Ethnography and Condition of South Africa before A.D. 1505/Chapter 4

Chapter IV.

The Hottentots, termed by the Bantu of the eastern coast Amalawu, and by the Bantu of the south-western coast Ovaserandu.

The next section of the human species that claims the attention of a student of South African history is the people known to us as Hottentots. Long considered and termed aborigines by many writers, the not very remote ancestors of these people are now known to have been colonists in the same sense that the Dutch and English are, that is they came from another country and settled in those parts where they were found by the first European visitors, which localities had previously been occupied by earlier inhabitants. That this circumstance long remained unknown is a matter easy of explanation. Neither the Portuguese, nor the Dutch, nor the early English settlers took any trouble to make the necessary investigations, they were wholly occupied with other affairs, they found the Hottentots in the country, and that seemed sufficient for them to know.

Then, long before any real research was commenced, the Hottentots in those parts occupied by Europeans lost their own language and customs, and the blood of most of them became mixed with that of other races. Their traditions were forgotten, and no information of any value was to be obtained from them. At length the eminent philologist Dr. Bleek, by comparing the language of those who lived in secluded localities and retained their ancestral tongue, with the speech of sections of the inhabitants of Northern Africa, pronounced them to have close affinities. Already, in 1851, the reverend Dr. James Adamson had reported to the Syro-Egyptian Society a discovery he had made, that “the signs of gender were almost identical in the Namaqua and
Portrait of a Hottentot.
(Copy of Le Vaillant's Portrait of his faithful Klaas.)
The headdress and the strings of beads are European additions to the costume, otherwise the portrait is an excellent one.
the Egyptian, and the feminine affix might be considered the same in the Namaqua, Galla, and Old Egyptian.”[1] This was not known to Dr. Bleek, however, before he made the same discovery and others of a similar nature that placed beyond question the fact that the little group of Hottentots living on the western and southern shores of South Africa must have descended from men who once resided on or near the other extremity of the continent, though now the whole space between is filled by people the structure of whose speech is entirely different.

The question then arose how could the Hottentots, who differ almost as much from the present black inhabitants of Central Africa as they do from Europeans, have found their way to the south? Various answers were suggested, but as every one who attempted to solve this question regarded the black race as having occupied the whole of Central Africa from remote times, through whom migration would have been impossible, none were conclusive or satisfactory.[2] The mystery remained unsolved, like that which veils from our knowledge the cause and the manner of the early migrations of our own race.

A satisfactory answer has now, however, been given at least to part of what is implied in the question. Mr. George W. Stow, a geologist of good repute in the government service, who spent many years in research among the Korana clans, the purest Hottentots now existing—if some small sections of the Namaqua be excepted,—and who was aided in his investigations by missionaries and other inquirers, learned from the traditions of those clans that their ancestors had indeed moved down from the north, and that too at no very remote time. These traditions, collected in different localities and from individuals who could have had no intercourse with each other, carried back the history of the Hottentots to a period when they were residing in a region somewhere in the centre of the continent, from which they were driven by more powerful people, of a black colour, who came down from the north or north-east. They do not go beyond that point, and are so dim that they merely state the fact of a migration from a particular direction and its cause, being in this respect even less complete than the traditions of the Bantu concerning their coming down from the north. This is owing to the Hottentot migration being of an earlier date than that of the Bantu. Mr. Stow was of opinion that the particular Bantu who drove the Hottentots to the south were the ancestors of the very Betshuana with whom the Koranas in his time were at war, and this is highly probable.

His discovery of the migration, however, does not take the people here dealt with to the still distant north, where their language indicates that they once lived. But there is strong reason to believe that the race had its origin in the country now termed Somaliland, and was formed there by the intercourse of men of a light-coloured stock with women of Bushman blood.[3]

Herodotus mentions that a large band of Egyptian soldiers, said by him to be two hundred and forty thousand in number, deserted and marched into Ethiopia at a date corresponding to about 650 before Christ, and were settled by the Ethiopian king as far beyond Meroë as Meroë was beyond Elephantine. These people he termed the Automoli or Deserters, but by succeeding writers they are called the Sembritæ or Sebritæ. The locality assigned to them was in about 13° to 14° north latitude, Meroë being not far above the junction of the Atbara with the Nile, or in latitude 17° north. This may not be correct,[4] and certainly, if there was any foundation for the statement, the number of the deserters must be enormously exaggerated, but it shows that such migrations were not deemed impossible at that time.

