Early Evidence of Human Habitation Early Evidence of Human Habitation

Early Evidence of Human Habitation

A wide variety of rock paintings and rock engravings dating from about 29 000 to 1 500 years ago are the most persistent evidence of early human habitation in the area currently known as Namibia.

Although there is some agreement that the first traces of the Bantu-speaking communities appear in the north between 2 000 and 1 500 years ago, it is generally accepted that the Khoisan speaking people, known as San or Bushmen were the first to arrive in the area.

Prior to European Annexation

Prior to European annexation, clans of Nama-speaking tribes calling themselves Orlams moved into Namibia to escape from colonial oppression at the Cape of Good Hope.

These tribes moved into Namibia with guns and mounted soldiers and spread through the south to areas north of present day Windhoek, thus becoming the first conquerors of large parts of Namibia.

The strongest group of the Orlam was the Afrikaner clan under the leadership of Jonker Afrikaner, a man who was to become the dominant figure in the south and centre of the country after his alliance with the Herero chief Tjamuaha. After the death of the two leaders in 1861 internal dissent amongst the feuding Herero and Nama clans led to continuous warfare between Tjamuaha's successor, Maherero and Jonker Afrikaner's successor, Jan Jonker Afrikaner.

Beginnings of Trade in Namibia

The demands for guns and ammunition, driven by the continuous feuds between the different tribal alliances eventually created a trade between central and southern Namibia and the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1870 a community of mixed race Cape Colony families calling themselves Basters created the Rehoboth Gebied south of Windhoek after a purchase agreement with the Nama and Herero Chiefs.

The increasing trade with the Cape, coupled with the lobbying of the missionaries, eventually aroused the interest of the European powers in the area and ultimately led to its colonisation.

First European Explorers

The first Europeans to set foot in modern day Namibia was the Portuguese explorers Diego Cao who landed at today's Cape Cross in 1486 and Bartholomew Diaz who erected a cross at today's Luderitz.

Further European explorations were kept at bay by the forbidding desert coast until the 18 th century. The discovery of huge amounts of guano on the islands scattered along the Namibian coast around 1840 led to the first European settlement in Namibia at Angra Pequena, today known as Luderitz. Angra Pequena became a bustling port for ships on the way to Europe from the Cape of Good Hope, but even then the Namib Desert kept the early Europeans from moving inland.