- Posted by Nelson Tumwesigye
- On October 16, 2014
- 0 Comments
The Hadza people also known as Hadzabe are believed to be the oldest tribe the world has known. They are the last remaining hunter – gatherer tribe in the Africa, living in Northern Tanzania around L. Eyasi, the central rift Valley and in the neighboring Serengeti plateau in the shadow of Ngorongoro crater.
Their home range is also close to Oldvai gorge, one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world, where Homo habilis; one of the earliest members of the genus Homo was discovered to have lived 1.9 million years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that the area has been continuously occupied by hunter gatherers much like the Hadza since at least the beginning of the Later Stone Age about 50,000 years ago and this makes them probably the only tribe on the planet that occupies its ancestral home since their history does not talk about any other home apart from this.
The origin of the Hadza is not clear, though their oral history talks of the 4 eras of their evolution with each having a different culture and lifestyle. According to them, in the beginning of time, the world was inhabited by hairy giants called the Akakaanebe or Gelanebe, “ancestors”. The Akakaanebe did not possess tools or fire; they hunted game by staring at it and it fell dead; they ate the meat raw. They did not build houses but slept under trees, as the Hadza do today in the dry season. In older versions of this story, fire was not used because it was physically impossible in the earth’s primordial state, while younger Hadza, who have been to school, say that the Akakaanebe simply did not know how to make it.
The Akakaanebe were succeeded by the Tlaatlanebe, equally gigantic but without hair. Fire could be made and used to cook meat, but animals had grown more wary of humans and had to be chased and hunted with dogs. The Tlaatlanebe were the first people to use medicines and charms to protect themselves from enemies and initiated the epeme rite and lived in caves.
They were later succeeded by the Hamakwabe “nowadays”, who were smaller than their predecessors. They invented bows and arrows, and containers for cooking, and mastered the use of fire. They also built houses like those of Hadza today. The Hamakwabe were the first of the Hadza’s ancestors to have contact with non-foraging people, with whom they traded for iron to make knives and arrowheads. The Hamakwabe also invented the gambling game called lukuchuko.
The Hamakwabe were succeeded by the Hamaishonebe, “modern” who are the present day Hadza people. When discussing the Hamaishonebe epoch, people often mention specific names and places, and can approximately say how many generations ago events occurred.
The Hadza speak a click language that is unrelated to any other language on earth though it hard been earlier mistaken to be related to Khoisan languages due to click consonants while their genetic experiments have shown no relationship with any of the present societies living in the world. Gene¬tic testing indicates that they may represent one of the primary roots of the human family tree, perhaps more than 100,000 years old. As descendants of Tanzania’s aboriginal hunter-gatherer population, they have probably occupied their current territory for several thousand years, with relatively little modification to their basic way of life until the past hundred years.
Due to the tribal invasions and the government policies, the Hadza have faced many challenges including loss of lives as well as their land but nevertheless have clung to their original culture. First, the Bantu and nomadic tribes like the Iraqw, Isanzu and Masai attacked them and took the biggest part of their land to practice agriculture during the migration and settlement of those tribes around 13th century. This led to clashes which led to loss of lives and hence decimated the Hadza population.
With the later formation of national parks and conservation areas by government, and the attempt by the colonial government, the missionary bodies and the current government to resettle them and introduce them into a new lifestyle, the Hadza’s land was quite reduced and their lifestyle threatened. Today, about 1300 Hadza people still live and about 300- 400 of them still live an entire hunter-gatherer life while others have adopted agricultural life.
During the dry season, the Hadza inhabit four major areas from where they hunt and gather fruits. They include; West of the southern end of Lake Eyasi (Dunduhina), between Lake Eyasi and the Yaeda Valley swamp to the east (Tlhiika), east of the Yaeda Valley in the Mbulu Highlands (Siponga), and north of the valley around the town of Mang’ola (Mangola). During the wet season the Hadza camp outside and between these areas, and readily travel between them during the dry season as well. Access to and from the western area is by crossing the southern end of the lake, which is the first part to dry up, or by following the escarpment of the Serengeti Plateau around the northern shore. The Yaeda Valley is easily crossed, and the areas on either side of the hills south of Mang’ola.
