San Rock Art by J. David Lewis-Williams

By J. David Lewis-Williams

San rock work, scattered over the variety of southern Africa, are thought of through many to be the very earliest examples of representational paintings. There are as many as 15,000 recognized rock paintings websites, created over the process millions of years up until eventually the 19th century. there are likely simply as many nonetheless waiting for discovery.

Taking as his start line the exceptional Linton panel within the Iziko-South African Museum in Cape city, J. D. Lewis-Williams examines the creative and cultural importance of rock paintings and the way this paintings sheds gentle on how San image-makers conceived their international. It additionally information the ecu stumble upon with rock artwork in addition to the contentious ecu interplay with the artists’ descendants, the modern San people.

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Instead, I emphasise the nature of the consensus that underlies all of them: if we want to understand the art, we must study San ethnography, that is, authentic records of San religion, rituals, mythology and the kinship structures in which they functioned. But that is not all. There are two guiding principles that we must keep in the forefront of our minds. If any consensus is to be reached on what San rock art meant to the people who made it, it will have to be founded on these two principles.

But if we had to rely entirely on colonial explorers, we should know very little about the San who made the art – that is, beyond their nomadic life style and their deadly poisoned arrows which so fascinated and terrified the early explorers. Fortunately, there are two other nineteenth-century sources: they have become foundational to San rock art research. Both these nineteenth-century records were made at the time when the San were painting their last images in the rock shelters. The San people whose words were recorded, though not themselves painters or engravers, knew about the art and recognised the paintings, copies of which some of them were shown, as the work of their own people: they held the same belief system as the artists.

If the images were not simple ‘pictures’, what were they? Were they more like the icons around which religious rituals are built in the Orthodox Christian Churches? We return to these questions in later chapters. We need not now follow up all the approaches that were advocated during this period, fascinating though many of them are. In some ways, it could be said that 46 each approach added something to our increasingly complex understanding of San rock art. Instead, I emphasise the nature of the consensus that underlies all of them: if we want to understand the art, we must study San ethnography, that is, authentic records of San religion, rituals, mythology and the kinship structures in which they functioned.

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