Rock art in Namibia
Information on location, meaning and protection of rock art.
Pictures, drawings, designs or images painted or
engraved on the rock surfaces are generally referred to as "rock art". The
paintings are usually found on a walls of rock shelters (caves, etc.) formed in cliffs
in the mountains of the country. The engravings are also found on the large boulders and open surfaces of
rocks laying on hillsides, particularly at Twyfelfontein area.
The images and ideas that were used by the ancient artists always differ from site to site and country to country. An analysis of more than 15 000 rock engravings in Namibia has confirmed that animals, their spoors and abstract motives of images are represented almost equally.The ratio is 31, 30 and 32 percent respectively. On the contrary a human figures are used in only 3 percent of engravings.
Who were those artists and engravers? Who made the rock art? In Southern Africa and particularly in Namibia the artists were mainly San (Bushmen) hunters. The age of rock engravings is believed to range from 2 000 to 6 000 years old while some painted images have been dated up to 25 000 years old.
One of the most famous rock engravings site in Namibia is Twyfelfontein ("Doubtful Fountain", see photo album) in Damaraland where more than 2 500 images have been recorded and catalogued as well as several paintings. The engravings and images were first recorded in 1921 by Mr. R. Maack in the report written for the SWA Administration but the first detailed study of the site was conducted by Mr. Albert Viereck. The name Twyfelfontein was given to the place by Mr. David Levin, a sheep farmer, who moved to the area in 1947 and had to rely on unreliable water spring. There is a shelter where paintings of human figures can be seen. Most interesting is the fact that both forms of rock art (engravings and paintings) can be found in Namibia unlike South Africa where they are mostly geographically separated with an exception of Northern Cape. There is an opinion that older hunters used the engravings to teach their children about the animals and the strange circular images found at Twyfelfontein were used as a maps to indicate water sources in the area.
Twyfelfontein was proclaimed a national monument in 1952.
There is no certainty on the reasons why the rock art was made. Some experts believe that it were the pictured reminders of some events or records of history of the particular tribe/area. Another purpose could be a representation of religious beliefs, ceremonies and/or a trance experiences. It could also be a way of communication between tribes.
How long will rock art be with us? No doubt that the exposure to the elements is causing a damage constantly. An engravings become eroded and paintings fade with passage of time. But the major threat to the rock art are humans. The best way of protection of the rock art is by not touching it or tempering with it at all. It is highly damaging to spray any liquid on the paintings and engravings.
Famous "White Lady'' of the Brandberg
Twyfelfontein, Twyfelfontein Lodge, Attractions of Damaraland, Paula's Cave, Mowani Camp, Huab Lodge, Xaragu Camp, Bushman's Paradise Cave
P.O. Box 3127 Windhoek, Namibia
Fax: +264 61 244558
Page created and serviced by
Copyright © 1998-2013 NamibWeb.com - The online guide to Namibia
All rights reserved
Disclaimer: no matter how often this page is updated and its accuracy is checked www.namibweb.com and ETS will not be held responsible for any change in opinion, information, facilities, services, conditions, etc. offered by establishment/operator/service/information provider or any third party