It is therefore not unlikely that at a much earlier date a small body of men, perhaps soldiers, did make their way from Egypt to Somaliland, and took to themselves there women of the Bushman race, there being no other females for them to associate with. All the difficulties of the problem are solved by this supposition, and to support it there are the following facts:—

1. The Egyptian picture of the queen of Punt is seen to be a correct portrait.

2. The Hottentot language, in its structure North African, and yet containing the four Bushman clicks most easily pronounced, is at once accounted for.

3. The possession by the Hottentots of horned cattle and Syrian sheep covered with hair and having very large tails is immediately explained.

4. The peculiarly shaped drilled stones found recently in considerable numbers by Germans in Somaliland, and now to be seen in the museum at Berlin, which are exactly similar to those used by Hottentots in South Africa and to one in the British museum found in Central Africa, also support this view.

The original Hottentots were therefore mixed breeds, but judging by analogy, there must have been a second intrusion of males, who took consorts from the first cross and so obtained a preponderance of blood, or the newly formed race would not long have remained fertile. They must have been like the Griquas of modern times, who were originally half Hottentots, and who die out speedily if they intermarry only among themselves, but who have often large families if they take consorts of either of the races from which they have sprung.

How long these mixed breeds remained in Somaliland, and what caused them at length to leave that locality cannot be stated, but in all probability they were driven out by the arrival there of people more powerful than themselves. The date of their removal must have been earlier than the occupation of Central Africa by Bantu tribes, for they could not have passed through a region inhabited by any other people than Bushmen, especially as they had horned cattle and sheep with them. Their route was south-westward to the region of the great lakes, but whether they tarried at any place or places on the way, there are no means of ascertaining. Nor can it be even conjectured how long they remained at this new home, though probably it was a period of many centuries.

While they were there the Bantu tribes were increasing in the north and pushing their way down the continent, until they too reached the lake region, and then the Hottentots were compelled to move again. They were acquainted with the use of copper and iron, and were better armed than the Bushmen in advance of them, but they were too few in number to hold their own against the stalwart black men who had now come in contact with them. They had not the energy and alertness of the Bushmen either, for their mode of existence as herdsmen did not need the exercise of those qualities. Thus it is not likely that their resistance was protracted, if indeed they made any resistance at all. Before them the country was open, that is it had no other inhabitants than the pygmy aborigines, so they set out in quest of a place where they could live in safety. It is this point of their history that tradition reaches back to.

They turned their faces to the south-west. Eastward they could not go, because in that direction the Bantu were pressing down the coast, and probably were already far beyond the latitude they were in. Northward their way was blocked by the enemy they were endeavouring to escape from. Their choice of a route was thus limited, and even in the country apparently open to them, it was only to the south-west that they could proceed in safety. In migrations such as this, the line of least resistance is of course followed, but in the present instance that had to be determined by more than the usual considerations. It was not only the absence of enemies more powerful than themselves, and the physical features of the country to be traversed, its mountains and rivers, that the Hottentot fugitives had to take into account. The question was complicated to them by the existence of the tsetse fly in a broad belt of land to the south, which barred their retreat with cattle in that direction. That insect alone, whose sting is fatal to domestic animals, would have prevented them from crossing the Zambesi until they had travelled very far to the westward. The Bushmen could not oppose them with any chance of success, or they could not have journeyed with their women and children, much less have driven their flocks and herds, through the country, for no right is recognised by savages and barbarians but the right of the strong, even as men observe it to be among the lower animals.

Naturally, all details of the long journey have been lost, the only circumstance preserved by tradition being the point from which it commenced. That it must have been very slow after the danger of immediate pursuit was over, seems certain, however. Cows and sheep cannot be transferred hastily from one kind of pasture to another without heavy loss, and there could have been no motive for hurrying on when only Bushmen were in the neighbourhood. Probably many years were spent at each favourable halting place, though the design of a continued advance, once initiated, was never entirely lost sight of.

At length the shore of the Atlantic was reached, and then the wave of migration turned to the south. In some parts of this course, after the twentieth parallel of latitude is passed, the pasture is better at a distance inland than on the margin of the sea. The rainfall along the coast, owing to the prevailing winds being offshore, is trifling compared with that of the thunderstorms in the interior, and the sandy soil does not long retain moisture. It is an arid, sterile belt of land, destitute of running streams and fountains, where in places the sand hills blown about by the wind are constantly changing their form. It is traversed with difficulty even by those who are acquainted with the localities where scanty pasture and a little water are to be found. Here therefore the migrating horde, which must have been broken up into small parties, moving on slowly at long intervals, turned inland for a short distance and then kept on towards the south, but as soon as possible it moved westward again and pursued its course along the terrace nearest the ocean. Did the wanderers expect that the shore would somewhere turn and lead them to a fairer land, where they could rest at last? No one can tell. Perhaps they themselves did not know of an object in view, but were merely impelled onward by a ruling desire for change. They were not now driven forward by enemies stronger than themselves, but still they advanced. Leaving a section behind in the territory now termed Great Namaqualand, they crossed the Orange river and entered the present Cape province.

