Archaeology, Ritual, and Ceremony in the Northern United States: The Powerful bodies: sexing rock art in the south eastern mountains

  • Author: George Leanne
  • Topic: Younger than 500 BP,Heritage studies,Rock art studies
  • Country: South Africa
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

Explicitly sexed images of human figures are found at MEL 8, a rock art site in the Maclear District of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Some of these human figures have very fat bodies and exaggerated, almost swollen phalluses, others are thin, have small or no phalluses and are associated with red lines dangling from or around their genital areas. The images correspond with the San-authored fine-line rock art tradition of southern Africa. San-authored images are sometimes sexed, but rarely in such explicit fashion. A Large Headed-Significantly Differentiated Figure (LH-SDF) is also painted at the site. These figures are painted physically larger than the others and might represent particularly potent or powerful shamans. This study links supernatural potency with these unusual depictions of the human body and the sexing of the images. I argue through the use of embodiment, gender identity and ethnographic material that the San linked potency, usually obtained by shamans during the trance dance, to fat and bodily secretions. I also argue that the images at MEL 8 are indicative of the process of materializing these views on power, the body, fat and sexual secretions.

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