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    Abstract

    The Earliest Bantu.—The problems of the Bantu languages and the light they throw upon the earliest culture of the Bantu-speaking peoples are discussed by Dr. N. J. v. Warmele in Africa, vol. 3, No. 1. The Bantu languages constitute a group of exceptional uniformity both in grammar and vocabulary, which indicates that they are derived from one clearly distinct form of speech. From the comparative study of living Bantu dialects, philologists have reconstructed archaic or Ur-Bantu. From this may be deduced a knowledge of the ideas and the culture, and perhaps the place of origin of the ancient Bantu. The roots now accepted as belonging to the Ur-Bantu tongue number nearly a thousand. These indicate that the original home of the early Bantu was by a lake (root yangja; for example, Nyassa, Nyanza). Neither the names of animals nor plants are helpful, as they are too widely distributed throughout the whole continent; but the roots for the names of animals exclusively African are widely spread, so that the Ur-Bantu were familiar with them from an early date. If, therefore, they came from Asia, it must have been before their language began to split up, and the infancy of Ur-Bantu may safely be laid in Africa. As regards the nature of their culture, the root Yombe, meaning cattle, is of wide distribution, and cattle must therefore have been known long ago. But in South Africa the root for cattle, Komo, is related to the Hottentot goma-b, kuniamb. Further, it is only in the South African languages that the root for sheep occurs to any extent, suggesting that the Bantu obtained their sheep from the Hottentot. The widely distributed terms for breeding or rearing apply only to cattle. On the other hand, the Bantu were not cattle breeders simply, and a similar examination of the roots indicates that agriculture also played a part in the economic life of the people. The grain with which they have been longest acquainted is millet, and their agricultural implement the hoe. The evidence would also point to the fundamental religious conception as being taboo. Although1 tûla, ‘to forge iron’, is common, there is no term for iron, and the word tûmbi in use in South Africa also means cowrie, so that apparently iron was not known to the early Bantu, and when introduced was used through barter, and primarily served the purpose of currency and ornament only.

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