Namibian San help to track pre-historic man

Canto Goldsmith & Jeweller
July 1, 2013
Southern African Basketry
July 2, 2013

UPDATE: Read more on the adventures of the trackers in the Pyranees. 

Scientists and Namibian San “Bushmen” investigate Ice Age Footprints in the Pyrenees

Foto: T. Lenssen-Erz

Tracking knowledge and expertise handed down from generation to generation amongst the San of Namibia, has been called upon by European researchers in order to decypher ancient hand and footprints in the Pyrenees mountains. 

In remote caves of the Pyrenees, lie precious remnants of the Ice Age undisturbed: foot and hand prints of prehistoric hunters. The tracks have remained untouched for millennia and are in excellent condition. Dr. Tilman Lenssen-Erz of the Forschungsstelle Afrika (Research Centre Africa) at the University of Cologne and Dr. Andreas Pastoors from the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann are going on expedition to encode the secrets of the trails.

Based on their unrivalled tracking expertise, a group of three San men, from Tsumkwe in Namibia, were selected to become part of the expedition. 

Chosen for the expedition were Tsamkxao Cigae, C/wi /Kunta and C/wi G/aqo De!u of the Ju/’hoansi San community in Tsumkwe. On Saturday, the expedition members left Windhoek for Europe, where they will be until their retun to Windhoek on July 18. 

In preparation for the expedition, Lenssen-Erz and Pastoors visited Namibia and undertook several practice runs with the group – including short visits to the Ghaub caves and Twyfelfontein. 

Their idea: to involve the best trackers in the world in the project in order to learn even more about the tracks in the caves of the Pyrenees. 

“The San are amongst the last known ‘trained’ hunters and gatherers of southern Africa,” explains Tilman Lenssen-Erz. “The tracks in the caves are going to be examined by people who really know something about them.” 

Andreas Pastoors wants more information pertaining to the amount and size of the tracks: “We hope to gain additional information: e.g. whether the person was in a rush, or whether they were maybe ill or carrying something.  More information that will give life to the tracks.” The idea behind this is to gain a better understanding of the cultural life of prehistoric man: “Our biggest job is to interpret cave art and to find out what the people did with these cave paintings. We have to gather all information about the context of these images.” 

Team “Tracking Caves”, which consists of scientists and experienced trackers  Tsamkxao Cigae, C/wi /Kunta and C/wi G/aqo De!u, will then report on their discoveries from the Ice Age caves of Ariège in a press conference at the University of Cologne on July 17. The Khoisan language will be translated by Tsamkxao Cigae. 

Dr. Tilman Lenssen-Erz from the Forschungsstelle Afrika of the University of Cologne and Dr. Andreas Pastoors from Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann are in charge of the project. The academics are cave and rock art experts. Tsamkxao Cigae works as a tracker in the Tsumkwe Country Lodge, lives in Tsumkwe; speaks good English and will act as interpreter. C/wi /Kunta works as a tracker for a professional hunter, lives in //xa/oba, a village 20 km north of Tsumkwe, which is also a “Living Hunters Museum” where the San’s contemporary and traditional living modes are exhibited.

C/wi G/aqo De!u works as a tracker for hunting teams and lives in a village ca. 20 km south-south west of Tsumkwe.

The team members will twitter on and keep a blog at

Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

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