!Kung life is organized around eight permanent water holes and 14 independent camps. These camps are moved about five or six times a year. The population density is approximately 0.4 persons per square mile, a density typical for hunter-gatherers. The habitat is the Kalahari Desert, a region surprisingly abundant in resources. Nearly 500 species of plants and animals are known and named by the !Kung. The climate is characterized by hot summers with a four-month rainy season and by moderate winters with no rainfall.
The !Kung enjoy a secure existence. They depend primarily on vegetable foods (Lee estimates that about 37 percent of their diet consists of meat). Their most important food plant is the mongongo or mangetti nut, a highly nutritious and superabundant staple. Other major plant foods are also available, but the !Kung tend to eat only those that are more attractive in terms of taste or ease of collection. Game animals are less abundant and less predictable. A type of large antelope is regularly hunted, as are warthogs and smaller antelopes. Game birds are captured in ingenious snares, and a large tortoise is a great favorite.
The camp or local band is the basic residential unit and the primary focus of subsistence activities. Members of each local group move out each day individually or in small groups to exploit the surrounding area, returning each evening to pool collected resources. Women do the gathering in groups of three to five. The men do the hunting, which is primarily an individual activity. Bows and poisoned arrows serve as effective weapons. Food is extensively shared, although the sharing of meat is more formally organized than the sharing of vegetable foods. Large game is butchered and divided into three portions: about one-fifth remains with the family, one-fifth is cut into strips