South of the equator, between the soda Lake Eyasi and the Great Rift Valley, live the Hadza, a small tribe of about 1000 individuals described as the last true nomads of Africa. For some of the last remaining hunter-gatherers on the planet, the increasing impact of the modern world pose serious threats to their ancient traditional way of life.
The Hadza people, or Hadzabe’e, are an ethnic group in central Tanzania, living around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and the neighbouring Serengeti Plateau. The Hadza form a group of about 1000 people, with 300-400 still living as hunter-gatherers. Their way of life has remained largely unchanged for thousands of years.
As some of the last remaining hunter-gatherers in Africa, most people assume the Hadza are East-African branch of the Khoisan peoples, largely because of their language clicks. Modern genetic research suggests, however that they may be more closely related to the Pygmies of Central Africa. Their language is quite unlike that of the Khoisan Bushmen upon closer study and appears to be unrelated to any other on the continent.
The Hadza are nomadic people, with no interest in farming or keeping livestock. They do what their ancestors have done for centuries – they wander. Their shelters resemble grassy, overturned birds’ nests that provide temporary shelter from the elements. Camps however, will be quickly abandoned for reasons from insufficient water to the death of a member of the clan. Hunt and gather is what the Hadza do. They go where the wildlife is, and where they can find honey, berries and tubers to gather.
The shore lands of Lake Eyasi on the edge of the Serengeti plains are some of the oldest inhabited pre-historic sites in the world. One of the earliest members of the genus Homo was discovered to have lived here over 1.9 million years ago. The Hadza have probably lived in the area for millennia. Genetically, like the Bushmen of Southern Africa, they are one of the oldest lineages of humankind.
Over the past 50 years however, the tribe has lost almost 90% of its land. Since the 18th century, the tribe has come into increasing contact with farming and herding people entering their traditional territories – often with hostile endings. The first European contact with the tribe was in the late 19th century and since then there have been many unsuccessful attempts to settle the tribe with farming and religion. The efforts of colonial government and the independent Tanzanian government largely failed and many Hadza now more determinedly pursue the same way of life as their ancestors.
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