one. How realistic this appears to South Africans who can remember the habits of the people living on the inland plateau in the middle of the nineteenth century. One of the commonest ways of many a farmer there to amuse his guests and himself was to get one of his Bushman herdsmen to dance or caper before them, with a promise of a big glass of brandy or a long piece of roll tobacco, of both of which every individual of his race was immoderately fond, if he did it well. On being told to dance springbok, he would bound into the air again and again with as much ease apparently as one of those animals, without quivering his body or seemingly bending his limbs. Then he would be told to dance baboon, when at once every joint of his body was in motion. The agility of the little imp, the elasticity of his limbs, the wonderful contortions that he was capable of displaying, gave as much delight to the South African farmer as a similar performance by another individual of the same race gave to Pharaoh, lord of Egypt, so many thousand years ago.

Statuettes of Bushmen, with the steatopygous protuberances well marked, have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, a conclusive proof that individuals of that race were known to the artists.

The historian Herodotus,[8] writing about 440 before Christ, mentions the pygmies, but they were then, no longer to be found in the valley of the Nile below Senaar, nor had they been seen there probably for a very long time. Evidently more stalwart people had occupied the valley, and the little hunters had either been exterminated or compelled to retire from the field. They were reported to be south of the desert, and though Herodotus never saw one, he obtained information that enabled him to give a most graphic description of them. He described them as dwellers in caves or caverns, as eating serpents, lizards, and other reptiles, as being the fleetest of foot of any people he had ever heard of, and whose language was like the squeaking of bats. It would be hardly possible to express in fewer words a description of the Bushman race.

But that is not all he related of the pygmies. He had been informed that five young Nasamonians, actuated by a spirit of inquiry and adventure, had set out on a journey of exploration from the coast of the country now called Tripoli, and having travelled first to the south and then to the west through the inhabited parts and the desert, reached a territory where they were made prisoners by men of small stature. These conducted them through extensive marshes to the bank of a great river flowing from west to east, in which were crocodiles. All the people they saw were pygmies, black in colour, addicted to magic, and speaking a language unintelligible to the Nasamonians. How the travellers escaped we are not told, but they succeeded in retracing their steps, and reached their homes again in safety. Probably the river which was the terminus of their journey was the Niger, a stream which baffled the curiosity of Europeans down to 1830, when it was traced to its mouth by the brothers Richard and John Lander. Herodotus believed it to be the upper course of the Nile, which he thought must flow for a great distance from west to east, as otherwise he could not account for the great volume of water in it.

In 1849 the traveller Barth on his way southward from Tripoli discovered many ancient engravings on rocks in a valley near Murzuk in Fezzan, approximate latitude 26° north, longitude 14° east of Greenwich. He has given copies of three of these, though they cannot be regarded as absolutely correct, as two are from sketches and the other from memory only. But they are unmistakably of the same class as Bushman engravings, the oxen represented being fairly well outlined, but without feet, as in South Africa, and the men having the heads of animals. Barth noticed that there were no engravings of camels, beasts of burden unknown there until long after the introduction of the ox, from which it may be assumed that these engravings were made at a time when the country was partly occupied by pastoral Hamitic tribes, but before the arrival of Arabs. The outlines of the figures were cut very deep into the rock.[9]

In Southern Algeria many engravings of animals on rocks have recently been discovered by Mr. G. B. Flamand, of the geological survey department, among others some of an extinct buffalo, whose bones are found in that region. These and some others must be of very great age. Mr. F. Foureau found similar engravings on the faces of masses of granite in the Sahara, all of a style and degree of art exactly corresponding to those in South Africa, and all made by punching holes or lines with sharp pieces of hard stone.[10]

From what has been stated it seems certain that at some very remote period not only the whole of Africa, but at least parts of Europe and Asia were inhabited by a race of savages identical with the Bushmen, though differing in colour and some other features in different localities. There must have been some particular locality from which they all spread out, but, as has already been stated, that locality cannot be ascertained with certainty. Dr. Peringuey believes it was in Africa, Professor Sollas thinks it was in Europe, and Monsieur A. de Quatrefages, the eminent French savant,[11] holds that it was in Asia. This seems to me the most likely, because it is more central in position, and from it waves of human migrations could more easily be thrown out westward to Europe, south-westward to Africa, and south-eastward to the Malayan peninsula and thence to Japan.

