Bantu, also A-Bantu, is the comprehensive term for over 400 different Ethnien south and means of Africa, which speak a language, which to the language family of the Bantusprachen belong. There are today (2004) over 300 million “Bantu”.

In the linguistic usage of the “white ones” of South Africa “Bantu” often becomes asName for all black African uses. In addition one so often calls the chopping farmers of Gabon.

The term “Bantu” is just as problematic as the term” Slawen “or” Semiten “. Dr. William Bleek used 1862 in its book a comparative grammar of the South African languages as the firstthe word “Bantu” as collective term for all “Bantu peoples. “Bantu” means in many Bantusprachen “humans”. Bleek dared hypothesis that so many common characteristics had a multiplicity of languages, which were used in central, south, east and even west Africa that it to a common language familyto belong must. This thesis is essentially today still accepted, even if some details were modified. Most that admits over the history of the Bantu is, could be reconstructed by linguistic research.

The individual Bantu groups were at present colonizing Africa over infar territory scatters, which handed South Africa from Cameroon and Kenya until. The “Bantu” did not call itself as “Bantu” and had also no national Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl. Some common customs connected the groups. With the culture change faster since the penetration of the Europeans in Africa becomes increasingthe term “Bantu” beyond the linguistic less and less relevantly, if not even misleading.

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Verbreitung der Bantu-Sprachen und potentielle Urheimat
spreading of the Bantu languages and potential Urheimat

the Bantu originally probably originate from the Kameruner high country and the southeast of Nigeria. Sometime in 2. Millenium v. Chr. they began to expand their territory into the rain forests of Central Africa. Later second, faster set about 1000 yearsPhase of the expansion, further to the south and the east. Everywhere, where they moved, they mixed with the so far there living groups and formed new societies.

In 16. and 17. Massai pushed and continued to displace century - Krieger of the north into their area the Bantu stilleastward and the south.

When January van Riebeeck went around 1652 at the cape of good hope from board, there no Bantu sprachigen peoples lived. But in the consequence ever more Bantu into the south of the continent and displaced gradually the there living San moved and Khoi Khoi. Van Riebeeck the following European settler, mostly dutchmen, French Huguenots and German, those today as Afrikaaner (also: Buren) summarized people layer of South Africa, divided about hundred years long, thus to approximately for the center 18. Century, the southern Africa almostexclusive with the Khoi Khoi, whereby this increasingly into a subordinate position to the Buren came. Only over about 1770 discovered the Buren for the first time the Bantu. Afterwards it came up to the end 19. Century too partial violent territorial fights between these two groups of peoples.

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Social organization

the Bantu were divided into different trunks or Häuptlingstümer. Here it concerned not around national federations, but independent groups from some hundreds to some thousand humans. Moves forward more together, usually a former important chieftain was common to this Ethnien. Were led the trunks of a chieftain, who had depending upon group differently large powers. The affiliation to a chieftain was not fixed. That is, a popular leader could increase its trunk by the admission of refugees of other trunks and so at powerand reputation win. Unpopular chieftains lost accordingly at influence.

The smallest unit of the Bantu organisational structure formed the household (Household), also Kraal mentioned and consisting of man, woman or women, who children as well as other relatives living in the same household. The man was the head of the householdand could live in polygamem relationship. It had the complete authority over the family. Like that a clear hierarchy was given. This hierarchy continued to itself pull up to the children. For example the firstborn son of the successors of its father became as head of the family. The household andthose relational very close relations generally played an important role in the life of the Bantu. Those households, which were resident in the same valley or on the same hill, were summarized in Sub districts (Wards). The Sub districts or Wards formed their own administrative and quite-speaking system, for thata Headman so mentioned managed.

The Sub districts again found in districts union, at whose point now the chieftain. The central dwelling of the chieftain was often more largely, often some thousand inhabitants comprehensive place.

The chieftain was not selected generally, but received his officeby transmission. With most trunks the oldest son inherited the office of his father. With some trunks the office was left to the oldest brother of the deceased chieftain, and after its death again at its oldest brother. This repeated itself so long, to the latterBrother had deceased. Now became the oldest son original chieftain, thus the oldest one of the brothers, the leader erkoren. The chieftain was surrounded with a number of trusted friend advisor. It concerned usually around relatives like uncles and brothers, over influential Headmen or personalFriends. The degree of the democracy depended on the strength of the chieftain. The more powerful and more influential a chieftain was, the less influence had the people. Although the leader had large power, he did not stand over the law. It could both of the advice as well asby its people to be criticized. During offenses a compensation could be demanded by it. As consequence of its offenses it was left often also of members of its people. In extreme cases it released a civil war .

Bantu philosophy

a catholic Missionar, Placide of temple, haswith his book concerning „Bantu philosophy “to the re-valuation of African philosophy arranges an impulse. Because temple lent to the native convictions a philosophical garb.

' One could summarize the most important theses of temple following:

  1. There is a traditional philosophy of the Bantu.
  2. It concerns here a Ontologie.
  3. Therein the term corresponds „ntu “(Kraft, Macht), which is called in Europe „its “.
  4. The Bantusprache does not have own expressions, which describe philosophy and are and/or. must be explained by abendländischen terms.
  5. This philosophy do not only have the observed people,all Bantu separates and „nature peoples “.

