RICHTERSVELD NATIONAL PARK: Petroglyphs - ancient engravings of the San  

San rock engravings, known as petroglyphs, can be found in several places in the Richtersveld. It is thought that the ancestors of the San chipped these engravings on the black dolomite rocks and that the majority date back at least 2 000 years. Some engravings in the Northern Cape, however, are as old as 10 000 years.

Most of the Richtersveld engravings are geometric designs incorporating dots, spirals, grids, etc. These petroglyphs were said to be the results of the first stage of Shamanism - a trance like state. The ancient inhabitants would build themselves into a frenzy, mainly through dance, and the first stage was the interpretation of the unconscious. The patterns inscribed, therefore, are universal and belong to the collective human mind. The second stage of the trance was interpreted as animal designs that the inhabitants would see in everyday life. Only a few engraved animals have been seen in this area. The third stage would entail the entranced person becoming the animal in the vision, usually with dramatic and exhausting results.

There are guides in Alexander Bay, Eksteenfontein and Kuboes who are able to accompany visitors, to point out the locations of these messages from the past.


This mountain desert is a
of ancient rock art.

Petroglyphs, or rock inscriptions, are particularly abundant near the Orange River, but our understanding of them is still in its infancy.