Rock art in the Kruger National Park

Rock art in the Kruger National Park

Rock-Art in Kruger Park

Watching wildlife amidst the beauty of the Kruger National Park is a magical, even spiritual experience. Everyday life is forgotten as you reconnect with nature and something greater than yourself. Rock art in the Kruger National Park tells a similar story. These primal paintings show the importance of animals in the spiritual lives and awareness of the area’s ancient people.

Rock art was first discovered in the Kruger in 1911 by Major James Stevenson-Hamilton. Since then, rock art sites have been found at over 170 different locations in the Kruger National Park. Most of these paintings were created by the San hunter-gathers, some of the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, who followed the seasonal game migrations and lived in caves or temporary shelters.

Radiocarbon dating methods have been used to determine the age of the rock art. Most of the San peoples’ rock paintings in the Kruger are between 1500 and 3000 years old.

Some of Kruger’s rock art depicts everyday life; images of San hunters with bows and arrows. However, researchers generally believe most of the Kruger rock paintings had spiritual themes and religious meaning for the San.

At 12 different locations in the Park, rock paintings depict strange figures, people with long vapour-like trails extending from them. Other paintings depict armless humans and three-legged animals. It’s believed these images portray the visions and guidance the shamans – medicine men – received during trance dances.

Many of the rock paintings depict animals. Images of elephants, rhinos, giraffes and kudus, animals considered to be spiritually powerful by the San, dominate Kruger’s rock art. Buffalo, sable, roan and impala were also depicted. At ashelter camp near the Bushman Wilderness Camp, a zebra was the subject of a rock painting. Just the animal’s white stripes were painted, the rest of the zebra suggested by the dark rock.

One of the most represented animals in Kruger’s rock art, is the eland. This species of antelope had great spiritual significance for the San. When a shaman painted an eland, he honoured the animal, but it was also a way to harness the animal’s spiritual essence. For the shaman, the painting opened a portal to the spirit world.

The main colours used in San rock paintings were red, yellow, white and black. Hematite, red ochre, produced reds; limonite, yellow ochre, created the yellows. White may have come from bird droppings or kaolin and manganese oxide and charcoal were used for black. Other materials such as plant saps, fat, egg whites and eland blood were sometimes mixed with the pigments. Again, the use of eland blood reflects the rock art’s spiritual significance. The San painted with their fingers, feathers and simple brushes made of animal hair.

Rock paintings can be found throughout the Kruger National Park, but most San rock art is located in the south-western foothills at the southern tip of the Kruger. Trips to view rock art are a regular feature on the Bushman Trail, near the Berg-en-Dal Camp. Guided walks, taking in rock art and other cultural sites, are also available around the Jock Safari Lodge. In the north, the Nyalaland Trail boasts many important cultural sites, including San rock art. The departure point for this trail is the Punda Maria Rest Camp.

The photographs, videos and paintings you bring back from the Kruger National Park are like the San peoples’ rock art. They can act as a reminder of the deeper connection with nature, and your own spiritual essence, you experienced as you encountered the Park’s amazing and diverse wildlife.

 

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