A walk through the Twyfelfontein rock engravings is almost like linking hands with those who walked before us. My thoughts focused on just how these people lived and survived in a harsh arid environment where their daily life depended on finding food, water and shelter. What were their thoughts and aspirations?
In this shot I tried to give a feel for the type of location the San chose to engrave their art. It is difficult to do 'justice' to the wonderful engravings, each time I have visited the light has been harsh and unforgiving.
The following is an except from a local newspaper which you may find interesting:
Amidst the red table-top mountains of Damaraland, a wealth of rock engravings are etched into the Mt Etjo sandstone, powerful reminders of the hunter-gatherers of old who gathered near to the spring in the dry season and chiselled thousands of animals into the rock.
The Huab valley in northwestern Namibia, a place called /Uis-//aes - place among packed stones - by the San/Bushmen who inhabited the area, or Twyfelfontein - doubtful spring - by farmer David Levin in the late 1940s, contains these remnants of the past that endure in the hot, dry landscape under the clear blue Namibian sky, linking us to our forefathers and our ancient past.
Created through hundreds of millions of years of geological upheavals, the porous wind-laid or Aeolian rock eroded and fractured along natural fissures revealing fl at smooth surfaces that provided ideal canvases for the ancient artists. Namibia’s dry climate preserved these ‘prayers to the gods’ that are between 2,000 and 6,000 years old.
Once thought to be merely educational in nature, maps of water points or a record of events, it has become apparent over the years that they have an important ritual and religious significance. The medicine man or shaman is believed to have entered a trance to communicate with the spiritual world to ask for food, healing, rain, luck for the hunt and protection for the people.
The animals repeatedly engraved in the rock represent these entreaties to the gods that were of vital importance for people living off the land: the giraffe for rain, the ostrich for food, the zebra – luck for the hunt and the rhino, possibly for protection. The shaman is thought to have chosen rock faces that not only served as suitable canvases but may have been portals into the other world.
The act of engraving itself could have been a means of focusing energy to enter into trance. The animals are represented with elongated limbs or necks, as seen in the renditions of the giraffes, or like the well-known lion-man and dancing kudu, contain human elements or are half-human half animal, revealing the merging of the physical and spiritual worlds.
Unlike the newer Bushman/San paintings that mostly depict people involved in everyday events from dancing to hunting, the majority of the engravings focus on animals and were most probably executed by the San’s ancestors thousands of years earlier.
The Twyfelfontein engravings, recognised for their cultural importance, gained world heritage status in 2007, the Twyfelfontein area offering one of the greatest concentrations of rock art in southern Africa. In the valley, six hectares in size, over 2,000 engravings or petroglyphs have been identified. The dark patina of iron and manganese oxides referred to as ‘desert varnish’, allows us to determine the age of the engravings, the darker rock being the older work.
The rocky floor of the Twyfelfontein valley holds the older, more symbolic art - lines, holes and circles - while the animal engravings appear higher up, suggesting that the animals and spoor engravings took over the value of the lower symbolic engravings.
A well-known rock slab revealing circles within circles - approximately 4,000 years old - looks remarkably like a representation of the solar system. Walking through this harsh rocky world, the visitor’s perception shifts from art gallery to cathedral of prayer as he attempts to understand the nature of the work and the artists.
Twyfelfontein continues to amaze and take us on a journey into the past as we imagine the herds of animals once attracted to its trickling spring and the people who passed through, leaving their engravings to bewilder and enrapture future generations.
Critiques | Translate
corjan3 (2109) 2012-04-20 6:45
Fabulous, fabulous, FABULOUS!....Both the image and your note! May I suggest a title for your book of images ..... Will not be so arrogant but really....your photography should culminate in a book of images of that wonderful country.
emilbo (22616) 2012-04-20 7:04
Impressionnante formation rocheuse et très intéressant les gravures dans la pierre. Une photo bien montrée dans un belle éclairage et beau contraste des couleurs chaudes avec le ciel.
Toutes mes amitiés et bonne fin de semaine,
bayno (18344) 2012-04-20 7:45
a beautiful light accentuates even more the color of this strange rock formation, resembling a prehistoric animal, excellent contrast with the sky....
have a good WE...
kabel (1930) 2012-04-20 8:50
Hello, a very interesting glimpse into ancient mans' way of communicating and ewhat we now consdider to be art. Your choice of POV is large and encompassing. Excellent sharpness adds to the overall drama pictured on the rocks.
SNOOP_Chan (4377) 2012-04-20 9:38
Hello Rosemary, great image here! Our ancestors had some skills! Great vertical on the rock, good angle. And an impressive note.
rychem (41788) 2012-04-20 11:03
This here is a documentary photo, beautiful rock formation, interesting petroglyphs, informative note
golus (2893) 2012-04-20 13:12
Technically a very hard to do photo as you've already indicated in your extensively informative notes, but you've masterfully accomplished it and the outcome is just perfect. The exposure is exquisite and the engravings are lucidly captured. It is hard to believe they're that much older. Thanks for sharing. Best wishes,
bukitgolfb301 (44841) 2012-04-20 18:36
Hello my dear Rosemary
Sorry for my late reaction. Yes I enjoy your rock sereies very much! A great shot with sharp and clear focisuing and vivd color contrast. Very nice to see on Sat. morning.
