Advertisement

African Archaeological Review

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 505–535 | Cite as

Allusions to Agriculturist Rituals in Hunter-Gatherer Rock Art? eMkhobeni Shelter, Northern uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  • Jeremy C. Hollmann
Original Article

Abstract

Unusual and uncommon motifs at eMkhobeni Shelter, in the foothills of the northern uKhahlamba-Drakensberg of KwaZulu-Natal, look like Bushman hunter-gatherer paintings. However, amidst the many images at this site are motifs that apparently allude to a historic cultural practice of Bantu-speaking agriculturists—the widely performed first-fruits festival, as well as to Nguni rain-making practices. These motifs include the slaughter of a bull with an axe, depictions of figures wearing items of Nguni clothing, figures driving black-painted cattle and a black sheep. The motifs are understood here as symbols of fertility, especially rain-making, that the eMkhobeni painters (argued to be Bushman hunter-gatherers living alongside agriculturists) incorporated into their repertoire. The creation on the rock face of signal moments from first-fruit ceremonies and the painting of black cattle and sheep may be understood as a way of strengthening Bushman hunter-gatherer control over fertility and rain-making. It is argued that the imagery validated the social and economic position of local Bushman hunter-gatherer groups and their ritual practitioners, especially in the eyes of their agriculturist neighbours.

Keywords

Bull sacrifice First-fruits festival Interaction studies Mimesis Nguni material culture Rain-making Sheep 

Résumé

L’abri eMkhobeni est situé sur les contreforts de la partie nord du Drakensberg-uKhalamba, au Kwazulu-Natal. Il est décoré de motifs peu communs qui, au premier regard, semblent renvoyer à la tradition picturale des chasseurs et cueilleurs nomades bochimans. Pourtant, parmi ces très nombreuses images, certains motifs semblent être des allusions à des pratiques culturelles de pasteurs et agriculteurs bantus, telle que la cérémonie, largement célébrée, des premiers fruits ou les rituels des faiseurs de pluie Nguni. Sont également représentés le sacrifice d’un taureau effectué à l’aide d’une hache, des personnages portant des vêtements Nguni, d’autres qui conduisent des vaches noires, ainsi qu’un mouton, lui aussi de couleur noire. Ces motifs sont interprétés comme étant des symboles de fertilité, en particulier les cérémonies de pluie que les peintres de l’abri eMkhobeni—dont nous avançons qu’il s’agit de chasseurs-cueilleurs bochimans vivant parmi les pasteurs et agriculteurs Nguni—ont incorporés à leur répertoire. La représentation sur les parois de cet abri d’aspects essentiels de la cérémonie des premiers fruits, ainsi que celle d’un mouton et de vaches noirs, peuvent être comprises comme le moyen, pour les chasseurs-cueilleurs bochimans, de renforcer leur contrôle sur la fertilité et la pluie. Nous avançons que ces images valident la position sociale et économique de clans locaux de chasseurs et cueilleurs bochimans, à travers leur spécialistes des rituels, notamment aux yeux de leurs voisins dont l’économie est pastorale et agricole.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Research on the eMkhobeni paintings was carried out on an Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship from the South African National Research Foundation. Marthina Mössmer gave loving editorial assistance. I gratefully acknowledge Karim Sadr for his support, as well as staff in the University of the Witwatersrand Research Office and the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies. The KwaZulu-Natal Museum kindly allowed me access to their site records. I thank Meridy Pfotenhauer and the members of the Ngoba rock art community group for informing me about eMkhobeni Shelter. In particular, I thank Mqambuleni and Chalisi Hlongwane for their assistance during fieldwork. I am especially grateful to Gavin Whitelaw for his suggestion that the bull-killing sacrifice motif at eMkhobeni may allude to first-fruits ceremonies and for many other suggestions and information. I am also obliged to Khumbulani Ndaba, Lawrence Msimanga, Thembi Russell, Carolyn Thorp and Valerie Ward for comment and discussions. Finally, I thank the reviewers of this paper for their comments and suggestions; these have greatly improved the paper.

