Maclear History

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The San
The first inhabitants of the Maclear district were the San: correct spelling Xan with a click for the X. Many years later when the European settlers arrived, they called them the Bushmen. According to the Standard Encyclopedia for Southern Africa they were a short, predominantly hunting and food gathering people whose remnants today are only found in die Kalahari Desert. Archaeological remains indicate that they appeared 12 000 years ago in South Africa and specifically 5 000 years ago in the Maclear area. They were related to the Negroid branch of mankind and especially to the Sandawe of Tanzania in Central Africa.

The San are small of stature and classed as being of pygmy size. Most notably of their stature is a hollowing of their backs, big buttocks and thighs. The abdomen prominent, the skin folded and of a yellowish colour. Flat noses, small or no earlobes, small hands and feet. The hair arranged in isolated tufts. They adjusted themselves to the circumstances where they lived. If game was abundant they hunted with bow and arrow. Otherwise they gathered berries, roots or other food from the veld. If they stayed near the sea, they gathered seafood like oysters. In the Maclear area, game as well as food from the veld, were plentiful. They roamed through the rolling green hills and the rocky mountains and found shelter in the numerous caves. Plenty firewood and numerous streams with clean and fresh water. They loved to paint under overhanging rocks and caves and in doing so left a record of themselves and the way in which they lived.

They did not marry. Child-bearing started early, commonly before the girl was old enough for her wisdom teeth to have erupted. According to their paintings they did not wear any clothes. The men were usually painted with a big and erect penis. A stick was pierced through the skin in die centre of the penis so that sexual intercourse could not be practiced freely and could be controlled.

They also painted figures, part animal-part man, their gods and shamans. The most popular game painted by them was the eland [Taurotragus Oryx]. They believed that these animals were the strongest of all game and that their strength were stored in their fat, especially that of the old bulls. They also believed that the eland knew where their creator was and that they always gathered in his vicinity so as to answer on his call. On the farm Chamisso there is a painting of a ship being wrecked on the rocks. On the farm Craigmore there is a painting of a wagon drawn by oxen and driven by white people. Possible the arrival of the first white settlers. On the farm Rockwater there is a painting of a donkey. The first donkeys were brought to Maclear in 1862 by the Griquas. This painting is possible one of the last painted by the San in the district. Because the last of them were seen in that area was during 1873.

During 1932 big stone blocks with San paintings were removed from caves on the farms Linton and Zamenkomst for display in the South African Museum in Cape Town. Many paintings are today still to be seen in the district, especially on the farms like Boncourt, Chamisso, Chillingly, Craigmore, Forest Reserve Mooi River, Glen Cullen, Labyrinth, Lancelot, Maclear Commonage, Madonel, Northam, Riverside, Roseg, Serengia and Weatherley.

The San language had five clicks: c = tongue against the back of the front teeth: q = tongue against the palate: q! = tongue down after lower front teeth: x = in the right corner of the mouth and x! = in the left corner of the mouth. The river flowing past the present town of Maclear was called by them the Nx!anx!aghu. This means the place where the zebras, Burchell's species [Equidae Burchelli] grazed. This in fact was also the first name for the later village eventually called Maclear.

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Noel Wagenaar

Tel: 045 9321038
Fax: 045 932 1242
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Maclear is a small town in the Eastern Cape's mountainous region. It is surrounded by rural settlements and agricultural landscapes and is set against the majestic Drakensberg Mountain Range.

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Maclear/Nqanqarhu, Eastern Cape, South Africa