Burb Rocking
Saturday, January 06, 2007
  Diamonds in the Rough
The charming creature to the left, resembling a slender elf or hardhatted valkyrie, here being handed a trowel by a native, just might be Sheila Coulson. Who is Sheila Coulson?

World’s oldest ritual discovered by Yngve Vogt (Apollon/University of Oslo)

The discoverer of what appears to be a 70,000-year-old (or older) ritual, that's who. She is a University of Oslo archaeologist in the Collaborative Programme for Basarwa Research, which is run in cooperation with the University of Botswana. It is hardly a coincidence then that the oldest people in the world inhabit the region around the Tsodilo Hills - the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta wetlands, the Makgadikgadi Pans. These are the San. Also called the Basarwa, but best known as the Bushmen. None of these names, given to them by other peoples, are free of negative connotations. ("San," for instance, in the Nama language means "outsider," while the term for "real people" is reserved for Nama's speakers, the Khoikhoi, the pastoral cousins of the San.) The San do not possess a name for their people as a whole, but go by the names of their tribes (such as the Ju/'Hoansi and the !Kung). It's all there on Wikipedia, so it must be true.

(The photo above, by the way, actually features Sigrid Staurset and Chief Xhao.)

Other links:

Offerings to a Stone Snake Provide the Earliest Evidence of Religion by JR Minkel (Scientific American)

"Python Cave" Reveals Oldest Human Ritual, Scientists Suggest by Brian Handwerk (National Geographic News)

Meanwhile, the San, driven off their ancestral lands, have been forced to seek redress in Botswana's courts. Miraculously, and contrary to most predictions, they recently won an unexpected victory:

Bushmen win the right to go home by Fred Bridgland (The Times)

From the above article:

Stephen Corry, the director of Survival, said: “The court’s ruling is a victory for the Bushmen and for indigenous peoples everywhere in Africa.” The Bushmen and their supporters argued that they were being expelled from the CKGR because the Botswana Government, already rich from the mining of diamonds in the east of the country, wanted to mine new diamond finds there.

Happy though I was to read the above news back in the middle of last month, I suspected the victory might be a hollow one. And maybe it was. Still, good news is good news. Also recommended, by the way: Kalahari Bushmen win land battle. It's all about the interests of De Beers, I'm afraid. The most ancient people in the world sold into extinction for diamonds to adorn the arm of western civilization.
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