References

  1. Barry, J. D. (1883). Report and proceedings with appendices of the Government Commission on Native Laws and Customs. Cape Town: W. A. Richards and Sons.Google Scholar
  2. Berglund, A. (1976). Zulu thought-patterns and symbolism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Blundell, G. (2004). Nqabayo's nomansland: San rock art and the somatic past. Uppsala: Uppsala University.Google Scholar
  4. Bryant, A. T. (1929). Olden times in Zululand and Natal. London: Longmans.Google Scholar
  5. Bryant, A. T. (1949). The Zulu people: As they were before the white man came. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter & Shooter.Google Scholar
  6. Callaway, H. (1884). The religious system of the amaZulu. London: Trübner.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, C. (1986). Images of war: A problem in San rock art research. World Archaeology, 18(2), 255–267. doi: 10.1080/00438243.1986.9980002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell, C. (1987). Art in crisis: Contact period rock art in the south-eastern mountains of southern Africa. Unpublished Master’s thesis, University of the Witwatersrand.Google Scholar
  9. Challis, W. (2008). The impact of the horse on the Amatola ‘Bushmen’: New identity in the Maloti-Drakensberg mountains of southern Africa. University of Oxford: Unpublished D.Phil. thesis.Google Scholar
  10. Cook, P. A. W. (1930). The inqwala ceremony of the Swazis. Bantu Studies, 4, 205–210. doi: 10.1080/02561751.1930.9676243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davies, O. (1974). Excavations at the walled Early Iron Age site in Moor Park near Estcourt, Natal. Annals of the Natal Museum, 22(1), 289–323.Google Scholar
  12. de Webb, C. B., & Wright, J. B. (1976). The James Stuart Archive, vol. 1. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal.Google Scholar
  13. de Webb, C. B., & Wright, J. B. (1982). The James Stuart Archive, vol. 2. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal.Google Scholar
  14. de Webb, C. B., & Wright, J. B. (1986). The James Stuart Archive, vol. 3. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal.Google Scholar
  15. Dowson, T. A. (1994). Reading art, writing history: Rock art and social change in southern Africa. World Archaeology, 25(3), 332–344. doi: 10.1080/00438243.1994.9980249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dowson, T. A. (1998). Rain in Bushman belief, politics and history: The rock art of rain-making in the south-eastern mountains, southern Africa. In C. Chippindale & P. S. T. Taçon (Eds.), The archaeology of rock art (pp. 73–89). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Eastwood, E. B. (2005). From girls to women: Female imagery in the San rock paintings of the Central Limpopo Basin, southern Africa. Before Farming, 2005/3, article 2.Google Scholar
  18. Eastwood, E. B., & Eastwood, C. (2006). Capturing the spoor: An exploration of southern African rock art. Cape Town: David Philip.Google Scholar
  19. Flett, A., & Letley, P. (2013). Style and stylistic change in the rock art of the southeastern mountains of southern Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 68(197), 3–14.Google Scholar
  20. Gluckmann, M. (1938). Social aspects of first fruits ceremonies among the south eastern Bantu. Africa, 11, 25–41. doi: 10.2307/1155216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hall, S. L. (1986). Pastoral adaptations and forager reactions in the Eastern Cape. South African Archaeological Society, Goodwin Series, 5, 42–49.Google Scholar
  22. Hall, S. L. (1994). Images of interaction: Rock art and sequence in the Eastern Cape. In T. A. Dowson & D. Lewis-Williams (Eds.), Contested images: Diversity in southern African rock art research (pp. 61–82). Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hammond-Tooke, W. D. (1953). The function of annual first fruit ceremonies in Baca social structure. African Studies, 12(2), 75–87. doi: 10.1080/00020185308706909.Google Scholar
  24. Hammond-Tooke, W. D. (1993). The roots of black South Africa. Johannesburg: Johnathan Ball.Google Scholar
  25. Hammond-Tooke, W. D. (1998). Selective borrowing? The possibility of San shamanistic influence on Southern Bantu divination and healing practices. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 53, 9–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hollmann, J. C., & Crause, K. (2011). Digital imaging and the revelation of ‘hidden’ rock art: Vaalekop Shelter, KwaZulu-Natal. Southern African Humanities, 23, 55–76.Google Scholar
  27. Hollmann, J. C., & Msimanga, L. (2008). ‘An extreme case’: The removal of rock art from uMhwabane (eBusingatha) rock art shelter, Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal. Southern African Humanities, 20, 285–315.Google Scholar
