Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Where on earth is the Shoshongo Dum?

Edward C. Tabler, in his book Pioneers of South West Africa & Ngamiland makes quite frequent reference to the Shoshongo Dum. It does not, however, appear on modern maps of Namibia or Botswana (the area covered by Tabler's book). Nor does it appear on any ancient maps that I've been able to look at. So where on earth is the Shoshongo Dum?

Tabler says, on page 36, of the trader Axel Wilhelm Eriksson (who married Fanny Stewardson, a relative of my wife), that "Eriksson's party trekked down the Shoshongo Dum in October 1878, travelled up the Okavango to the Omuramba Ombongo, and returned to Omaruru by way of eastern Ovamboland."

Several books with the writings of 19th-century travellers have been printed or reprinted in the last 30 years, and they often provide a "Register" giving a summary of information about the people and places mentioned in the book. But none of those I have seen gives any explanation of the Shoshongo Dum.

Tabler's text suggests that the Shoshongo Dum might be a river, and might possibly be a tributary of the Okavango. But the Okavango is a pretty big river, and flows through three countries -- Angola, Namibia and Botswana, so, if the Shoshongo Dum is a river, where does it join the Okavango? And what is its modern name, so one can find it on a map?

Nowadays such things should be easy to find. We have the World Wide Web which has accumulated a huge amount of information since it started 20 years ago, and there are search engines to help you find it.

So I did a Google search for Shoshongo Dum, and when I had managed to convince Google that I was not looking for "Shoshone Dam" or "Shoshone Drum" it spat out just one reference: Oxen or Onions? The Search for Trade (and Truth) in the Kalahari, an article in Current Anthropology published in 1991. Other search engines returned nothing at all, so Google is still the top search engine on the Web.

There was nothing on Wikipedia, so I thought I'd put a stub of an article there, just in case anyone else should be looking for the Shoshongo Dum and wondering what it was. But Wikipedia would not let me link to the one article Google found that contained the term (and even there, only in a footnote). Wikipedia had blacklisted it.

Still, I suppose if I'd tried to look for it in the 19th century it would have taken me several months, if not years, instead of a few hours.

So if anyone is looking for the Shoshongo Dum, and Wikipedia continues to block the article, maybe this blog post can help people to find it.

And if anyone knows the modern name for it, or why it was called Shoshongo Dum in the first place, I hope they will let me know.

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