The Datoga, who live in the neighbourhood of the Hadzabe, build huts from wood and clay, grind flour, make vessels and breed cattle. A man who can afford it marries several women. A Datoga, which I visited over 80 years ago, had 9 women aged 18 and over and countless children. The women had a very friendly relationship with each other, took care of the children together, were very friendly and open-minded and showed no fear of contact with me. The pictures show the head of the family with one of his 9 women who grinds grain with a rubbing stone, Datoga women, Datoga at the traditional board game.
Cradle of mankind
According to today’s knowledge, the cradle of mankind was in East Africa. Our ancestors were all Africans who spread from here all over the world. The Hadzabe still live today on a very early cultural level at the East African Rift Valley, the original home of our ancestors. They are neither farmers nor cattle breeders, but, like our early ancestors, live as hunters and gatherers. Dogs live in their tribal association, but are not trained and do not communicate with humans. Speech is foreign to them, and they show no reaction when one speaks to them. Here it becomes clear that it is not man who has “come to the dog”, but dog who has joined man as a source of food. Fire ignites the Hadzabe with a wooden stick, which sits in the recess of a wooden board and is quickly turned between the hands. The resulting frictional heat ignites dry grass. The men hunt with bow and arrow, collect berries and wild honey. Pots are not used, but the hunted animals, smaller animals with hair or feathers, are put into the fire and eaten without culinary treatment. The food supply is often very small, so that the Hadzabe have little more than the minimum to survive. They do not dig wells, but drink water from natural water holes. Hadzabe do not build huts or set up tents; they spend day and night in the open air, sometimes under a rock overhang. They do not weave clothes or process metal. They buy knives and arrowheads in barter from the forges of Datoga, a neighbouring tribe. The Hadzabe have no close genetic relationship with neighbouring peoples and their language is independent, writing is unknown. Their nature is serious and reserved, but friendly. They always wanted to give me something of the little they had. The Hadzabe can be seen as a living fossil, a society in which we, in our ancestral homeland, meet our early ancestors. The pictures show two different groups of Hadzas, at the morning campfire and hunting.
An original level of culture
The Himba also live on a very original cultural level in northern Namibia, in the Kunene region, which is the border river to Angola. Here you can find small Himba villages hidden in the bush. In contrast to the Hadzabe, the Himba build small, round huts from clay, cow dung and twigs. Live-basis is the attitude of goats, sheep and cows. Since the country is savannah-like dry, partially with dry bushes existed, the Himba are forced to lead its cattle in nomadic or semi-nomadic way of life to changing pasture grounds. Cows determine thinking and prestige and even have a place in the religious myth and cosmology of the Himba. The importance of the possession of cows is shown by the cow skulls piled on the grave of a Himba, which provide information about the reputation of the deceased during his lifetime. After a severe drought, which decimated the herds of the Himba considerably, the animal population has largely recovered today. Beside the cattle-breeding, corn-cultivation exists in some places in modest measure. The reddish skin colour of the Himba is conspicuous, which results from the fact that the whole body is rubbed with a mixture of fat and reddish dust. Women’s hair is braided into braids reaching down to the shoulder and covered with a layer of red clay. After the wedding the women wear a leather headgear with cow horns. The men’s clothing consists of a kind of skirt and a leather cap. Women wear a loincloth. The women’s upper body remains undressed. The necklaces and leg chains are mostly made of iron beads. The necklace contains iron beads and a large snail shell. Men and women adorn themselves with necklaces. A man can marry more than one woman. Extramarital relationships are common. Men have the main decision-making power, but the women carry the main burden of daily work, such as building huts, collecting wood, preparing meals, looking after children, while the men guard the herds.
The pictures show the habitat of the Himba: Kunene with epupa falls, trees on the banks of the Kunene on the Angolan side, in the background the predominant dry savannah. Himba in a settlement in Kaokoland, northern Namibia.
