Characterizing hunter-gatherer rock art: An analysis of spatial variation of motifs in the prehistoric rock art of Zimbabwe
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This study investigated spatial variations of motif representation in Zimbabwean rock art. The major aim of the study was to examine the significance of this variation in the understanding of the lifestyles of its painters. It is the premise of this research that rock art motif variation over space, just like other cultural variables, reflects on the differences in the social, environmental, economic, political, and religious organisation of a society. Therefore, attending to the differences in motif representation contributes towards a holistic understanding of the meaning of the art and the social context of its production. Previous researchers have alluded to broad regional differences in southern African rock art, dividing it into three, four, or five regions depending on particular approaches used to read this variation. Others have pointed out further variation even within these broad regions. However, this variation has not received further attention beyond mere mention. Instead, more emphasis was given to the unity of the character of the rock art of southern Africa. Today broad similarities are generally agreed upon. What remains critical is the exploration of motif variation which influences the interpretation of the art and the conceptualisation of its makers, the Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers in Zimbabwe and other parts of southern Africa. Rock art variation comes in various forms. This research concentrated mainly on subject matter, colour and technique of execution. These were expected to reflect the main argument of the research which is that variation of the motifs across space is a result of differences in beliefs and social circumstances surrounding the production of the art in the different geographic areas studied. The research examined the character and frequency of each of these in three different geographic locations in Zimbabwe that are Northern Nyanga, Harare and Chivi. The nature of the rock art from these case studies was compared to what is already known from other parts of Zimbabwe. The research found that motifs do vary across space. The nature of variation points to differences in beliefs, social relations and to some extent the environment. Consequently, the research argues that variation found in the rock art of Zimbabwe can be used together with other archaeological evidence to reconstruct the nature of these aspects of the Later Stone Age societies.
SponsorNorwegian Programme for Development, Research and Education (NUFU)
SubjectZimbabwean rock art
Later Stone Age
The research and completion of this thesis was done under the “Archaeology and Traditions” research project (2007-2012) funded by the Norwegian Programme for Development, Research and Education (NUFU). This was a cooperation project between the University of Zimbabwe Archaeology Unit and the University of Bergen, UNIGLOBAL (Norway)