They may have extended over a much larger surface even than this, but they were not the only people then living. Other races were in existence in Europe and Asia, races more capable of improvement, though originally starting from the same low level. A struggle for the possession of the fairest tracts of country took place, and the more intelligent and consequently the stronger races were the victors. It was for the good of all the world that it should be so. It seems to be God's law that man must raise himself constantly higher, and he who cannot as well as he who will not conform to that law must pass out of existence. And these Aurignacians, Bushmen, and pygmies of the north, though gifted with artistic tastes, were an almost unimprovable race: already, in those far off times, they had attained the highest point of their progress, and had then become inert and stagnant. What progress has the little remnant that still remains made during the countless centuries that have since passed away? They have learned how to drill a hole through a stone, that is nearly all, and that is not sufficient to satisfy God's law of progress.

And so at some time, which cannot be ascertained, but must have been many thousands of years ago, a stronger and better equipped race entered the north-eastern extremity of the continent, and gradually spread along the Mediterranean coast and up the valley of the Nile, exterminating the earlier inhabitants, or possibly taking the young females and killing all the others. This went on until the country as far south as the great desert was filled with the people now usually termed Hamites, who were a little darker in colour than modern Europeans, and who had long black hair. The purest descendants of these people at the present day are believed by many ethnographers to be the Guanches in the Canary islands and the Basques in Spain, the Copts in Egypt and the Berbers in North-West Africa having a much larger mixture of alien blood in their veins.

After this, how long there are no means of ascertaining, negroes came into the continent, in all probability by way of the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, and spread out south of the desert and along the Atlantic coast. Wherever they went the Bushmen disappeared, the girls being absorbed, and all the others being destroyed.

Then other races invaded the continent, Arabs, various tribes of more distant Asiatics, among whom were the progenitors of the modern Bantu, some of whom settled in the north-east, and others pushed their way southward. All were deadly foes of the Bushmen, sparing only the young females, and so it came to pass that by the year 1500 of our era there were none of the ancient inhabitants left north of the Zambesi, except the few wretched little bands that had managed to take refuge in places so difficult of access that they could exist there almost undisturbed.

A question now arises whether there were any people whatever in Africa before the Bushmen. If there were, they must have been of even a lower type, or they would not have been displaced. Recent discoveries have made it certain that there were earlier races in Europe than the Aurignacian, and so it is possible that there may have been in South Africa. From the primeval home of man, wherever it was, successive waves may have been thrown off, and the Bushman wave was not necessarily the first. It may have been to a preceding one what succeeding ones were to it, that is it may have entirely destroyed or absorbed the other.

The evidence in favour of the existence of such a race may be stated. First and strongest is the abundance of primitive bouchers that have been found, implements cruder than those used by Aurignacians and probably by Bushmen of the same age.

Next there are frequent references by Bushmen in their folklore tales and legends to an older race, but this cannot be accepted as conclusive evidence, because no tradition can have passed down the enormous length of time that they certainly occupied the country. They probably did not migrate from the north in one horde, but in successive bodies, possibly with a long interval of time between the journeyings of each other, and in such a case the latest arrivals would regard those they found here as an older race. In this way the existence of the Ancient Shellmound Men can be easily accounted for. They were simply driven to the margin of the ocean, and compelled to live mainly upon the produce of the shore, by others of their own race who took possession of their former hunting grounds.

Another evidence, and of much greater weight, is the Bushman language, which possesses a verb of such marvellous power that it must be a very long way removed from primitive speech.

It is even possible that remnants of an earlier race than the Bushmen existed in South Africa until a very recent date.

There is a tradition among the people of a Bantu tribe in the Transvaal province that when their ancestors arrived on the banks of the Limpopo eight generations ago they found some savages there who were unacquainted with the use of fire and were without other weapons than natural stones and sticks.

