Southern African Rock Art Facts

Did You Know?

  • Painted stones found in Namibia date back at least 25,000 years
  • Rock engravings are generally much younger, with the oldest one dated at 11,000 years ago
  • Rock painting continued up until the time of the European settlers, as some rock art depicts wagons
  • San artists used fingers, animal hair brushes, stick and feathers to draw on the rocks
  • Iron was commonly used to make red and yellow coloured pigments, but manganese oxide, burnt bones, ash and fine clay were also used to make other colours
  • Scientists are not entirely sure what exactly bound all the pigments together, but it is likely that egg white, plant sap, blood and urine might have been used.
  • Paintings with several colours are generally the most recent, and often show the experiences that a healer might have had while in a trance. Trance paintings may show aquatic animals, lines with dots linking elements of a picture, and part human-part animal figures
  • The San believed that the eland had mystical powers, explaining its frequent appearance in rock art.
  • Archaeologists believe that the art works provided a way for an entire community to share mental images, such as those that occurred while in a trance state
  • Rock engravings are found in both hard and soft rocks, with the more recent engravings thought to be those that are more finely carved
  • Rock paintings themselves cannot be dated, but paintings on small stones, known as burial stones, can be radiocarbon dated.
  • As some panels have overlapping images, archaeologists can tell which pictures are the oldest, to provide a sequence showing the development of the art form
  • The San were in the lowveld long before the Africans arrived and long before the first whites came into the area.
  • A date and reason for the disappearance of the San in the KNP area is not known.

Kruger Park Rock Art

Most of the rock art found in Kruger is in the south-western foothills but recent research suggests that shelter paintings are prolific thro...more
Kruger National Park - South African Safari