South African Rock Art

Rock art of northern Europe is of great interest to me because of my roots, but unfortunately there are not many really good photo resources available online. So, when sorting through old bookmarks and coming across an article from a Finnish media site, YLE, about South African rock art, I became quite enthralled. This inspired me to dig further and find a wealth of beautiful material to study.

First, back to the article, which states that South African rock art is said to be one of the most complicated rock arts in the world. The research into this sophisticated ancient art form is considered very important in the post-apartheid era. […] South Africa is the cradle of humankind, the place where our very first ancestors lived. The oldest human skulls found in the area are more than two million years old. The oldest piece of art ever found on earth, a piece of ochre that was only found last year, is 77 thousand years old, says Dr. Benjamin Smith, the director of the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

What is amazing when you view these images is how very sophisticated these works are. We have learned that rock art tells a wholly different story than the old history books written by white colonialists who wiped out the ancient local histories in South Africa ( and many other countries). Dr. Smith’s view is that archeology has a key role to play in making history relevant in South Africa.

The rural areas are the poorest in South Africa. Sustainable rock art tourism could help the people living there. The South African government has given large sums of money to build the guided tour centers. The work is done by local people, using traditional building techniques. Showing people that rock art is not just culturally valuable, but can also provide living to those living in rural areas, is the best way to protect the ancient art of South Africa.

Here are a few more related links:
Metropolitan Museum of Art
more images
Bradshaw Foundation, a vast site with images and writings about Tanzania, Namibia, West Central Africa, Niger and many other countries in the world. I just found it today and will be busy poring over this resource!

May 31, 2004 in Rock Art & Archaeology by Marja-Leena