- Early history of South Africa
history of South Africafrom earliest times to the beginnings of European colonization in the 17th century (the Dutch East India Companyexpedition under Jan van Riebeeckreached the Cape of Good Hopein 1652).
A major anthropological find in
1998at Sterkfonteinnear Johannesburgrevealed that hominids roamed across the Highveldat least three million years ago.
About a million years ago, "
Homo erectus" had emerged and ranged well beyond Africa, leaving traces in Europe and in Asia. Somewhere around 100,000 years ago, modern man replaced the "Homo erectus".
Bushmenprobably became the first modern people to migrate to the southern tip of the African continent. Skilled hunter-gatherers and nomads, the Bushmen had great respect for the land, and their lifestyle had low environmental impact, allowing them to sustain their way of life for years without leaving much archaeological evidence. Other than a series of striking rock paintings, the Bushmen left few traces of their early culture. Attempts to analyse the existing samples by radiocarbon datingindicate that the Bushmen lived in the area of modern-day South Africa at least as late as 25,000 years ago, and possibly as early as 40,000 years ago. Small numbers of Bushmen still live in South Africa today, making their culture one of the oldest continuously existing in the world, along with that of the Indigenous Australians.
Beginning around 2000 years ago, some Bushman groups acquired
livestockfrom further north. Gradually, hunting and gathering gave way to herdingas the dominant economic activity as the Bushmen tended to small herds of cattleand oxen. The arrival of livestock is thought to have introduced concepts of personal wealthand property- ownershipinto Bushman society. Community structures solidified, stratified and expanded, resulting in the development of chieftaincies.
The pastoralist Bushmen, known as
Khoikhoibegan to move further south, reaching as far as the cape now known as the Cape of Good Hope. Along the way they intermarried with the hunter-gatherer Bushmen, whom they referred to as "San", to the point where drawing a clear line between the two groups became impossible (prompting the use of the term " Khoisan"). Over time the Khoikhoi established themselves along the coast, while small groups of Bushmen continued to inhabit the interior.
1st millennium AD, the Bantu expansionreached Southern Africa from the Niger River Delta, reaching present-day KwaZulu-Natal Provinceby 500 ADFact|date=July 2007. The Bantu-speakers not only had domestic animals, but also practiced agriculture, farming wheatand other crops. They also displayed skill in working iron, and lived in settled villages. The Bantu arrived in South Africa in small waves rather than in one cohesive migration. Some groups, the ancestors of today's Ngunipeoples (the Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, and Ndebele), preferred to live near the coast. Others, now known as the Sotho-Tswanapeoples ( Tswana, Pedi, and Basotho), settled in the Highveld, while today's Venda, Lemba, and Shangaan- Tsongapeoples made their homes in the northeastern areas of South Africa.
Bantu-speakers and Khoisan mixed, as evidenced by rock paintings showing the two different groups interacting. The type of contact remains unknown, although linguistic proof of integration survives, as several
Bantu languages(notably Xhosa and Zulu) incorporated the click consonantcharacteristic of earlier Khoisan languages. Archaeologists have found numerous Khoisan artifacts at the sites of Bantu settlements.
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