Cederberg Rock Art: Cederberg Conservancy and Eastern Koue Bokkeveld

Guide No 3 to the rock art of the Western Cape focusses on the Cederberg rock art, Cederberg Conservancy and Eastern Koue Bokkeveld.
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Title: Cederberg Rock Art
Subtitle: Cederberg Conservancy and Eastern Koue Bokkeveld
Author: Peter Slingsby
Publisher: Baardskeerder cc
Series: Rock Art of the Western Cape, Book 3
ISBN 1919900578 / ISBN 1-919900-57-8 (South Africa)
3rd edition, Cape Town 2002
Softcover, 15 x 21 cm, 48 pages, monochrome illustrations


Southern Africa has the richest legacy of Rock Art in the world. The Western Cape, particularly the mountainous region from the Koue Bokkeveld and the Cederberg to the Agter Pakhuis area, has more rock paintings per km² than anywhere else. No fully comprehensive survey of the area has ever been carried out, and there may be hundreds of rock paintings in this region that have yet to be "discovered". In the past the authorship of the paintings was hotly debated. Some refused to believe that Bushmen were capable of producing such beautiful, finely-detailed art. Some suggested that the Khoekhoen (= KhoiKhoi, Quena) must have been responsible. Extreme ideas proposed that Southern Africa had been visited by Phoenicians, Arabs, early Europeans or even Romans. It is now generally accepted that without any doubt the Bushmen or San were the authors. Archaeological, linguistic and genetic research has increasingly suggested that the San were the original inhabitants of the entire region, probably the direct descendants of the first true human beings.

Homo sapiens sapiens, who stayed behind in this part of Africa while the rest of humanity migrated throughout the planet. For perhaps 50 000 years the antecedents of the San were alone in Southern Africa. Then, only two or three thousand years ago, the gatherer-hunter San were challenged, in the West by the Khoekhoen herders with their sheep and, later, cattle. In the east the Nguni people, agriculturists, moved south, displacing the San from present day Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Swaziland until they reached Kwazulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. These herder and iron age challenges were by no means the end of the road for the southern San; where they were not absorbed they accommodated these radical changes, and even influenced the "invaders" - the "click" languages of Southern Africa are a San legacy. The southern San were culturally different from the modern day San, the Botswana Kung, Khoe and other clans. These have no tradition of rock art, and their languages differ.

South Africa's National Motto, !KE E: /XARRA //KE, which means "Unity in Diversity", is in the extinct language of the southern San. One day in the sixteenth or seventeenth century a group of San gathering food on the west coast near Saldanha Bay may have looked up and seen the strangest sight of their lives. Perhaps an artist amongst them carried this strange image in his mind -and high in the mountains above Porterville, 100 km from the sea, he painted the galleon illustrated here. That poignant image spelled the end for the San. Over the next few centuries they were systematically hunted, enslaved and absorbed until today they and their culture are extinct. It is not our purpose here to discuss the pros and cons of the cultural and racial clash that led to the genocide of the San. However, when we look at the fading images which they have left behind we are humbled by the terrible fate which overtook these artists and their descendants: and we should take especial care to admire and preserve their legacy.

Contents: Cederberg Rock Art. Cederberg Conservancy and Eastern Koue Bokkeveld

Dating the Paintings
Subject Matter: Animals
Beliefs and the "Meaning" of the Paintings
Access to the Paintings
Access to the Rock Art: Where to Stay
Do's and Don'ts
Where to see the Paintings
Dwarsrivier, Kromrivier & Nuwerust
Mount Ceder (Grootrivier)
Zuurvlakte (Zoo Ridge)
Klein Cederberg
Sandrivier (Houdenbek)
Op die Berg
Tourist Information
The maps
Further Reading