Rock Art

How long does the average paint that you buy in your local hardware stay on your walls before you have to go out again and spend some more money and repaint your walls at home? 5 – 10 years?

Well, there is some paint that has and probably will outlast the average paint which you buy in your hardware down the road, some of this paint has been around for +/- 2000 years if not longer. What I’m talking about is the Rock Art that the San people painted on rocks.

The Cederberg Mountain range which is one of the riches areas for rock art in Southern Africa. Most of the paintings can be seen along the river, stream beds with rocky outcrops with overhangs which provided temporary shelter. Even though there is a similarity of paintings across the Western Cape, each site is different from the next in terms of images/ paintings. There are an estimated 1000 or more sites in the Cederberg area.
Ancient rock painting of an archer
This is just one of the sites near Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge at a place called Sevilla Rock Art Trail.

The San did not leave any written records of their History but they did leave wonderful descriptive paintings all over the Cederberg mountain area and due to weathering and vandalism, some of them have faded quite dramatically that we can no longer read them.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering how they could age the paintings when it’s paint on a rock! There are some paintings with wagons, sailing ships, men on horseback, so they can be roughly dated to the last +/- 300 years. The best way that the experts can reasonably date the paintings is from loose stones which have been dug up from accumulated litter on the caves floors. The cave litter can be accurately dated which in turn gives us a date of the stones as of when they were buried, but there is still no way of telling if those stones weren’t painted on long before that. It’s one of those unanswerable questions!
New- born Zebra or Quagga Foal
Having learnt a bit on dating the paintings, the next question is what materials they used for the paint to stay on the rocks for that long! Because they used every colour from black to white, red, yellow, blue and even green.

Some researchers from many years ago who actually had contact with surviving San people discovered that they used earth orches, clay, ash and bird droppings were the basis of pigments and urine, blood ( probably from animals they killed), egg whites and sap of plants( they think this was a fixative). The black “tar” formed from Dassie (Rock Hyraxes) middens (lavatory) was used.

There were quite a few materials used to apply the paint and that ranged from fingers to sticks, feathers and animal hair. Some of the fineness of the lines of many of the paintings indicates that there was a sophisticated technique in the use of the brush. It really is incredible to see how straight the lines are.
Have a look and you should see Elephants
You can get to see some of these paintings by yourself and head to the Sevilla Rock Art trail and walking along a well-marked path and have a look at the paintings yourself and decipher what they mean with a pamphlet you acquire at the office at Travellers’ Rest.

Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge it is one of our activities we offer our guest. You can walk the trail with one of our very knowledgeable guides and they will share with you un- answered questions that you didn’t receive from this blog and get to see these paintings up close and personable.
These images I’ve put in here are a few of my favourites and were taken on the Sevilla Rock Art trail and there are plenty more paintings to see but it just isn’t about the art because there is some beautiful scenery along the way too.
After some rains there are quite a few waterfalls which appear on the sides of the mountains
All of this only roughly 2.5 hours from Cape Town so head on up to come experience this all and who knows you might find some other hidden gems up here!