Transformation and Hunting

  • Mathias Guenther


In addition to ritual and ludic performers, there is another real-time human who may be deeply touched by transformation: the hunter. In the setting of certain hunting modes and at certain moments of the hunt, a San hunter—as preindustrial hunters elsewhere in the world—may engage with this prey animal in terms of sympathy and intersubjectivity. Moreover, his use of “hunting medicines” made from animal substances that are rubbed into cuts in his skin, and the employment of animal disguises, especially the wearing of animal skins, too, may contribute towards a hunter’s becoming-animal sense. It is also noted that neither all hunting contains these supererogatory elements nor all hunters feel sympathetically attuned to or ontologically linked with them, caveats that compound people’s ambivalence and ambiguity about the human-animal connection.


  1. Barnard, Alan. 1992. Hunters and Herders of Southern Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bennum, Neil. 2004. The Broken String: The Last Words of an Extinct People. London: Viking.Google Scholar
  3. Biesele, Megan. 1993. Women Like Meat: The Folklore and Foraging Ideology of the Kalahari Ju/’hoansi. Johannesburg/Bloomington: Witwatersrand University Press/Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bleek, Dorothea. 1923. The Mantis and His Friends: Bushman Folklore. Cape Town: T. Maskew Miller.Google Scholar
  5. Bleek, Wilhelm H.I., and Lucy Lloyd. 1911. Specimens of Bushman Folklore. London: George Allen & Co.Google Scholar
  6. Blurton Jones, Nicholas, and Melvin Konner. 1976. !Kung Knowledge of Animal Behavior (or: The Proper Study of Mankind is Animals). In Kalahari Hunter-Gatherers: Studies of the !Kung San and Their Neighbours, ed. Richard B. Lee and Irven DeVore, 325–348. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bramble, Dennis M., and Daniel E. Lieberman. 2004. Endurance Running and the Evolution of Homo. Nature 432: 345–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buller, D.B., and J.K. Burgoon. 1996. Interpersonal Deception. Communication Theory 6: 203–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burchell, William J. 1824. Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa. Vol. II. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees Orme, Brown & Green.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Canetti, Elias. 1984 [1960]. Crowds and Power. Trans. Carol Stewart. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.Google Scholar
  11. Csordas, Thomas J. 1990. Embodiment as a Paradigm for Anthropology. Ethos 18 (1): 5–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Prada-Samper, José M. 2014. ‘The Pictures of the /Xam People Are in Their Bodies’: Presentiments, Landscape and Rock Art in //Kabbo’s Country. In Courage of //Kabbo: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Publication of Specimens of Bushman Folklore, ed. Janette Deacon and Pippa Skotnes, 225–241. Cape Town: UCT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dornan, Samuel S. 1925. Pygmies and Bushmen of the Kalahari. London: Seeley, Service & Co.Google Scholar
  14. Dowson, Thomas A., Phillip V. Tobias, and David J. Lewis-Williams. 1994. The Mystery of the Blue Ostriches: Clues to the Origin and Authorship of a Supposed Rock Painting. African Studies 53: 3–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eastwood, Edward B. 2006. Animals Behaving Like People: San Rock Paintings of Kudu in the Central Limpopo Basin. South African Archaeological Bulletin 61 (183): 26–39.Google Scholar
  16. Eliade, Mircea. 1984. Cosmogonic Myth and ‘Sacred History’. In Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth, ed. Alan Dundes, 137–151. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  17. Farini, G. Antonio [Hunt, William Leonad]. 1886. Through the Kalahari Desert: A Narrative of a Journey with Gun, Camera, and Note-Book to Lake N’Gami and Back. London: Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington.Google Scholar
  18. Guenther, Mathias. 1988. Animals in Bushman Thought, Myth and Art. In Property, Power and Ideology in Hunting-Gathering Societies, ed. James Woodburn, Tim Ingold, and David Riches, 192–202. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 1989. Bushman Folktales: Oral Traditions of the Nharo of Botswana and the /Xam of the Cape, Studien Zur Kulturkunde No. 93. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 1999. Tricksters and Trancers Bushman Religion and Society. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  21. ———. 2014. Dreams and Stories. In Courage of //Kabbo: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Publication of Specimens of Bushman Folklore, ed. Janette Deacon and Pippa Skotnes, 195–210. Cape Town: UCT Press.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2015. ‘Therefore Their Parts Resemble Humans, for They Feel That They Are People’: Ontological Flux in San Myth, Cosmology and Belief. Hunter-Gatherer Research 1 (3): 277–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 2017. ‘…The Eyes Are No Longer Wild, You Have Taken the Kudu into Your Mind’: The Supererogatory Aspect of San Hunting. The South African Archaeological Bulletin 72: 3–16.Google Scholar
