The Hadzabe tribe of Tanzania is the last true nomads of Africa
They grow no food, raise no livestock, and live without rules or calendars. They are living a hunter-gatherer existence that is little changed from 10,000 years ago. What do they know that we’ve forgotten?
Living near Lake Eyasi in northern Tanzania, the Hadza have managed to preserve their hunter-gatherer way of life for over 30 000 – maybe over 50 000 – years. Their language was once classified with the Khoisan due to similar click sounds, but it has since been reclassified as an isolate – a language unrelated to any other.
They are also not closely genetically related to any other tribe. This, combined with their location in the Great Rift Valley, only adds to the intrigue and mystique of these wonderful people. Even their oral history, unlike that of most African tribes, does not indicate that they moved to Hadzaland from elsewhere, making them one of the oldest tribes in Africa – if not the oldest.
Using bow and arrow
Using bow and arrow, Hadza hunters shoot tiny birds from 30 yards with deadly precision. A hunter takes aim at a bird and follows through the thorns to find his quarry. Below: Hunters kindle a fire to cook birds and a freshly killed dik-dik.
Hadza typically live in camps with 20-40 residents. On any given day, camp members decide where and how to forage by closely observing their country, discussing their observations with other camp members, and by drawing upon their expert knowledge of the land. Though the Hadza recognize five general regions within their country (Mangola, Han!abi, Tli’ika, Sipunga, and Dunduiya), there are no land-holding territorial divisions between Hadza groups.
The Hadza are highly skilled, selective, and opportunistic foragers, and adjust their diet according to season and circumstance. Depending on local availability, some groups might rely more heavily on tubers, others on berries, others on meat. This variability is the result of their opportunism and adjustment to prevailing conditions.
Traditionally, the Hadza do not make use of hunting dogs, although this custom has been recently borrowed from neighboring tribes to some degree. Most men (80%+) do not use dogs when foraging.
The they’ve never lived densely enough to be seriously threatened by an infectious outbreak. They have no known history of famine; rather, there is evidence of people from a farming group coming to live with them during a time of crop failure.
The Hadza diet remains even today more stable and varied than that of most of the world’s citizens. They enjoy an extraordinary amount of leisure time. Anthropologists have estimated that they “work”—actively pursue food—four to six hours a day. And over all these thousands of years, they’ve left hardly more than a footprint on the land.