Experience the thrill of seeing original San paintings on the rock walls of caves and rock overhangs, take a glimpse into the history of the Cape 5 million years ago and visit some of the historical mission stations
Where to experience Rock Art
There are many stunning locations to explore rock Art in the Western Cape. Enjoy a scenic drive or a guided tour to vist these ancient sites.
Site 1. LANGBERG,
Piketberg A self-catering cottage on top of the Piketberg Mountain about half an hours drive from the town of Piketberg on the N7.provides access to this site. The rock paintings can be visited only by prior appointment or if you overnight at the cottage. Three rock painting sites can be seen about 20 minutes from the cottage on the Cave Walk hiking trail. The paintings are not very well preserved, but include some interesting images such as a swarm of red finger dots, a human figure with an unusually large head, two processions, and a large animal with human back legs. There are spectacular views from the top of the nearby hill and on a good day you can see Table Mountain on the horizon to the south, about 150 kilometres away.
For details telephone (022) 914 5653, fax (022) 914 5708 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Site 2. THE BATHS, CitrusdalThe Baths, a hot-springs resort about 20 kilometres south of Citrusdal off the N7 and about two hours drive from Cape Town provides access to these paintings. There are self-catering flats, cottages and camping sites. There are two rock art sites open to the public and both can be reached on foot within 5-10 minutes. The one has paintings of elephant and human figures in trance postures. The other has mostly human figures, including a shaman with a ghost-like head.
For details telephone (022) 921 8026/7 or e-mail email@example.com
Site 3. CLANWILLIAM LIVING LANDSCAPE PROJECT, ClanwilliamThis unique project focuses on the history of the San in the area at the Living Landscape Centre that offers rock art tours. The Centre's workshop at 18 Park St, Clanwilliam, sells crafts designed with a San theme, traditional methods of production, use of authentic materials and natural objects. Rock art tours can be arranged at the Centre with community guides trained by professional research archaeologists from the University of Cape Town with decades of experience of local rock paintings and Stone Age archaeology.
For details telephone or fax (027 482 1911 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Further information is available on the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project website at www.cllp.uct.ac.za
Site 4. BUSHMANS KLOOF, Pakhuis Pass, ClanwilliamSet against a backdrop of spectacular scenery and exquisite indigenous gardens, Bushmans Kloof offers a unique wilderness experience about 270 kilometres from Cape Town. Located on the edge of the Cederberg Wilderness Area, Bushmans Kloof is situated between the eastern foothills of the Cederberg mountains and the plains of the Great Karoo. It is a privately owned reserve with more than 140 species of birds, 755 plant species and more than 34 species of mammals. Visitors can arrange to travel from Cape Town International Airport on fly-in safaris and scheduled flights alternatively the area is accessible via Clanwilliam and the spectacular Pakhuis Mountain Pass. The extensive rock paintings are very well preserved and include shamanic figures bleeding from the nose, elephant, eland and processions of dancing figures.For details telephone (021) 685 2598, fax (021) 685 5210 or e-mail: email@example.com
Site 5. SEVILLA TRAIL, Pakhuis Pass, ClanwilliamAccess to this site is from the farm Travellers - Rest. Ten rock painting sites can be seen along an easy walking trail in the valley of the Brandewyn River. Day visitors are welcome to walk the 4 kilometre Sevilla Rock Art Trail but must obtain permission and pay a small fee at the Travellers - Rest farmhouse. A guide is available on request for a small fee. The first site is about 10 minutes walk from the road and it takes between two and three hours to complete the trail, depending on how long you spend at each place. The paintings include some charming processions of dancing women and men, several elephant, zebra, handprints and trance animals, including one image that looks like a dinosaur. Look out for paintings of eland in which the white paint of the neck, head and lower legs has faded, leaving only the red body. Travellers Rest is 240 kilometres from Cape Town and 36 kilometres from Clanwilliam.
For details telephone and fax (027) 482 1824 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Site 6. WUPPERTHAL, CederbergThere are several rock painting sites in the vicinity of Wupperthal and the information centre in the village will assign a guide for visitors on request. Turn off at Clanwilliam on the N7 and drive over the Pakhuis Pass. About 40 kilometres from Clanwilliam and beyond Travellers - Rest on the eastern side of the pass, turn right to Wupperthal and follow the winding road for another 40 minutes. You will need a 4x4 vehicle to drive within reach of some of the sites, but it is also possible to visit others with an ordinary car. There are paintings of elephant, human figures in trance postures and a unique zebra-headed therianthrope - a human body with a zebra head. Apart from the charming and historic village, the vast Karoo landscape around Wupperthal is spectacular. There is a fully equipped self-catering guest house available in the village.
For more information telephone (027) 482 3410.