During their march they must have had constant conflicts with the Bushmen, the only earlier inhabitants of the land, who could not look on unmoved while the country was thus invaded. These puny savages were capable of causing much mischief, though they could not prevent the strangers from either advancing or taking possession of the choicest pastures along the shore. The Hottentots did not regard them as human beings having rights, but simply as noxious animals to be got rid of as quickly as possible. In one respect, however, this was not the case. Young girls of Bushman blood, when captured, were detained and incorporated as inferior members of the families of those who slew their kindred without the slightest feeling of remorse. In this manner, probably from the first contact of the two peoples, a mixture of blood took place, which, though slight in the beginning of the journey from the centre of the continent, was considerable by the time the intruding horde reached the Cape promontory. On the other hand, there was no intercourse between Bushmen and Hottentot women, either before or after this period. Their arrival at the southern shore of Africa must have preceded that of the first Portuguese explorers by only a very few centuries, certainly not more than two or three at most, and probably even less.

At different stages between the mouth of the Orange river and Table Bay sections of the horde were left behind, each of which took a tribal name, and thereafter carried on war with its nearest neighbours on its own account. As the majority of the Bushmen who had lived at these localities were either exterminated or forced to retreat farther inland, the incorporation of girls necessarily almost ceased, so that each tribe of Hottentots from north to south was of purer blood than the next in advance. Nearly all of the former dwellers on the coast, the people who raised the great shell heaps that cannot now be distinguished from natural mounds unless the materials of which they are composed are discovered by accident, must have been cut off at this time. A few only may have survived in situations favourable for concealment, and at a distance from localities where the invaders settled. All the others disappeared, and then dust and sand accumulated on the mounds, and plants began to grow upon them, and when centuries went by all traces of them were lost to view.

When the southern point of the continent was reached, the migratory movement did not end, but, turning eastward, a portion of the horde continued its march, still keeping close to the shore of the sea. At no point except the one mentioned on the long journey, which may have occupied several centuries, was any attempt made to penetrate the interior country. Yet these people did not possess the skill to make even a rough canoe, and only when they were without cattle resorted to catching fish for food. It was therefore not from any attachment to the ocean or from any benefit derived directly from it that they continued their course along its margin, but from the pastures, owing to the greater rainfall, being more luxuriant in its neighbourhood than farther inland.

The character of the country had now entirely changed. The south-east wind sweeping over the Indian ocean reached the land laden with moisture, which was deposited in abundance on the lowest terrace, in decreasing quantities on each succeeding plateau, and least of all on the vast plain in the interior. The farther to the north-east one proceeds the more is this perceptible, until the rich vegetation of the shore forms a striking contrast to the desert belt in the same latitudes on the Atlantic side.

As band after band was thrown off along the southern and south-eastern coast, and Bush girls were continually incorporated, the most advanced party at length probably contained more Bushman than pure Hottentot blood. It was so gradually absorbed, however, that it was assimilated, for these little tribes preserved the Hottentot customs and mode of living, and carried on hostilities with the Bushmen just as if they were wholly unconnected with those savages. Along this coast the Hottentots were never so numerous as along the shore of the Atlantic south of the Orange river. There were wide gaps between the various tribes or distinct bands, which were occupied solely by the aboriginal hunters. At the beginning of the sixteenth century of our era the Hottentots extended thus in a thin line, or rather a series of dots at varying distances from each other, from Walfish Bay on the western coast round to the mouth of the Umtamvuna river on the south-eastern, beyond which there is no indication that they ever advanced.

The cause of their being so thinly scattered along this line was their depending almost entirely upon milk for subsistence. They needed a large number of cows and ewes, and consequently a great extent of pasture for each separate community, as the cattle belonging to all the families composing it were herded together for reasons of safety, and were driven from place to place according to the state of the grass. As soon as a community became so large that this was impossible or even inconvenient, a swarm was of necessity thrown off, and moved to a distance in order to acquire a new pasture of sufficient extent for its use. The offshoot might for a time consider itself a dependency of the parent band, or a clan of the tribe, but the tendency would soon be towards perfect independence. There was no other way of extension, for a party moving needed to be strong enough to protect itself and its cattle from Bushmen and ravenous animals. For a. single family, or even two or three families together, to settle separately on the pasture of a tribe and to keep up connection with the main body was not possible. Each Hottentot community was thus compact, but limited in number to a few hundred or at most to a couple of thousand souls. It occupied a single village, or kraal as now generally termed.

