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Rock Art, Saharan, European And San

3607 words - 15 pages

Rock art - a term in archeology for any man-made markings made on natural stone. (Wikipedia, 13/04/07, 16:45)Rock art can be divided into two sections - Petroglyphs (Where marks are carved into stone surfaces) and Pictographs (where marks are made with paint on rocks or caves). Both pertroglyphs and pictographs can be either parietal (on the walls of a cave or rock shelter) or in open air, exposed to the elements on outcrops ect.Petroglyphs are made through the removal of rock, scratching, pecking, carving ect to remove rock, exposing the usually lighter rock interior against the darker patina (a dark mineral accumulation on rock surfaces). This was usually done with a sharp, pointed rock ...view middle of the document...

Most people see the early San people to have been very primitive, simple people with little technology and not too much developed, and, although they weren't technologically advanced, they had a very complex religious belief and religious system, and were way more in touch with their environment than we are today. This we can tell through their art. Many people see the art as being merely scenes they witnessed in everyday life, but the art is full of representations of San religious beliefs and practices.The San believed that everything, including the animals, were animated by spirit - amanism, and also that some of them could communicate with these spirits - shamanism. How they did this was by using the most central religious rite of the San - the trance dance. Here the medicine man, or shaman, went into a trance by hyper ventilation and repetitive dance to enter the spirit world. Here they believed that they could heal the sick, control the weather, visit far-off places, herd and control the movements of animals and even become animals - thiantrophy. In the rock art we can see these trances being represented in two ways - the physical dance and what the shamans themselves experienced.There are ample dance postures depicted in the rock art: bending forward in the waist, sometimes using dancing sticks, having the arms held backwards, bleeding out the nose (this would be a result of the trance) and then the hand to nose to help the nose to stop bleeding. We can also see the tools and objects used to get into the trance state as well as in the trances - such as rattles and fly whisks.We are also shown what the shamans themselves experienced. In the rock art there are depictions of shamans pulling arrows out of others - these arrows could have been what the san people believed made them ill, or hurt them, a symbol they had for illness. We see shamans actually transforming into animals, as well as the The San believed in a greater and lesser god, and that the spirits bought illness and other misfortunes. They also believed that the Eland was a spiritual creature - for us it is also somewhat special, being the biggest antelope in the world. But for the San it was more than just that. The eland contained a lot of fat - and fat was a substance that had a lot of meaning for the San. Fat, to them, possessed supernatural potency - a potency that the shamans used to enter the spiritual world to do their various tasks.The san lived in a very hostile, unforgiving environment, and were so connected with their environment that most of their culture is directly related to their surroundings. According to, " it is reported in several places that San women become sterile during periods of long drought when the land cannot support any more children.".Both men and women would gather, and men would go out on long hunting excursions using spears and poison arrows. The san were nomadic, and moved as the seasons changed, in the dry seasons...

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