Site 7. OUDRIF, Clanwilliamhis site is accessed from Oudrif in the Nardouwsberg north of Clanwilliam. The journey takes about 3 ½ hours from Cape Town. In winter white-water rafting in the Doring River is very popular and in summer you can swim in the river and in spring there are spectacular wild flowers in the area. Rock paintings in the vicinity of the cottages include scores of handprints, delicate antelope and human figures apparently falling down a cliff face, and shamanic figures. If you wish, several more sites with excellent rock paintings can be visited on neighbouring farms with a guide. Brakfontein Kloof provides a wonderful walk that includes several painted sites with a wide variety of styles and subject matter. The walk ends in a magnificent overhanging cave that contains numerous well-preserved rock paintings and unusual wind eroded rocks. At some places you will need to walk only a few minutes from your vehicle.
For more information telephone (027) 482 2397 or e-mail email@example.com
Site 8. GIFBERG,
Van Rhynsdorp Accommodation to access this site is located on top of the Gifberg (Poison Mountain) which gets its name from the gifboom (poison tree) endemic to the area. There are several hiking trails in the area. Two sites with exceptionally well preserved rock paintings can be seen on the trail that follows the river downstream from the farm house. It takes about 45 minutes to walk to the first rock shelter, and the second one is only a few minutes further on. Be prepared to wade or hop across the river if it is flowing strongly. The paintings include an unusual healing scene with a group of seated people covered in yellow and red cloaks. Close inspection will show that some are bleeding from the nose and others are laying hands on their companions to draw out the arrows of sickness. There is a row of medicine bags above them. If you wish to walk a further hour or more, the trail leads eventually down to the confluence with the Doring River. Some less well-preserved paintings can be seen close to the farmhouse.
For more information telephone or fax (027) 219 1555 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Site 9. KAGGA KAMMA, Koue BokkeveldSituated in an untouched wilderness area in the Swartruggens between the Koue Bokkeveld and the Ceres-Karoo, Kagga Kamma is a 3 to 4 hour drive from Cape Town via Ceres through spectacular countryside. In additions visitors can arrange chartered flights into Kagga Kamma.During the 1990s it became well known as the "Place of the Bushmen" when members of the Kruiper family from the Northern Cape #Khomani San lived in the area. They have since moved back to the Kalahari. There are numerous rock paintings at Kagga Kamma. Visitors can appreciate the ancient San living sites at first hand and get an in-depth interpretation of the rock paintings from the expert guides. A self-guided rock art trail will take about 2 hours and is a fairly easy walk down a shallow river valley with about 6 sites along the way. On guided open 4x4 excursions guests can also learn more about the various species of plants and animals that inhabit this arid yet spectacular area, experience the Southern night skies by powerful telescope and enjoy a sundowner with spectacular views from the escarpment into the Ceres-Karoo 700 metres below.
For more information telephone (021) 872 4343 or fax (021) 872 4524 or e-mail email@example.com
Site 10. MOUNT CEDER, Cederberg ConservancyAlong the road from Op die Berg to the Cederberg Wilderness Area Mount Ceder provides access to a variety of San rock art sites. The rock art site that is most often visited is an easy 10-minute walk along a fairly flat sandy path. You can also ride there on horseback from Mount Cedar. The most unusual painting is a rhino in black and there are numerous antelope and small delicately painted human figures, some of which are associated with "arrows of sickness". The site is a good example of "over-painting" by successive cultures because in addition to the fine line San paintings there are also finger paintings in red and black and early 20th century graffiti. There are more rock art sites in the vicinity that are worth exploring if you have time for hiking.
For more information telephone (023) 317 0848, fax (023) 317 0543 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Site 11. KROMRIVIER, Cederberg, Kromrivier lies south of the Cederberg Wilderness Area. There are several interesting rock art sites in the vicinity. The most accessible is near to the Stadsaal (Town Hall) where the wind has eroded the soft sandstone into huge halls. The paintings feature well preserved elephants and a short procession of people.For more information telephone (027) 482 2807
Site 12. CEDERBERG WILDERNESS AREA, ClanwilliamThe Cederberg Wilderness Area, managed by Cape Nature, is one of the sites that forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom World Heritage Site. It includes over 100 rock painting sites. As wilderness areas have no signposts or information boards and paths are kept to a minimum, visitors who wish to see the paintings should make arrangements in advance for a guide. Hiking groups may not exceed 12 people. Elephant, eland and other antelope are common themes in the paintings, together with human figures in trance postures.
For more information telephone the Cape Nature office at Algeria (027) 482 2812 or e-mail email@example.com
Site 13. THE OCHRE TRAIL, Worcester - De DoornsThe Ochre Trail is the closest guided rock art experience to Cape Town, 75 minutes drive to the Hex River Valley on the N1 beyond Worcester. A registered tour guide, will take you to San Rock Art sites in the area. The paintings include eland and other antelope, quagga, a snake, handprints and numerous people in dancing and trance postures. Visitors can choose between a 4x4 drive and walking routes of different length.