From the neighbourhood of the kraal the Bushmen were cleared off as far as possible, but in many instances they still occupied the mountains and seized every opportunity to plunder cattle from the intruders and to put any stray individual of either sex to death. The feeling between the two peoples was in general one of intense animosity, though there were occasional instances of a compact between a Hottentot tribe and the Bushmen in its neighbourhood, under which the former provided food in times of great distress, and the latter acted as scouts and gave warning of any approaching danger. This was only the case, however, when the Bushmen were so reduced in number as to be incapable of carrying on war.

The great interior of the country was undisturbed by the intruders, but it did not always offer an asylum to the dispossessed people. Each little band of Bushmen had there its own hunting grounds, and resented intrusion upon them as much by individuals of kindred blood as by strangers. Then they were strongly attached to the localities in which they had lived from childhood, and in many instances preferred to die rather than abandon them. Still there were some who, under exceptional circumstances, made their wav to localities far distant from the tracts they had lost, and established themselves anew on a wild mountain or an arid plain, dispossessing previous occupants as they had themselves been dispossessed of their former abode.

Such was the manner of the occupation of the South African coast by the Hottentots, and such were the effects of the invasion upon the earlier inhabitants.

The Hottentots termed themselves Khoikhoi, men of men, as they prided themselves upon their superiority over the savage hunters, and in fact they were considerably more advanced towards civilisation than the Bushmen, though a stranger at first sight might not have seen much difference in personal appearance between the two. A little observation, however, would have shown that the Bushmen were not only smaller and uglier, but that their faces were broader, their eyes not nearly as full and bright, their lobeless ears rounder in shape, and their chins less prominent. Their wild expression also was not observed in the Hottentot face.

The investigations of the late Dr. Bleek have shown that the languages of the two races were not only different in the words, except in such as were adopted by Hottentots from captive Bushman girls, but that they varied in construction. That of the Hottentots was of a high order, being of the same class as our own, and following grammatical rules as strictly as English does. Its vocabulary, however, was of a low type, as three-fourths of the syllabic elements began with clicks, though these sounds were not so extensively used as by Bushmen and did not vary so much, being only four in number. Further it was almost free of deep guttural or croaking sounds, except where there had been a large infusion of Bushman blood. Some words were composites, but most were monosyllables, as were all the roots, which invariably ended with a vowel. The sound of the liquid consonant l was wanting. In many instances the same word had different significations, according as it was pronounced. Thus ǃkaib pronounced in the lowest tone meant obscurity, pronounced in a medium tone meant a district or locality, and pronounced in the highest tone meant a particular article of clothing.[5]

The nouns were divided into eight classes, three masculine in the singular, dual, and plural numbers, two feminine in the singular and plural numbers, and three common in the singular, dual, and plural numbers. The masculine denoted not only living creatures of the male sex, but whatever was large or prominent. The class was indicated by a suffixed letter, thus masculine khoip a man, feminine khois a woman, common khoi a person of either sex. There were three case forms: nominative, objective, and vocative, thus taras, a woman, was declined as follows:

Singular Dual Plural
Nominative taras tarara tarati
Objective tarasa tarara tarati
Vocative tarasi tararo taraso

The genitive or possessive and the dative were not formed by changes at the end of the noun itself, but by words corresponding to our prepositions, which, however, were placed after the noun, as the language did not admit of prefixes even of this kind.

The adjectives were as simple as in modern English, for they were not inflected to signify either gender, number, or case. They had the defect of not being changed in form to express degrees of comparison, and this had to be done in a roundabout way by the addition of other words less expressive than our more, most, less, least.

The system of notation was decimal, and was perfect at least up to a hundred, though it does not follow that every individual could count to high numbers. It was based upon counting by fingers, as is shown by the word for five meaning also the palm or full hand.

The personal pronouns were inflected for number and case, and except the first, I, for gender also.

The verb was as perfect as in any of the languages of Europe. Its root was the second person singular of the imperative mood, and its tenses were formed by means of an auxiliary. It had more forms than the English verb, as is shown by the following example: ordinary mu to see, relative muba to see for, reflective musin to see oneself, causative mukei to cause to see, reciprocal muku to see one another, diminutive muro to see a little, negative mudama not to see; passive voice muké to be seen. It had all our moods and tenses. It was not inflected to express number or person, which were indicated by the noun or pronoun with which it was connected, just as in our common Cape Dutch.

