Kung San Essay, Research Paper
The !Kung San tribe is located in isolated areas of Botswana, Angola, and Namibia in Southern Africa located near the Kalahari Desert. The !Kung people refer to themselves as the Zhun/twasi, which means the real people. When research was first done on the !Kung, it was done by anthropologists from Harvard during the 1960 s. These anthropologists did a long-term study on their daily life. When research was done, the anthropologists described the !Kung as relatively isolated, peaceful, and sharing. These people tried to define the !Kung as the ideal society, which is hardly true. These researchers turned out to be wrong when it was found out that the !Kung homicide rate is extremely high, and half of all the children were killed by disease. This is hardly an ideal society.
The !Kung s environment in which they live is considered to be harsh by outsiders. They live in a semi-arid region with some trees, but it is mostly brush and grass-covered low hills and flat spaces. Rainfall during the wet season varies from only five to forty inches. Temperature during the winter is below freezing, but during the summer it is well above one hundred degrees. The !Kung are able to survive their harsh environment by simply adapting to their surroundings. The !Kung live in villages which consist of ten to thirty people and are semi-permanent. Once their source of water dries up, the village has to carry their belongings to a new area where a reliable source of water can be found. The people of the villages live in grass-built huts with a fire burning in front of each hut all the time.
The !Kung are hunter-gatherers, with men mainly being responsible for providing the meat. Typical animals that the men hunt are wildebeest, gemsbok, giraffe, various reptiles, and birds. The men s game is distributed in the generalized reciprocity form. This means giving and taking the game without the use of money. The women of the !Kung provide the majority of the food. They spend an average of two to three days a week foraging. Some foods the women gather are mongongo nuts, baobab fruits, water roots, bitter melon, or !Gwa berries. The children stay back at the huts to be watched over by those remaining at the camp. Both men and women of the !Kung have a remarkable knowledge of which foods are edible, and of the medicinal and toxic properties of different species. Animals in the wild are very sparse for the !Kung and sometimes men have to travel a great distance to get it. When the animal is brought back, the meat is not the only part used by the !Kung. Hides are tanned for blankets and bones are cracked for the marrow.
I could not find much information on the actual religion of the !Kung, but I did find a lot about the !Kung spiritual world. The spiritual world plays a huge role in! Kung life. It can determine health, death, and even the abundance of food and water. The !Kung also believes that misfortune, death, or sickness can be directed at a person with invisible arrows shot by the spirits. The !Kung also have something called the healing dance. This is an attempt by the healers to stop the spirits from shooting the invisible arrows, or remove them, to stop these adverse things from happening. These healers can do this by using a powerful force which the !Kung call n/um. The healers get this n/um when they dance around a fire until they concentrate hard enough to put them into a trance state. When they get this n/um power, the healer can supposedly heal everyone sitting around the fire. Another dance the !Kung have is called the trance dance. This is more of a social event, which is very exciting. The !Kung people come together and renew bonds, laugh together, and sing and dance.
The !Kung is an egalitarian society, which contains no social groups with greater or lesser access to economic resources, power, or prestige. The only socioeconomic hierarchy is the !Kung comes with age, where adults control more resources and manufactured goods than children do. I could hardly find anything on the !Kung language. But what I did find is that the language is filled with sounds of clicks and pops, like in !Kung or in n/um.
Records indicate that hunter-gatherers have lived in Southern Africa for thousands of years. Around 2,000 years ago, the Bantu-speaking population began to migrate into the !Kung territory, and brought a very different way of life when compared with the !Kung. The !Kung had this exposure to the relative ease of village life, with cultivated gardens, herds of goats, and permanent housing. This all made it difficult for the !Kung not to change into the apparent easier way of life. Sooner or later, the !Kung succumbed to these changes and began to use the concept of wages for labor and role models from the outside world. There are still a few left that maintain the traditional !Kung lifestyle, but for the most part, change was inevitable.