On stony ground


Words and pictures by Tim Forssman.

On stony ground

Who says time travel isn’t possible? At the Game Pass Shelter, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve been whisked 4 000 years into the past as you marvel at a collection of Bushman rock art that’s as intricate as it is spiritual.

The Game Pass Shelter was the first rock art site to be seen by Europeans. It was published in the Scientific American in 1915 and made headlines around the world. However, the site was mentioned earlier, in an old Natal Railway Guide published in 1894. Here, Bushmen are written off as unappreciative scum who tormented local farmers even though they attempted to rescue these ‘primitive’ people. After initial inspection of Game Pass Shelter the artwork was linked to the Greeks, like much of the art around the country, and this led to the belief that Phoenicians or other foreign visitors had something to do with the art. This belief continues to this day in some quarters but is, of course, completely false.

The Game Pass Shelter is an impressive 25-metre shelter where hundreds of images populate the walls and have done so for many centuries. Archaeologists are not certain exactly when the shelter was painted but it seems the site was visited over many decades before the artwork as we see it today was completed. It is one of the most impressive rock art sites open to the public in southern Africa and probably the greatest in South Africa.

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