San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert

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  • Topic: Botswana
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The San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert

A well-known foraging community in the southwest region of Africa is the San Bushmen. These hunting and gathering bands have lived in the Kalahari Desert region for thousands of years. The men of these communities are the primary hunters, who provide about 20 percent of the diet from the animals they kill. The women collect a various nuts, tubers, melons, and berries that provide the other 80 percent of the San diet (Nowak & Laird, 2010). The San live in one of the most marginal environments in the world and generally move around in bands when hunting or while moving around to find water or food about two to three times a week. Women can collect enough food in one day to feed their families for a full week, while men hunt two or three days a week. Vegetation is found in the same place every year, whereas animals are less reliably found in a particular location. Thus, women's knowledge about reliable locations to find food is respected and seriously considered. The rest of the time is spent in leisurely pursuits: visiting, playing, sleeping, and just enjoying each other's company (Lee, 1979). Like other foragers, have many hours of free time for leisure activities, including socializing with their kin and friends. San men vary widely in their skill at hunting, but different levels of success do not lead to differences in status. Self-deprecation and understatement are rigorously required of the hunter after a successful hunt. This modesty is evident from the moment he enters the village to relay his news. Although an energetic man might be a successful hunter, he is the "owner" of the meat only if the spear or arrow used to kill the animal was his. A man who does not excel at hunting can therefore be successful by giving an arrow he made to another hunter. If his arrow was used in the kill, he is considered the "owner" of the meat (Shostak, 1981). When looking generalized reciprocity from the...
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