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Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. and R. K. Hitchcock (1991). "On Subsistence and Social Relations in the Kalahari." Current Anthropology 32(1): 55-57. Discussion and Criticism of Wilmsen & Denbow, CA December 1990

While Wilmsen & Denbow demonstrate a long history of contact between Bushmen and their Bantu neighbours, they erect a strawman on two grounds: (1) no one had ever argued there was not contact history, and (2) how does this relate to whether the hunting-foraging lifestyle is an archaic way of life.
Using Wilmsen & Denbow's criteria would result in not only discarding the concept of hunting-gathering but also that of pastoralism. The Maasai and Turkana pastoralists have long been in contact with cultivators.
They ignore the biological concept of the ecological niche.
Different subsistence strategies and cultural reactions.
"Whether people are traditional pastoralists or hunter-gatherers is determined not on the basis of their degree of contact with others but through detailed investigation of their subsistence strategies, including, of course, their histories and their physical anthropology." (55)
Bushmen have a highly sophisticated set of adaptations - utilisation of materials for hunting and foraging abilities, for example, in exploiting plant resources in a variety of ways.
G/wi: roast melon seeds in hot sand. Melon flesh used as "soap".
Bushmen games, social activities and rituals such as trance & eland dancing.
Nxaro exchange system.
Land rights over watering holes amongst Bushmen.
Bushmen material culture depicted in rock art and described by 19th century travellers almost identical to that in 20th century ethnographic accounts.
"To deny them their ethnic identity by referring to them as lower-class certainly does not contribute to their cultural integrity." (55)
There are no primitive organisms. "In a similar way we may say that there are no primitive cultures but only cultures that have preserved archaic traits that continue to be adaptive in a particular ecological niche. Bushmen are thus good examples of people with a hunting-and-gathering life-style. It is because this lifestyle characterized much of our evolution that we have something to learn from Bushmen and other hunter-gatherers about life in the Palaeolithic." (56)


Robert Hitchcock

Wilmsen & Denbow: picture of social transformations in economic, political and social networks and systems in the Kalahari. Correct that there has been contact for c. 1500 years.
Provide two perspective: (1) Bushmen controlled trade in a region, and (2) in the other regions they were subordinates at the bottom of the socio-economic and political hierarchy.
Pointed to the Tyua as proof of (1), claiming they had exclusive control of the salt trade. Ethnographic studies of the Ndebele, Tyua and Ngwato, however, reveals that the Ndebele seized control of the trade at varying times during the 19th century and therefore the Tyua were not the only suppliers of salt.
Little archaeological evidence for social and economic stratification amongst the Tyua. The Tyua, however, were more politically complex with hereditary headmen - a feature shared by other Bushmen groups such as the Shua.
19th century literature gives accounts of hunting-gathering by Bushmen prior to the collapse of the hunting trade in the 1880s.
Wilmsen & Denbow claim the stone-walled ruins of Tora Nju were built by Bushmen, and also attribute to them the Sua pan v-shaped game trap.
However, Hitchcock's informants state they were constructed by Kalanga and therefore Hitchcock states that "oral history is somewhat equivocal as to which groups ultimately were responsible for specific sites" (56).
Wilmsen & Denbow guilty of numerous overstatements, such as claiming that many Tsodilo rock art paintings depict cattle, whereas only a small percentage does.


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