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THE DIGGING STICK

= 5 0 ; 9 9 5 - ' Volume 12, No. 3

ISSN 1013-7521

November 1995

SHEEP PAINTINGS IN THE ROCK ART OF THE LIMPOPO RIVER VALLEY AND THE SOUTPANSBERG * Ed Eastwood, Warren Fish and Cathelijne Cnoops

During recent research in the Northern Province of South Africa two sites with paintings of fat-tailed sheep were found on the farms Edmondsburg and Hilda in the Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve. These were the first records of sheep depictions in the Limpopo Valley and extend the range of known sheep paintings in this subregion.

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Rock painting of four fat-tailed sheep and two human figures, Edmondsburg Sheep Shelter, Limpopo Val

ley.

Part of the significance of these finds lies in the fact that the distribution of sheep paintings in southern Africa, as well as evidence from archaeological excavation, and ethnographic and linguistic clues, have been used to suggest the migration routes of Khoe pastoralists moving south ward from Mashonaland or further north.

Apart from the Limpopo Valley records, fat-tailed sheep paint ings are found at five sites described by Adrian Boshier in the Makgabeng area in the Northern Province and at two shelters in the Thuni-Motloutsi River area in south-eastern Botswana which were studied by Nick Walker.

Both San and Khoekhoe are reported to have inhabited the Blouberg-Makgabeng area. Khoe-speaking San groups such as the Hietshware are found in south-eastern Botswana and in the Shashi-Limpopo area. These people have been asso ciated with Bantu-speaking communities for at least the last 200 years and are pastoralists. Interestingly, flocks of fat-tailed sheep are still kept in the Mak gabeng and in the Maramani communal land which lies adja cent to the Limpopo and Shashi Rivers in south-west ern Zimbabwe.

Thin-tailed sheep feature in paintings at five sites in the western Soutpansberg. Sheep depictions in this area

make up 8,7 % of all animal depictions. This represents a remarkably high percentage when compared to other areas, for example the Drakensberg, where percentages for four study areas do not exceed 0,3%. A similar paucity of sheep de pictions is found in the south western Cape· and southern Cape Fold Belt, Namibia, the Free State, the Waterberg, and the Matopos of Zimbabwe. Sheep were thus an important component of the western Soutpansberg art.

According to legends and oral traditions told by Levhalani, the San in the Soutpansberg are reputed to have lived harmo niously with the pre-Venda Vhangona peoples, but were

South African Archaeological Society,

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