The Hadza live in camps that average 30 individuals but fluctuate in size depending on the season. For instance, during the dry season, June through December, camp sizes grow, as individuals tend to congregate near the few permanent waterholes. The camps shift location every after 4-6 weeks and even the membership changes.
The Hadza life knows nothing about time or days and has no calendar but rather conduct their activities at any time of the day. The Hadza language doesn’t have words for numbers past three or four. Women in groups of 3-8 individuals leave the camps in the morning to collect baobab fruit, honey and berries and dig for wild tubers while men collect honey and baobab fruit and hunt animals with bows and arrows. Hunting is usually an individual activity but men sometimes hunt at night in pairs where they surprise animals near watering holes. Children also begin foraging at a young age and by the time they are a decade old, they are able to meet about half of their caloric needs.
Sharing is an important aspect among the Hadza people. Meat from the bush is shared among the households in the camp evenly regardless of who killed the animal.
The Hadza do not build houses or stay in permanent structures, but rather make temporary huts using broken tree branches. Sometimes especially during dry seasons, the Hadza sleep outside in the open shrubs where they share shelter with Rhinos and Elephants as they hunt buffalos and Zebras for meat.
The Hadza are best described as egalitarian as there are no clear dominance hierarchies. Conflicts are solved by one member leaving the camp hence constant fluctuation of camp sizes. Although Hadza women are fairly independent, men are dominant to women. Marriages are not arranged and while divorce is common, monogamy is the norm. Thus, the Hadza are best described as serially monogamous. Intermarriage with other ethnic groups is rare but possible as there have been some cases of Hadza women being married to the Isanzu and Sukuma men. Age at first marriage is a few years earlier for women (around 17 yrs), than for men. It is more common for couples to live with the wife’s kin though residence is flexible.
The Hadza shift camps in case a large animal which can’t be pulled to the camp has been killed. They also shift when the berries in an area are over, when there is a disease break or death in the camp. They do not own property other than a single bow and arrow, knife and a smoking pipe. The camp is named after the eldest member in the camp but no one is above the other.
The Hadza do not engage in warfare. They’ve never lived densely enough to be seriously threatened by an infectious outbreak. They have no known history of famine; rather, there is evidence of people from a farming group coming to live with them during a time of crop failure. The Hadza diet remains even today more stable and varied than that of most of the world’s citizens. They enjoy an extraordinary amount of leisure time. Anthropologists have estimated that they work (actively pursue food), four to six hours a day. And over all these thousands of years, they’ve left hardly more than a footprint on the land.
In terms of religion, the Hadza are known to believe in mythology where they believe some mythological figures to be responsible for the existence of the world. They believe that Ishoko (solar figure / sun) and Haine (lunar figure / moon) took part in arranging the world and all the creatures in it and gave people fire and the ability to sit.
Ishoko is believed to have been a wife to Haine and the two created creatures and people. Among their creation, the two had created a giant man and his wife who later became a disaster when they started eating fellow human beings. This annoyed Ishoko and she decided to kill the man- eaters hence rescuing the rest of mankind.
It is believed among the Hadza that the name of Ishoko brings blessings and a good hunt if someone says it before setting out for a hunt and sometimes can be used as a greeting or a good wish. It is also believed that Ishoko changed the corpses of the giant family into leopards and prohibited them from attacking people unless in self defense when they have been attacked.
The Hadza also recognize the man they call a culture hero. They believe that ‘Indaya’ as he is commonly known, died and went to the neighboring tribe of Isanzu only to return to the Hadza with new customs and goods.
Such myths have preserved the culture of the Hadza and cemented harmonious living between themselves and the neighboring societies. For example since the Indaya went to the Isanzu tribe and returned with goods, the Isanzu are regarded as good people since they even helped them (Hadza) to get rid of some giant man- eaters as another myth has it.
It is however scintillating and quite mesmerizing to meet a society that lives in the present as if it were the past. It must however be remembered that the Hadza may not only be the oldest people but also the most peaceful and harmonious as their activities are harmless to any other society as well as the environment. The government of Tanzania has also acknowledged their way of life and waived off taxes from them as well as allowing them to hunt in the Serengeti area.
Visiting the Hadza is not only an adventure of a life time but also a chance to enjoy life of the creation epoch yet in the modern technology-driven era.