Khoisan is a term that combines the Khoekhoen (formerly "Khoikhoi") and the Sn or Skhoen to describe non-Bantu indigenous peoples of Southern Africa (also known as Boesmans or Bushmen in Afrikaans).
The Khoekhoe languages, as well as the Khoesn languages, were originally known as "Hottentots," an onomatopoeic moniker (derived from Dutch hot-en-tot) alluding to the click sounds prevalent in the Khoekhoe languages. In the early Cape colonies, Dutchmen would bribe Khoekhoen with wine to perform a traditional dance. The lyrics accompanying the dance sounded like hot-en-tot to a Dutch ear.
They are typically regarded as foragers in the Kalahari Desert and areas of Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and South Africa. The word sn refers to foragers who do not own animals and comes from the Khoekhoe language ("those who pick things up from the earth").
As a result, it came to be attributed to all hunter-gatherer people in Southern Africa who came into contact with Khoekhoe-speaking populations, and it was essentially a term referring to a lifestyle, as opposed to a pastoralist or agriculturalist one, rather than any particular ethnicity.
While cosmologies and languages are associated with this way of life, the phrase is more of an economic description than a cultural or ethnic one.
A phrase used to characterize people of a particular ethnicity is khoekhoen. Many groups in the South African Cape region, as well as Namibia, where Nama and Damara people are the predominant ethnicity, speak closely related languages and are recognized as historical pastoralist communities.
These Khoekhoe nations and Sn are grouped as Khoesn to indicate the indigenous Southern African substrate population prior to the Bantu invasion, which happened between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago.
Many Khoesn people are direct relatives of anatomically modern humans who arrived in Southern Africa before 150,000 years ago.
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