What did San rock art look like?
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San Rock Art

San Rock Art San rock art

San people have been living in southern Africa since there first were human beings anywhere, maybe about 100,000 years ago. There are more than 14,000 of these paintings in South Africa. Nobody knows when San artists first started making rock art. They are still doing it today. But we do know about when the San people first got pushed into the Kalahari Desert. That was about 400 AD. So the San rock art from other places in south Africa must be from before 400 AD, and the San rock art from the Kalahari must be from after 400 AD.

San Rock Art

A few of the paintings seem to show real things that happened, like small San people fighting the big Bantu who are invading them. More of them seem to show mythological stories about the past. Or they show dreams that San holy men had about the spirit world.

San Rock Art

There were different styles of drawing in different parts of Africa, and different kinds of animals were painted in different places too.

(Compare these paintings to the painted walls of Stone Age houses in West Asia, and to early Egyptian art, and to rock paintings in North America

Bibliography and further reading:

Or read this Khoisan article in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

San People
African Art page
African Architecture
African History
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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