Bushman Paintings

Bushman Paintings

One of the Drakensberg's greatest treasures is cultural. Some 40 000 individual rock paintings have been recorded at 600 different cave and overhang sites between Royal Natal and Bushman's Neck. Subjects range from animals (mainly eland) to humans, therianthropes to ox-wagons and mounted men with rifles. In Ndedema Gorge 3 900 paintings have been recorded at 17 sites. One of them, Sebaayeni Cave, contains 1 146 individual paintings. In the Cathedral Peak Mdelelelo Wilderness Area there are another 130 sites with a total of over 8 800 individual paintings. Other prime sites include the Main caves in Giant's castle game reserve, Battle Cave in the Injasuti Valley and Game Pass Shelter in the Kamberg Nature Reserve.

 

The list of sites below are of rock art sites officially opened for public visitation. There are other rock art sites in the Drakensberg, if you stumble accross one of them please abide by the following code of conduct applicable to all rock art sites.

 

“Amafa/Heritage/Erfenis KwaZulu-Natal, as statutory body, is responsible to protect and manage rock art sites. Section 36 of the KwaZulu-Natal Heritage Act No. 4 of 2008 allows for the establishment of Amafa’s Access Policy applicable in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Amafa has implemented a Senior Rock Art Officer, Ms. Rossouw, to liaise with all necessary interested and affected parties involved with the management of rock art sites on private farms, on communal/traditional land, inside protected areas and on commercial forestry land.

 

No person may access any area within 50 meter of a rock art sties unless he/she adheres to the access and control measures instituted by Amafa KwaZulu-Natal in consultation with the land owner or manager. Visitors may only visit rock art sites that are officially open for public visitation and they must either have a permit or be accompanied by an Amafa accredited custodian or guide depending on the management arrangements at each site. All of the open sites have a management plan and trained guides or custodians that will accompany the guests to the rock art site, relate the code of conduct and that would supervise the visitors’ behaviour.”

 

 The following is prohibited at rock art sites:

  • Touching the paintings.
  • Leaning anything against the paintings.
  • Pouring liquid onto the paintings; this is an act of deliberate defacement.
  • Drawing or scratching on the paintings or rock face and decorating or damaging the walls of the site.
  • Stirring up dust when walking through the sites.
  • Removing any artefacts or stone tools.
  • Camping in or near sites with paintings.
  • Littering, making fires or using candles near rock art sites.

Any person who contravenes both provincial and national legislation will be liable for prosecution under section 35.4.a of the National Heritage Resources Act No. 25 of 1999 that states: “No person may, without a permit issued by the responsible heritage resources authority – (a) destroy, damage, excavate, alter, deface or otherwise disturb any archaeological or palaeontological site or any meteorite;”

 

Penalties for contravention of this section includes: “A fine or imprisonment for a period of three years or to both such fine and imprisonment”.

Aleit's Shelter

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Aleit's Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Aleit's Shelter is located in the Cathedral Peak area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: The “trance-buck” or flying antelope with trailing wings is a dream image created by a Bushman shaman (medicine man or ritual specialist) to illustrate his experiences during trance. Contact: Mrs. Lihle Madondo, Hospitality Ma ...
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Bath Plug Cave

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Bath Plug Cave

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Bath Plug Cave is located in the Cobham area. It's a large cave with bushman paintings, thus no camping is allowed. The cave is 4km from the Cobham Reserve. The cave name comes from the large hole in the cave through which the water disappears into. The images in Bath Plug Cave are very eroded as a result of natural ...
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Battle Cave

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Battle Cave

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

This cave is located in the Injasuthi (translated as valley of the well-fed dog) valley and is a 5-hour hike from the Injasuthi camp. The cave is fenced so cannot be accessed without a guide. Interpretation: The human figures appear to be arranged in a composition that suggests a fight. Some figures have arrows notche ...
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Bee Shelter

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Bee Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

The Bushmen danced close to bees and honeycombs when they wanted to enter trance or go into an altered state of consciousness, in which they believed they could better harness spiritual potency. Mark Robertson, Officer in Charge, 036 468 1078 or 083 608 3748, Mark.Robertson@kznwildlife.com This cave is also known as ...
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Boundary Rock

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Boundary Rock

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Boundary Rock is just over 4km from the Cobham Reserve and a stunning pool for swimming is near by. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: A large indeterminate human is depicted bending over a group of sitting people. This image links to the trance dance, since the bending forward posture is part of this dance. After exc ...
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Bulwer Mountain Shelter #1

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Bulwer Mountain Shelter #2 is outside the Maloti-Drakensberg Park and is located in Bulwer. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: An eland is depicted here apparently ‘entering’ a curtain of natural mineral deposits on the parent rock. San rock paintings sometimes used natural features in this way with people and anima ...
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Bulwer Mountain Shelter #2

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Bulwer Mountain Shelter #2 is outside the Maloti-Drakensberg Park and is located in Bulwer. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: The paintings show an eland placed vertically on the rock wall. Several features emphasize the significance of the dying eland as a metaphor for the shaman who 'dies" when entering deep tran ...
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Cascades Path Rock