  28. Huffman, T. N. (2004). The archaeology of the Nguni past. Southern African Humanities, 16, 79–111.Google Scholar
  29. Jolly, P. (1986). A first generation descendant of the Transkei San. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 41, 6–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jolly, P. (1995). Melikane and Upper Mangolong revisited: The possible effects on San art of symbiotic contact between south-eastern San and southern Sotho and Nguni communities. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 50, 68–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jolly, P. (1996). Symbiotic interaction between black agriculturists and south-eastern San: Implications for southern African rock art studies, ethnographic analogy, and hunter-gatherer cultural identity. Current Anthropology, 37(2), 277–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jolly, P. (2005). Sharing symbols: A correspondence in the ritual dress of black farmers and the southeastern San. South African Archaeological Society, Goodwin Series, 9, 86–100.Google Scholar
  33. Jolly, P. (2007). Before farming? Cattle kept and painted by the south-eastern San. Before Farming, 2007/4, article 2, 1–29.Google Scholar
  34. Kinahan, J. (1999). Towards an archaeology of mimesis and rain-making in Namibian rock art. In P. Ucko & R. Layton (Eds.), The archaeology and anthropology of landscape (pp. 336–357). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Krige, E. J. (1957). The social system of the Zulus. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter & Shooter.Google Scholar
  36. Lander, F. E. (2014). An investigation into the painted sheep imagery of the northern uKhahlamba Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal, southern Africa. Unpublished Master’s dissertation. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand.Google Scholar
  37. Lewis-Williams, J. D. (1972). The syntax and function of the Giant’s Castle rock-paintings. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 27, 49–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lewis-Williams, J. D. (1974). Superpositioning in a sample of rock-paintings from the Barkly East District. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 29, 93–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lewis-Williams, J. D. (1981a). Believing and seeing: Symbolic meanings in southern San rock paintings. London: Academic.Google Scholar
  40. Lewis-Williams, J. D. (1981b). The thin red line: Southern San notions and rock paintings of supernatural potency. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 36, 5–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lewis-Williams, J. D. (1983). The rock-art of southern Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Lewis-Williams, J. D. (1987). Paintings of power: Ethnography and rock art in southern Africa. In M. Biesele, R. Gordon, & R. Lee (Eds.), The past and future of !Kung ethnography: Critical reflections and symbolic perspectives. Essays in honour of Lorna Marshall (pp. 231–273). Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.Google Scholar
  43. Lewis-Williams, J. D. (1992). Vision, power and dance: The genesis of a southern African rock art panel. Veertiende Kroon-Voordracht. Amsterdam: Kroonvoordrachten.Google Scholar
  44. Lewis-Williams, J. D., & Dowson, T. A. (1989). Images of power: Understanding Bushman rock art. Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers.Google Scholar
  45. Lewis-Williams, J. D., & Pearce, D. (2009). Constructing spiritual panoramas: Order and chaos in southern African San rock panels. Southern African Humanities, 21, 41–61.Google Scholar
  46. Lewis-Williams, J. D., Blundell, G., Challis, W., & Hampson, J. (2000). Threads of light: Re-examining a motif in southern African San rock art. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 55, 123–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Loubser, J. H. N., & Laurens, G. (1994). Depictions of domestic ungulates and shields: Hunter/gatherers and agro-pastoralists in the Caledon River Valley Area. In T. A. Dowson & D. Lewis-Williams (Eds.), Contested images: Diversity in southern African rock art research (pp. 83–118). Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Lugg, H. G. (1927). Agricultural ceremonies in Natal and Zululand. Bantu Studies, 3(1), 357–383. doi: 10.1080/02561751.1927.9676219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Maggs, T. (1980). Msuluzi confluence: A seventh century Early Iron Age site on the Tugela River. Annals of the Natal Museum, 24(1), 111–145.Google Scholar
  50. Maggs, T. (1982). Mgoduyanuka: Terminal Iron Age settlement in the Natal grasslands. Annals of the Natal Museum, 25, 83–113.Google Scholar