  24. Gusinde, Martin. 1966. Von gelben und schwarzen Buschmännern. Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt.Google Scholar
  25. Hahn, Theophilius. 1870. Die Buschmänner. Ein Beitrag zur südafrikanischen Völkerkunde, IV. Globus XVII (5): 120–123.Google Scholar
  26. Harris, William C. 1852. The Wild Sports of Southern Africa; Being the Narrative of a Hunting Expedition from the Cape of Good Hope, Through the Territories of the Chief Moselekatse to the Tropic of Capricorn. 5th ed. London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden.Google Scholar
  27. Heinz, Hans-Joachim. 1978. The Bushmen’s Store of Scientific Knowledge. In The Bushmen, ed. Philip Tobias, 148–161. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau.Google Scholar
  28. Hill, Erica. 2013. Archaeology and Animal Persons: Towards a Prehistory of Human-Animal Relations. Environment and Society: Advances in Research 4: 117–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hollmann, Jeremy C., ed. 2005. Customs and Beliefs of the /Xam Bushmen. Johannesburg/Philadelphia: Wits University Press/Ringing Rock Press.Google Scholar
  30. Ijäs, Mikko. 2017. Fragments of the Hunt: Persistence Hunting, Tracking and Prehistoric Art. Doctoral Thesis, Aalto University: School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Art.Google Scholar
  31. Ingold, Tim. 2000. Hunting and Gathering as Ways of Perceiving the Environment. In The Perception of the Environment, ed. Tim Ingold, 40–60. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Jackson, Michael, and Albert Piette. 2015. Anthropology and the Existential Turn. In What Is Existential Anthropology? ed. Michael Jackson and Albert Piette, 1–29. Oxford: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  33. Jodtka, Assistenzartzt. 1902. Reise des Assistenzartztes Jodtka nach dem Okavango. Deutsches Kolonialblatt 13: 493–495, 590–593.Google Scholar
  34. Jolly, Pieter. 2002. Therianthropes in San Rock Art. South African Archaeological Bulletin 57 (176): 85–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kaufmann, Hans. 2005 [1910]. The =Auin. In Kalahari and Namib Bushmen in German South West Africa: Ethnographic Reports by Colonial Soldiers and Settlers, ed. Mathias Guenther, 37–96. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.Google Scholar
  36. Keeney, Bradford, and Hillary Keeney., eds. 2015. Way of the Bushman as Told by the Tribal Elders. Rochester: Bear & Company.Google Scholar
  37. Köhler, Oswin. 1973. Die rituelle Jagd bei den Kxoe-Buschmännern von Mutsiku. In Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Helmut Petri. Kölner ethnologische Mitteilungen, ed. Kurt Tauchmann, vol. 5, 215–257.Google Scholar
  38. Kover, Tihamer R. 2007. The Beastly Familiarity of Wild Alterity: Debating the Nature of Our Fascination with Wildness. Ethical Perspectives: Journal of the European Ethics Network 14 (4): 431–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. ———. 2017. Of Killer Apes and Tender Carnivores: A Shepardian Critique of Burkert and Girard on Hunting and the Evolution of Religion. In Animals and Religion, ed. Nathan Kowalsky and Tihamer Kover. Special Issue of Studies in Religion 46 (4): 536–567.Google Scholar
  40. Le Roux, Willemien, and Alison White, eds. 2004. Voices of the San. Cape Town: Kwela Books.Google Scholar
  41. Lebzelter, Viktor. 1934. Eingeborenenkulturen von Südwestafrika: Die Buschmänner. Leipzig: Verlag Karl W. Hiersemann.Google Scholar
  42. Lee, Richard B. 1979. The !Kung San Men, Women, and Work in a Foraging Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. ———. 2003. The Dobe Ju/’hoansi. 3rd ed. Fort Worth/Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  44. Lewis-Williams, David J. 2000. Stories that Float from Afar: Ancestral Folklore of the San of Southern Africa. Cape Town: David Philip.Google Scholar
  45. ———. 2010. Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion. London: Thames & Hudson.Google Scholar
  46. ———. 2015a. Myth and Meaning: San-Bushman Folklore in Global Context. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  47. ———. 2015b. Text and Evidence: Negotiating San Words and Images. South African Archaeological Bulletin 70 (201): 53–63.Google Scholar
