Balancing culture and nature


South Africa and the Kruger National Park are home to rock art sites that tell stories about our cultural heritage. These primal paintings echo the presence of the animals visitors see in the park. They also confirm the importance of the spiritual awareness of the ancient people who first inhabited the area.

Since the first rock art sites were discovered in the Kruger in the early 1900s, more sites have been found at many different locations, some probably between 1 500 and 3 000 years old. Many of the paintings depict animals in red, yellow, white and black colours.

Dr Stanley Bond, chief archaeologist at the US National Park Service, recently visited the country to learn how South Africa balances cultural and natural conservation. Bond analyses and develops policy recommendations in the public sector and in US National Parks, focusing on the use of
archaeological resources for education, interpretation and outreach to communities.

During his visit he gained insight into the preservation of sites at Mapungubwe and the Kruger National Park. After visiting the Masorini archaeological and San rock art sites as well as those at Berg-en-Dal in the south of the park, he expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to visit these important sites. Bond also met with conservation stakeholders and shared best practices about inclusive cultural heritage conservation.

Dr Stanley Bond in the Kruger National Park. Photo: Mariana Balt



He met with archaeology graduate students and faculty members of the University of Pretoria and University of Mpumalanga to discuss how the next generation of archaeologists and conservationists can contribute to preserving South Africa’s cultural and natural heritage. Bond believes the next generation should continue to reach out to communities, sharing traditions and practising being stewards of sites.
“South Africa can be proud about its long tradition in cultural heritage. The youth should find inspiration from it by studying it and learning more about the importance of it,” he says. “It remains important for them to be able to access these sites for the upkeep of cultural traditions.”

A project has been initiated to record all of these sites in Kruger.

* Dr Bond worked to establish the Urban Archaeology Corps for diverse youth in three major cities in the United States. He also developed the Linking Hispanic Heritage through Archaeology for the Latino and American Indian High School Students programme in Tucson, Arizona. His focus on engaging young people led to the establishment of the Junior Ranger Archaeology programme, which links youth to cultural heritage in the context of public lands.


Written by Mariana Balt

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