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  Field Notes From
Paintings of the Spirit

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From Author

David Lewis-Williams

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From Photographer

Kenneth Garrett

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Kenneth Garrett

image: stones
Exploring Drakensberg Caves

Field Notes From Author
David Lewis-Williams
Discovering a San rock-art site—as my colleagues Geoff Blundell and Sven Ouzman did in the cave at Drakensberg—is the best part of doing what I do. Since I have found similar sites in my career, I can relate to how they probably felt when they came upon the mural. Walking into a cave and knowing you may be the first person to enter it since the final Bushman painters left is really humbling. I was camping with a group of my students in a cave one night during a thunderstorm when the river in the valley below began to rise up toward us. My students stayed up that night and took turns watching the rising water. Huge trees washed by; it was really pouring. By morning the water was lapping into the cave, so we had to give up our location at that point. Soaked to the skin, we waded our way through the bulging river as it forced us to a higher and safer cave. I think my students were irritated with me for putting them through this scary experience, and they are sure to never let me forget it. When my colleagues and I looked at the Drakensberg paintings in the newly discovered cave, we didn’t expect to see such complexity and bizarre variety in them. We found strange new combinations of human and animal forms that we call therianthropes. These weird San paintings were really quite surprising. We had never seen any like them before.

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