Bushman Rock Art: An Interpretive Guide
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The prehistoric record of southern Africa extends back some 2 million years. The oldest cultural artefacts are stone tools such as handaxes, cleavers and choppers. In more recent centuries, archaeologists have found an extensive repertoire of artefacts including not only stone tools, but tools of bone, wood and shell as well as beads, jewellery, grinding stones, clothing, fishing equipment, burials and southern Africa’s enigmatic rock art. Understanding these painted scenes and menageries is not immediately obvious. Using this interpretive guide, visitors to these ancient shrines can properly interpret rock art panels and make sense of the complex world of Bushman beliefs. Bushman Rock Art is the first of its kind. Never before has rock art been so dissected and presented in such an easy- to-understand, interpretive manner, exploring the deep symbolic meaning behind the art and what these powerful images meant to Bushman artists. The images they painted, all with exquisite attention to detail, have deep ties to Bushman cosmology and their religious beliefs. With a selection of images from across southern Africa, deciphering the painted sequence of motifs is simple and innovative, making it possible for the layperson to truly appreciate this phenomenal artistic tradition. Also included is a guide to rock art sites in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.
Tim Forssman was born in Johannesburg in 1986. He began cultivating a passion for prehistory and nature at school. Having completed an archaeology degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, he is now studying his PhD at the University of Oxford in England. He is currently researching ancient Bushmen who once lived in the remote parts of eastern Botswana. His research interests include the Iron Age, experimental archaeology, the Stone Age and rock art. Lee Gutteridge was born in Sheffield, England in 1973. Passionate about African wildlife, he is now a professional field guide with 18 years bush experience. He is currently the chairman of the Waterberg region of the Field Guides’ Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) and also the principal trainer of the Entabeni Nature Guide Training School. His books include the best-selling The Bushveld: A South African Field Guide, including the Kruger Lowveld (2008) and Okavango Field Guide (2011).
example also directly links bored stones to the spirit world. In the hand of this therianthropic figure are three digging sticks Some of the people in this cluster are carrying digging sticks, easily identified by the large bulb on the shaft, which is, in fact, what is known as a bored stone Photo: Decio Muianga Almost all of these women are carrying digging sticks Photo: Decio Muianga People fighting or battle scenes Description Sometimes two or more people are painted in clear conflict
are often painted with large ears, neuchal humps, robust muzzles, long necks and males have long spiralling horns. In some cases even the animals stripes have been painted. In northern Limpopo province, females are often painted in procession or in a mating posture with their heads held low and chins forward. Painting females in oestrus in a procession is unusual as at this time they are usually aggressive to one another. In this region kudus are often painted as the largest animal in the panel.
Sometimes the smallest image can take your breath away. Here a rhebuck ‘looks away’ from the artist, who has painted everything from the hindlegs to the ears in astonishing detail In this example, found not far from the image on the previous page, a rhebuck is reclining and peering over its shoulder Painted in white, this beautiful image of a rhebuck looks across the panel at Storm Shelter, with its leg stretched outwards as shamans are sometimes depicted Wildebeest Description This large
it made as it tried in earnest to evade its followers. This is just one example taken from a plethora of techniques, methods and practices that Bushmen use to survive. Other aspects of their rich and colourful culture are their hunting techniques, migratory patterns, gender relations, egalitarian structure and deep spiritual belief. Bushmen are resilient, adaptable and capable of surviving in a range of environments, from coastal fringes to the sparse Kalahari. Their bushcraft has developed over
thousands of years, going all the way back to the Stone Age. A Bushman from the Kalahari There is much debate regarding whether to use the terminology Bushman or San to describe the collective southern African hunter-gatherers. The word ‘Bushman’ comes from the Dutch word Boschjesmans. It was applied during the seventeenth century and as such, some feel that this word is derogatory as it is associated with the racist views held by early colonists. Academics prefer to use the word ‘San’, which