The traveller and explorer Andrew A. Anderson thus describes some savages whom he saw in 1872 in the Kalahari desert:[12]

“At Narukus, on the Nosop river, I came upon a family of Bushmen, ten in number, of a different type to those I had in my service, evidently a lower caste. They have no forehead; the wool on their heads comes close down to the eyes, and the head falling back like a baboon; projecting mouth, small nose, a sort of hair or wool all over the chest, arms, and legs; then eyes are small and restless, watching every movement that is going on; the tallest man did not exceed four feet four; their skin was of a reddish brown. A few old skins, broken ostrich eggs, and bows and arrows, seemed all they possessed of worldly goods.

“They would have decamped and hid in the bush, but I sent some of my Bushmen and brought them back. I asked my own boys if they were then brothers, meaning of the same race; they repudiated the idea, and said they were monkeys not men, and told me there were very few ever seen, it was very seldom they ever came upon any; they eat carrion. They are evidently a distinct race from the Masara Bushmen[13] who are largely distributed over the desert. One of the women had a baby not much larger than a half-grown kitten; all of them were destitute of clothing.

“I find there are four types of Bushmen in this desert; the lowest is the one already described with no forehead and half wool and hair on their bodies and legs. The second is the wild Bushmen, who live in the mountains near the Orange river, who war on all men, but they are of good form, without hair. The third is the Masara Bush family, also of good proportions and of gentle dispositions, inoffensive and harmless, ready to help or do anything, and they make good servants. It was this tribe I had with me in my wanderings. The two girls I took in charge made good cooks, washed the clothes, and mended them. The fourth is much taller and well formed, great rascals, who cannot be trusted with anything; they inhabit the eastern portion of the desert and down by Langberg.”

The possession of bows and arrows by the degraded creatures here mentioned would seem to prevent their classification as members of an earlier race than the Bushmen, unless they had adopted these weapons from others.

This I believe is all the evidence to hand as yet for or against a race preceding the Bushmen in South Africa. It leaves the question uncertain, and any conjecture regarding it would be worse than useless, for more than likely it would be incorrect.

Note 1.—Mr. E. J. Dunn, an accomplished geologist, during many years of search in South Africa made a very large collection of stone implements, which he was good enough to allow me to inspect on several occasions. I was unable to detect any difference between the most ancient of these implements and the magnificent exhibits of chipped stones which I saw afterwards in the museums of London and Brussels, but of course I was unable to compare them side by side. Mr. Dunn was convinced that they were all of Bushman manufacture, and that some of them had lain undisturbed since the beginning, or nearly the beginning, of the present geological period, but he had found none in the later tertiary deposits. Most of the tiny perforated stones found by him were irregular in shape, and he could not ascertain to what use they had been put, though an old Bushwoman showed him how they were drilled, as well as how to attach a stone head to an arrow. A very interesting paper on The Stone Implements of South Africa, by Mr. Dunn, is to be found in the Transactions of the Philosophical Society during 1880.

Note 2.—Two short papers entitled Stone Implements in South Africa, with a sheet of illustrations, by Sir Langham Dale, Superintendent General of Education in the Cape Colony, were published in the Cape Monthly Magazine of October and December 1870.

Note 3.—A short paper entitled Notes in connection with Stone Implements from Natal, by John Sanderson, Esqre., of Durban, Natal, is to be found in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute for August 1878.

Note 4.—A lengthy paper on The Stone Age of South Africa was read by W. G. Gooch, Esqre., C.E., M.A.I., before the Anthropological Institute on the 11th of January 1881, and is published in Volume XI of the Journal. It is illustrated with numerous plates.

Note 5.—A very interesting volume on The Stone Implements of South Africa, with 258 illustrations, by J. P. Johnson, crown quarto, fifty-three pages, was published in London in 1907.

Note 6.—In a very interesting diary of a Tour through Bushmanland by the geologist Mr. E. J. Dunn, published in the Cape Monthly Magazine in December 1872, the following paragraph occurs: “July 11th.—Processfontein.—Let us examine the river bank close by. On the top, thickly sprinkled through the loose red sand, are black stone implements. They continue through the underlying clay, through a layer of hard carbonate of lime and sand, through a soft calcareous bed, and below this mixed with gravel formed from shale and resting on the bottom of shale and trap; that is to say, through a total depth of from nine to twelve feet of stratified deposits. The ancient character of these stone implements is made forcibly apparent by many of the older ones being quite honeycombed, rough, and grey, from sheer old age. There could be no better place than this for exemplifying the antiquity of the human race in this part of the world.”

