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Garlake, Peter S. (1992) Rock art in Zimbabwe. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This work is based on the comparative iconographic analysis of a distinct corpus of paintings within the Later Stone Age, Bushman or San art of southern Africa. They are distinct from the rest of the paintings of the region in age, numbers, variety, complexity and density. It defines in detail the principles that determined the form of the paintings - where the primary concern was to depict objects through outline alone - and the canon - the very restricted range of subjects that were depicted. It demonstrates that the human imagery established a set of archetypes, expressing concepts of the roles of men and women in the community through a set of readily legible attributes. The art was thus in essence conceptual and, of its nature, not concerned with the individual, illustration, narrative, documentation or anecdote. Within this framework, the paintings focused on concepts of the various forms and degrees of supernatural energy or potency that all San have believed to be inherent in every person. Further studies demonstrate how large and dangerous animals, particularly the elephant, were conceived as symbols of potency and their hunting as a metaphor for trance. Compositions based on oval shapes and the dots within and emanating from them are shown to be further symbols of aspects of potency. Many recurrent and hitherto ignored motifs attached to human figures are shown to be a graphic commentary on the metaphysics of the archetypes. The study is set in the context of the archaeology of the sub-region, recent studies of San concepts, perceptions and beliefs, a review of previous research, and a critique of influential recent South African work which first integrated paintings with San beliefs.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:14

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