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San Rock Art


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San rock paintings, scattered over the range of southern Africa, are considered by many to be the very earliest examples of representational art. There are as many as 15,000 known rock art sites, created over the course of thousands of years up until the nineteenth century. There are possibly just as many still awaiting discovery.

Taking as his starting point the magnificent Linton panel in the Iziko-South African Museum in Cape Town, J. D. Lewis-Williams examines the artistic and cultural significance of rock art and how this art sheds light on how San image-makers conceived their world. It also details the European encounter with rock art as well as the contentious European interaction with the artists' descendants, the contemporary San people.


"This little book is exceptional in that the subject is so clearly explained. It was wonderful to learn that [South African former] President Thabo Mbeki incorporated a San rock painting into our new national coat of arms.... I recommend you dip into this pocket book. You won't be disappointed." -- Dee Andrew
"(San Rock Art) serves as an excellent introduction to the possibilities of studying the subject and would be useful in many sorts of classes. Professionals will also find the volume useful for both general concepts and clear and concise summaries of many of the key points of Lewis-Williams' interpretive efforts. In summary, this book is a good read. I recommend it for all levels of those interested in the subject of rock art."
"Perhaps only the eloquent and succinct prose of J.D. Lewis-Williams could present, examine and explain the ethnology and artistry of the San culture in such a quintessential manner.... From explanations of the 'terpsichorean exercises' and the all-important 'trance-dance' to how the San person, shaman or not, can use a painting to go through the 'veil' to the spirit world beyond, the author reveals a world of ethnographic and artistic potency."
"Making sense of these fascinating artifacts as a novice requires the assistance of an informed guide and Lewis-Williams' credentials speak for themselves.... This deceptively ordinary-looking book is a fascinating read and will spur you on your travels to view as many San paintings as you can at close-hand, fuelled by your newfound knowledge of the complexity of the beliefs, rituals, and practices of the first inhabitants of South Africa." -- Sunday Tribune

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