J.D. Lewis-Williams, one of the leading South African archaeologists and ethnographers, excavates meaning from the complex mythological stories of the San-Bushmen to create a larger theory of how myth is used in culture. He extracts their “nuggets,” the far-reaching but often unspoken words and concepts of language and understanding that are opaque to outsiders, to establish a more nuanced theory of the role of these myths in the thought-world and social circumstances of the San. The book -draws from the unique 19th century Bleek/Lloyd archives, more recent ethnographic work, and San rock art;-includes well-known San stories such as The Broken String, Mantis Dreams, and Creation of the Eland;-extrapolates from our understanding of San mythology into a larger model of how people create meaning from myth.
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"J.D. Lewis-Williams assembles encyclopaedic knowledge of recorded /Xam San symbolism so readers can journey to comprehensive understanding of the /Xam world. This book provides a programmatic start to a new era in San studies--one where readers can float freely above the tedium of "...theoretical"... concerns toward humane sharing and discovery."
--Megan Biesele, Director, Kalahari Peoples Fund
"David Lewis-Williams revolutionized rock art research worldwide with his ethnographically-based interpretations of southern San (Bushmen) rock paintings. His latest book, on San mythology and belief, promises to have the same impact on studies of myth and folklore. By identifying and explaining the symbolic keys ("nuggets" as he calls them) to the San mythological corpus, he reveals for the first time its rich texture and logic, thereby placing it in its rightful position as one of the world's great cognitive achievements."
--David S. Whitley