  48. ———. 2016. The Jackal and the Lion: Aspects of Khoisan Folklore. Folklore 127: 51–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Liebenberg, Louis. 2006. Persistence Hunting by Modern Hunter-Gatherers. Current Anthropology 47: 1017–1025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Low, Chris. 2007. Khoisan Wind: Hunting and Healing. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 13: 571–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. ———. 2014. Locating /Xam Beliefs and Practices in a Contemporary KhoeSan Context. In Courage of //Kabbo: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Publication of Specimens of Bushman Folklore, ed. Janette Deacon and Pippa Skotnes, 349–361. Cape Town: UCT Press.Google Scholar
  52. Marshall, Lorna J. 1976. The !Kung of Nyae Nyae. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. ———. 1999. Nyae Nyae !Kung Beliefs and Rites, Peabody Museum Monographs, No. 8. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.Google Scholar
  54. McGranaghan, Mark, and Sam Challis. 2016. Reconfiguring Hunting Magic: Southern Bushmen (San) Perspectives on Taming and Their Implications for Understanding Rock Art. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 26 (4): 579–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. McNiven, Ian J. 2013. Between the Living and the Dead: Relational Ontologies and the Ritual Dimension of Dugong Hunting Across Torres Strait. In Relational Archaeologies Humans / Animals / Things, ed. Christopher Watts, 97–116. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  56. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception. Trans. Colin Smith. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  57. Metzger, Fritz. 1990. Naro und seine Sippe. Windhoek: Namibia Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft/Scientific Society.Google Scholar
  58. Mitchell, Robert W., and Nicholas S. Thompson, eds. 1986. Deception: Perspectives on Human and Nonhuman Deceit. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  59. Moffatt, Robert. 1844. Missionary Labours and Scenes in Southern Africa. New York: Robert Carter.Google Scholar
  60. Morris, Rosalind C. 2011. Crowds and Powerlessness: Reading //Kabbo and Canetti with Derrida in (South) Africa. In Demenagerie: Thinking (of) Animals After Derrida, ed. Anne Emmanuelle Berger and Marta Segarra, 167–212. Amsterdam: Brill/Rodopi.Google Scholar
  61. Osaki, Masakatsu. 1984. The Social Influence of Change on Hunting Techniques Among the Central Kalahari San. African Studies Monograph 5: 49–62.Google Scholar
  62. Parkington, John. 2002. The Mantis, the Eland and the Hunter Follow the San…. Cape Town: Creda Communications.Google Scholar
  63. Passarge, Siegfried. 1907. Die Buschmänner der Kalahari. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.Google Scholar
  64. Pickering, Travis R. 2013. Rough and Tumble: Aggression, Hunting, and Human Evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  65. Richters, Ferdinand. 1886. Bericht über die senckenbergische naturforschende Gesellschaft in Frankfurt am Main. Frankfurt: Senckenberger naturwissenshcftlich Gesellschaft.Google Scholar
  66. Ristau, Carolyn, ed. 1991. Cognitive Ethology: The Mind of Other Animals (Essays in Honour of Donald Griffin). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  67. Rusch, Neil. 2015. The Root and Tip of the //Kwanna: Introducing Chiasmus in Three /Xam Narratives. Unabridged Version of Rusch (2016a), Accessible at the Centre for Curating the Archive, 1–26.
  68. ———. 2016. The Root and Tip of the //Kwanna: Introducing Chiasmus in Three /Xam Narratives. Critical Arts 30 (6): 877–897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sahlins, Marshall. 1972. The Original Affluent Society. In Stone Age Economics, ed. Marshall Sahlins, 1–40. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  70. Schapera, Isaac. 1930. The Khoisan Peoples of South Africa: Bushmen and Hottentots. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  71. Schultze, Leonhard. 1907. Aus Namaqualand und Kalahari. Jena: Verlag von Gustav Fischer.Google Scholar
  72. Shepard, Paul. 1998 [1978]. Thinking Animals: Animals and the Development of Human Intelligence. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  73. Silberbauer, George B. 1981. Hunter and Habitat in the Central Kalahari Desert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Singer, Thea. 2017. The Evolution of Dance. Scientific American 317 (1): 66–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Skaanes, Thea. 2017a. Sounds in the Night: Ritual Bells, Therianthropes, and Eland Relations Among the Hadza. In Human Origins: Contributions from Social Anthropology, ed. Camilla Powers, Morna Finnegan, and Hillary Callan, 204–223. Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  76. ———. 2017b. Cosmology Matters: Power Objects, Rituals, and Meat-Sharing Among the Hadza of Tanzania. Ph.D. Dissertation, Aarhus University.Google Scholar
