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!Kung Bushman Bands

  • Lorna Marshall


In this paper I describe the band organization of the !Kung Bushmen. The !Kung word n//a besi was translated by the interpreters as ‘people who live together’. I use the word band for n//a besi, meaning by band, in this connexion, the grouping in !Kung social organization which is above the family grouping. It is a grouping precisely of the people who live together.



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page 325 note 1 The four clicks of the !Kung language are symbolized as follows: ! dental; ≠ alveolar; ! alveolar palatal; !! lateral.

page 325 note 2 This map is based on two maps made for us in the field: one by Charles Handley, Jr., Assistant Curator, Division of Mammals, The Smithsonian Institution; the other by John Marshall. We wish hereby to express our thanks to both.

page 325 note 3 Although the conditions described prevailed in general until recently, changes are now occurring at more rapid rate. Mr. Claude V. McIntyre has been appointed Bushman Affairs Commissioner in South West Africa. He will have residence in the Nyae Nyae region and will give the Bushmen guidance and help in meeting the changes.

page 329 note 1 Cf. Marshall, Lorna, ‘Marriage among !Kung Bushmen’, Africa, vol. xxix, no. 4, Oct. 1959, pp. 335–65.

page 334 note 1 The numbers which follow the names have been attributed for purposes of identification and may be found in the chart of four bands in Fig. 3, pp. 332–3.

page 335 note 1 See Robert Story, D.Sc., Some Plants Used by the Bushmen in Obtaining Food and Water, Botanical Survey of South Africa, Memoir No. 30, Department of Agriculture, Division of Botany, Pretoria. In this publication Dr. Story makes the botanical identification and gives a description of 88 kinds of plants which have some edible part. These constitute most of the veldkos gathered by the Bushmen. Our own observations, made independently of Dr. Story, on the methods of gathering, seasonal aspects, relative importance in kind and quantity to the bands we studied, will be given in another paper.

page 335 note 2 Bauhinia esculenta Burch., Story, ibid., p. 25. We have heard tsi popularly called ‘eland beans ’ or ‘eland boontjies ’.

page 343 note 1 Cf. Marshall, , ‘Marriage among !Kung Bushmen’, Africa, vol. xxix, no. 4, Oct. 1959, p. 354.

page 348 note 1 Dorothea Bleek in A Bushman Dictionary, American Oriental Society, 1956, gives gaoxa in her northern group II (!Kung) as meaning chief and quotes Doke as saying ga:uxa means leader (p. 45). She gives xaiha in her southern group IV and central group II as meaning old man (p. 256). This word may have some relation to the !Kung word which I heard as n!iha.

page 349 note 1 Brownlee, Frank, ‘The Social Organization of the Kung (!Un) Bushmen of the North-Western Kalahari’, Africa, vol. xiv, no. 3, July 1943, pp. 124–5.

page 351 note 1 Brownlee's informant (op. cit, p. 125) said: ‘It is the wisdom of the old men which causes us to do what they say we should do.’

page 354 note 1 Cf. Marshall, Lorna, ‘The Kin Terminology System of the !Kung Bushmen ’, Africa, vol. xxvii, no. 1, Jan. 1957, pp. 78 (naming of children), pp. 13–15, 22–24 (name-relationship). Also Marriage among !Kung Bushmen ’, Africa, vol. xxix, no. 4, Oct. 1959, p. 343.


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