Shelters for Late Stone Age Man Shown in the Paintings of Rhodesia

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    Shelters for Late Stone Age Man Shown in the Paintings of RhodesiaAuthor(s): C. K. CookeSource: The South African Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 25, No. 98 (Sep., 1970), pp. 65-66Published by: South African Archaeological SocietyStable URL: .Accessed: 25/06/2014 09:40

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    C. K. COOKE, F.S.A.

    Historical Monuments Commission, Box 3248, Bulawayo, Rhodesia

    Introduction In Memoir number 4 of the National Museum at

    Bloemfontein (Sampson, 1968) are illustrated a number of shelters probably used by nomadic/hunting groups while living in open wind-swept country. Sampson concludes that these represent shelters for one or two persons or occasionally a family group. Rock-paintings

    In Rhodesian rock-art there are a number of paintings which show figures within semicircular shelters. The two illustrated here are both from Matabeleland, one from the farm Springfontein in the Figtree district (fig. 1), the other from Silozwane Cave in the Matobo Tribal Trust Lands (fig. 2). Both these paintings belong to the late Rhodesian Style 4 (Cooke, 1959).

    I FOOT

    Fig. 1. Dark red ochre. Scale of one foot

    The drawings probably represent piled branches, but they may well have had some form of stone foundation to anchor them. The author (Cooke, 1959) has referred to them in the past as Zareba-like shelters.

    The interesting point is that they are semicircular and in most cases only hold one or two figures. The one from Silozwane Cave may represent an Iron Age scene rather than one of Later Stone Age provenance. This is said because the figure of a woman is shown using a type of saddle quern. Grindstones are of course not unknown from Late Stone Age deposits in Rhodesia, but nothing quite as large as the one depicted has so far been found. The wall also encloses articles which are most probably gourds.

    The Springfontein shelter shows a very typical Bush * Received July 1969.

    figure squatting within the shelter and holding a bowl. This is therefore unlikely to represent anything but a Late Stone Age shelter, if indeed the assumption that these are wind-shelters is in any way correct.

    In the valleys of the Shashi and Shashani Rivers there are a number of semicircular stone structures. These are usually only one stone high above the ground. In one of these the writer found a modern Bush fire-stick and a small piece of hard micaceous schist with a hollow in it (unpublished Rhodesian Schools Exploration (Matabeleland) Zhilo Expedition, 1963). It is well known that Bush people from Botswana cross into Rhodesia on poaching expedi- tions. In fact a poachers' camp was located under a small rock overhang during that expedition. A local tribesman told me that the stone article was used by the Bushmen for grinding grass seeds or stolen grain.

    0 1

    Fig. 2. Dark red ochre, black and light brown. Scale of two feet.


    S. Afr. Archaeol. Bull. 25: 65-66.

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  • Although the wind-shelters described by Sampson are not modern it appears that the tradition of building stone semicircular shelters to hold brushwood in place is something that may have been handed down into modern times. It is possible that the shelters in the Shashi River valley are very old, but are still being used for the purpose for which they were originally constructed.

    It was not feasible to excavate one of these struc- tures, although stone heaps in the vicinity were examined (Simons, 1963). A few rough stone artefacts may be found in the vicinity of the semicircles, but nothing else was discovered within them other than the modern tools mentioned above.

    Conclusions The evidence from the paintings is rather circum-

    stantial and that from the Shashi area rather flimsy,

    but it can be said to point to the conclusions reached by Sampson.

    There is no doubt that the paintings show some form of shelter, but there is nothing to suggest that stones were used to support the brushwood. However their semicircular shape must be of some significance.

    References COOKE, C. K. in Summers 1959. Prehistoric Rock Art

    of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Chap. IV. Chatto and Windus.

    SAMPSON, C. G. 1968. The Middle Stone Age Indus- tries of the Orange River Scheme Area. National Museum, Bloemfontein, Memoir No. 4.

    SIMoNs, H. A. B. 1963. Note on some stone piles near the junction of the Shashi and Shashani Rivers. Zhilo Expedition Report, Rhodesian Schools Explora- tion Society (Matabeleland).


    Report for the year 1969

    The Natal Branch has had a successful year. Its relatively small membership is compensated for by the keenness of many of its members.

    Two excavations have been carried out. Dr. Davies continued his work at Blackburn, and cleared the whole of a second round house about 19 feet in diameter, supported on seven central posts. The walls of withies and grass were traced by minute pockets of red sand, which represent the fillings of termite-runs as these insects came to eat the ruinous structure. A very good ring was revealed, while some red pockets near the centre, found not to overlap the dark post- holes, probably mark where thatch fell on to the floor. A small hearth and a jar were sunk into the floor, the latter perhaps for water. The whole area is reckoned to have had up to nineteen houses of this sort, or fewer if there was a cattle-kraal. It is not considered worth while to continue this excavation, as it is not expected that fresh information will be forthcoming.

    This excavation was carried out by permission of Hulett's Natal Estates Ltd. Work proceeded at week- ends through May, June and July, to enable members to assist. A paper on it was read at the Annual General Meeting on 20 June.

    The second excavation, under Dr. Davies's super- vision, was carried out by Messrs. Macdonald and Walsh on a midden threatened with erosion at Umhlanga Rocks. Material from three one-metre squares was removed for examination. The midden has yielded many molluscs, a few microlithic artefacts, and small pebbles of fine stone probably brought from the Drakensberg area. It is hoped to obtain a carbon- date. A paper on the excavation was read on 21 May.

    Rock art usually arouses interest; though most sites are distant, an attempt was made to introduce members to them. An excursion to Kamberg was led by Mr. R. Evans on 30 March, and another to the Himeville area

    by Mrs. P. Carter on 27-8 September. The Branch combined with other Pietermaritzburg societies to invite Mr. and Mrs. Carter to lecture in the Natal Museum on 10 November; she spoke on new evidence about the Drakensberg paintings, and Mr. Carter concluded with an interim report on his excavation in progress at Moshibi's Shelter, just over the Lesotho border between Underberg and Matatiele. This excavation is sponsored by the University of Oxford, and Mr. Carter hopes to carry out excavations of another cave in Natal or Griqualand East later in the season.

    Excursions were also organized to the Red Desert at Port Edward, with its numerous Sangoan artefacts now largely removed by irresponsible students; to northern Zululand based on Mtubatuba, including palaeolithic sites round Mtubatuba, at Mkuzi and at Uloa Bridge; and to Middle Stone Age sites in the Muden and Estcourt areas, led by Major Farnden. Lectures were given by Dr. Erasmus on The Legend of the Lost City of the Kalahari, where he had recently been; and by Professor L. King on the Ancestry of Man, illustrated by his departmental collection in the University of Natal, Durban.

    The Annual General Meeting was held on 20 June. A draft constitution for the Branch was approved, and officers and committee were elected for 1969-70. At a subsequent committee meeting Dr. Davies was elected chairman and Mr. Chadwick vice-chairman for the year.

    Members of the society from outside, who are visiting Natal and would like to participate in activities of the Branch, should write to the Secretary, Dr. E. van Dijk, Department of Zoology, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

    0. DAVIES Chairman


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    Article Contentsp. 65p. 66

    Issue Table of ContentsThe South African Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 25, No. 98 (Sep., 1970), pp. 53-82Front MatterEd