12 AUGUST 1905, Page 17


Mn. STOW, who went to South Africa as long ago as 1843, was one of the few resident ethnologiAs who seized the chance to perpetuate the traditions of the vanishing races before the work should become impossible. He travelled widely over the country, and he was able to take the evidence of very old men who remembered the great " folk-wanderings " in the The Native Races of South Africa. By George W. Stow. Edited by G. McCall Theal. London Swan Sonnenscheln and Co. [21s net.' early part of last century. Unhappily, he died before he could publish the great mass of material he had 'collected ; but his papers were acquired by Miss Lloyd, the foremost living authority upon the Bushmen, and they have now been edited and abridged by the historiographer of the Cape, Dr. Theal. The book is scarcely a treatise so much as an encyclopaedia of information. Mr. Stow had very clear theories on native origins, and though, as in the dual division of the Bushmen into " Painters " and "Sculptors," he is apt in the eyes of experts to be a little fantastic, yet in the main his generalisations strike us as accurate and logical. But he was not spared long enough to give his work the form which a treatise demands, and it is as a collection of the data for theory that it is to be prized. On this ground it seems to us a very valuable book. The ethnology of South Africa has been treated too much from the political rather than the scientific standpoint, and we welcome a work of pure scholar- ship without any arguments on native policy. In its most important aspect it is a history of that mysterious race of beings, the Bushmen, whom we first meet in history as a kind of cave-dwellers hunted down by the newcomers like wild beasts. The book contains much matter of another sort, including an excellent account of the Hottentot immigration and the first waves of the Bantu influx from the North, a sketch of the distribution of the semi-Hottentot tribes like the Koranas and the Damaras, much information about the Hereros and the little-known races north and west of the Kalahari, as well as a history of the first wars of Moshesh, the Basuto King, and the doings of early filibusters, like Jan Bloem, who gave hie name to Bloemfontein. But it is primarily a study of the Bushman, and the tale of one of the cruelest wars of extermination ever waged,—a glimpse into an elder, almost a prehistoric, world of naked savagely.

The absorbing interest of the Bushman lies in the fact that he was to all intents a Neolithic man. Two hundred thousand years ago, or thereabouts, the Palaeolithic man made his home in the river drifts, and left his rude green- stone implements in places like the Buffalo River at East London in gravel deposits seventy feet above the present river-bed. Of the authentic Neolithic man we have also relics in shell-heaps and kitchen-middens. And then after long ages the curtain of history lifts, and we see a man at precisely the same stage of civilisation being slowly crushed to death between the dark immigrants from the North and the white man from the South. Little more than a hundred years ago we had a fragment of the Stone Age within cry of our doors ; but the voortrekkers had little scientific curiosity, and the Kaffir tribes bad less, so it was speedily driven from the face of the earth. So far as we can judge, the Bushmen were the true autochthonous inhabitants of South Africa. According to native tradition, wherever game existed they were to be found, and they were alive long before the Great Father created mankind. Mr. Stow thinks that they came at some remote period from the North, and that in language, artistic talents, and physical characteristics they were nearer the Northern races than the negro type. They passed through Central Africa, so runs the theory, at some time before the negro races has occupied it, and were literally the first pioneers of the southern half of the continent. This is a reversal of opinion with a vengeance. Instead of a being representing the stage where humanity approaches most nearly to the brute, we are asked to consider him as in reality higher in the scale than the Bantu, and forced to remain in barbarism only by a barren country and the inroads of hostile tribes. Mr. Stow's evidence, as far as it goes, certainly supports his theory. We find in the Bushman a more highly developed artistic sense than in any other African tribe. The book contains many beautiful reproductions of the curious rock-pictures of animals, often drawn and coloured with much spirit, which may still be seen in caves south of the Orange and Vaal. They show a realism in the portrayal of animal life which is rare in native art. The Bushman, too, was a loyal servant when well treated, and an incomparable shikari. Hunting was his only profession: wild animals were his flocks : and he seems to have killed them as judiciously as &farmer thins out a herd. It was his misfortune that be could not find a living except in an empty land, and as the, country filled with tribes from the North the game went, and with it his occupation. He was neither agriculturist nor stock-keeeper, and, as his livelihood grew more precarious, he fell naturally into evil

courses. There is some evidence that the Bushmen began to keep herds of cattle, but their chance of passing from the hunter to the pastoral stage was marred by the fierce native wars early in last century, in which they were the shuttlecock between North and South. Their women and children were carried into slavery, and soon their hand, like Cain's, was turned against every man. The first hunting parties had been welcomed by them as men who belonged to their own totem, but in a little while they saw that there was no room for them in the new scheme of things. They fought pluckily among their rocks and caves, and Mr. Stow has stories of Bushmen forces killed to the last man and fiercely resisting to the end. First Hottentots, then Bechua.nas and Basutos, then the rest of the Bantu tribes, and last of all the Dutch and English, swept over their hunting-grounds, and the earlier masters were tracked with dogs and shot down like vermin as enemies of mankind. If, as Mr. Stow argues, they were really belated and isolated representatives of a higher Northern stock, then the tragedy of the race is complete.

South Africa is still full of legends of Bushman veld-craft. Small, emaciated, spindle-legged, and pot-bellied, he could endure any fatigue, and find sustenance from herbs and insects where another man would starve. If he wanted a knife, he would split a flake from a stone, with which he could skin any aninial. He could throw a stone with such force that it sank into the brain of even a large buck, and rude as his weapons were, he made a masterly use of them. He was deeply learned in poisons, and alone among South African nations made their use a feature in the chase. These poisons he extracted from wild herbs and the entrails of certain eaterpillars, and with them he anointed the tips of his arrows and javelins. His bow had, of course, only a short range ; but he was an adept in stalking game, creeping up to it with an enormous grass crown on his head, so that his approach resembled only a rustling in the leaves, or with the head and hide of a hartebeest over his shoulders. One of the best of the rock-pictures shows a hunter in this way approaching a lioek of ostriches. He could track any creature by its spoor and smell, and had such keen eyesight that he used to search for bees' nests by following returning bees. Armed only with his short bow, he waged war successfully on the largest game, tlie elephant, the lion, and the rhinoceros, and the lion seems to have walked in ten-or of these unseen foes. At any rate, the Bushman despised him, and stood more in awe of the wild boar. An old man whom Mr. Stow met in the Upper Orange Valley declared that when he was a child his tribe believed that "the only people in the world were Bushmen and lions. We fought, he said, the lions, and hunted the great game, and all the game was our cattle."

Mr. Stow has given us a full and interesting study of a curious link between the primeval and the modern. After the folk who built the Rhodesian Zimbabwes, the Bushmen ire the great racial conundrum of South Africa. Living the life of the Neolithic man, they come into touch for a moment with missionaries from Early Victorian England and travellers with shot-guns and compasses. But it is only for a moment. In a little while they are crowded out of the world, and we have nothing left but their rock-drawings, and a legend of a race, like our own Picts, who were the evil spirits of the wilds.