Website Category: Rock-art and Pre-history
Area: 2,428 km2
Criteria: (i) creative masterpiece (iii) cultural tradition
Location and Values: The Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains form a steep escarpment along South Africa’s border with the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. It is one of the five world heritage sites in Africa that satisfy the Convention’s natural and cultural criteria. From a cultural perspective it is outstanding for the wealth of its rock art heritage, created over a period of about 4,000 years by San hunter-gatherer people. The San and their ancestors have lived in rock shelters and caves in these mountains for about 8,000 years, producing an incredible quantity and variety of paintings right up until the time the last San were driven out (or killed) from the area a little over 100 years ago.
There are more than 600 individual rock-art sites ranging from large rock-shelters containing over 1,000 individual images to small rock overhangs or the vertical faces of fallen boulders with only a few paintings. More than 22,000 individual paintings have been recorded, mostly images of animals, especially eland - a type of large antelope that was clearly revered as the San’s most important hunting quarry. Many sites show scenes of hunting, dancing, fighting, food gathering, ritual and trance. Human subjects often appear naked, but some of the more recent images show dressed figures clad in a variety of garments, recalling the early days of the colonial era.
Slideshow of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park:
Slideshow Description: The slideshow features two of the principal rock-art sites in South Africa's uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, namely the Main Caves in Giants Castle Game Reserve (where there is an exhibit with models of San people in an authentic environment, as well as platforms for visitors to get close-up views of some of the more inaccessible art); and Shelter Cave (also known as Game Pass Cave) at Kamberg a little further south. Here there are paintings of people in trance as well as some impressive friezes featuring polychrome images of eland, many super-imposed on one another. Additional photos of the area’s stunning natural heritage are available here, where there is an extra web-page covering the site’s natural attributes.
Visitor Information, Facilities and Hiking Opportunities: On the South African side of the international border the park is readily accessible, there are some superb accommodation facilities run by KZN Wildlife and plenty of opportunities for hiking. Full details of visitor facilities at each of the main entry points is provided in a series of KZN Wildlife brochures which can be viewed (and downloaded) by clicking here. Don't miss the superb rock-art interpretative centres at Didima and Kamberg! Further details are provided in the brochure pack.
There are abundant opportunities for hiking throughout the Maloti-Drakensberg world heritage site, and for 'wild camping' away from the main visitor hot-spots. Two of the best places to undertake an exhilarating climb in the area are Royal Natal National Park, and the Giants Castle area, where the shorter walking trails are well maintained and marked. To download maps of these two areas, showing the hiking trails and providing guidelines for hiking in the area click here.
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the area around the Main Caves rock-art site in Giants Castle Game Reserve on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.
Links to other places in the rock-art and pre-history category: Tassili n’Ajjer I Tsodilo I Stone Circles I Tiya I Tadrart Acacus I Chongoni I Twyfelfontein I Kondoa
Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details I Trust for African Rock Art