Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stone Age Visit

A Look Back in Time

Although I don’t watch that many of the Food Shows on the Boob Tube I did catch one last week that was amazing. – at least to me.  Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman on the Travel Channel.  Zimmerman was in Botswana, South Africa roaming around the Kalahari Desert with a  family group of  the Sans tribe - the legendary bushmen of the Kalahari.

Now the thing that was amazing to me was that this tribe was just a stones throw from living in the stone age. The few clothes they wore were mostly animal skins with a scattering of modern garments, mostly worn by the women. Their tools were very primitive – even by primitive standards. All the tribes people carried a digging stick they used for digging roots, ant hills, grubs  or whatever – their main sources of food.  The men also carried bows and arrows. I’m not talking compound bows or even what we would consider a long bow. These weapons would have been on the reject pile of any of the American Indian tribes. At best they were 4 foot long, very loosely strung and appeared to be very weak, I’m guessing maybe 20 lbs. pull at the most. There was no evidence of any shaped handle and the limbs were left natural – that is rounded with just the bark scraped off.

The arrows were small to match the bow, just barely straight and there were no attached points, flint or steel that I saw. The ends were pointed and maybe, not sure of this, fire hardened. Regrettably -  the program didn’t show the tribesman actually shooting any game with their bows – something I would have loved to seen.

The men also carried spears and my impression was that five foot long, metal tipped, almost straight, stretch of wood was their primary weapon The program narrator did mention that those spear points and the metal axes we saw them use to chop into a bee hive were the only modern metal implements they owned.

The episode followed the tribesmen while they were conducting a hunt and highlighted their tracking skills. These guys can track a butterfly across the sky – in a thunderstorm. They reportedly can tell, almost to the hour, when an animal made the tracks, what sex the animal is and even where they slept the night before. Okay, I made that sleeping part up- but- you get the picture. These guys livelihood depend on their tracking skills. They are not in it for sport.

Another bush skill the film crew captured was how they made a bird snare. First one of the tribesmen made a long length of cordage. He made this small line in just minutes from a plant the talking guy said was a Snake Plant.( I use this same plant and it makes great cordage) He then made the trigger parts from small tree branches and baited the small loop, the business end that was set on the ground,  with a couple of nuts that the birds favor. I don’t remember – maybe they didn’t say – the name of the bird they were after. Anyway, the next day they caught one bird. This bird was not the size of a turkey – not even a small chicken. More like a half starved quail. To cook the bird  they simply pulled the skin off and threw the bird onto a bed of hot coals. Now here’s the best part. That bird was shared by 12 adults. That was their meal for the day. No veggies, no baked potatoes smothered with butter, no hot rolls – just that tiny, cooked to a crisp, ash coated little chunk of fowl meat- (no pun there) shared between twelve adults. Skinny adults by the way – rail thin even. You’ve heard the expression “ he could stand under a clothes line and keep dry” ?  That thin. None-the-less the tribesmans stature -that ain’t much meat. Not if you’ve been out beating the bush all day. Hell, even if you’re just setting at the home table waiting on the little lady to serve it up to just you – not eleven other, ribs showing, hungry mouths – that’s barely a snack.

I don’t know about the rest of you – but I’d love to spend a couple of months with  people with those skills and knowledge. We’re talking skills that go back centuries, back to the stone age and beyond. Skills that our ancestors knew and practiced but that are now – except for a hand full of people in remote parts of the world – basically lost. Lost that is – to most of the modern world – but not lost entirely to us true primitive skills students.

No comments:

Post a Comment