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Located in the Royal Natal National Park along the Mahai river, a short walk of about 800m from the Mahai campsite. This is the only rock art site accessible to people in wheel chairs. Cascades path rock contains mainly rhebuck but also people. The images are not clear because of mineral leaching present on the rock f ...
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Cayley Lodge

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Cayley Lodge

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

About 4 km north of Cayley Lodge above the Ama Swazi settlement is an extensive rock ledge where 2 small streams enter the valley below. On the South side of this ledge is a small overhand with some reasonably well-preserved paintings comprising of a few Eland some other antelope, human figures and a very faint rianthr ...
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Didima Rock Art Centre

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

The Didima Rock Art Centre has an audio-visual show presented on a daily basis. These offer a good insight into the life of the Bushmen and their Rock Art. The centre opens at 8.00am and closes at 4.00pm. Didima Camp contact deatails: 036 488 8000
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eZangomeni Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

eZangomeni Shelter is in the Amangwane Traditional Authority Area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: A large rain-animal or a snake, with an antelope head, is accompanied by many white and red humans. What is of interest are the white dots and lines visible on the human bodies. It is believed that these marks repre ...
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Game Pass Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Game Pass Shelter is in the Kamberg area. Most of the paintings in the shelter are complex polychrome images and the first ones you’ll see as you enter are imposing therianthropic figures (mythological creatures that are part human, part animal) clad in long black karosses. The most frequently depicted animal is the ...
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Good Hope Shelter #1

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Good Hope Shelter #1 is in the Cobham area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Men on horses are depicted here. In the Southern Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site, paintings are mainly narrative and can be explained with ease, while rock art in the Central and Northern Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage ...
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Good Hope Shelter #2

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Good Hope Shelter #2 is in the Cobham area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Men on horses are depicted here. In the Southern Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site, paintings are mainly narrative and can be explained with ease, while rock art in the Central and Northern Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage ...
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Hospitalspruit Cave / Knuffel’s Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Hospitalspruit Cave also known as Knuffel’s Shelter is in the Monks Cowl area and provides excellent shelter and has a level floor.
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Ikanti #1

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Ikanti #1

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Ikanti #1 is in the Cobham area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: This panel is also called the “Marching Men” panel. The procession is made up of men only, carrying bows, arrows and quivers. Since they are migrating east, to the sea, this panel can be interpreted as seasonal migration of the Bushmen during winter ...
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Ikanti #2

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Ikanti #2

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Ikanti #2 is in the Cobham area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: In this image two tall figures are painted above smaller humans. During trance or altered state of consciousness, shamans felt as if they are “growing taller”. This is the result of psycho-somatic hallucinations experienced during trance.  
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Ikanti #3

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Ikanti #3

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Ikanti #3 is in the Cobham area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: The painting shows a large herd of eland. The Bushmen mainly painted eland in large herds while rhebuck were painted as being part of smaller family groups. Symbolically, eland herds represent the aggregation phase of social life, when small Bushman ...
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Kwamfazi Shelter

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Kwamfazi Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Kwamfazi Shelter is in the Amangwane Traditional Authority Area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Some researchers like Frans Prins believe that larger kaross-clad figures might represent AmaZizi people who adopted Bushman ways during times of drought and during the Mfecane-Difeqane. They are the only group of Ban ...
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Lion's Rock

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Lion's Rock

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Lion's Rock is in the Cathedral Peak area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Two monochrome (single-colour) felines are depicted at Lion’s Shelter. Brown, orange, red and crimson colours were all made from a solution of finely ground ochre mixed with plant juice, water, egg or animal (mainly eland) blood and fat. T ...
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Lower Mushroom Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Lower Mushroom Shelter is in the Cathedral Peak area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: The presence of a feline (lion or leopard), leaping towards a group of men in unusual postures, lifting each other up and somersaulting, demonstrates that this is not a depiction of San lifeways in a narrative sense. The San bel ...
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Main Caves at Giant's Castle

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Main Caves is in the Giants Castle area. This painted shelter is easily accessed and is a short walk from the Giants Castle camp. The site is fenced and guided tours commence at the cave entrance hourly 9.00 am to 3.00 pm. They take a maximum of 13 people at a time, so get there early. This is an extensively painted ...
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Marten’s Shelter (Maarten’s Shelter / Martin’s Shelter)

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Marten's Shelter is in the Monks Cowl area. This small site is situated on the path between Champagne Castle Hotel and The Sphinx path at Monks Cowl . It is on the Champagne Castle Hotel’s property so access is with permission of the hotel management. The site is well marked and is a small set of paintings of Mountain ...
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Mpongweni (Sipongweni) North Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Mpongweni (Sipongweni) North Shelter is in the Cobham area. Mpongweni North Shelter is a must visit if you are interested in Bushman Paintings. It's a long uphill hike of about 6 hours to the site but well worth the visit. Probably best to overnight and make this a 2 day trip. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Women ...
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Mpongweni (Sipongweni) South Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Mpongweni (Sipongweni) South Shelter is in the Cobham area. Paintings on the exterior walls of the Shelter are barely visible due to weathering. It's a steep 250m in altitude climb and about 400m from Mpongweni North Shelter below. Due to the weathering of the paintings it may be better to save your energy for other ...
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Mystery Shelter

