Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the Khoisan ethnic group. For the Khoisan language group, see Khoisan languages.
Khoisan is the name for several ethnic groups, that share some specific physical and linguistic characteristics. They seem to have a very long history in the region, where they lived until recently. They seem to have appeared in the southern parts of Africa many ten thousands of years ago.
Particular groups are the Khoi and the Bushmen (in the past known as Hottentots and San respectively, though some now regard those names as derogatory). The Khoisan languages are characterised by click consonants.
In ancient times they were decimated by the darker skinned Africans from the more desirable lands. In modern times they lived in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, and were partly exterminated by the Dutch and English settlers in that area. They also contributed greatly to the ancestry of South Africa's coloured population, while other groups of Khoisan were absorbed into the expanding Bantu-speaking populations, most notably the Xhosa.
Physically, the Khoisan, with their short, slight frames, yellow-brown skin and small arms and feet, were quite distinct from the darker-skinned Bantu Africans who constitute the majority of Africa's population, but such differences are increasingly a thing of the past as they intermarry with their Bantu speaking neighbours. One distinguishing feature of Khoisan women was their tendency to steatopygia, a feature that contributed greatly to the European fascination with the Hottentot Venus.
The Khoisan show the largest genetic diversity in MtDNA of all human populations, which indicates that they are one of the oldest extant human communities. Y chromosome data also indicates that they are close to the root of the human ancestral tree - which is not to say that they are more physically "primitive" than any other peoples.
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