Fieldwork in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains, Eastern Cape
In November 2022, Dr Vibeke Viestad from the University of Oslo joined Drs Ghilraen Laue and Justine Wintjes, Human Sciences Department, KwaZulu-Natal Museum for a short field trip in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains. The Groot Winterhoek Mountains lie at the eastern extent of the Cape Fold Belt about 40 kms northwest of Gqeberha. Four new rock art sites were recorded.
The art is mostly found painted in shallow shelters with sandy floors. Until recently very little was known about rock art in the area, but over the last ten years over seventy sites containing fine-line hunter-gatherer rock art have been recorded.
Dr Viestad photographing the rock art at CM Shelter (Photograph: G. Laue).
Drs Wintjes and Viestad examining a painted panel containing human figures with bags at SB Shelter (Photograph: G. Laue).
One of several painted panels at L Cave (Photograph: G. Laue).
The spectacular image above shows a group of running figures painted in red and yellow. Many of the figures are carrying tasselled bags. The bright reds and yellow seen in this photograph are common to the area and are one of the differences between this art and that of the Maloti-Drakensberg.
Digital redrawing of a figure at CM Shelter (G. Laue).
Above is a redrawing of a decorated swift-tailed therianthrope (part-human, part-animal figure). The head is faded, but it follows the same convention as other similar figures in the area which have human heads. Note how one wing is bent in a posture reminiscent of a human arm. The red decoration on this figure is of particular interest. Decorated swift-tailed figures have been previously recorded by Dr Jeremy Hollmann further west, but this is the only known decorated depiction of a swift-tailed figure in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains.
A group of human figures with antelope heads at CM Shelter. Top: unedited photograph. Bottom: Dstretch enhancement (Photograph: J. Wintjes).
The rock art is often poorly preserved, but Dstretch manipulation of the images helps make the images clearer. In the above image, all that is visible are the faded remains of red figures, while the enhancement shows that the figures are actually antelope-headed therianthropes.