Twyfelfontein - A Survey into the Relationship between Animal-Engravings & Cupules



    1.4: Inventory of Twyfelfontein Cupules (2)
SITE 3: Entering Twyfelfontein valley from site 2, the first concentration of engravings that one encounters in the actual valley, was named "Die sieben Tafeln" by Scherz. He also recorded two important cupule rocks here (3.1 and 3.2: see inset in Figure 10 for positions). On this occasion, faint animals engravings could be noticed on a very large boulder to the NE of site 3, between the path and the riverbed.
SITE 3.1: is a needle-shaped splinter of rock that once flaked off from its enormous neighbouring boulder that has also been decorated. The needle has been carved on the side that faces the mother-block at only a very short distance. It must therefore have been rather difficult to execute engravings on this stone; even photography is rather awkward. There are two panels on this splinter that have been engraved. The upper panel features animal engravings and at least four true cupules not mentioned by Scherz (1, 2, 3 and 4 in Figure 11), one small possible cupule (5) and one doubtful cupule or the start of one (6). The lower panel, which is even more difficult of access, has at least 46 crudely executed cupules, some superimposed upon four animal engravings, one of which seems to be an oryx (Figure 12). At first sight the cupules are distributed randomly across the small panel, but some may have been arranged in rough rows on purpose.
SITE 3.2: Behind the second enormous block (O3-4) is a large slab (3.2), slightly sloping to the SE (Figure 10), that has been lavishly decorated with a large number of animal engravings. Apparently superimposed upon these animals are at least 21 cupules, most of these are clustered in groups. Two cupules appear isolated (Figure 13). Some deeper cupules are flat-bottomed where they reach the second, probably harder band of stone (see inset Figure 13). Seven cupules in group 2 seem to form a row; the others have a more random distribution. Two very superficial depressions (numbered 3 and 7 in Figure 13) may represent the start of unfinished cupules. Another depression in one of the many giraffes (G in Figure 13 - the depression lies just outside the drawing) most probably is natural. The largest cupule of group 3 seems to have been superimposed upon a kudu-bull. Cupule 5 is the biggest of the whole group and measures 5,5cm in diameter.

SITE 4: In this area we find the largest concentration of rock-art at Twyfelfontein. The protected part with guided tours occupies the lower slopes of the hill and includes two habitation plains (C and D in Figure 14) and the groups labelled E to I by Scherz. Outside the protected area however, are two groups with decorated boulders (A and B), fortunately largely unnoticed by passing tourists. Altogether there are at least 31 stones with (possible) cupules at Site 4. Their locations are shown in Figure 14, but references to this figure will not be repeated; e.g.: Site 4.14 is marked on Figure 14 as Site 14, etc..
SITE 4.1: (1.1-3 and 1.4-6 in Figure 14) At this site (labelled "A" by Scherz) one enormous block of stone is surrounded by several smaller blocks. Scherz reports at least six stones with (possible) cupules, but failed to assign individual numbers to each block. His site A1 comprises three individual blocks. For easy reference, I will number the main block as A1a and the smaller (but still large) plate that leans against it as A1b. Scherz' site A3 site comprises four different stones, three of which (labelled A3a, A3b and A3c by me) are reported to have cupules and animal engravings. These stones (not located during our surveys) were examined and described by Sven Ouzman in 2002.
SITE 4.1.1: High upon the south-facing wall of the largest block (A1a) are two cup-and-ring designs, each with a "handle" running down slope.
SITE 4.1.2: Leaning against the east wall of A1a is a large plate of stone (A1b). On both vertical sides more than 260 small depressions have been executed, most of them in parallel rows. There are at least four cupules surrounded by (half) rings on the north side and four on the south side. On the south side is also one pecked outline circle with 6 cupules within it and a very large, cup-like engraved depression is 49 mm diameter. The parallel rows of stone 4.1.2 are reminiscent of the rows at sites 2.1 and 2.2, but have not been arranged parallel to ground level; some have even been placed vertically (Figures 15.C and D).
SITE A third stone (labelled A1c by me) could not be located on several occasions. It is said to have three cup-and-ring devices (Scherz 1975: 174) two of which are shown in Figures 15.B (Ibid. Tafel 118.2).
SITE Two metres E of stone, Ouzman (2002) reports a cup-and-ring (27cm) and two vertical, parallel rows of 13 cupules (2cm – 4,2cm in diameter). It is not stated if these marks are on a separate rock.
