Hunting Play Among the San Children: Imitation, Learning, and Play

  • Kaoru ImamuraEmail author
Part of the Replacement of Neanderthals by Modern Humans Series book series (RNMH)


To understand the characteristics of learning among children of the San, hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari, this study focuses on observing children’s imitative behavior and analyzing the functions of imitation in obtaining skills for toolmaking and use, in communication, and in creating new types of play. As imitation is central to social learning, the imitative processes in which children learn skills and acquire knowledge are described and discussed. The San children learn life skills through their play, and these are transmitted not by adults but mainly by their playmates. Although overt instruction is very rare, older boys often help younger ones when the latter reach an impasse in making toys by, for example, taking over and completing the work. This type of helping leads to the transmission of skills and exemplifies the mutual sharing of actions in San daily life.


San children Learning Imitation Play Shared intentionality 



I am deeply grateful to my |Gui and ||Gana friends in Botswana. I would like to express my gratitude to my family for their support and warm encouragement. Finally, I would like to thank Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas Grant No. 1201 (project leader is Prof. T. Akazawa, Kochi University of Technology, 2010–2015), Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research 22101003 (project leader is Prof. H. Terashima, Kobe Gakuin University, 2010–2015), Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research 07041012 (project leader is Prof. J. Tanaka, Kyoto University, 1995–1998), and Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research 63041072 (project leader is Prof. J. Tanaka, Kyoto University, 1988–1991); these made it possible to complete this study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Contemporary Social StudiesNagoya Gakuin UniversityNagoyaJapan

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