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Rock Art Namibia Africa

Rock Art of Twyfelfontein, Namibia, Africa
A Survey into the Relationship between
Animal-Engravings and Cupules

Twyfelfontein Cupules

1.4: Inventory of Twyfelfontein Cupules (1)

Page | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |

Rock Art of Twyfelfontein in Namibia, Africa

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The rock-art at Twyfelfontein is found along the northern and eastern edges of a large sandstone plateau (Figure 2). The major concentration of engravings and paintings is found on boulders that are situated in the wide, flat-bottomed valley that penetrates the plateau to the SW from the north. Many of the decorated boulders are located along the easily accessible edges of the valley floor (situated at about 600m). The major group however, occupies the lower slopes around the well-known spring that gave its name to Twyfelfontein (doubtful fountain) Farm. Only a few minor sites are found on the plateau itself. The dispersal of cupule rocks follows the general distribution of the rock-art. These sites with cupules will be described from north to south, following part of the possible route from the west to the spring. In the subsequent inventory a site is a single decorated rock (with possibly several engraved panels), which is indicated by two digits, the first giving the general site location and the second indicating the specific stone. Table 1 summarises all the known cupule rocks at Twyfelfontein and also states the numbering used by Scherz.
 
SITE 1: This site (1 in Figure 2), situated on the flat gravel and sand deposits a short distance north of the plateau, comprises an isolated but most conspicuous group of stones. Dominating this cluster are two enormous boulders that form an easily recognised landmark on the route towards Twyfelfontein. Smaller but still very large boulders are located mainly west of the two prominent blocks of sandstone. The name of this complex may cause some confusion. The group is marked on the Ordnance Survey map (2014CB, Verbrandeberg) as "Adam en Eve", but Scherz (1975: 212) gave that name (Adam und Eva) to a group of painted and engraved rocks some 3 km further west of site 1. It is even more confusing that this name was also attributed by Seglie (1997: 46) to two completely different sites at Twyfelfontein, notably the Ceremonial Plaza (site P according to Scherz' numbering - 2 on Figure 2) and to the painted shelter on the southern habitation plain (D3 or MC according to Scherz' numbering - 4.14 in Figure 14), but also to another site (unidentifiable by its vague caption) elsewhere (but where?) in Namibia (Seglie 1997: 8).

Site 1 gained importance because of several new finds. On the W side of the W block I noticed, in addition to the engravings recorded by Scherz (Figure 66), a very faint animal amongst the row of geometric designs and the remains of a possible second giraffe to the left of the one recorded previously, and, above those giraffes, the faint outline of a possible animal head. Below the giraffes is a small boss with some much worn depressions looking like cupules. These may be natural, however.


rock art cupules namibia africa

Figure 4
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rock art cupules namibia africa

Figure 4
Click for Enlargement


SITE 1.1: A couple of metres W of the W block is a jumble of smaller blocks, possibly broken from the original block that once tumbled down the slopes of the plateau. On the slightly SE sloping upper surface of one of these stones (1.1 in Figure 4 ), my wife discovered a fine group of heavily patinated geometric engravings, including a relatively large number of cupules (Figure 5). Ringmarks and ovals surround most of these cupules that sometimes are arranged in rosettes. The carving depths vary considerably (Figure 6). There are no iconic engravings on this panel as far as could be examined, and inspection of this panel is rather difficult. Notably, this block is partially covered by a much larger block (stone A in Figure 4) and only there where the upper block protects the upward facing decorated surface of stone 1.1, the engravings have survived. The space between the decorated surface and the overlying block is extremely small; the easternmost figure has only a few cm space above it. Obviously the engravings were already there when the large block fell upon it, as it is impossible to execute such deep engravings with so little working space available. The exposed part however, has eroded possibly even a few centimetres. At the zone where the original rock surface and the eroded surface intermingle, engravings also have eroded considerably (Figure 6). It is even possible that there once were more engravings on the eroded part. Also some engravings in the contact zone have almost eroded away. They clearly show a more yellowish patination in places and feature much worn edges. But because they had been so deeply engraved, they are still easily recognisable as cultural marks. All these observations suggest that these geometric engravings and the cupules are contemporary. They also could be very old, possibly older than the iconic art at this site.