Now here is a sex-denoting language of the same class as the languages of Europe and North Africa, and yet full of those primitive sounds called clicks. It forms a strong contrast to the speech of the Bantu in the same continent, though that is of a high order too. How can it have arisen? There is only one way in which this can be satisfactorily explained, and that is by men of a light-coloured North African race consorting with women of Bushman blood. There is reason to believe that the men were more numerous than the women, as will be pointed out elsewhere, and therefore the form of their language was retained, while many Bushman words and the four Bushman clicks least difficult to pronounce were incorporated in it. In exactly the same manner, when the Amaxosa took modern Hottentot women to live with them, many Hottentot words and three of the Hottentot clicks were adopted, but the structure of the Xosa language underwent no change whatever. The new words were simply made to fall in grammatical line with those previously in use.

There were almost as many dialects as there were tribes, but these varied less than the forms of English spoken in different counties before the general diffusion of education from books. Towards the close of the seventeenth century an interpreter belonging to a tribe in the neighbourhood of the Cape peninsula, when accompanying Dutch trading parties, conversed without difficulty with even the most distant from his own home. This is a proof that the occupation of the country by these people and their spreading out along the coast must have been very recent. Unwritten languages change rapidly, especially in the vowel sounds, and tribes having no communication with each other, as for instance the Namaqua and the Gonaqua, in the course of only eight or ten generations would have developed differences greater than were found to exist. Another proof of their recent arrival is their acknowledgment down to the middle of the nineteenth century of the head of the Geiǁkhauas as superior to all the other chiefs in rank, on account of his being the lineal representative of their ruling family when they crossed the Kunene river on their way southward.[6]

No difficulty has been experienced by European missionaries in reducing the Hottentot language to writing, and some religious literature has been printed in it. Words to express abstract ideas unknown before were formed from the roots of verbs and adjectives, and were at once understood by every one, just as meekness and meekly would be understood by any Englishman who had only heard the word meek used before. The reverend Mr. Waudres, Rhenish missionary in Great Namaqualand, was kind enough to write to me how this is done. He says to the root of the verb or the adjective nothing more is necessary than to add the gender suffixes, and the word is at once understood. Thus, to the verb gowa to talk, if the masculine suffix b is added, the word gowab is obtained, which means language. If to the adjective ama, true, the same suffix is added, amab the truth is obtained.

The Hottentot language is now rapidly dying out, as the descendents of the people who once used it have long since learned Dutch, and nearly all have forgotten their ancestral speech. A large admixture of blood—European, Asiatic, and particularly negro—that took place during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, contributed to this result, as well as the state of servitude to which many of these people were reduced. At the present day the language is only in use by some of the Korana clans along the Hart river, and by some of the clans in Great Namaqualand, and even they are year by year employing it less and less.

The manner in which the various Hottentot tribes were formed has already been explained. They usually took their distinctive titles from the name of the chief under whose guidance they commenced to lead a separate existence, by adding to it the suffix qua, which signified those of or the people of, thus the Cochoqua were the people of Cocho, the Gonaqua the people of Gona. Sometimes, however, they called themselves after some animal, as the springbucks, the scorpions, or from some accidental circumstance, as the honey eaters, the sandal wearers. Many of the tribes consisted of several clans, more or less loosely joined together, though all tending to become independent in course of time. The tribes were almost constantly at war with each other, the object being to obtain possession of the cattle and girls of the opponent, and often the weaker ones were reduced to great poverty and distress. New combinations would then be formed, and the victors of one year frequently became the vanquished of the next. These internecine quarrels were not attended with much loss of life. There was never a slaughter of the whole of the conquered people, as was the case when a band of Bushmen was surrounded and overpowered.

Every tribe had its own hereditary chief, whose authority, however, was very limited, as his subjects were impatient of control. The succession was from father to son, and in the absence of a son to brother or nephew. The heads of clans not long formed recognised the supremacy in rank of the head of the community from which they had branched off, who was accounted the paramount chief, but unless he happened to be a man of more force of character than the others, he exercised no real power over them. The petty rulers, or heads of clans, were commonly jealous of each other, and only united their strength in cases of extreme danger to all. The government was thus particularly frail, and a very slight shock was sufficient to break any combination of the people into fragments. The powerful religious sentiment which binds the people of a Bantu tribe so strongly to their ruler was altogether wanting in a Hottentot community. The chief was not regarded as a divinity or the descendant of a divinity, but as a mere man like any of his followers. Riches commanded more respect than rank, and a man possessed of many cattle exercised as much influence as the nominal ruler, for the right of individuals to hold property apart from the community was recognised.

