People have lived for many thousands of years in Southern Africa. They were probably the ancestors of the San (Bushmen).
Early seafarers and explorers who arrived at the Cape, recognized two basic groups:
- The herders or Khoikhoi, whom they called "Hottentots" (one of the words the Khoi used when they danced was hautitou, this sounded like "hottentot" to the Europeans) and
- The hunter-gatherers or San, whom they called "Bushmen".
In the Western and Southern Cape, herders and hunter-gatherers shared the environment, but in mountainous areas and over much of the dry Cape interior, only the hunter-gatherers lived.
The most noticeable outward difference between the herders and hunter-gatherers was that the Khoikhoi possessed herds of cattle and sheep, and therefore had a more diversified and superior subsistence base than most San. Therefore the meaning of Khoikhoi, namely Men of Men.
The Cape Khoikhoi were composed of various groups or clans, each with its own leadership and territory.