This African „theory of the Seins “is interesting because the Bantu the use of „its “in the sense of „exists “does not know. But the word already mentioned becomes „ntu “the keyword of its Ontologie, which with the words Kraft and/or. Power translatesbecomes. In other words expressed „Kraft are inseparably with each other connected and its “. Each Entität possesses one it appropriate Kraft, with which it can affect other force natures. Such force natures can be spirit, humans, ancestors, in addition, things and circumstances such as obsession or passion. Overthe meaning of God gives it separate opinions. For some God is not „ntu “, but a before existing creator, that belongs to another category. For the others however God is the first and original force nature.

Vorkoloniale of kingdoms

at the Congo delta (about 15.-18. Century):

at the Victoriasee (about 18.- 20. Century):

  • Buganda
  • Busoga
  • Karagwe
  • Rwanda
  • Burundi

around the Sambesi (about 13.- 19. Century):

  • Monomotapa
  • Shona
  • Mutapa
  • Butua

other kingdoms:

ethnical partitioning

the Bantu into the southern Africa are divided in five main groups: Herero, Nguni, Sotho, Venda and Shangana, whereby the Nguni represented the largest group. The five groups are divided as follows:

interesting is the thing in common of the two powerful blocks of the Nguni and thatSotho. With both it concerns patrilineare societies, at which the Häuptlingstümer formed the sozio political units. Similar also the food acquisition was by cultivation, Hirtentum and hunt. The most important differences were the strongly deviating languages, although both dialects of the Bantu Sprachfamilie belong, and the different settlementand relationship samples. With the Nguni the settlement sample was coined/shaped villages scattered through far, whereas with the Sotho more concentrated cities prevailed. The moreover one the Nguni was organized exogam. In contrast to it the Sotho preferred marriages among cousins and cousins.


the Bantu were did not territorial-refer like the Europeans, but rather group-related. In accordance with its opinion one could not possess but only use country. As long as sufficient country for all was present, they had actually only very vague conceptions of borders. Borders turned out rather naturally in the form of rivers orMountains, which were not by any means fixed however.

food acquisition

the food acquisition of the Bantu was limited mainly to Hirtentum, agriculture and hunt, whereby usually the women responsible for the agriculture and the men drew for the Hirtentum and the hunt. ThatFish was surprisingly except with the Tsonga and partially with the Mpondo of no importance. The Hauptnahrungsmittel were thus corn, meat, vegetable, cow and Geissenmilch, water and grain beer, which contained only very little alcohol however compared to the European beer. WithThe Bantu a whole set of taboos considered consumption of meat. So for example no meat could be eaten by dogs, apes, crocodiles and queues. Likewise taboo was the meat of some birds, like the owls, crows and vultures. Depending upon Ethnie further taboos had consideredbecome.

All Bantu Ethnien commonly was also a clear separation between the tasks of the women and those of the men. Different was however the kind of the separation.

house types

the Bantu lived in two different types of huts. On the one hand the Nguni knew in such a wayBeehive mentioned hat, whereby it concerns a circle-like developed basic structure out of long Schösslingen, which was covered with grass. The huts of the Sotho, Venda and Shangana Tsonga are well-known under the English term Cone and Cylinder hat. Out of vertical posts a cylindrical wall was formed, thosewith mud and cow dung one sealed. The roof was built from tied together Schösslingen. The soil consisted with both types of festgestampfter earth.


in the faith conceptions of the Bantu takes the magic - term a central role, thus the faith in supernatural natures,which one to positively affect tried. These supernatural natures could - in accordance with their conviction - which lives affect to the good one as also to the bad one. They often saw a Manifestation of the souls of the deceased ancestor in the supernatural natures. With a multiplicity of ceremonies, ritesand taboos tried to receive the Bantu the good will of the spirit. Many Bantu believed that dead ones transform into queues; therefore also these were admired.

In addition, together with the faith in supernatural natures the faith in a highest nature, the creator prevailed forwards. ThoseBantu did not believe however that the creator worries greatly about humans, therefore hardly admired it it in cults, but called it at the most in prayers. In dry areas it took the role of the Regenmachers, in damper became it rather than sun Godseen.

The moreover one the Bantu knew the separation from body and spirit. The unsterbliche soul separated with death from the mortal body - so the faith of the Bantu.

see also

to Bantusprache


  • William Bleek: A Comparative Grammar OF SouthAfrican LANGUAGEs. 1862
  • Manfred K. H. Eggert: Historical Linguistics and Prehistoric Archaeology: Trend and Pattern in Early Iron Age Research OF Sub Saharan Africa. Contributions to the general one and comparative archaeology 3, 1981, 277-324.
  • Manfred K. H. Eggert: The Bantu problem of and African Archaeology.In: Ann B.Steel (OD.), African Archaeology: A Critical Introduction (Blackwell Studies in global Archaeology), 2004, 301-326, ISBN 1405101563
  • I. Schapera (OD.): The Bantu Speaking of impulse OF South Africa. 1959: Routlege & Kegan Paul, London.

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