There were customs which had the same force as laws in civilised societies, and any one breaking them was subject to punishment. In such cases the whole of the adult males of the kraal discussed the matter and decided what was to be done, the chief, unless he happened to be a man of unusual strength of character, having little more to say than any one else. The moral code and the proportion of criminality ascribed to misdeeds were naturally very different from those of Europeans.

The principal property of the Hottentots consisted of horned cattle and sheep, of, which large numbers were possessed by some of the wealthiest tribes. They had great skill in training oxen to obey certain calls, as well as to carry burdens, and bulls were taught not only to assist in guarding the herds from robbers and beasts of prey, but to aid in war by charging the enemy on the field of battle. Under their training in short these animals were brought to recognise without fail the voices and even the gestures of their own masters, and to display almost as much intelligence as dogs. But the power to do this was not possessed by every one, it was only individuals of infinite patience who could educate cattle to this extent, and they were obliged to begin with very young calves.

Although capable of being thus highly trained, the ox of the Hottentot was an inferior animal to that of Europe. He was a gaunt, bony creature, with immense horns and long legs, but he was hardy and well adapted to supply the wants of his owner. He served instead of a horse for carrying burdens and for riding purposes, being guided by a bridle composed of a riem or thong of raw hide attached to a piece of wood passed through the cartilage of his nose, which served as a bit. Instead of a saddle a sheep skin was thrown over the back of the animal and was fastened by a riem drawn tight round the body. There were no stirrups, and from the skin of the ox being much looser than that of the horse, as firm a seat was not possible. Still both sexes rode these animals with ease, having been accustomed to do so from childhood.

The sheep possessed by the Hottentots were covered with hair instead of wool, were of various colours, and had long lapping ears and tails four or five kilogrammes in weight. The tails were composed almost entirely of fat, which could be melted as easily as tallow, and which was relished as a dainty, just as it is to-day by many Europeans, who prefer it to butter. It was also largely used by the Hottentots to rub their bodies with, and to make their skin karosses flexible. Animals possessing such appendages were of course hardier than European sheep, and could exist much longer on scanty herbage in seasons of drought. The milk as well as the flesh was used for food. Children were taught to suck the ewes, and often derived their whole sustenance from this source.

The only other domestic animal was the dog. He was an ugly creature, his body being shaped like that of a jackal, and the hair on his spine being turned forward; but he was a faithful, serviceable animal of his kind.

The milk of their cows was the chief article of the diet of the Hottentots. It was preserved either in skin bags or in vessels made by hollowing a block of wood, and after coagulation formed healthy and nutritious food. It was drunk either by using a tortoise shell as a basin or by sucking a little swab that had been dipped into it. The bags and vessels used were commonly in a filthy state, as indeed was everything else in and about the huts, for in this respect the Hottentots were only slightly superior to Bushmen. Though so fond of flesh that they devoured seals and dead whales that washed ashore, even in a putrid state, they did not kill horned cattle for food, except on occasions of revelry and feasting, but they ate all that died a natural death.

Their usual method of preparing meat for food was to cut it in long narrow strips, which were laid upon embers and heated through rather than cooked, then one end was taken into the mouth, and a piece was cut off with a knife or an assagai close to the lips. The intestines of animals, after hardly any cleansing, were consumed in the same manner. Sometimes, however, flesh was boiled in earthenware pots, though it was not much relished in that way.

Salt was not used to flavour food or to preserve flesh or fish, though the Hottentots relished it by itself just as Europeans do sugar. They obtained it without difficulty from the numerous saltpans in the country. They rolled their meat when grilled in the ashes of wood, which European travellers who have tried it assert to be a fairly good substitute for salt.

In addition to milk and the flesh of oxen and sheep, of which they rejected no part except the gall, the food of the Hottentots consisted of the flesh of birds and wild animals of every kind, great and small, obtained in the chase, locusts, tortoises, and various descriptions of wild plants and fruits. A variety of articles of diet consumed at the same time, such as civilised people consider necessary for their comfort, is not by any means essential to the enjoyment of barbarians. The Hottentots often lived for months together upon milk alone, without ever becoming weary of it. When flesh was to be had, it was consumed without any accompaniment. Agriculture, even in its simplest forms, was unknown to them, so that they had neither grain of any kind to make bread with nor garden produce.

