Title:

Animal tracks and human footprints in prehistoric hunter-gatherer rock art of the Doro! nawas mountains (Namibia), analysed by present-day indigenous tracking experts

Publication Year:
2023
Abstract:

Namibia is rich in hunter-gatherer rock art from the Later Stone Age (LSA); this is a tradition of which well-executed engravings of animal tracks in large numbers are characteristic. Research into rock art usually groups these motifs together with geometric signs; at best, therefore, it may provide summary lists of them. To date, the field has completely disregarded the fact that tracks and trackways are a rich medium of information for hunter-gatherers, alongside their deeper, culture-specific connotations. A recent research project, from which this article has emerged, has attempted to fill this research gap; it entailed indigenous tracking experts from the Kalahari analysing engraved animal tracks and human footprints in a rock art region in central Western Namibia, the Doro! nawas Mountains, which is the site of recently discovered rock art. The experts were able to define the species, sex, age group and exact leg of the specific animal or human depicted in more than 90% of the engravings they analysed (N = 513). Their work further demonstrates that the variety of fauna is much richer in engraved tracks than in depictions of animals in the same engraving tradition. The analyses reveal patterns that evidently arise from culturally determined preferences. The study represents further confirmation that indigenous knowledge, with its profound insights into a range of particular fields, has the capacity to considerably advance archaeological research.

Publication Title:

PLoS ONE

Volume:
18
Issue:
9
Number:
e0289560
Item Type:
Journal Article
Language:
en
Keywords:

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