Note 6.—According to Penck and Bruckner the glacial period in Europe covered from half a million to a million and a half years, and was the age of palæolithic implements, painting, and sculpture. There were four intensely cold, with three interglacial period, the last of which was of about one hundred thousand years duration, and in it the loess hunters lived. The carvings of late pleistocene fauna belong to this time, but man was in existence in the second interglacial period, as bouchers, the crudest form of stone implements, have been found in débris of that date. Penck maintains that pottery first appears in the neolithic period, which followed the melting away of the last sheet of ice. The writers upon this subject are very numerous, but nothing that can absolutely be relied on as incontrovertible has yet been established. Some, for instance, maintain that there were as many as six interglacial periods, others that there was only one. Penck's statement that pottery is first found in neolithic deposits does not apply to South Africa, for here, though in a very crude state, it is associated with palaeolithic implements. As to the cause of an ice age, the theory of Croll, worked out by the eminent astronomer Sir Robert Ball, that it was due to greater eccentricity of the earth's orbit, once generally accepted, is now as generally discarded, though nothing as plausible has been substituted for it.

Bushman digging stick.

Engravings by Bushmen on boulders near Lydenburg.
(From photographs kindly sent to me by Dr. Pyper, of Lydenburg.)

Picture of an eland.
(One of the best Bushman pictures. From a cavern in the Ksthlamba mountains.)