SITE 1.2: In the passage between the E and the W block, Ouzman (2002) reports a double row of at least 12 opposed depressions that are probably cupules, measuring between 18.2mm – 25.2mm diameter and 3mm – 4mm depth.

Roughly 1km to the west of site 1 we noticed one solitary animal engraving on a small NE facing rock panel forming part of a large boulder. The quadruped (with only two legs indicated) is executed in rather deep intaglio and has a slightly brighter patina than the surrounding natural rock surface. It may be rather young.
 
SITE 2: This site is the well-known Ceremonial Plaza, the integrity of which is severely damaged by the modern lodge that has been built immediately behind the group of towering decorated rocks. Although not as high as the blocks of Site 1, the group again features most impressive blocks of stone with several decorated panels. Mrs Salomé Visser (2001, pers. comm.) of the Lodge informed me of a decorated boulder with iconic engravings only above the (dry) waterfall to the west of site 2.
 
SITE 2.1: This is the very large block immediately to the right of the modern entrance to the hotel. The engravings are as described by Scherz. They include a prominent group of 104 deeply cut dots. Like the game-board they have been executed in four rows, all close together and parallel to ground level. Although the layout much resembles the game-board, the configuration could never have been used for the game as the dots are too small and, most importantly, they occur on a nearly vertical surface (Scherz 1975: 149). Also the number of dots in each row (respectively comprising 25, 28, 27 and 24 dots from top-row to bottom-row) is inconsistent. This group of dots appears to be added later to a large collection of animal and spoor engravings, as it hovers over the large giraffe in a rather isolated position, high above ground level, almost out of reach of human hands (ast nine true cupules apparently executed haphazardly near its base (Figure 7).

There are more (rows of) dots on this panel. To the left of the neck of the giraffe is a single row of eleven dots and much lower down on the same panel, apparently superimposed upon earlier animal engravings, is a group of three parallel rows with altogether 33 dots (the lower one incomplete - possibly superimposed by a large spoor engraving). Other rows of similar dots on this panel often prove to form an integral part of engravings of animal spoor or human feet, but Ouzman (2002) also reports one human footprint with three cupules in a row engraved at its heel.

However, panel 2.1 also features at least nine true cupules apparently executed haphazardly near its base (Figure 7). Further north on the panel are at least five more cupules. One cupule occurs very near an engraved spoor and two of the other cupules are placed in a possibly intentional position just above a spoor (Figure 8; see also Figure 96).


rock art cupules namibia africa

Figure 9
Click for Enlargement

rock art cupules namibia africa

Figure 9
Click for Enlargement


SITE 2.2: A few metres further south is another gigantic boulder with several groups of parallel rows comprising dots of much differing sizes (Figure 9). Although the rows are associated with some possible phallus-designs (or vice-versa), they appear to have been executed independently from the few iconic images on this huge wall. Also these configurations are not suitable for playing the game, as again they are situated on a vertical rock face and moreover comprise one to six rows of irregularly arranged dots or points, each with varying numbers and some comprising double-dots. Although some of the rows feature some quite large, worn depressions (looking like cupules, but possibly of natural origin), none of these rows are included in the statistics of cupules in this survey.

Although the board game occurs throughout Africa in many versions (for example, two rows of cups also occur), the number of rows and dots on panels 2.1 and 2.2 is not consistent for a game. Scherz (1975: 149) therefore suggests that they might have been used as counting devices, or tally marks. This may be possible, but it then remains an enigma why such arrangements occur only at sites 2.1, 2.2, 4.1.2 (and possibly 4.1.6).

SITE 2.3: Ouzman (2002) reports a pecked antelope spoor and three cupules (17mm–67mm in diameter and 5.5mm – 28.5mm deep) and a circular pecked outline on a stone in the archway.

Rock Art of Twyfelfontein in Namibia, Africa

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Rock Art of Twyfelfontein in Namibia, Africa

Rock Art of Twyfelfontein, Namibia, Africa
| Namibia Preface | Namibia Introduction | Twyfelfontein Cupules | Cupules & Animals | Picture Captions |
| Appendix 1 | Appendix 2 | Bibliography | Acknowledgements |
| Bradshaw Foundation Homepage | Africa Rock Art Index |


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