The vultures of Kalabasput: On the interpretation of a series of unusual Karoo rock engravings (ScienceDirect Publication: Journal of Arid Environments)

Publication date: August 2017
Source:Journal of Arid Environments, Volume 143
Author(s): David Morris
A rock engraving site at Kalabasput in the Upper Karoo, South Africa, includes an unusual set of engravings featuring vultures. In relation to the ‘frequently depicted’ subject matter of South African rock art – such as eland and ostrich – images of vultures are rare. The site provides an opportunity for considering these unusual images relative to a background of “shared, transcending beliefs and values”, showing how they may have acted as metaphors for altered states of consciousness. But the paper points further to the possible ways in which the contingencies of particular places and histories may have influenced the production of unique or uncommon images. The art, it is suggested, was not merely the passive reflection of a cultural or rock art tradition but, given particular contexts, was part of its dynamic, on-going elaboration.