Like the Tuareg, the Massai were feared warriors who attacked caravans and fought battles with neighbouring tribes. However, they were unable to cope with the British military, so that they were forced into southern Uganda and Tanzania, their land was stolen and settled by Europeans. However, there are remote areas where the Masai live as cattle and goat breeders and where they take great care to preserve their traditions. The reputation of a Masai increases with the number of cattle. Also in this tradition a man can marry several women. The consent of the woman is not obtained. Each woman lives with her children in her own hut, so that the huts of several women of a man form a small village. The hut in which the master of the house is staying can be recognized by the lance that is stuck in the ground in front of her. In the middle of the village there is a circular gate fenced in with thorn bushes, in which goats and cattle spend the night to protect themselves from lions. The women are given the heavy work of building huts and collecting wood. The huts are made of logs and clay mixed with cow dung. The huts are windowless, dark and smoked by a small fireplace. They sleep on a hard, dried cowhide, which lies on a frame made of brushwood. After circumcision at the age of about 15, the men become warriors, recognizable by long hair braided into plaits. Massai warriors cultivate their warrior existence and guard their most precious possession, the cattle. Only with about 30 years they leave the warrior-caste again and then count to the respected elders. Even today, every traditionally living Massai has a spear and sword. Since warlike conflicts are no longer tolerated, some men prove their courage by killing a lion with their lance. Although lion hunting is forbidden to them, some Massai showed me freshly released lion claws and boast about the number of killed lions. The food consists of the cattle’s blood, which is often mixed with milk. The blood is obtained by piercing a neck vein in the cattle, collecting about 2 litres of blood in a calabash and sealing the wound with clay and cow dung. Massai never tire of praising the good taste and nutritional value of fresh blood.
The San (Bushmen) also live as hunters and gatherers. First displaced by Bantu, then by Dutch and German settlers, the largest population today lives in the Kalahari of Botswana and Namibia. Traditionally living as hunters and gatherers, they have adapted perfectly to life in the dry savannah. Only very small groups have been able to maintain their traditional way of life. The traditional dwelling consists of twigs and grass huts. The San are known for their way of hunting, in which they rush the game as extremely persistent long-distance runners until it gives up exhausted. The animals are killed with arrows, which they have coated with poison, which they extract from a caterpillar that lives at the roots of a particular shrub. The picture shows a dancer of the San in Botswana.
A cradle of culture
The finds of still very primitively worked stone tools (Pebbletools), which were presumably produced in the Pleistocene up to 1.5 million years ago by representatives of Homo habilis, show that the Sahara was settled very early by humans. In some places the Sahara is covered with stone tools from different epochs of human history. Some places even give the impression as if early hunter and collector cultures had just left them. Heavy stone friction bowls and large stones with grooves for sharpening pointed tools rule out the possibility that they were left behind by nomadic traversers. The rich find situation in remote areas that normal tourists cannot reach, still undisturbed, makes the Sahara an extremely interesting field of view in the history of mankind. The depicted Faustkeine from the south of the Algerian Sahara can probably be attributed to the early Acheuléen about 500000 years ago. The sites, which today lie in dry areas of the Sahara, were covered with vegetation at that time and offered sufficient drinking water. However, new dry seasons followed, in which the people withdrew from the Sahara and vegetation periods, in which the Sahara was populated again. Around 13000 B.C. the Sahara began to become more humid again, a new vegetation arose and a rich animal world settled until around 4000 B.C. a new dry period began. From the last vegetation period numerous rock drawings of wild animals, as one finds them today in the African savannas, representations of humans and domestic animals originate.
A Berber people
Since the 11th century, the central Sahara (Algeria, Niger, Mali) has been inhabited by Tuareg, a Berber people displaced from their ancestral habitat in southern Libya. The language, Tamaschek, is related to the Berber and has no similarity with the Arabic except for some Arabic loan words. It is striking that the women are unveiled, while the men veil their faces with the so-called Tagelmust. The women are independent and have their own wealth. The Tuareg were forced to convert to Islam, but I did not meet any Tuareg who felt particularly committed to Islam.
A warlike people
Until the last century, the Tuareg were a warlike people who were notorious for their raids on passing caravans. Today Tuareg live as camel and goat breeders. Between 1980 and 1990, one could still meet numerous Tuareg tribes, who lived completely traditionally as nomads or semi-nomads, who knew neither clocks, nor radio or cars, in hard-to-reach, remote areas of the Algerian Sahara. This made them particularly suitable for comparative cultural studies.
The pictures show early fist wedges from the Acheuléen, a heavy friction bowl from the south of the Sahara and a rock drawing from a wet period more than four thousand years ago. Pictures from the living environment of the Tuareg in Tassili, Hoggar and the sandy deserts of southern Algeria, as well as Tuareg in remote areas that have retained their traditional way of life.