Object Profile: Bored Stone from the San

Bertram House, an Iziko museum, houses an exhibition called Sounds and Silences from a San Archive. It utilizes the Social History Collection’s archives of San groups, with most of the collection coming from Wilhelm Bleek, Lucy Lloyd and Dorothea Bleek, who are credited with researching and spreading knowledge of the /Xam and other San people. I chose to profile a bored stone (a stone with a hole bored through the middle) from the collection. 

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(Similar stone from www.sierraleoneheritage.org because of photo policies)

The bored stone had more than one use to the San in the past. As the first people in South Africa, they were also the earliest hunter-gatherers in the area. The women used digging sticks as an important tool for gathering wild plants, and these sticks were often weighted with a bored stone to help loosen the soil. The digging sticks had significance beyond everyday use, though: it is believed that /Xam women would bang them on the ground to summon the spirits of the dead during trance dance ceremonies. Many rock paintings such them being used in this way. In a way, the bored stone served both functional and symbolic purposes for the San.

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(photo from www.thesouthafricaguide.com)

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