Like the Bushmen, they knew how to make an intoxicating drink of honey, of which large quantities were to be had in the season of flowers, and this they used to excess while it lasted. Like those savages also they were acquainted with that powerful intoxicant dacha or wild hemp, and whenever it was procurable they smoked it with a pipe made of the horn of an antelope. That its effects were pernicious was recognised by themselves, still they could not refrain from making use of it. A few puffs of the smoke produced great exhilaration and pleasant sensations, which were shortly followed by stupor. It was fortunate for them that they were too careless to preserve a quantity of it for use at a future time, or it would have destroyed them altogether, so that as far as the use of dacha was concerned, it was well that they lived only for the day, and thought not of the morrow.

When they rose in the morning and the cows and ewes were milked and driven out to pasture they partook of food, after which they usually laid down again for an hour or two, as their ideal of happiness was a state of repose. If they had only a sufficient number of cattle to provide them with milk to live upon, there was nothing to impel them to labour, and no reason why they should exert themselves. The hours passed by in idleness, and at sunset the principal meal of the day was taken, when the men ate first and the women and children afterwards. The men were prohibited by custom from the use of several articles of diet, for instance, they would not eat hares' flesh or drink sheep's milk, but the women and children—including the boys before being initiated into the state of manhood—could use both. On the other hand the men were at liberty to eat moles, which the women were not. They could give no reasons for these restrictions of diet to the different sexes, except that the custom had come down to them from their forefathers.

Their women were more fully clothed than those of the Bushmen, but the men were usually satisfied with very little covering, and had no sense of shame in appearing altogether naked. The dress of both sexes was made of skins, commonly prepared with the hair on. When removed from the animal, the skin was stretched out and cleansed with scrapers of any fleshy matter adhering to it, was then dried, and was afterwards rubbed with grease and worked between the hands till it became soft and pliable. The ordinary costume of a man was merely a piece of jackal skin suspended in front and a little slip of prepared hide behind. In cold weather he wrapped himself in a kaross or mantle of furs sewed together with sinews. The women wore at all times a head-dress of fur, an under apron, and a wrapper or a girdle of leather strings suspended from the waist. In cold weather, or when carrying infants on their backs, they added a scanty kaross. Children wore no clothing whatever. Round their legs the females sewed strips of raw hide like rings, which, when dry, rattled against each other, and made a noise when they moved.

Both sexes ornamented their heads with copper trinkets, and hung round their necks strings of shells, leopards' teeth, or any glittering objects they could obtain. Ivory armlets were worn by the men. From earliest infancy their bodies were smeared with grease, and rubbed over with clay, soot, or powdered buchu, and to this partly may be attributed the stench of their persons. The coat of grease and clay was not intended for ornament alone. It protected them from the weather and from the vermin that infested their huts and clothing.

Their dwellings were constructed by planting long pieces of supple undressed wood in the ground, and bending the upper ends inward, where they were attached by thongs to short pieces laid horizontally, so that the whole frame resembled approximately a rough hemisphere. Withes were then twisted round the structure and tied on outside, and the whole was covered with rush mats. The huts were so low that a tall man could not stand upright inside, and they had but one small opening through which the inmates crawled. In cold weather a fire was made in a cavity in the centre. The huts of a kraal were arranged in the form of a circle, the space enclosed being used as a fold for cattle. They could be taken to pieces, placed on pack-oxen, removed to a distance, and set up again, with very little labour and no waste. The furniture within them consisted merely of mats to sleep on, skins, weapons, cooking utensils, wooden milk dishes, and ostrich egg shells used for carrying and containing water. Unlike the Bushman, who doubled himself up to sleep on a little grass, the Hottentot stretched himself at full length on a mat in his hut.

The weapons used by the Hottentots in war and the chase were bows and arrows, sticks with clubbed heads, and assagais. Mr. Stow asserts that at the time of their arrival in South Africa they were unacquainted with the use of
A Hottentot hut.
(From a Drawing by William J. Burchell, Esqre.)
poison, but if that be correct they certainly acquired a knowledge of it shortly afterwards. It was not used by them so extensively, however, as by the Bushmen. The bow was larger and the arrow longer than those of the primitive inhabitants, still without poison the weapon would have been useless against large game. The assagai of the Hottentot was a light javelin, which could be hurled with precision to a distance of thirty or forty metres. The knobkerie, or clubbed stick, was almost as formidable a weapon. It was rather stouter than an ordinary walking cane, and had a round head six or eight centimetres in diameter. Boys were trained to throw this with so accurate an aim as to hit a bird on the wing at twenty or thirty metres distance. It was projected in such a manner as to bring the heavy knob into contact with the object aimed at, and antelopes as large as goats had their legs broken or were killed outright with it.

