Exploring the sonorous dimension of San rock art
Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
South Africa is home to one of the most remarkable rock art traditions on the African continent. The paintings produced by the ancestors of the San people exhibit human figures, different types of animals –especially elands, which are considered sacred– and therianthropes (composite representations of human-animal beings). These motifs tend to appear in groups, often forming highly complex scenes interpreted as images of rituals and events that took place in a spiritual world. Establishing a precise chronological framework for this rock art is a challenging task. However, direct dating indicates that the oldest representations would have been produced around 5000 years ago. In this context, between April and May 2022, the ERC Artsoundscapes project –in collaboration with the KwaZulu-Natal Museum– carried out fieldwork to measure the acoustic properties of 28 rock art shelters located in the Drakensberg Mountains, and more specifically in the areas of Kamberg (12 sites) and Giant’s Castle (16 sites). The data obtained and the ethnographic information related to the San people are allowing us to investigate the role of acoustics and sound in the production and use of San rock art.
ERC Advanced Grant. Project title: “The sound of special places: exploring rock art soundscapes and the sacred” (2018-2024). Acronym: Artsoundscapes. EC Grant agreement number: 787842. PI: Margarita Díaz-Andreu.
Santos da Rosa, N., Moreno Iglesias, D., Alvarez Morales, L., Laue, G., & Díaz-Andreu, M. (Forthcoming). The sonorous dimension of San rock art: an archaeoacoustic approach to Game Pass shelter. In J. Hollman, G. Laue, & J. Wintjes (Eds.), Game Pass Shelter.