SITE 4.1.4: "Just north" of boulder 4.1.1 (A1a) Scherz reported a smaller block (A3a) with an unspecified number of depressions up to 22mm in diameter as well as cup-and-ring designs (1975: 175). Sven Ouzman located this site in 2002, which is situated some 50m N of 4.1.1.
SITE 4.1.5: Three meters S of 4.1.4 (A3a) is said to be a plate of stone (A3b) with at least thirteen cupules, many surrounded by rings (Scherz 1975: Tafel 97.5 - this survey Figure 76).
SITE 4.1.6: Next to stone A3b is said to be another boulder (A3c). Scherz (1975: 175) describes it as "a slab with ancient, severely weathered dots in perpendicular rows. Two cup-and-rings with a handle. A younger Oryx (possibly added after the breaking off of the piece). The slab apparently broke from the main boulder (4.1.4?) after having been engraved, because the abstract designs continue further up the main block. The fracture has been completely patinated." Especially this latter remark seems to offer evidence for the great age of the geometric art.
Sven Ouzman also surveyed sites 4.1.4, 4.1.5 and 4.1.6 in 2002. He named the complex the Northern Cave-like site. It is situated 50m north of the main site (4.1.1) at a slightly higher elevation. Here follows his description (2002) of the three cupule stones at this site.
SITE 4.1.4: Within the overhang is a large 3.1m x 2.3m slightly tilted table-like rock slab that bears at least 5 cup-and-ring engravings and at least 67 cupules in addition to over a dozen natural cupule-like marks. The cupules range between 22.5mm and 64mm in diameter and 4mm – 24.5mm depth while the cupules in the cup-and-ring marks are between 27mm – 70.5mm diameter and 3.5 – 20.5mm deep. On vertical sides of the rock table there are at least eight further cupules (34.5mm – 73mm diameter and 10.5mm – 16mm deep). There is also one cup-and-ring mark.
SITE 4.1.5: A rock block with a very deep (up to 4m) overhang that is 3.5m long and up to 2m high. On the southern side of the overhang a large 45° sloping rock block within the shelter has a 1.8m x 0.33m image cluster dominated by geometric Khoekhoen imagery (Figure 76). There are at least nine cup-and-ring motifs with a rough-pecked circular outline and a cupule as the central point. The cupules are between 42mm – 53mm in diameter and 7mm – 14mm deep.
SITE 4.1.6: Nearby there is a partial pecked-infill kudu, a double row of cupules (numbers not stated) and 2 cup-and-ring marks.
SITE 4.2: In the rather extensive boulder field (labelled "B" by Scherz) south of Site 4.1 are several cupule stones. Block 4.2 is near the centre of a large group of boulders situated on a slight elevation. The SW facing, almost vertical surface of this small block shows three differently patinated areas. It must be emphasised here however, that patina or desert varnish can form quite rapidly in some cases (Lee 1992: 27; Whitley & Annegarn 1994) and the conclusions offered here must be considered with some caution.
The original (?) surface now features a bluish patina. There is only one small cupule in that colour (1 in Figure 15), which therefore might be very old. Large and small patches of younger (but still old) brownish patina occur. Four cupules (2 in Figure 15) and all the geometric engravings feature that old brown patination. There are also two figures with the same old patination (A and B in Figure 15) that look more like elements of the non-cupule geometric style. Just possibly these latter two figures could represent stylised animals. Three cupules featuring that brown patination are surrounded by one ring each. One ring (strangely not illustrated by Scherz, Tafel 97.6) seems to be interrupted by a large area of brown patination, which may be an indication that also this ring is very old.
Randomly scattered across areas of blue and brown are a number of rather "recent-looking" lighter coloured areas, some of which seem to represent true cupules (3 in Figure 15), especially the pair above cupule 1. All these latter features may have been added at a later date. Despite the different patination of the cupules, it must be kept in mind that they all still could be of the same age, as it cannot be ruled out that some cupules have been reworked in later times.
A short distance north is a stone slab (B7) with geometric designs, mainly ringmarks, but no cupules. In the jumble of rocks is also a medium-sized boulder (possibly listed by Scherz [1975: 176] as B8 K.F.) with a large human footprint and a small row of depressions that most probably are part of a feline spoor. Notably, above the depressions forming the spoor are faint claw marks.
A Survey into the Relationship between Animal-Engravings & Cupules
The Rock Art of Twyfelfontein
The Rock Art of Namibia
The African Rock Art Archive
Bradshaw Foundation
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