  1. This implement was at first made of oval or egg-shaped water-worn stone of any size from six or seven to nine or ten centimetres in diameter, by striking or chipping off one side diagonally, so as to produce a cutting edge. The round end opposite the edge could then be held in the hand, when the stone could be used as a cleaver or hacker, possibly as a weapon of offence or defence, or for various other purposes, such as extracting bulbs from the ground, cutting notches in trees to assist in climbing, or breaking into beehives. Very little skill was required to form such an implement, which it is generally believed was the first and for a very long period the only tool for every purpose used by man. It is found in all parts of the habitable world except Australia. Professor Sollas named it the boucher after Boucher de Perthes, who was the first to call attention to the implement. In course of time it was improved until it assumed the shape of an almond, and the best specimens were trimmed by chipping on both sides. At this stage it was frequently made of a piece of stone broken off a rock.
  2. See the paper on The Antiquity of Man in South Africa, by George R. Mackay, Esqre., in the pamphlet No. 2 of Belangrijke Historische Dokumenten, published by me in Capetown in 1896. See also the numerous proofs given by Mr. G. W. Stow in his volume on The Native Races of South Africa, edited by me, and published in London in 1905. The most important volume on the subject yet published is The Stone Age of South Africa as represented in the Collection of the South African Museum, by L. Peringuey, D.Sc, Director of the Museum, a book of two hundred and eighteen pages 178 by 102 millimetres in size, with many inset plates and twenty-eight pages containing two hundred and eleven illustrations, published in London and Capetown in 1911. It was prepared by a man thoroughly qualified for writing it, one who has brought the anthropological section of the museum to its present high standard of usefulness. Dr. Peringuey is of opinion that the savages who made and used the earliest known stone implements had their first home in Africa and spread thence into Europe.
  3. Flint is not found in South Africa, and the earlier implements here were made of indurated shale, the later of quartzite or other hard stone.
  4. See Ancient Hunters and their Modern Representatives, by W. J. Sollas, D.S. Cambridge, LL.D. Dublin, M.A. Oxford, Ph.D. Christiania, F.R.S., Fellow of University College, and Professor of Geology and Palæontology in the University of Oxford. An illustrated volume of four hundred and thirty-two pages 170 by 98 millimetres in size, published in London in 1911. This book describes man at a time when he used only rough stone implements and had not yet learned to till the ground. One chapter of thirty-six pages is devoted to the Bushmen of South Africa, and there are several other references to them in the volume. For the discovery of the skeletons see also Ancient Types of Man, by Arthur Keith, M.D., LL.D. Aberdeen, Conservator of Museum and Hunterian Professor, Royal College of Surgeons, England. An illustrated volume of one hundred and seventy pages 125 by 75 millimetres in size, published in London and New York in 1911. Chapter VI, The Grimaldi or Negroid Type in Europe.
  5. The characteristics of the Semang are taken from The Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, by Walter William Skeat, M.A., and Charles Otto Blagden, M.A., published in London in 1906.
  6. Some ethnographers are of a different opinion. For instance Deniker, in The Races of Man: an Outline of Anthropology and Ethnography, by J. Deniker, Sc.D., Chief Librarian of the Museum of Natural History, Paris, a crown octavo volume of 611 pages, says: “Several authors confound in one group of Pigmies the Negrilloes and the Bushmen. Nothing, however, justifies their unification. The colour of the skin in Bushmen is a fawn yellow, while in Negrilloes it is of a chocolate tablet or of coffee slightly roasted; the hair of the former is black and tufted, while the hair of the latter is like extended fleece and often of a more or less light brown. The face of the Bushman is lozenge-shaped, the cheeks are prominent, and the eyes are often narrowed and oblique, which traits are not met with at all in Pigmies. Steatopogy, a special trait of the Bushman race, has not been noted among Negrilloes except in individual cases among the women, and to a less degree than among Bushmen. At the same time the profile of the sub-nasal space, always convex in the Akkas according to Stuhlmann, is often to be observed among Bushmen. Thus, therefore, a slight degree of steatopogy in individual cases and the profile of the sub-nasal space would be the sole characters connecting the two races.” It is well to take the differences into consideration, but let any one who is at all acquainted with Bushmen read the account of Blasiyo by Mrs. Ruth B. Fisher in her volume On the Borders of Pigmy Land (demi octavo, 215 pages), and I feel sure that doubt will be dispelled. See further the marked steatopogy in the photographs reproduced in James J. Harrison's Life among the Pygmies of the Ituri Forest, Congo Free State.
  7. See Egypt in the Neolithic and Archaic Periods, continued as A History of Egypt from the End of the Neolithic Period to the Death of Cleopatra VII, b.c. 30, by E. A. Wallis Budge, M.A., Litt.D., Keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum. Eight crown octavo volumes, published in London in 1902.
  8. See History of Herodotus: a new English Version, edited with copious Notes and Appendices, illustrating the History and Geography of Herodotus, from the most recent sources of information, by George Rawlinson, M.A., Canon of Canterbury and Camden Professor of Ancient History in the University of Oxford. Four thick royal octavo volumes, published in London in 1880.
  9. See Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa: being a Journal of an Expedition undertaken under the Auspices of His Britannic Majesty's Government in the years 1849 to 1855, by Henry Barth, Ph.D., D.C.L. Five demi octave volumes, published in London in 1857 and 1858. The account of the discovery is given in chapter ix, volume i, and the pictures are on pages 197, 200, and 201.
  10. See the paper on Rock Engravings of Animals and the Human Figure, the Work of South African Aborigines, and their relation to similar ones found in Northern Africa, by Dr. L. Peringuey, in the Transactions of the South African Philosophical Society for 1906.
  11. See The Pygmies, by A. de Quatrefages, late Professor of Anthropology at the Museum of Natural History, Paris. I have only the English translation, an illustrated crown octavo volume of two hundred and sixty-five pages, published in London and New York in 1895. It contains seventy-five pages on the African pygmies.
  12. See Twenty-five Years in a Waggon, Sport and Travel in South Africa, by Andrew A. Anderson. An illustrated demi octavo volume (second edition) of four hundred and twenty-three pages, published in London in 1888. The extracts given here will be found on pages 210 and 218. They are not to be depended upon too closely, as he may have mistaken Katea for Bushmen.
  13. The Masarwa are of mixed Bantu and Bushman blood, the latter preponderating. They are numerous on the eastern border of the Kalahari desert.