For more information telephone (023) 357 9795 or mobile (083) 628 7889 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Site 14. GAMKABERG NATURE RESERVE, CalitzdorpThis Cape Nature reserve recently opened a bush camp and provides guides to a nearby rock art site in Merrie se Kloof where there are paintings of elephant and eland, dots and finger paintings. A 4x4 vehicle is required to get close to the vicinity of the site.
For more information telephone (044) 213 3367or e-mail email@example.com
Site 15. SANBONA WILDLIFE RESERVE, MontaguSanbona Wildlife Reserve is situated off the R62 between Montagu and Barrydale. Game drives and a guided walk to rock art sites can be arranged.
For more information telephone (028) 52 1365, fax (028) 572 1361 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Museum Displays and information
1. IZIKO: South African Museum, Cape Town
The first gallery on the left as you enter the museum at the top of Queen Victoria Street has been dedicated to rock art. You can see the oldest dated engravings on ochre from Blombos Cave in the southern Cape (80 000 years), a sample of other dated paintings and engravings, rock engravings from the Karoo, and the Linton panel from which the figures in the centre of South Africa's coat of arms were copied. There is also video footage of Ju-'hoan trance healers in northern Namibia and many other features of interest.
2. Cango Caves
Information Centre, OudtshoornThe rock paintings at the entrance to the Cango Caves are barely visible after decades of damage by visitors, but there is a small exhibit on rock paintings in the region in the information centre.
San cultural centre, near Yzerfontein and the West Coast National ParkIn collaboration with WIMSA, the Working-group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa, and SASI, the South African San Institute, the !Khwa-ttu cultural centre on a farm near Yzerfontein arranges training for people of San descent. One of their projects is a San heritage museum, that will include examples of rock art.
For further information telephone (022) 492 2998
4. South African Archaelogical Society
The Western Cape Branch of the South African Archaeological Society organises several trips a year to rock art sites. Membership is open to anyone and includes free entrance to monthly lectures at the Iziko: South African Museum, and subscriptions to a Newsletter and the South African Archaeological Bulletin. There is a small charge for members participating in field trips and a slightly higher charge for non-members. For more information telephone the Assistant Secretary (021) 481 3886, e-mail email@example.com
Rock art tourism is for people of all ages who enjoy walking in the fresh mountain air and through the unique and unspoiled flora of the Western Cape. Here they can discover fascinating paintings on the walls of caves and rock shelters far from crowded cities.
Some of these paintings are thousands of years old and are a vivid reminder of the remarkable artistic skills, social customs and religious beliefs of South Africa's early inhabitants.Rock paintings and rock engravings, made by hunter-gatherers, herders and early farmers, can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They are the best evidence we have that people expressed their thoughts and ideas graphically long before the introduction of writing.
Each rock art tradition uses a different range of images and symbols, but all have social, spiritual and ritual meaning important to the people who made them. Thinking in concepts like those expressed in rock art is of such fundamental importance to the development of human consciousness and culture that rock art sites have been placed on the World Heritage List in many countries. In South Africa the World Heritage Sites that include rock art are Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park in KwaZulu Natal, Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo and some of the reserves included in the Cape Floral Region in the Western Cape.We do not know for certain how many rock art sites there are in South Africa, but there are at least 5000 on record in museums throughout the country. The total almost certainly exceeds 20 000. Combined with neighbouring countries, the region rivals Australia with the highest de
Having seen the damage that visitors can cause at rock art sites, the Western Cape Rock Art Tourism Forum and South African heritage authorities agree that public access should be allowed by private land owners only if there is a guide available and entrance is controlled. Responsible tourism means small guided groups of visitors who are made aware of the significance of the paintings and are told that they must not touch or wet the paintings, stir up dust, leave litter or make fires in painted rock shelters.
Who were the artists?
Before European colonisation in the 17th century, the Western Cape was occupied by San hunter-gatherers (who the colonists called Bushmen) and Khoekhoe herders (who the colonists called Hottentots). They are sometimes referred to collectively as Khoisan or Khoe-San.The people responsible for most of the Western Cape rock paintings were the ancestors of the San (pronounced Saan) who lived throughout South Africa for tens of thousands of years before European colonisation. Not only did they make paint that has lasted thousands of years, but they were also gifted artists who expressed complex ideas in elegantly simple ways.The Khoekhoe (pronounced "Que-que" as in "question"), who migrated from Botswana into South Africa with sheep and cattle that they acquired from Iron Age farmers further north about 2000 years ago, introduced a different style of painting.
When were the paintings made?
