Home San Rock Art Fertility Shelter

  

 

 

Fertility Shelter

 

Associated Archaeology

The site has a very rich surface Archaeology – thanks to a good site custodianship and visitors not removing surface finds. The remoteness and difficult terrain also helped in this. Stone tools of all descriptions and in all stages of manufacture occur here (see description of Dome or Nguni Site surface Archaeology). This site was clearly considered a suitable and indeed favoured home for Bushmen.

 

Meaning of the rock paintings

There are over 200 individual rock paintings here. There is a bewildering range of styles / manners of depictions and themes present at this site. One of the most remarkable of these is what appears to be a front-on depiction in white paint with deep red outline of a splay-legged supernatural female figure. The physical, iconographic and conceptual linkage between this figure and the site’s remarkable vulva-like opening in the shelter wall at the western end is surely no coincidence ?

 

This site’s very specialised imagery and idiosyncratic styles and manners, coupled with its singular physical presence suggest that this was a place for specialised symbolic and religious thought. The imagery may be classed as dominantly ‘shamanic’ in that most of it seems to have been directly authored by Bushman shamans.

 

Gender and Shamanism – The vulva therianthrope (described above) shows how gender and shamanism can combine in powerful social and religious symbols. That no other site in the area – which is only again found at three sites in KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg – is directly attributable to the site in which it occurs (vulva like entrance into beyond the rock wall). The San believed that such geological features represented real passageways between this world and the Spirit world beyond the rock face. The Spirit world was, however, potentially threatening and a space best negotiated by people trained to do so – the shamans. It is noticeable that the rock paintings have been place at the opposite end of the site to the natural vulva-like opening. The ‘natural’ space would have been considered immensely potent and there was no need to nuance it further with rock paintings. Indeed, the contrary would have been true.

 

Specialists – The great care and attention to detail taken in painting many of the human figures suggests that individuals or specific classes of people – signified by particular dress accoutrements – were intended. That many of these human figures engage in Medicine dances, have therianthropic characteristics and adopt trance body postures makes it clear that these paintings and individuals relate directly to shamans. The very specific nature of the animal depictions suggest that these animals represent individual Spirit World visions and experiences.

 

Apocalyptic imagery – The grotesque white human figures, which represent the most recent painting episode, are best understood as a final and Apocolyptic rock art. This was the Bushmen’s final attempt to combat Bantu-speaking and White settler invasion of their land. The bushmen tried to coax violent and potent Beings out from behind the rock / Spirit World so that these Beings might vanquish the non-Bushman invaders.