Khoekhoen and Hippo Shelter

Associated Archaeology

This site is located near the head of the Tierkloof that feeds into the Skulpspruit as it flows into the Grootkloof. The site has an area of level flooring which then falls away sharply to the tributary below. The deposit is rich compacted loam. There are a number of stone tools and bone on the surface of the site.

Meaning of the rock paintings

There are two rock painting traditions present – Bushmen hunter-gatherers and Khoekhoen (previously ‘Khoi’) herders finger paintings.

Bushmen rock paintings – These are all implicated in the general shamanistic belief system of the Bushmen. Interestingly, hippopotamus are not often painted. When they are it is usually to use them as a natural analogue of the Bushmen belief in the rain-animal. This rain animal was believed to live in deep pools of water – just like hippos – and to contain vast quantities of milk and blood, which would combine as rain when the rain-shamans captured and slaughtered a rain-animal. The strange composite beast is probably intended to show one of a range of strange and otherwise physically impossible animals that were believed to inhabit the Spirit World. The many rhebuck at this site are interesting and they may be understood as indicating an overtly positive social message; imbuing the site with a positive social energy (refer Doe and Fawn Shelter).

Khoekhoen rock paintings – This newly recognised rock painting tradition is not, as yet, well understood. Common characteristics of these sites is that they tend to be close to or follow water courses and that the sites in which they occur often have deeper cave-like or passage recesses. This art may relate to initiation and social identity practices.