The oldest dated rock paintings in the Western Cape were made with fine brush lines and are about 7000 years old. This tradition, which may have started long before 7000 years ago, persisted until about 500-1000 years ago. Within the last 2000 years, the subject matter changed and so did the technique. Fat-tailed sheep introduced by the Khoekhoe were illustrated for the first time, geometric patterns and handprints were more common, and paint was applied with a finger rather than with a fine brush. The Khoekhoe were probably responsible for most of these finger paintings. As the herders moved onto land formerly occupied by hunter-gatherers, the San gradually stopped painting as their numbers and cultural activities declined.Similarly, as European colonists expanded into the Western Cape the Khoekhoe painting tradition persisted for a while but gradually died out by the middle of the 19th century. The most recent finger paintings show people in European dress with guns, horses and wagons. There are even three paintings of ships, although at least one was most probably painted by a sailor.
What subjects were painted?
Rock paintings played an important role in religious customs and beliefs and reflect the social order and world view of the people who made them.People are the most common subject in the rock paintings of the Western Cape. Many painted panels show processions of dancing people, usually men, sometimes wearing karosses (cloaks), sometimes carrying bows, sticks or fly-whisks made from animal tails. Women are often shown dancing too, or clapping their hands. In other processions, the gender of the people is unclear. Bags with tassels, shown next to the dancers or processions, were used to carry medicine or herbs such as buchu that helped them to enter a trance state and could be used to heal the sick.Dancing was one of the most important social rituals in San society, and still is in the Kalahari today. Dances were held regularly to heal the sick and ailing, initiate boys and girls, promote togetherness and settle arguments, and make rain. Supernatural power was accessed during dancing to assist trained medicine people or shamans. They learned how to control it by entering a trance-like state that allowed the spirit to leave the body and enter the spirit world. Mood-altering drugs were not generally used.A few paintings show people with animal heads, or animals with human legs. These part-human, part-animal therianthropes are a multi-layered metaphor that illustrate the sensation experienced by shamans in trance when they feel as if they are becoming the animals that give them supernatural power. Sometimes animals or people are shown bleeding from the nose. This can be induced by hyperventilation during trance and the blood is used for healing. Animals bleed from the nose or mouth when they are dying. Death is the metaphor that shamans use for trance because they feel as if they die when they visit the spirit world, and then come alive again. Other sensations experienced during trance, such as the feeling that one is flying, or underwater or underground, are expressed in paintings in different ways. Patterns of light, called entoptics, that are "seen" in the early stage of trance in the form of dots, zigzag lines, nested u-shapes, crenulations, grids and shining paths or "ropes to God", are also illustrated in the paintings.Animals feature prominently in rock art and were very important in San beliefs in much the same way as the lamb is a symbol in Christian beliefs and cows are important to Hindus. The eland, the largest and fattest of the African antelope, was believed by the San to give them access to supernatural power. Other animals, such as the elephant in the Western Cape, also had powerful connotations. Occasionally, the animals in rock paintings cannot be identified because they represent visions seen during trance.
How can you visit rock paintings?
About 80 sites at more than 15 places in the Western Cape are open to the public along guided trails. Some paintings are within two hours drive of Cape Town, but many of the better preserved sites are 3-4 hours drive away and require an hour or more of hiking. The majestic Cederberg mountains are very rugged with stony ground in places. Good hiking boots are recommended if you intend visiting such places off the beaten track. The best times of year are in the spring and autumn. It is well worth taking time to examine the paintings in detail. The longer you stay to look around you, the more you will get a feel for the place and the more you will see and understand. There are a number of options available to visitors at rock art sites. Some are open to self-guided day visitors, others only with a guide, and others only if you overnight on the property. Some are free of charge and others require a fee. In all cases it is recommended that you contact the property owner first to obtain directions and relevant information, and to ensure that you will not be disappointed. To promote responsible tourism and to protect the paintings it is recommended that you always go with a qualified guide or tour operator when visiting rock art sites.
How can you contribute to conserving and promoting rock art?
There are several organisations that are currently involved in assisting people of San descent to learn more about their ancestry and to obtain qualifications that will enable them to find jobs in the heritage sector and particularly rock art. If you would like to contribute to these initiatives, contact one of the organisations mentioned below.All visitors are urged to leave the rock paintings as they find them. Wetting them causes permanent damage that cannot be reversed. Avoid touching, rubbing or brushing against the paintings and do not stir up dust when you visit a site. Never camp or make a fire in a painted rock shelter, and never remove any stone artefacts or other objects from a site. Anyone damaging rock art or removing artefacts without a permit cab be fined.
The West Coast Fossil Park, less than 2 hours north of Cape Town, provides visitors a glimpse into the history of the Cape 5 million years ago.
Mission State Villages
In 1738, the first Moravian Mission village was established in Baviaanskloof by George Schmidt, Genadendal (Valley of Grace). Many other missionaries followed and about 13 Mission Station villages were set up in the Cape.