INTRODUCTION TO THE ROCK ART RESEARCH INSTITUTE
In January 2000 David Lewis-Williams retired from the directorship of the former Witwatersrand University Rock Art Research Institute in South Africa
. In the same month the Unit was raised to the highest research status conferred by the University, that of Institute. This Institute status was awarded to recognise the high level of achievement in research publications and the breadth of rock art research talent built up during Professor Lewis-William's twenty-one year directorship. The new Institute status represents a long-term commitment by the University of the Witwatersrand to fund rock art as a field of study beyond reliance on the research standing of any particular individual.
With a permanent staff of seven, together with some fifteen part-time assistants, the new director, Benjamin Smith, heads up what is perhaps the largest specialist rock art institution in the world.
As well as its renowned research and publication record (for a full listing of publications see the Institute website
) the Institute has become a leading centre for rock art training. Specialist courses in rock art recording, interpretation and management are offered at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels.
The Institute has also become active in rock art conservation and in the development of rock art tourism in South Africa. The RARI field team funded by AngloGold offer a unique rock art '911' service. The team is on-call 24 hours a day, ready to rush to rock art wherever it is threatened in southern Africa.
An extensive collection of rock art from the Witwatersrand University Rock Art Research Institute, can be viewed at the Origins Centre in Johannesburg
. At the Origins Centre visitors can see the earliest images made by humans, found in South Africa
. Combining cutting-edge technology with the creative vision of some of South Africa’s foremost artists, the exhibits of the museum takes visitors through an extraordinary journey of discovery, which begins with the origins of humankind in Africa, and then moves through the development of art, symbolism, and technology on the continent of Africa.
Benjamin Smith & Damon de Laszlo
at Game Pass Shelter
David Lewis-Williams studies the
Rock Art at Game Pass Shelter
Origins Centre Johannesburg
The pictures on the following pages are drawn from the collections of the Rock Art Research Institute.