  51. Maggs, T. (1989). The Iron Age farming communities. In A. Duminy & B. Guest (Eds.), Natal and Zululand: From the earliest times to 1910, a new history (pp. 28–48). Pietermaritzburg: Natal University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Maggs, T. (1993). The Zulu battle-axe. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 5, 175–188.Google Scholar
  53. Maggs, T., & Ward, V. (1980). Driel Shelter: Rescue at a Late Stone Age site on the Tugela River. Annals of the Natal Museum, 24(1), 35–70.Google Scholar
  54. Manhire, A., Parkington, J. E., Mazel, A. D., & Maggs, T. (1986). Cattle, sheep and horses: A review of domestic animals in the rock art of southern Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin Goodwin Series, 5, 22–30.Google Scholar
  55. Mark, R., & Billo, E. (1999). A stitch in time: Digital panoramas and mosaics. American Indian Rock Art, 25, 155–169.Google Scholar
  56. Mark, R., & Billo, E. (2002). Application of digital image enhancement in rock art recording. American Indian Rock Art, 28, 121–128.Google Scholar
  57. Marshall, L. (1999). Nyae Nyae !Kung beliefs and rites. Cambridge: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  58. Mazel, A. D. (1982). Distribution of painting themes in the Natal Drakensberg. Annals of the Natal Museum, 25(1), 67–82.Google Scholar
  59. Mazel, A. D. (1984a). Gehle shelter: A report on excavations in the uplands ecological zone, Tugela Basin, Natal, South Africa. Annals of the Natal Museum, 26(1), 1–24.Google Scholar
  60. Mazel, A. D. (1984b). Diamond 1 and Clarke’s shelter: Report on excavations in the northern Drakensberg, Natal, South Africa. Annals of the Natal Museum, 26(1), 25–70.Google Scholar
  61. Mazel, A. D. (1986a). Mgede shelter: A mid- and late Holocene observation in the western Biggarsberg, Thukela Basin, Natal, South Africa. Annals of the Natal Museum, 27(2), 357–387.Google Scholar
  62. Mazel, A. D. (1986b). Mbabane shelter and eSinhlonhweni shelter: The last two thousand years of hunter-gatherer settlement in the central Thukela Basin, Natal, South Africa. Annals of the Natal Museum, 27(2), 389–453.Google Scholar
  63. Mazel, A. D. (1989a). People making history: The last ten thousand years of hunter-gatherer communities in the Thukela Basin. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 1, 1–168.Google Scholar
  64. Mazel, A. D. (1989b). Changing social relations in the Thukela Basin, Natal, 7000–2000 BP. South African Archaeological Bulletin, Goodwin Series, 6, 33–41.Google Scholar
  65. Mazel, A. D. (1990). Mhlwazini Cave: The excavation of Late Holocene deposits in the northern Natal Drakensberg, Natal, South Africa. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 2, 95–133.Google Scholar
  66. Mazel, A. D. (1992a). Collingham shelter: The excavation of Late Holocene deposits, Natal, South Africa. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 4, 1–57.Google Scholar
  67. Mazel, A. D. (1992b). Early pottery from the eastern part of southern Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 47, 3–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Mazel, A. D. (1993). KwaThwaleyakhe shelter: The excavation of mid and late Holocene deposits in the central Thukela Basin, Natal, South Africa. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 5, 1–36.Google Scholar
  69. Mazel, A. D. (1995). Hunter-gatherers in the Thukela basin during the last 1500 years, with special reference to hunter-gatherer/agriculturalist relations. In A. Bank (Ed.), The proceedings of the Khoisan identities and cultural heritage conference. Cape Town: University of the Western Cape and Infosource.Google Scholar
  70. Mazel, A. D. (1996). Maqonqo shelter: Excavation of Holocene deposits in the eastern Biggarsberg, Thukela Basin, South Africa. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 8, 1–39.Google Scholar
  71. Mazel, A. D. (1997). Mzinyashana shelters 1 and 2: Excavation of mid and late Holocene deposits in the eastern Biggarsberg, Thukela Basin, South Africa. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 9, 1–35.Google Scholar
  72. Mazel, A. D. (1999). iNkolimahashi shelter: The excavation of Later Stone Age rock shelter deposits in the central Thukela Basin, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 11, 1–21.Google Scholar
  73. Mitchell, P. J. (2008). The canine connection: Dogs and people in southern African hunter-gatherer societies. In S. Badenhorst, P. J. Mitchell, & J. C. Driver (Eds.), Animals and people: Archaeozoological papers in honour of Ina Plug (pp. 104–116). Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.Google Scholar
  74. Ouzman, S. (2003). Indigenous images of a colonial exotic: Imaginings from Bushman South Africa. Before Farming, 1(6), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Pager, H. (1971). Ndedema: A documentation of the rock paintings of the Ndedema Gorge. Graz: Akademische Druck.Google Scholar