The Hottentots were acquainted with the art of smelting iron, but were too indolent to turn their knowledge to much account. Only a few assagai and arrow heads were made of that metal. Horn and bone were ready at hand, were easily worked, and were commonly used to point weapons. Stone was also employed by some of the tribes for this purpose, but not to any great extent, though weights for digging sticks were formed of it by them as by the Bushmen. Masses of almost solid copper were obtained in Namaqualand, and this metal was spread over the neighbouring country by means of barter and war, but was not used for any other purpose than that of making ornaments for the person.

At different places occupied by the Hottentots along the coast a very few polished stone implements have been found. They consist of arrow heads whose points have been ground, and disks like quoits with sharp edges, which are supposed to have been held in the hand and used in combat. No European has ever seen a Hottentot in possession of such implements, or ever heard them spoken of, and any remarks concerning them can only be founded on conjecture. But few as is the number of such ground stones as yet discovered, they are evidence that individuals, if not tribes, were in the neolithic stage of progress, though iron was in use at the same period.

The Hottentots manufactured earthenware pots for cooking purposes, which, though in general clumsily shaped and coarse in appearance, were capable of withstanding intense heat. The art was lost soon after Europeans came in contact with them and before observations upon their habits were made correctly and placed on record, so that it is only from specimens of their handiwork recently found that an opinion can be formed of the quality of such wares. Pots were useful at times, but were not much needed by people who seldom ate boiled food, nor were earthenware drinking vessels required where ox horns and ostrich egg-shells served that purpose. This may account for the small quantity and the coarse description of the utensils manufactured. Some of the pots found in recent shell heaps along the sea-shore have a number of holes neatly drilled in them, often near the bottom, probably to make them serve as strainers.

Hottentot weapons of war and the chase.
(From a drawing by William J. Burchell, Esqre.)

  1. The reverend James Adamson, D.D., first clergyman of the presbyterian church in Capetown, and for many years professor of mathematics in the South African college, was a man of great ability and of high education. Among the subjects to which he devoted much attention was philology, though he published nothing upon that subject except his addresses at the meetings of literary associations. After a residence of twenty-two years in Capetown, he removed to the United States in 1850, but ten years later returned to South Africa, and remained here until his death on the 16th of July 1875, at the age of seventy-nine years.
  2. For instance, among the theories put forward in sober earnest to account for their origin is one that a party of light-coloured men may have been left behind on the South African coast by an ancient circumnavigating expedition; but in that case how did the horned cattle and sheep get here?
  3. Some recent writers believe the Hottentots to have sprung from a cross between Bantu and Bushmen, but that cannot be the case. The Masarwa are of this origin, and they bear no resemblance to Hottentots. The language difficulty is also sufficient to disprove it. The Hottentots are lighter skinned than Bushmen, some females of pure blood among them have even a tinge of red in their cheeks.
  4. There is no mention of the Automoli in Egyptian history, nor any trace in the hieroglyphic inscriptions so far deciphered of the desertion of such an army. But nations do not usually record their own disasters.
  5. I am personally entirely unacquainted with the Hottentot language, and have taken the information upon it given here from Dr. Bleek's Comparative Grammar of South African Languages, Eléments de la Grammaire Hottentote by H. de Charencey, and A Grammar and Vocabulary of the Namaqua-Hottentot Language by the reverend Henry Tindall, Wesleyan missionary, a demi octavo volume published at Capetown in 1857. The first chapter of Dr. Theophilus Hahn's Tsuni-ǁGoam, the Supreme Being of the Khoi-Khoi, is exceedingly interesting in this respect, and his conclusions drawn from the structure of the language and its vocabulary fit in most accurately with the origin of the race and its migration from North-Eastern Africa as given in the preceding pages.
  6. The Geiǁkhauas claim to be the oldest of the Hottentot tribes, and to be in a sense paramount over all the others. Dr. Theophilus Hahn asserts that this claim is well founded, and that it was recognised by a clan of the Koranas not many years ago. The Geiǁkhauas were living only two days' journey from Capetown at the close of the seventeenth century, but about 1811 as many of them as were left removed to Great Namaqualand. They are the people who lived at Gobabis under the chief Amraal until his death in 1865, and later under the chief Andries Lambert.