Taking stock: Identifying Khoekhoen herder rock art in southern Africa

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Recent archaeological research has identified a widespread southern African rock art tradition that materially affects the debate over what archaeology can tell us about prehistory in southern Africa. This tradition differs from the one attributed to the ancestors of today’s San in being dominated by rough-pecked and finger-painted geometric imagery. Using appearance, technique, age, geographic distribution, site preference, and relationship to known San-produced rock art, this article considers various candidates for its authorship—San foragers, Bantu-speaking farmers, Khoekhoen herders, European colonists, and multiethnic groupings— and concludes that it was predominantly Khoekhoen. The identity of the Khoekhoen, their origins, the route(s) by which they traveled, their relationship with foragers, and their material culture signature are contentious issues. The identification of a Khoekhoen rock art tradition provides another element for the study of the San-Khoekhoen relationship
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-526
Number of pages28
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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