The following explanation and the photo of a !Kung family in the Kalahari is excerpted from a College and A.P. World History textbook called The Global Past, by Fields, Barber, and Riggs (Bedford Books: 1998). The photo was first used in a 1947 issue of Life Magazine.
Telling an Oral Account. In preliterate societies and sometimes in literate ones, accounts of the past are preserved using the oral, or spoken tradition. This is especially in Africa, where storytellers like this one shown in this photograph have preserved detailed accounts of events from centuries or even millennia earlier. Such accounts, of course, must be evaluated by source analysis (as must any source of information), but they constitute a valuable store of information about the past. Interestingly, the oral tradition of storytelling is often more adaptable than the written tradition because of its flexibility to change with the times, keeping the story sounding "fresh" and relevant to the concerns of society at the time.
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