Rock Art : Addditional Websites

South African Rock Art : Websites

Trust for African Rock Art

David Coulson, the Chairman of TARA (Trust for African Rock Art), is probably the leading photographer of African Rock Art. Together with Alec Campbell, a founding trustee of TARA, David has produced a book, African Rock Art, Paintings and Engravings on Stone published by Harry N. Abrams Inc., New York in 2001. ISBN No. 0-8109-4363-8. This is the first comprehensive illustrated book on the subject....

David Coulson can be reached at :
E-mail : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See : The Bradshaw Foundation
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1. Rice University : Discovering Southern African Rock Art
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Extracts from an article by Jamie Hampson, MA (Oxon) :

Eight years ago, two South African archaeology students were walking in the breathtaking Drakensberg Mountains, a hundred miles inland from Durban. Above them loomed towering basalt cliffs reaching to 7000 feet.... As the sun began to set after a hard day’s searching for ancient rock paintings, they made their way back to camp. Suddenly, a ferocious lightning storm struck.... One of the students pointed to a rock shelter at the top of a steep hill to the west....


2. South African Rock Art Digital Archive : SARADA
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3. Southern African Rock Art
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For thousands of years, Khoisan-speaking San, popularly known as Bushmen, were the only inhabitants of southern Africa. These people hunted and gathered wild plants. There are 15,000 known San rock art sites in South Africa, perhaps as many as 50,000 in southern Africa....


San art is not the only rock art in southern Africa. About 2,000 years ago, closely related Khoikhoi or Khoekhoen herders, popularly known as Hottentots, migrated south into western parts of southern Africa. They also spoke Khoisan 'click' languages, but unlike the San, their art consisted primarily of finger-painted geometric designs, large dots, and hand prints.


4. Rock Art Research Institute
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Professor David Lewis-Williams is Senior Mentor at the Rock Art Research Institute and an A-rated scientist. After completing his Ph.D in 1977, he established the research unit that was eventually to become the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. His research interests include southern African San rock art, European Upper Palaeolithic cave art, and the western European Neolithic.


See also : Professor David Lewis Williams, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesbourg, South Africa
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In addition to more than 130 articles in scientific journals, he is the editor of two books and the author or co-author of a dozen others, including most recently, The Mind of the Curve: Exploring Consciousness and Prehistoric Art (Thames & Hudson) and A Cosmos in Stone: Interpreting Religion and Society through Rock Art (Altamira Press), which were both published in 2002.

... For the San, rock paintings weren’t just representations of life; they were also repositories of it. When shamans painted an eland, they didn’t just pay homage to a sacred animal; they also harnessed its essence. They put paint to rock and opened portals to the spirit world. In 1993, in a shallow cave in South Africa’s Drakensberg mountains, my colleagues Geoff Blundell and Sven Ouzman found a painting unlike anything else I’ve seen in my 40 years studying San art—a densely layered, 20-foot-long [6-meter-long] mural that gives us fresh insight into the spirit world of the Bushmen.


Though bushmen stopped painting rocks a century ago, some groups in the Kalahari Desert still practice rituals that evoke the San paintings. In all-night ceremonies women clap and sing as men dance around the fire, hyperventilating, until their "potency"-their spiritual power-begins to "boil" within them. A boiling shaman will usually bend over in pain, sometimes bleeding from the nose, as he enters the spirit world. He may transforms into an animal, tapping its power to cure the sick, make rain, or control prey animals. Even when human figures in San art are not half animal, they are often surreal, with irregular heads that suggest an altered state of being. San artists almost surely didn't paint until after a trance; then if they were like today's shamans, they spent hours recounting their experience. "This is what I looked like in the spirit world," they might say, as they painted a portal to that place of being.


5. National Geographic Magazine
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Article : "Ancient rock art sheds light on the trance experiences of Bushman shamans." By David Lewis-Williams. Photographs by Kenneth Garrett....


6. Arts of the San People in Nomansland
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In a remote area of South Africa lies one of the last places San people painted. Situated just south and east of Lesotho, Nomansland was so called by the colonial authorities because virtually no settlers and very few Bantu-speaking people lived there. From a colonial perspective, the many San people who lived there were propertyless nomads because they lived by hunting and gathering and followed the movements of the game. ---


Despite the presence of San people, then, the area was, in a colonial mindset, effectively a No Man's Land. Ironically, because the area was settled so late in colonial history, the San managed to sustain their way of life in the face of increasing hostility before they were, as all over South Africa, slain or forced to amalgamate with their more powerful Bantu-speaking neighbors.


Some of the last paintings made by the San come from this area. These include many intriguing images of grotesque figures, enigmatic thin red lines fringed by white dots, and numerous, complexly shaded eland. None of the images, however, are more intriguing than those with large heads. At many sites, scholars have discovered anthropomorphic images with heads that are exaggerated in size. Typically, these heads are greatly detailed; they are painted in profile with chin, upper and lower lips, nose, eye, and ear. Moreover, the images often have a characteristic headdress. Below the head, less detail is evident—figures have no legs, or they have arms without hands; in some sites, there are heads without any bodies whatsoever. Each head is unique to a particular site, making them especially significant.


Their uniqueness raises interesting questions about what they represent. Many of the figures have features, such as blood from the nose or divining switches, that indicate they are depictions of San shamans. It is possible that these images are portraits of individual, powerful shamans. If so, they are not portraits in the Western sense of the word; many of them have unrealistic features that point to their transformation into animal form. If these are portraits of San shamans, then they represent what those shamans look like in the spirit world.