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Namibia - History

The history of this land can be found carved into rock paintings found to the south and in Twyfelfontein, some dating back to 26,000 BC. A long lineage of various groups including San Bushmen, Bantu herdsmen and finally the Himba, Herero and Nama tribes among others have been making this rugged land home for thousands of years.

A wide variety of rock paintings and rock engravings dating from about 29 000 to 1 500 years ago are the most persistent evidence of early human habitation in the area currently known as Namibia. Although there is some agreement that the first traces of the Bantu-speaking communities appear in the north between 2 000 and 1 500 years ago, it is generally accepted that the Khoisan speaking people, known as San or Bushmen were the first to arrive in the area. Later inhabitants include the Nama and the Damara or Berg Dama. The Bantu-speaking Ovambo and Herero migrated from the north in about the 14th century AD.

The first Europeans to set foot in modern day Namibia was the Portuguese explorers Diego Cao who landed at today's Cape Cross in 1486 and Bartholomew Diaz who erected a cross at today's Luderitz. Further European explorations were kept at bay by the forbidding desert coast until the 18th century.

West of the Kalahari the extensive countries of the Nama Hottentots and of the Damara reach over the hilly border lands of the continent down to the arid shores of the Atlantic. Namaqualand is in general a dreary region, with scanty vegetation of grasses and prickly shrubs, furrowed by water channels which flow only for a short time after the scanty showers. The coast-land is sandy and waterless, overhung by an almost constant haze.

Damaraland, farther north, is a little more favoured in aspect in its hill slopes, but is also deprived of any permanently flowing waters. Cattle and ostriches seem, however, to be numerous, considerable deposits of copper had been found, and the presence of gold was suspected.

The people of Damaraland were distinguished as the Ova Herero, or Cattle Damaras, a tribe which migrated hither probably from the Zambezi valley; and the Houquain, a black or negro-like people, supposed to be aboriginal, who had previously been enslaved by the Namaquas, and who had adopted the Hottentot language. A few Bushmen, Griquas, and Europeans, chiefly members of the Rhenish mission, were found here also.

The discovery of huge amounts of guano on the islands scattered along the Namibian coast around 1840 led to the first European settlement in Namibia at Angra Pequena, today known as Luderitz. Angra Pequena became a bustling port for ships on the way to Europe from the Cape of Good Hope, but even then the Namib Desert kept the early Europeans from moving inland.

Prior to European annexation, clans of Nama-speaking tribes calling themselves Orlams moved into Namibia to escape from colonial oppression at the Cape of Good Hope. These tribes moved into Namibia with guns and mounted soldiers and spread through the south to areas north of present day Windhoek, thus becoming the first conquerors of large parts of Namibia.

The strongest group of the Orlam was the Afrikaner clan under the leadership of Jonker Afrikaner, a man who was to become the dominant figure in the south and center of the country after his alliance with the Herero chief Tjamuaha. After the death of the two leaders in 1861 internal dissent amongst the feuding Herero and Nama clans led to continuous warfare between Tjamuaha's successor, Maherero and Jonker Afrikaner's successor, Jan Jonker Afrikaner.

The inhospitable Namib Desert constituted a formidable barrier to European exploration until the late 18th century, when successions of travelers, traders, hunters, and missionaries explored the area.

The demands for guns and ammunition, driven by the continuous feuds between the different tribal alliances eventually created a trade between central and southern Namibia and the Cape of Good Hope. In 1870 a community of mixed race Cape Colony families calling themselves Basters created the Rehoboth Gebied south of Windhoek after a purchase agreement with the Nama and Herero Chiefs. The increasing trade with the Cape, coupled with the lobbying of the missionaries, eventually aroused the interest of the European powers in the area and ultimately led to its colonisation.

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Page last modified: 27-08-2019 23:47:41 ZULU