17 - Testing Bushmen in the Central Kalahari  pp. 453-486


By Helmut Reuning

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It is one of the ironies of the study of human populations that scientists turned their attention to the Bushmen only when it was almost too late. About a hundred years had to pass after Wilhelm Bleek (1857) recognized their “great interest for the history of mankind in general” (Spohr, 1962), before this interest led to action and tangible results. A number of reports by explorers, missionaries, and traders about the Kalahari and its people were published before 1950, but relatively few investigations of Bushmen by scientists. Intensive scientific studies have been initiated and conducted only during the last 30 to 40 years. During this time, the Bushmen were beginning to feel the pressure of neighbouring people who pushed into their territories in parts of the Kalahari and made their traditional mode of life difficult or impossible.

Today a great number of scholarly publications exists reporting many details about the Bushmen's way of life, their material and spiritual culture, knowledge and beliefs, the organisation of Bushman society, their social, economic, and artistic activities, their physical and health characteristics (e.g., Shapera, 1965; Silberbauer, 1965, 1972, 1981; Lee & DeVore, 1976; Marshall, 1976; Tobias, 1978; Lee, 1979). In the last three decades, there has been such a spate of reports and books on the Bushmen that one must hesitate to write about them again. However, the voices of psychologists are conspicuously absent in this chorus, with the exception of those of Porteus (1937), Minde (1937), both on a relatively small scale, of our own team, and of Katz(1973, 1976).