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About the San people in the Baviaanskloof

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San cave in Baviaanskloof
San cave in Baviaanskloof
San cave in Baviaanskloof
San rock art in Baviaanskloof
San cave and rock art in Baviaanskloof

The San people who inhabited the Baviaanskloof have never had a happy relationship with the white people who invaded their land. This brief account is a summary from a more comprehensive report, which is recommended for reading. Since then a new report, issued in 2005, became accessible on the internet. The area has been inhabited for about 120,000 years. The hunter-gatherer San are regarded as direct descendants of the original dwellers. They were joined about 2000 years ago by the Khoekhoen (=Khoikhoi), herders of sheep and cattle who had migrated from the Botswana region, and who tended to live in the coastal areas. Some 1700 years ago Bantu-speaking agro-pastoralists arrived. In the 18th century European farmers settled in the Baviaanskloof, Langkloof, Cambria and the Gamtoos River Valley.

The arrival of colonial settlers sealed the fate of the San people. It became impossible for them to maintain their traditional way of life. Indigenous cattle were hunted to extinction, arable land was put to cultivation, and domestic livestock was introduced by the farmers. The San became servants and labourers on farms and merged with the wider population. Those who tried to maintain their lifestyle inevitably came into conflict with the farmers for stealing livestock. This led to organised sorties and bloody violence. By the end of the 19th century the San had ceased to exist as an independent people in this region.

The San people have left many artefacts in rock shelters and caves, including very many examples of rock art dating back to 6,400 years ago. About 80 sites are known, but it is estimated that there must be hundreds of rock painting sites in the Kouga and Baviaanskloof area. The majority of these still need to be found by a comprehensive survey, and protected from desecration.

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