Dancing the mountains: paint, earth and time in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, southern Africa

  • Author: Aron Mazel & Thembi Russell
  • Topic: 1000 to 2000 BP,Archaeometry,Buildings, towns and states,Rock art studies
  • Country: South Africa
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

The arrival of farmers in eastern South Africa around 2000 years ago had a dramatic impact on the hunter-gatherers of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg. For the first time the hunter-gatherers had to share the land with other people. Not surprisingly this led to significant changes in their socio-economic and settlement patterns, some of which are reflected in the paintings of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg and adjacent areas. This paper will address these issues and make connections between information derived from the study of rock paintings and of excavations to deepen our understanding of huntergatherer history. It has four aims. Firstly, it will briefly describe the changes that occurred in the peopling of eastern southern Africa around 2000 years ago. Secondly, it will outline the chronology of the paintings and relate them to information derived from excavations. Thirdly, and mainly, it will focus on the emergence of shaded paintings at a time of great change around 2000 years and their relationship to the proposed widespread ritual activity to deal with these changes. Fourthly, the conclusion will consider the future directions that research may take to improve our understanding of uKhahlamba-Drakensberg hunter-gatherer history, drawing on the painted and excavated records.

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