Thanks for your sharing with your best job and have a good weekend, best regards,
Takero from Tokyo
timecapturer (49288) 2012-04-21 3:47
this is wonderful. So detailed and so beautiful. You have composed and captured this so thoughtfuly and perfectly. Love the colours and tones it is an exceptional image of real quality and intrigue. Bravo!
Regards - Brian.
williewhistler (16434) 2012-04-21 4:45
actually you have done a pretty good job of showing these lovely rock carvings in their environment despite the very bright uncompromising light,they are very clear and visable.
A fascinating area very well portrayed.
Best regards Les.
tyro (26142) 2012-04-21 5:13
I really don't know why this picture has not attracted more attention than it has. Perhaps because, in the thumbnail, it lacks the striking impact of many of your Namibian photographs, but from the point of view of the real raison d'être of TE, this, with its accompanying exhaustive and fascinating note, must be amongst the very best of photographs on this site. I could well imagine seeing this picture and your note in a copy of National Geographic Magazine!
The picture, of course, is photographically perfect and the composition is good too, the towering rocks above giving an impression of size and space, but the stone carvings are very impressive indeed.
One thing that strikes me is that these carvings seem really quite superficial - is there no form of protection built for them? Will they not erode from the effects of wind and sand? I guess they's survived this long so perhaps the climate here is kind to them.
Your link to the website about these Twyfelfontein carvings is very interesting - but the one photograph on that site is rubbish! Can't you send them some of yours to add a bit of sparkle to their webpage?
And, interestingly, I looked at your map (and the larger verison too by clicking on the multicoloured "Google" logo) and I don't see any Panoramio shots there at all in this place. How about sticking a few on there so that people can see them when viewing Google Earth?
Thank you for a fascinating note and photograph!
jjcordier (79297) 2012-04-21 9:07
Les rochers sont déjà superbes mais ce sont évidemment ces animaux gravés qui en font la grande originalité et la grande richesse. Fascinant! Grand merci pour cette note très intéressante et cette très belle photo.
i9l2y1m8a8t3 (4814) 2012-04-21 21:12
It's been a busy week, good thing I stopped by TE. I'm really enjoying every word in your note! Another new info for me, very enlightening and highly informative image! This is such precious finding! Is this inside a national park or something? I hope the Namibia's commission on national parks are there to preserve such remains. A very nice contribution!
Super warm regards from Manila!
dkmurphys (63825) 2012-04-22 0:56
Fine scene, a document detail of human evolution. Well taken, have a lovely Sunday.
Cricri (124988) 2012-04-22 3:36
Très intéressante la note sur la gravure d'animaux sur les rochers, cadrage, couleurs et détails, parfaite réalisation, compliment
delpeoples (59684) 2012-04-22 5:20
Hi dear Rosemary
The sheer, bare rockface is almost symbolic of the difficult lives these people must have endured. It's testament to the enduring human spirit. Wonderful rich colours and contrasts. The sharpness is pristine and I like your Point of View. A beautiful, minimalistic photo.
Thanks for sharing, have a beautiful day
Rafer (0) 2012-04-23 3:41
Excelente imagen muy original con buenisima luz y color!!! Greetings
anel (563) 2012-04-23 3:58
As an Art Historian I'm of course interested by these wonderful petroglyphs which show so many wild animal species in a most beautiful way. Well taken picture, you managed the light in an excellent manner! Interesting note too.
Thanks too for your kind critique on my Wall-painting picture. I appreciated much.
abmdsudi (57176) 2012-04-23 5:25
What an absolutely fascinating sight again, incredible prehistoric rock paintings and engravings of what we call 'stories in stone' Extraordinary site and you make it look easy, but you have a talent for location and an eye for balance. This is a beauty of a shot with the rock formation filling much of the space and perfect to keep the eye into the perspective. This certainly makes you pay more than the usual attention. Brilliant rock colours and fascinating textures with the contrast against the sky adding to the impact of the scene. This is a fine balanced exposure despite the harshness u mentioned leading to an excellent finished result and you have caught the majesty of the place, and yes it is an area that has the seen to be believed. Superb upload and certainly you have really done this justice. Good notes to guide us along. TFS
Suppiluliuma (3931) 2012-04-24 6:45
You again brought me back sweet memories of an unforgettable journey to Namibia. Thank you Dear Rosemary. :-)
This time you managed the light very well, I must say, it is not always easy to show those carvings on rock.
I am far from being an expert but, although the human history is just a tiny piece of sand compared to the ocean of the history of world geography, is it possible that the climate was much more favorable 2 to 6 thousands years ago?
jmdias (68067) 2012-05-22 3:08
here we can see the ancient art and its details and the place where they were made. good sharpness and light. TFS.