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



    1.4: Inventory of Twyfelfontein Cupules (3)
SITE 4.3: To the SW of Site 4.2 is a rather large rectangular boulder with a smooth vertical face to the NE, bearing one small shallow cupule near the NW end having the same patina as the rock. The panel features no other engravings, as far as could be seen in otherwise optimal light conditions.
SITE 4.4: Further south on the plain and on lower level is a more isolated group of rather large boulders. The largest boulder has some most weathered remains of animal engravings on its rough, slightly NW sloping upper surface. On a small, rather smooth part of its upper surface however, is also a group of at least eight much worn cupules, not described by Scherz. Six cupules have been arranged in a unique pattern of two triangles that seem to have been arranged more or less symmetrically at both sides of a large cupule (Figure 16). This arrangement seems to be intentional.
SITE 4.5: Almost touching stone 4.4 to the south is a smaller (but still large) triangular boulder that slopes to the west. Its heavily naturally flaked (?: see Ouzman 2001b, and Part 2 of this essay) upper surface features at least seven birds (ostriches?) and possibly up to five mammals some of which have partially flaked off (Figure 17).
Engravings Rock Art Petroglyphs Petroglyphs Twyfelfontein Namibia Africa
Figure 18
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Five of the birds seem to be associated with cupules and although one cupule apparently has been superimposed upon one of the birds (indicated by arrow A in Figure 18), the chronology of execution of all the cupules is not certain. One of the cupules (indicated with arrow B in Figure 18) is heavily flaked (on purpose or accidentally?). In the centre of the stone is a row of possibly ten small cupules. It is situated to the right of a bird (ostrich?) associated with two large cupules (Figure 19).
To the right of this row is a bird that seems to have been superimposed by two or three superficial cupules.
SITE 4.6: Only two metres west of stone 4.5 is a cube-shaped boulder with an upper surface that slightly slopes to the south. Only a part of its upper surface is engraved, but Scherz' photograph (1975: Tafel 120.1) shows more engravings than could be seen on this occasion. Since his observations, some parts have either flaked off by natural causes or have deliberately been broken from the stone. I think that vandalism (rock-art robbery) is the most likely explanation.
Scherz mentions 32 cupules, but only 29 and two partially flaked ones remain. The surviving part shows a very dense concentration of various species of animals that apparently have been superimposed by the cupules. One of the cupules (indicated by a small arrow in Figure 20) seems to have been damaged recently, probably in an attempt to remove more of the carvings. Near the north edge is a roughly circular cluster of 66 rather densely packed but crudely executed peck-marks enclosed by two "brackets" of pecked areas (Figure 58). This configuration has the same patina as the surface of the stone and might therefore be older than the lighter patinated animal engravings (the upper animal seems to superimpose the "cloud") and the cupules (although the practice of re-working engravings and/or cupules may not be ruled out).
On a vertical face of block 4.6, Ouzman (2002) reports at least nine cupules and possibly some more, all severely weathered and not noticed during our 2001 surveys.
SITE 4.7: A short distance further south of stone 4.6 is another group of decorated boulders. Most conspicuous is a large rectangular boulder with a near-vertical surface facing to the SW and a large natural cavity. This panel is almost entirely covered by engravings: the upper half features all sorts of animal engravings, many superimposing others; the lower half is densely covered with at least 228 cupules (Figure 21). The contact zone shows a mixture of both. But also because there is no clear difference in patination, it is very hard to establish whether the cupules superimpose the animals or vice versa. A small overhanging part lower down features some natural depressions looking like cupules. This may be important, as several instances throughout the world make it acceptable that natural features inspired prehistoric people to copy such natural depressions by transforming them into cultural marks or imitating them by producing anthropic cupules. Did such natural features also trigger the execution of cupules at Twyfelfontein?
Site 4.8.1: This boulder is a few metres to the SE of stone 4.7. On its near-vertical, north-facing panel are some animal engravings and at least 21 cupules. They form a cluster near the upper part of the stone (Figure 22). This upper part is cracked and some parts have flaked or are heavily eroded. Also the engravings are rather weathered and again there is hardly any difference in patination between animals and cupules. Most of the cupules are concentrated just below two animal engravings, and although one faint cupule is found on one of the animal engravings, it cannot be ascertained which element is superimposed, the cupule or the animal. Ouzman (2002) reports more cupules lower down the rock.
SITE 4.8.2: A few metres SE of stone 4.8.1 is a low conglomerate dyke (Scherz' B18d). On its vertical, north facing surface is a frieze of animals (one a rhino followed by a possible calf) and about five cupules. It is not certain if the animals are related to the cupules (Figure 78 A and B).
SITE 4.9: This smooth, SE sloping stone on the northern habitation plain (labelled C by Scherz 1975) is largely as described by Scherz. However, besides the three rows of small cupules (with respectively, 21, 14 and 10 cupules) there are two more such rows, one with three and one with seven cupules, the latter not shown in the drawing by Scherz (1975: Tafel 98.6). The row of 21 cupules apparently superimposes a faint and crudely pecked oval (not shown in Scherz' sketch). This instance of palimpsest (Figure 23) may be an indication that these rows of cupules are later than the geometric designs on this slab.
SITE 4.10: Almost touching stone 4.9 is a much larger, W facing boulder. On two adjoining panels are several rows of small cupules (similar to those on stone 4.9) and some geometric designs. On the smaller right hand panel are rows of 4, 8, 14, 17, 19 and 58 cupules (partially shown in Figure 24 A). On the left hand panel are rows of 4, 14, 23 and 46 cupules.
The row of 14 cupules on the left-hand panel seems to be superimposed upon a long curved anthropic groove (Figure 24 B). This feature leads to the same conclusion as with stone 4.9, notably that these rows of cupules are possibly later. The curving rows of cupules at panels 4.9 and 4.10 differ greatly in style with the more rigidly arranged rows of dots or points on stones 2.1 and 2.2. The latter type involves depressions not associated with other geometric art, and have been executed in parallel rows according to a horizontal axis, whereas the small cupules on stones 4.9 and 4.10 occur in single, mostly curving rows that have more or less been arranged along a vertical axis and are associated with geometric art only.
Cupule Cupules Twyfelfontein World Heritage Africa Namibia
Figure 26
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SITE 4.11: A small block directly opposite the engraving of a human figure at Scherz' site C3 features a strange hut-shaped groove enclosing a rectangular (natural/cultural?) hole. The origin of the configuration is doubtful; some parts may be natural, other parts may be culturally improved or completely anthropic. Just to the north are five depressions that could be much-weathered cupules (Figure 25).
SITE 4.12: This large, south sloping stone features the well-known "Fabeltier" or "Centaur" that is superimposed (?) upon a large array of geometric designs (Figure 79). Most conspicuous are the six rings (roughly 15cm in diameter) of small dots (comprising 16, 17, 16, 17, 20 and 21 dots, averaging 15mm in diameter and up to 4mm deep) that each enclose a down-facing crescent (Figure 26). Nearby is a multiple "cup-and-ring" design with a small central cupule. West of the "Fabeltier" are a distinctly polished disc (15cm in diameter) with one faint cupule in the centre (Figure 80) and a simple cup-and-ring design (its central cupule is about 3cm in diameter). North of the "Fabeltier", near the edge, is a row of six small dots.
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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