Before Farming

Feasting on Kasteelberg?

Early herders on the west coast of South Africa

Before Farming (2004), 2004, (3), 1–17.

Abstract

The late 15th century Europeans who landed at the southern tip of Africa encountered herders whom they later named Hottentots. Currently, the majority view is that the ancestors of the Hottentots were Khoe-speakers who came from the middle Zambezi basin, and who introduced livestock to southernmost Africa 2000 years ago. Archaeological evidence for such an early migration of Khoe herders, however, has not been forthcoming. In the absence of evidence for an early Khoe migration, it has been argued that around 2000 years ago, small livestock may have arrived at the southern tip of Africa not in the company of a wave of immigrant herders, but through a process of ‘down-the-line’ trade, or gift exchange from one group of autochthonous hunter-gatherers to the next. Here, evidence from the west coast of South Africa is used to promote an idea, borrowed from European Neolithic studies, that indigenous hunter-gatherers may have initially adopted small livestock as a source of prestige and status. This proposition seems supported by evidence showing that in the later first millennium AD a prominent hill on the western Cape coast, Kasteelberg, was used as a location for mutton feasts.

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Sadr, Karim