A treasure trove of new rock art sites (re)discovered in the Waterberg
Exploring remote areas of the Waterberg, an area rich in rock art, Dr Ghilraen Laue and Professor Lyn Wadley (re)discovered 18 new sites. We say (re)discovered because while these sites were sometimes previously known to the landowners and were obviously known to the image-makers, they are new to academic scholarship. Dr Laue, who is in the Human Sciences Department at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum is collaborating with Professor Wadley of Wits University to research and document the rock art of the Waterberg plateau for a book devoted to the art of the region.
New site on the western edge of the Waterberg plateau. The inset shows a close-up of the bichrome eland painted walking along a crack in the rock face (Photos: L. Wadley, G. Laue).
This photograph is an enhanced image from the same site. The eland can be seen on the far right (Photo and enhancement: L. Wadley).
Another one of the newly recorded sites with images of antelope and human figures (Photo: G. Laue).
Much of the Waterberg art is very faded. Dstretch is used to enhance the faded colours so that images can be more clearly seen. This tool, developed for rock art researchers, uses decorrelation stretch. This image enhancement technique was first used on aerial photos. Dstretch works best on red and yellow paintings. Below are some examples of how some of the faded Waterberg imagery has been enhanced and how other barely visible images are made visible with this software.
What at first glance looks like a normal antelope is revealed to be an imaginary creature with elongated limbs (Photo and enhancement: L. Wadley).
Depictions of aardvark are very rare in southern African rock art and without the help of Dstretch we would not have felt confident in making a positive identification (Photo and enhancement: G. Laue).
Here some faded red pigment is revealed to be a painting of a woman. This image is typical of how female figures are painted in the Waterberg: with stubby arms stretched straight out and pendulous breasts painted below (Photo and enhancement: L. Wadley).