Home San Rock Art People on the Move (Dog) Shelter

  

 

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE (DOG) SHELTER

 

Associated Archaeology

The site’s floor is both a rock ledge – with some signs of material having been pounded and ground on parts of this rock – and a lower section of earth and steep slope.   As a result there is not much archaeological deposit inside the site.   Nor are there many artefacts, though one finds a number of these scattered down the steep slope beneath the site.

 

Meaning of the rock paintings

There are approximately 150 individual rock paintings pulsed along the higher section of the shelter’s curving back wall.  The paintings are mostly in an exceptional state of preservation.  A deep red is the dominant colour, with occasional white and some black paint also used.   The site’s imagery seems to represent of not a single episode, then only a few painting episodes that were closely related.  The focus is dominantly on people – other than the usual dominance of eland.

 

Journey – Within this anthro-centric focus the theme is clearly on movement of large groups of people.  The depiction of a spear and the dogs and possible goats clearly indicates that we are dealing with a ‘contact’ landscape in which Bushmen are not the sole inhabitants.   The procession figures are not just depicting an ordinary narrative as some of the human figures are shown bleeding from the nose – something that typically happens to shamans who have ingested physhoactive plants.   As the function of the shaman was to roam widely – between this world and the Spirit World behind the rock face and along the river, the metaphor of a procession is here apt.   The very careful attention paid to the depiction of bags – also a item / agent of transformation – fits in with this message.   Of course, the Leliekloof itself was an ideal conduit for human movement and Bushmen groups would have moved up and down its course exploiting natural and spiritual resources.

 

The body and strange animals – The impossibly elongated and malleable bodies of the two intertwined human figures at the site again suggests an extra dimension;  here showing how the normal physical bounds of the body may be transcended while in altered state of consciousness.   The strange antelope-lynx animal again shows how normally impossible animals and Beings can exist in the Spirit World.

 

Honey – The human figure reaching up to the arc of oblong objects is best interpreted as someone trying to harvest wild honey from honeycombs.   Bees often make their hives in rock shelters that have cracks and fissures.   Honey was one of the only objects Bushmen were said to own individually and guard jealously.   Honey and bees were considered  by the !Kung of the Kalahari to be one of a dozen things into which the great God had put large quantities of supernatural potency.   Indeed, wild honey periodically gets infected with a fungus that causes it to have hallucinogenic qualities.