ǀXam and ǂKhomani heartland

ǀXam and ǂKhomani heartland

The ǀXam [1][2][3][4][5][6] and ǂKhomani heartland tentative World Heritage Site, consists of regions located to the south and north of Upington, respectively, in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. The ǀXam and ǂKhomani (more correctly Nǁnǂe) people were linguistically related groups of San (Bushman) people, their respective languages (ǀXam and ǂKhomani) being part of the !Kwi language group. Descendants of both the ǀXam and Nǁnǂe include Afrikaans-speaking ‘Coloured’ people on farms or in towns in the region amongst whom the precolonial languages are either entirely extinct (in the case of ǀXam) or can be spoken by but a very few people (in the case of Nǀu).


Site description

The two areas remain to be precisely defined. They consist of semi-arid to arid tracts of the Upper Karoo (to the south) and the Southern Kalahari (to the north). Both areas are rich in archaeological traces inter alia of the Later Stone Age, while rocky hills and outcrops in the southern area (which has been referred to as ǀXam-ka !xau, meaning home of the ǀXam) have a wealth of rock art sites, preponderantly in the form of rock engravings.[7][8] In the ǂKhomani area to the north (where the sandy desert topography precludes rock art) a cultural mapping project contributes to a revival of interest in cultural traditions in the younger generation[9].

World Heritage Status

The ǀXam and ǂKhomani heartland site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on May 15, 2004 in the Cultural category.[9]


  1. ^ /Xam or |Xam rather than !Xam is the correct spelling - see Barnard, A. 1992. Hunters and herders of Southern Africa: a comparative ethnography of the Khoisan peoples. Cambridge Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ Bleek, W.H.I. & Lloyd, L.C. 1911. Specimens of Bushman Folklore. London: George Allen.
  3. ^ Deacon, J. 1986. 'My place is the Bitterpits'. The home territory of the Bleek and Lloyd's |Xam San informants. African Studies 45: 135-155.
  4. ^ Deacon, J. 1994. Rock engravings and the folklore of Bleek and Lloyd's /Xam San informants. In T. A. Dowson, & Lewis-Williams, J.D. (ed.). Contested images: diversity in southern African rock art research, pp. 237-256. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.
  5. ^ Lewis-Williams, J. D. 2000. Stories that float from afar: ancestral folklore of the San of Southern Africa. Cape Town: David Philip.
  6. ^ Skotnes, P. 2007.Claim to the country: the archive of Lucy Lloyd and Wilhelm Bleek. Johannesburg: Jacana
  7. ^ Deacon, J. & Foster, C. 2005. My heart stands in the hill. Cape Town: Struik Publishers.
  8. ^ Parkington, J. Morris, D. & Rusch, N. 2008. Karoo rock engravings. Clanwilliam: Krakadouw Trust
  9. ^ a b The !Xam Khomani Heartland - UNESCO World Heritage Centre


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