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San rock art: evidence and argument

  • J. David Lewis-Williams (a1) and David G. Pearce (a1)

Whether or not a ‘trance-dance’ akin to that of today's Kalahari San (Bushmen) was performed by southern /Xam San in the nineteenth century has long been the subject of intense debate. Here the authors point to parallels between nineteenth-century records of San life and beliefs and twentieth-century San ethnography from the Kalahari Desert in order to argue that this cultural practice was shared by these two geographically and chronologically distant groups. More significantly, it is suggested that these ethnographic parallels allow a clearer understanding of the religious and ritual practices depicted in the southern San rock art images.

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T.A. Dowson 1994. Reading art, writing history: rock art and social change in southern Africa. World Archaeology 25: 332–44.

J.D. Lewis-Williams 1982. The economic and social context of southern San rock art. Current Anthropology 23: 429–49.

J.D. Lewis-Williams 1986. The last testament of the southern San. South African Archaeological Bulletin 41: 1011.

J.D. Lewis-Williams 1987. A dream of eland: an unexplored component of San shamanism and rock art. World Archaeology 19: 165–77.

J.D. Lewis-Williams 1992. Ethnographic evidence relating to ‘trance’ and ‘shamans’ among northern and southern Bushmen. South African Archaeological Bulletin 47: 5660.

J.D. Lewis-Williams 1998. Quanto? The issue of ‘many meanings’ in southern African San rock art research. South African Archaeological Bulletin 53: 8697.

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P. Schaafsma 2013. Images and power: rock art and ethics. New York: Springer.

B.W. Smith & S. Ouzman . 2004. Taking stock: identifying Khoekhoen herder rock art in southern Africa. Current Anthropology 45: 499526.

A. Solomon 2008. Myths, making and consciousness: dynamics and differences in San rock arts. Current Anthropology 49: 5976.

J. Stevenson 2000. Shaman images in San rock art: a question of gender, in M. Donald & L. Hurcombe (ed.) Representations of gender from prehistory to present: 4566. London: Macmillan.

R. Yates & A. Manhire . 1991. Shamanism and rock paintings: aspects of the use of rock art in the south-western Cape, South Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin 46: 311.

R. Yates , J. Golson & M. Hall . 1985. Trance performance: the rock art of Boontjieskloof and Sevilla. South African Archaeological Bulletin 40: 7080.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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