BOOK: In First People: The Lost History of the Khoisan (Jonathan Ball), archaeologist Andrew Smith examines what we know about southern Africa’s earliest inhabitants. He draws on evidence from excavations, rock art, the observations of colonial-era travellers, linguistics, the study of the human genome and the latest academic research. Richly illustrated, this invaluable and accessible work reaches from the Middle and Late Stone Age to recent times, and explores how the Khoisan were pushed to the margins of history and society. Here Smith writes about his exploration of this often hidden history, which led to First People.
My book First People is about the archaeology, linguistics and genomics of the people of the Cape who were met by the first European maritime explorers at the end of the 15th century. These "First People" of southern Africa were hunters (San or Bushmen) and herders (Khoekhoen) who today are collectively known as "Khoisan".
The hunters were the true aboriginals of southern Africa. Those whose genomics have been sequenced today are the most diverse of any group on Earth, meaning they are descended from the oldest humans to have evolved on the planet. Modern humans appeared 300 000 years ago in Africa, and there is no reason to doubt that the Bushmen are descended from those who lived then.