Rock Painting S00176, Bethlehem, Dihlabeng District Municipality, Free State, South Africa


This San rock painting depicts an upside-down, plum-red antelope with a bleeding nose and, at the upper left, a smaller antelope painted in yellow, also bleeding from the nose. The upside-down posture and the nasal emanations both indicate death. For the San, this death was both literal and metaphoric. Metaphorically, death involved a shaman's passage to the Spirit World that was believed to exist behind the rock surface. The painting is from the eastern Free State of South Africa, which is noted for its depictions of upside-down antelope in a variety of unusual contexts. The image of the painting is part of the Woodhouse Rock Art Collection of the Department of Library Services at the University of Pretoria. The collection includes more than 23,000 slides, maps, and tracings from a large number of rock art sites in South Africa. The San are hunter-gatherer people who lived throughout southern and eastern Africa for thousands of years before being displaced by African tribes and European settlers. The San people continue to live in the Kalahari Desert of Namibia.

Last updated: January 8, 2018