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Mystery Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Mystery shelter in in the Bushman's Nek area. Mystery Shelter is one of only three shelters known inside the Drakensberg that includes several layers of painting, the one executed over the other. This is called super-positioning. A study of super-positioning can be used to date Bushman images indirectly based on style ...
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New Beginnings Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

New Beginnings Shelter is located within the ATKV Drakensville Resort. Interpretation by Tim Forssman and Lee Gutteridge (2012): Rhebuck are the most popular choice for the San when they made headdresses. The San believed by wearing such a headdress one would be able to influence the movement of the game and to ensure ...
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Painter's Cave

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Painter's Cave

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Painter's Cave is in the Bushman's Nek area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: In the contact period and especially after the arrival of the Europeans, Bushman groups changed from being hunter-gatherers to being raiders and traders for the sake of their survival. Bushman raiders kept the horses for themselves as ho ...
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Patrick's Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Patrick's Shelter is in the Amangwane Traditional Authority Area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Natural features such as holes and cracks in the parent rock are sometimes incorporated in Bushmen rock art. In this depiction a hole represents one man’s head and three holes represent another’s eyes and mouth. To t ...
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Pholela Shelter

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Pholela Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Pholela Shelter is in the Cobham area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Paintings of the eland do not only reflect that this animal was hunted by the Bushmen, but also its spiritual significance: Bushmen believed that where the eland is, there they would experience divine protection.  
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Pornographic Shelter (Bushmans River Rock #1)

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Pornographic Shelter (Bushmans River Rock #1) is in the Garden Castle area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: One of the panels at Pornographic Shelter displays a group of running men that seems to be hunting. The parent rock shows signs of flaking, natural weathering and water-wash areas consisting of silica, salt a ...
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Procession Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Procession Shelter is in the Cathedral Peak area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Here figures are depicted being partly human and partly insect with praying mantis heads. The praying mantis was the Bushman's deity. He was also called the trickster deity as he was a shape-shifter, meaning that he could change int ...
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San Rock Art Interpretation Centre

, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

One of Kamberg's highlights is the San Rock Art Interpretation Centre which runs spectacular DVD presentations on rock art. Trained guides are available to take visitors to Game pass Shelter (3 hours walk), to see rock art painting which have been described as the Rosetta Stone of ancient Rock Art. Contact: Hospitalit ...
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Sheltered Vale

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Sheltered Vale

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

An interesting question that arises from paintings on a ceiling is: “What will the viewpoint of the spectators be?”. When are the paintings upside-down? An upside-down eland is a metaphor for trance or going into an altered state of consciousness. Modern day San refers to the trance dance and entering altered states o ...
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Sigubudu / Ungiyeza

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Sigubudu / Ungiyeza is in the Royal Natal area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: This painting includes several animals, such as eland, mountain rhebuck and even part of a cobra (beneath the running eland). Bushmen legends relate that snakes were linked with rain-making rituals. Soft or female rain was interpreted ...
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Snow Hill Cave

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Snow Hill Cave

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Snow Hill Cave in not within the Maloti-Drakensberg Park. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: The depiction shows a snake with horns. The Zulus and Bushmen believed that this creature controlled rain. According to legend it travelled from mountain to mountain striking the roofs of huts with actual lightning but, myth ...
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uMhwabane Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

uMhwabane Shelter is in the Amazizi Traditional Authority Area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: A large white snake is painted here with people and animals accompanying it. Local AmaZizi communities believe that a mythological snake with an antelope head, called the “uMhwabane”, lives in the river close to the sh ...
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Uthekwane Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Uthekwane Shelter is in the AmaSwazi Traditional Authority Area outside of the Monk's Cowl area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Rabbit therianthropes (semi-human and semi-rabbit figures) are rare since therianthropes usually depict a mixture of either human and eland or human and rhebuck features. Contact: Mr. ...
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Vaalekop Shelter

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Vaalekop Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Vaalekop Shelter, a small and seemingly sparsely painted rock art site on the upper reaches of the iMpofana (Mooi) River, KwaZulu-Natal, was flooded by the construction of the Spring Grove Dam downstream. In mitigation, the site was photographed using a proprietary digital imaging process with the acronym CPED (Captur ...
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Varnish Shelter (Bushmans River Rock #2)

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Varnish Shelter (Bushmans River Rock #2) is located in the Garden Castle region. Interpretation by Tim Forssman & Lee gutteridge (2012: 124) “Both the San /Xam in Western Cape and the Kalahari Bushmen (!Kung, Nharo and Khwe) believed the eland was the most powerful animal of all and is thus closely linked with n/o ...
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Waterfall Shelter

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Waterfall Shelter is in the Kamberg area. Interpretation by Celeste Rossouw: Several individuals are painted in bending forward postures and some women are depicted, sitting and clapping. These images link with the trance dance when shamans dance in a circle for days, without eating or sleeping. After enduring days ...
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