  77. Skotnes, Pippa. 1990. Rock Art: Is There Life After Trance? De Arte 44: 16–24.Google Scholar
  78. Smith, Andrew B. 2016. Why Would Southern African Hunters Be Reluctant Food Producers? Hunter-Gatherer Research 2 (4): 1–12. (Online Open Access journal).Google Scholar
  79. Stow, George W. 1905. The Native Races of South Africa: A History of the Intrusion of the Hottentots and Bantu into the Hunting Grounds of the Bushmen, the Aborigines of the Country. London: Swan Sonnenschein.Google Scholar
  80. Straube, Helmut. 1955. Tierverkleidungen der afrikanischen Naturvölker. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag.Google Scholar
  81. Sugawara, Kazuyoshi. 2015. On the G/ui Experiences of Being Hunted: An Analysis of Oral Discourse on the Man-Killings by Lions. Paper Presented at the 12th International Conference of Hunting-Gathering Societies (CHAGS 12), University of Vienna, Vienna, September 7–12, 2015.Google Scholar
  82. Suzman, James. 2017. Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen. New York: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  83. Tanaka, Jiro. 1991. Egalitarianism and the Cash Economy Among Central Kalahari San. In Cash, Commoditisation and Changing Foragers, ed. Nicolas Peterson and Toshio Matsuyama. Senri Ethnological Studies 30: 117–135.Google Scholar
  84. ———. 1996. The World of Animals Viewed by the San. African Studies Monographs, Supplementary Issue, 22: 11–28.Google Scholar
  85. Tanner, Adrian. 1979. Bringing Home the Animals: Religious Ideology and Mode of Production of the Mistassini Cree Hunters. St. John’s: Institute of Social and Economic Research Memorial University of Newfoundland.Google Scholar
  86. Thackeray, J. Francis. 1983. Disguises, Animal Behaviour and Concepts of Control in Relation to Rock Art of Southern Africa. In New Approaches to Southern African Rock Art, Goodwin Series, ed. David J. Lewsi-Willimas, vol. 4, 38–43.Google Scholar
  87. ———. 2005a. Eland, Hunters and Concepts of ‘Sympathetic Control’ in Southern African Rock Art. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 15 (1): 37–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. ———. 2005b. The Wounded Roan: A Contribution to the Relation of Hunting and Trance in Southern African Rock Art. Antiquity 79: 5–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Thomas, Elizabeth M. 2006. The Old Way: A Story of the First People. New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux.Google Scholar
  90. Trenk, Oberleutnent. 2005. The Bushmen of the Namib and Their Legal and Family Conditions. In Kalahari and Namib Bushmen in German South West Africa: Ethnographic Reports by Colonial Soldiers and Settlers, ed. and trans. Mathias Guenther, 237–246. Cologne: Rüdiger Köpe Verlag.Google Scholar
  91. Van Vuuren, Helize. 2016. A Necklace of Springbok Ears: /Xam Orality and South African Literature. Stellenbosch: Sun Press.Google Scholar
  92. Viestad, Maria V. 2018. Dress as Social Relations: An Interpretation of Bushman Dress. Johannesburg/New York: Wits Press/NYU Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Vinnicombe, Patricia. 2001 [1976]. People of the Eland: Rock Paintings of the Drakensberg Bushmen as a Reflection of Their Life and Thought. Johannesburg: Wits Press.Google Scholar
  94. Visser, Hessel. 1997. Naro Dictionary. 3rd ed. Gantsi: Naro Language Project.Google Scholar
  95. Whitridge, Peter. 2013. The Imbrication of Human and Animal Paths: An Arctic Case Study. In Relational Archaeologies: Humans, Animals, Things, ed. Christopher Watts, 228–244. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  96. Wikar, Hendrik J. 1935. The Journal of Hendrik Jacob Wikar (1779) with an English Translation by A. W. van der Horst and the Journals of Jacobus Coetsé Jansz (1760) and Willem van Reenen (1790) with an English Translation by Dr. E. E. Mossop. Cape Town: The van Riebeeck Society.Google Scholar
  97. Wilhelm, Joachim Helmut. 2005. The !Kung Bushmen. In Kalahari and Namib Bushmen in German South West Africa: Ethnographic Reports by Colonial Soldiers and Settlers, ed. Mathias Guenther, 91–184. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.Google Scholar
  98. Wilmsen, Edwin N. 1997. The Kalahari Ethnographies (1896–1898) of Siegfried Passarge: Nineteenth Century Khoisan- and Bantu-Speaking Peoples. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.Google Scholar
  99. Woodhouse, Bert. 1984. When Animals Were People: A-Z of Animals of Southern Africa as the Bushmen Saw and Thought Them and as the Camera Sees Them Today. Melville: Chris van Rensburg Publications (Pty) Limited.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mathias Guenther
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyWilfrid Laurier UniversityOntarioCanada

Personalised recommendations