Rock Art at Bamboo Mountain – Part 1
In April Drs Justine Wintjes and Ghilraen Laue of the Department of Human Sciences, KZN Museum, along with Dr Vibeke Viestad from the University of Oslo, Norway, visited seven rock art sites in the Underberg area. One of the things we wanted to see was a site on Bamboo Mountain from which rock art was removed over a century ago.
View out of the shelter Bamboo Mountain site 1, Dr Viestad on the left (Photo: G. Laue)
In the early 1900s, there was widespread concern that the rock paintings of the Drakensberg were fast disappearing due to vandalism and natural weathering. Trooper A.D. Whyte was appointed to locate all the Bushman paintings in the Underberg district. He set out with two constables, a pack horse, a small patrol tent, provisions and a rifle, and began to search the mountains from north to south over four arduous months. He located thirty-seven sites comprising a total of 1041 figures. His 1910 report led to the removal of about twenty painted compositions by stone mason R. Clingan. The stones were deposited at the then Natal Museum. The large panel removed from Bamboo Mountain, which came out in multiple pieces, is still on display in the Museum today.
Photograph of the panel in situ before the panel was removed in 1910. The full length of the scene is approximately 244cm (Photo: Vinnicombe, P. 1976. People of the Eland. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, page 45).
Panel removed from Bamboo Mountain site 1 on display at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum. During removal the panel broke in 9 pieces. (Photo: G. Laue)
Today huge scars can be seen where the large panel was taken out, but there are still several other painted panels in the shelter which, despite worries at the time, have remained largely unchanged over the last hundred years. Elsewhere, however, the rock paintings have all but disappeared.
Examples of the paintings that can still be seen in the Bamboo Mountain shelter. (Photo: G. Laue)