  76. Pager, H. (1975). Stone Age myth and magic as documented in the rock paintings of South Africa. Graz: Akademische Druck.Google Scholar
  77. Poland, M., Hammond-Tooke, D., & Voigt, L. (2003). The abundant herds: A celebration of the Nguni cattle of the Zulu people. Vlaeberg: Fernwood Press.Google Scholar
  78. Prins, F. E. (1990). Southern-Bushman descendants in the Transkei: Rock art and rainmaking. South African Journal of Ethnology, 13(3), 110–116.Google Scholar
  79. Prins, F. E. (1994). Living in two worlds: The manipulation of power relations, identity and ideology by the last San rock artist in Tsolo, Transkei, South Africa. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 6, 179–193.Google Scholar
  80. Prins, F. E. (1998). Khoisan heritage or Zulu identity markers: Symbolising rock art and place in asserting social and physical boundaries among the Sithole. In A. Bank (Ed.), The proceedings of the Khoisan Identities and Cultural Heritage Conference (pp. 112–117). Cape Town: University of the Western Cape and Infosource.Google Scholar
  81. Prins, F. E. (1999). Dissecting diviners: On positivism, trance-formations, and the unreliable informant. Natal Museum Journal of Humanities, 11, 43–62.Google Scholar
  82. Prins, F. E. (2000). Forgotten heirs: The archaeological colonization of the Southern San. In I. Lilley (Ed.), Native title and the transformation of archaeology in the postcolonial world (pp. 138–152). Oceania Monograph 50. Sydney: Oceania Publications.Google Scholar
  83. Prins, F. E. (2009). Secret San of the Drakensberg and their rock art legacy. Critical Arts, 23(2), 190–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Prins, F. E., & Lewis, H. (1992). Bushmen as mediators in Nguni cosmology. Ethnology, 31(2), 133–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Samuelson, R. C. A. (1929). Long, long ago. Durban: Knox Printing and Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  86. Stoll, A. Q., & Stoll, G. (2013). DStretch image enhancement at Ntswatugi Cave, Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe. Prehistory Society of Zimbabwe Newsletter, 152, 2–7.Google Scholar
  87. Taussig, M. (1993). Mimesis and alterity: A particular history of the senses. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  88. Thorp, C. R. (2000). Hunter-gatherers and agriculturists: An enduring frontier in the Caledon River Valley, South Africa. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports International series 860.Google Scholar
  89. Van Doornum, B. (2007). Tshisiku Shelter and the Shashe-Limpopo confluence area hunter-gatherer sequence. Southern African Humanities, 19, 17–67.Google Scholar
  90. Vinnicombe, P. (1976). People of the eland: Rock paintings of the Drakensberg Bushmen as a reflection of their life and thought. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.Google Scholar
  91. Vinnicombe, P. (2010). Meaning cannot rest or stay the same. In G. Blundell, C. Chippindale, & B. W. Smith (Eds.), Seeing and knowing: Understanding rock art with and without ethnography (pp. 240–249). Johannesburg: Wits University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Whitelaw, G. (2004). Iron Age hilltop sites of the early to mid-second millennium AD in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In K. T. Sanogo, D. Keita, & M. N’Daou (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th Congress of the Pan African Association for Prehistory and Related Studies (pp. 38–51). Bamako: Soro Print Colour.Google Scholar
  93. Whitelaw, G. (2009). “Their village is where they kill game”: Nguni interactions with the San. In P. Mitchell & B. Smith (Eds.), The eland’s people: New perspectives in the rock art of the Maloti-Drakensberg Bushmen. Essays in memory of Patricia Vinnicombe (pp. 139–163). Johannesburg: Wits University Press.Google Scholar
  94. Willcox, A. R. (1978). So-called ‘infibulation’ in African rock art: A group research project. African Studies, 37(2), 203–225. doi: 10.1080/00020187808707520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Woodhouse, H. C. (1990). Dogs in the rock art of southern Africa. South African Journal of Ethnology, 13(3), 117–124.Google Scholar
  96. Wright, J. B. (1971). Bushman raiders of the Drakensberg 1840–1870: A study of their conflict with stock-keeping peoples in Natal. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.Google Scholar
  97. Wright, J., & Mazel, A. (2007). Tracks in a mountain range: Exploring the history of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.Google Scholar
  98. Yates, R., Golson, J., & Hall, M. (1985). Trance performance: The rock art of Boontjieskloof and Sevilla. South African Archaeological Bulletin, 40, 70–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Archaeology and Rock Art Research Institute, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations