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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa

Historic Rock Paintings

   

Historic Rock Paintings

AiAiba Rock Painting


On the farm Anibib, approximately 45kms from Omaruru, is Ai- Aiba, the Rock Painting Lodge. It is set amongst a massif of granite rock boulders, and the view overlooking the Erongo Mountain Nature Conservancy, is simply stunning. This is the place to come and explore an area rich in historic rock paintings. Ai Aiba is a Khoekhoegowab word meaning 'the person who walks in front to show the way'.

The rock art was first recorded by Abbé Breuil, a French archaeologist, anthropologist, ethnologist and geologist, noted for his worldwide studies of cave art, especially in Southern Africa. He undertook three expeditions to South West Africa and Rhodesia (Namibia and Zimbabwe respectively) in the late 1940's and described this period as 'the most thrilling years of my research life.)

In 1953 he discovered a painting over 6,000 years old, subsequently named The White Lady, under a rock overhang in the Brandberg Mountain. Breuil, a competent draughtsman, painstakingly reproduced the cave paintings he came upon, and published many books and monographs on the subject.

The Ai Aiba Rock Painting Drive is approximately 3 hrs long, with rock-art discovered along the way. A visit to a neighbouring farm, the Ai Aiba Etemba picnic drive, highlights the paintings in the well-known Hain Cave.

Twyfelfontein


One of the most prominent collections of rock paintings and engravings in Namibia can be viewed at Twyfelfontein, (doubtful spring). Twyfelfontein itself lies some 550m above sea level and there are some 2,500 rock engravings on 212 slabs of rock, with an additional 13 panels embracing further examples of rock paintings. Stone artifacts and 'stone tool manufacturing debris' can also be found here.

As Twyfelfontein lies in a valley, it is flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain, covered in a hard patina. The early Stone Age artists, probably the work of San hunters, chiselled through this incrustation to produce their art work and in time the patina reformed over the engravings protecting them from weathering. Stone Age hunters and animals were attracted to this small perennial spring, the only one of its kind in the area.

Rock engravings Twyfelfontein

There are 17 different sites at Twyfelfontein of rock paintings, totaling 212 stone slabs covered with engravings. It is these pieces of Stone Age art that lends the importance of Twyfelfontein, as opposed to that of the rock paintings and stone artifacts. The most famous and to some, the most impressive rock engravings are:

  • The lion with the kink in its tail
  • The giant giraffe
  • The fable animal
  • The works at the 'place of ceremonies'
  • The symbolic engravings in the vicinity of the terraces

Rock paintings Twyfelfontein

There are 13 sites containing rock paintings set amongst the numerous rock engravings at Twyfelfontein. The sites of rock paintings and engravings were proclaimed a national monument on 15th August 1952.

Rock Paintings at Farm Oase - Solitaire


One of the most celebrated rock paintings in Namibia are proclaimed as 'the rock drawings on the farm Oase'. They date from various periods and the term 'drawings' is misleading as they are clearly 'rock paintings'. There are 71 individual paintings or groups thereof in the cave, and they depict:

  • (Various) Animals.
  • A group of 60 people.
  • A number of hunting scenes.
  • 2 x pairs of humans in a hut.

If you want to view this site, the paintings are actually in the Oase Grotte on the Farm Rostock-Süd and not Oase Farm as per the proclamation. The cave is visible quite a long way off from the Maltahöhe and Walvis Bay road and lies about 15km from the Oase Farmstead. It is about 80km north of Solitaire.

Etemba


The Rock Paintings on Farm Etemba are situated between Omaruru and Usakos, in the district of Omaruru in the Erongo Region. They were discovered initially by Kahn in 1965 and the sites and rock paintings were recorded in some detail for prosperity. Further excavations were undertaken in 1968 by the archaeologist Wendt and he found rock paintings at 2 out of 4 sites he and his team unearthed. All of the following rock paintings on Etemba Farm were declared as 1 national monument and proclaimed as such on 1st May 1967:

  • Baboon Valley
  • Etemba Cave
  • 'Near the Hein Cave'
  • Gramadulla
  • Stone Valley
  • Zebra Valley

The main paintings are in the Etemba Cave which is situated north-east of a 'northern protruding foot of the Erongo Mountain'. It can be seen from the Etemba Farmhouse and the site lies at the southern bank of the Omaruru River, which lies directly on the border between Etemba and Otjompaue-West. You will have to walk along a footpath to the foot of the mountain itself, so pack your hiking boots and water bottle for the trek that continues for at least another hour's walk up a steep ascent, climbing over and around a rough landscape of boulders along the way. It is next to a small cave that has all the most important paintings, and there is another small cave underneath, again accessible after another steep climb.

There are a host of human depictions in Etemba Cave, including a series of 12 figures. The smaller cave has a collection of paintings displaying:

  • A group of 28 humans who are adorned in the traditional hunting gear of the day with; bows and arrows, quivers and weapons such as sticks and assegais, kierries and also jewellery of the day.
  • A further group of 4 humans; a hunter running, and some sticks and arrows.
  • Animal paintings which consist of; a group of 9 giraffe, springbuck, oryx, rhinoceros, zebra, buck and a kudu.


Spitzkoppe


Situated south-east of the Pondok Mountains, which form part of the Spitzkoppe Mountain range, is the Bushman Paradise Cave, located to the north-east of Usakos. It can be found at the base of a cliff and the foot of the slope is often washed by rain. They can be reached by following a road leading from the Spitzkoppe Mountains along the base of the Pondok Mountain. There is a chain handhold to assist you on your way up to the cave itself as the slope is smooth and slippery in places. At the top of the cave, and at the end of the chain handhold, an amphitheatre is to the right and the paintings can be found under the overhang at the head of the amphitheatre.

This cave has been known to Europeans since the beginning of the 20th century, and at the time of their discovery were documented as 'one of the finest collections of rock art in Namibia'. It was in 1917 that the first archaeological excavations were undertaken at Bushman Paradise Cave by the geologist E. Reuning.

In 1948, the archaeologist Abbé H Breuil noted that 'the convex rear wall of the shelter is covered from end to end with paintings, some of them excellent.' Unfortunately today they are badly damaged due to vandalism and sticky fingers from visitors and tourists. A few years later, the German archaeologist Dr. ER Scherz described the following figures inside the cave:

  • A giraffe.
  • Hartebeests.
  • Two hippopotami.
  • A jackal.
  • A kudu.
  • Numerous human figures.
  • A rhinoceros.
  • A sphinx with a thin body and thick buttocks.

The rock paintings in the Bushman Paradise Cave were proclaimed a national monument on the 1st July 1954.

Brandberg


A notable landmark for early Namibian explorers was a soaring mass of granite, known as The Brandberg. The 'fire mountain', is so called because of the effect created by the setting sun on its western face, which causes the granite massif to resemble a burning slag-heap glowing red.

Covering some 600km², the Brandberg offers one of the richest collections of rock paintings in the world. Drawn on rock faces and overhangs, in caves and on boulders by San shamans, it is Africa's biggest open-air art gallery.

Between 1977 and 1985, the late Harold Pager, meticulously traced and documented over 43,000 individual paintings, located at some 879 rock sites. This can only be described as an unbelievable feat of determination and attention to detail to record such a fascinating display of the finest of all San paintings. This astounding project is emphasized by the total length of foil used for the tracings amounting to almost 6km.

White Lady

The best-known painting, The White Lady of the Brandberg. It remained relatively unknown to the outside world until the late 1950's when several works were published by the celebrated French archaeologist, the Abbé Henri Breuil. He identified the central figure as a white female with Mediterranean features. Subsequently the race and sex of the figure were questioned and it is now generally accepted that 'The White Lady' is neither white, nor female.

The figure displays the physical characteristics of a male carrying a bow and arrows in one hand, and what appears to be a wine glass in the other. Its hair is straight and light-coloured – not very African at all! - and the body is painted white from the chest down. The rest of the painting depicts other women in a bizarre hunting ritual, and one of them has skewered a small animal – an antelope with gemsbok horns and striped legs. Another figure, a shaman, is holding a bunch of carrots in his left hand, and he's prodding the white figure with a stick in his other! The White Lady is reliably believed to be around 16,000 years old.

The Numas Ravine slices through the western face of the Brandberg and like the Tsisab has some wonderful ancient paintings. Most visitors here head for the rock facing the southern bank of the riverbed, which bears paintings of a snake, giraffe and an antelope. Further on are an oasis-like freshwater spring and more paintings in the immediate surroundings.

Phillip’s Caves- Usakos

Phillipp's Cave is named after E. Phillipp a former owner of Farm Ameib, signposted from the main road on the Swakopmund side of Usakos. The cave is about a 45mins walk from the farmstead and was proclaimed a national monument on 1st February 1951. It contains a number of rock paintings, the most noted being a large, white elephant. Amongst other artifacts found from a test trench dug were a number of stone tools. The archaeological dig was carried out by H. Pager in an extensive year-long survey of the upper Brandberg in 1989 and again in 1992.

The cave is 15m deep, 35m wide and 7m high. There are a number of large paintings of mainly giraffe and rhinoceros. Finger traces of the original artists who applied the paint are still evident. The other images are of kudu, 6 human hand prints and some larger depictions of humans. Various other illustrations include women, elephant, ostrich, male hunters, giraffe, springbok and rhinoceros.

Paula CaveOmaruru

Paula Cave is 1 of 6 sites of rock paintings found in the 'Klippdachs (rock rabbit) Mountains near Omaruru. It is situated on the Okapekaha Farm in the Omaruru district in the Erongo Region and the cave itself is approximately 3km south from the road between Omaruru and Usakos. The cave was proclaimed a national monument of 1st March 1951, only 1 year after a recommendation by the German archaeologist Dr. ER Scherz.

Unfortunately, the quality of the paintings has been either weathered away over the years, due mainly to the lighting of fires inside the cave. The renowned paleontologist Breuil was the first to describe in detail some 'large, red-haired humans with relatively long bodies, several animals amongst them elephant and rhinoceros. A further group of red-haired people appear, apparently under attack from a larger group of black men with arrows.'

There are other, similar figures in the Paula Cave of a number of walking pregnant women and flute-players. Paula Cave can now be accessed to the public by prior arrangement via Erongo Wilderness Lodge.

Rock Engravings – Otjitoroa-West

It is fair to say that the world's most beautiful artifacts have remained so because of their inaccessibility. This is certainly the case with the rock engravings at the Farm Otjitoroa-West in Namibia, as they are hardly ever visited and therefore remain untouched. They were declared a national monument jointly with the rock engravings at Farm Kamanjab, Kamanjab on the 1st May 1967.

The Otjitoroa-West Farm borders the Iris Farm. Just 1.5km south of the border of these two farming establishments lies a rock bank carrying a host of rock engravings. The rock bank reaches 20m in height and it harbours a number of water holes that retain water for long periods. The rocks are strewn with rock engravings of varying sizes of 2.5cm to 45cm, mainly of tracks of kudu, oryx, zebra and springbok. Actual engravings of oryx, eland, giraffe, rhinoceros and bush pig and around 20cm to 40cm.

The Farm Otjitoroa-West is situated west of the road from Kalkfeld to Outjo, approximately half-way between these 2 towns.

   
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