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Putting Southern African Rock Paintings in Context: The View from the Mirabib Rockshelter, Namibia

Author(s): Grant McCall ; Theodore Marks ; Andrew Schroll ; Jordan Krummel

Year: 2017

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Various researchers have made great strides toward understanding southern African rock art through the exploration of the ethnographic and ethnohistoric records of San hunter-gatherer shamanism. In contrast, less attention has been paid to the archaeological context of the Later Stone Age (LSA) in which rock art was produced. This paper examines Middle Holocene rock paintings at the Mirabib rockshelter in the Central Namib Desert, western Namibia. Our fieldwork at Mirabib and our re-analysis of materials recovered during previous excavations present a striking picture of LSA foraging activities in this harsh desert environment. On the one hand, much of the archaeological record at Mirabib apparently relates to attempts at coping with extreme aridity at a site with no reliable water sources. On the other hand, the rock art imagery at Mirabib would seem to reflect a concern for rainmaking. Synthesizing this evidence, we offer some ideas about the role of the rock art production at Mirabib in the social systems of the hunter-gatherers who used the site. We argue that rock art was not passive wall decoration but was rather an instrumental part of social rituals aimed at the management of tensions arising among populations under stress.

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Putting Southern African Rock Paintings in Context: The View from the Mirabib Rockshelter, Namibia. Grant McCall, Theodore Marks, Andrew Schroll, Jordan Krummel. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430855)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14801

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America