In the Beginning
The southern super
continent Gondwana, included most of the landmasses in today's southern
hemisphere, Africa included. The animation shows the break-up of
Gondwana into the current continents.
The oldest map of
the African continent is Chinese and dates to 1389. It measures more
than 17 square meters and was produced from silk. It is thought to be a
copy of Da Ming Hun Yi Tu, showing a unique snapshot of a map sculpted
into rock 20 or 30 years earlier of the Ming Empire.
The map clearly
shows the shape of Africa, more than 100 years prior to European
explorers and map-makers reaching the continent.
Azania is the name
that has been applied to various parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In Roman
times, and perhaps earlier, the name referred to a portion of the east
African coast south of the "tip" of the Horn of Africa, extending south
perhaps as far as modern Tanzania. In the late 20th century, the term
was used in place of South Africa, by some opponents of the
white-minority rule of that country.
First mention of
the name Azania in a Southern African contex, appeared in the 1930's
archaeological reports of excavations at Mapungubwe in the northern
Transvaal. Skeletal remains were referred to as "ancient Azanian's",
meaning they were probably Cushitic peoples who had filtered down the
Rift Valley from Ethiopia and East Africa.
The Bushmen, San,
Basarwa, Kung or Khwe are indigenous people of the Kalahari Desert,
which spans areas of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.
were traditionally hunter-gatherers, part of the Khoisan group, and
related to the traditionally pastoral Khoi Khoi.
Spencer Wells - Population Geneticist:
evidence suggests that these people have lived in southern Africa, as
well as other areas of Africa, for at least 22,000 years and probably
much longer. Genetic evidence suggests they are one of the oldest, if
not the oldest, peoples in the world, a genetic Adam, from which
all humans can ultimately trace their genetic heritage.
the 2nd and 5th centuries, Bantu peoples from western Africa, who had
been expanding across sub-Saharan Africa, crossed the Limpopo River,
entering what is today South Africa.
Dr. Tim Maggs advises; Southern Mozambique, Swaziland and coastal Natal
were populated by the 3rd or 4th centuries, confirmed by 100's of known
archaeological sites. He advised that the present day Eastern Cape was
inhabited in the 5th or 6th centuries. These people are referred to as
Nguni, which include the Swazi, Xhosa, and Zulu nations. The people were
of Bantu origin and the period is known as the early iron age.
Native Races of South Africa
Tribal Migration Map - 1880 - George W. Stow, F.G.S., F.R.G.S
At the time, people in present day Natal did not inhabit the grasslands
above 1500 meters, which only occurred in the 12th and 13th centuries.
The large and relatively high central plateau is today known as the
Highveld. Immigrants were predominantly of Bantu origin and referred to
as Sotho-Tswana, which include the Basotho and Tswana nations.
section of this map demarcates Bantu migration.
The area to the west and southwest of the Highveld is known as the
Northern and Western Capes. This vast region was inhabited by Khoi Khoi
and San Bushmen, whose historic roots predate the Bantu in Southern
Mfecane - Lifaqane - Difaqane
Tragedy on a vast
scale struck southern Africa in the early 1800's. The event was named
the Mfecane "the crushing" by the Nguni and Difaqane "the scattering of
tribes" by the Sotho-Tswana. Europeans called the catastrophe the "Wars
of Calamity". By 1825, two and half million starving, homeless
people wandered about southern Africa looking for respite.
"Difaqane" - Tribal Migration between 1818 and 1935
The causes of the Mfecane were many. Starting in 1800, a long drought
made southern Africa inhospitable. People moved in search of food and
fought for meagre supplies, producing the Difaqane. The entire
Sotho-Tswana region had fallen into a state of anarchy. One clan
conquered the other, only to be defeated by another.
(1787 – 1828)
The Mfecane gave
rise to Shaka Zulu. In less than two decades, a powerful Zulu empire
arose from a typical Bantu decentralized pastoral society.
Shaka created a
highly centralized, well organized nation-state, with a large and
powerful standing army. Refugee groups escaping Chaka's anger, invaded
the lands of present-day Botswana.
Sobhuza of the
Swazi moved his people north from the Pongola River to present-day
Swaziland and conquered the peoples living there. The marauding Hlubi
and Ngwane created chaos as they tramped westward. The Basotho were
pushed into the mountains where they were harassed by cannibals. Setting
towns on fire, the Ndebele swept ahead of the Zulu Impi to settle in
present day Zimbabwe, where they absorbed others and became the
Matabele. On their way, they encountered King Thulare's Pedi empire,
which was destroyed. They attacked the Mokololo to the northwest, who
were Sotho-Tswana 's speakers from the south pushing north. Forced off
their lands, many Nguni and Tswana peoples collided with the
Voortrekkers moving from the south. The Xhosa expanded into Khoi-khoi
lands. Some Khoi-khoi retreated into the Kalahari Desert. Others were
killed or enslaved by the Voortrekkers. The Tlokoa marched from Natal
leaving a path of destruction all the way to Botswana. They attacked the
Fokeng forcing them west. The Fokeng marched north to the Zambezi River
and beyond, where they raided destitute refugees. Vagrants from various
Nguni and Sotho groups formed a new tribe, the Mfengu, which means
'beggar' in iziXhosa. By the time of Shaka's murder in 1828, no group of
people were living on their original lands.
Adding to this
historic account, it should be remembered that this written history was
recorded by Afrikaans and English speaking people, on or about their
first contact with the inhabitants of the interior of South Africa. What
they failed to consider or record when dating, defining and anointing
"the" Mfecane - Lifaqane - Difaqane or Wars of Calamity, were that
droughts and tribal adventurism had been going from early times. The
historic generalization of "the period", ignores any mention of
Portuguese 16th century accounts of more or less the same shenanigans.
No, we do not surmise that peace prevailed between the centuries it took
the new arrivals to catch up with the earlier European adventures, nor
do we have reason to believe tribal behaviour or natural weather
patterns, were significantly different prior to the arrival of the
Southern African Language
This map shows the principal South African languages by
municipality. Lighter shades indicate a non-majority of tribal
peoples and resulting migrations.
The 20th century brought the urbanization of
South Africa and the 21st century is poised to proceed to
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