Some of South Africa’s most valued San (Bushman) rock art is found in the Free State.
Caledon River Nature Reserve
A superbly preserved site with Bushman rock paintings of eland, cattle, hippo, a huge snake, eland and human figures is located in the reserve. The two panels of the site represent ‘traditional’ and ‘contact’ motifs’ that show how the Bushmen coped with change in the Caledon River Valley.
Hoekfontein is located between Clocolan and Ficksburg. There are 3 Bushman rock painting sites at Hoekfontein. Notable is a panel of 14 human figures dancing. 6 of these figures are infibulated – an artistic convention where a bar was drawn across the penis to show the link between hunter and prey. The site also has two very rare ‘Palettes’ that Bushman used to rub to gain supernatural potency. There are also 7 steenbok and an eland depicted. Near the paintings is a Late Iron Age refuge site consisting of 14 stone walled enclosures that dates to Mfecane times between 1790 AD–1840 AD.
A small rock shelter with 47 Bushman rock paintings including eland, rhebuck and human figures is located at Kiara (between Clarens and Golden Gate National Park). This site is truly unique in that it has South Africa’s only unequivocal example of a dassie or rock hyrax (Procaviacapensis).
Bushman rock paintings of birds, a cattle raid, eland and human figures can be found at Modderpoor, located between Ladybrand and Clocolan.
Moolmanshoek is near Rosendal in the Eastern Free State. It is home to a large painted cave with an unusual 3 m deep tunnel at the northern end and a spectacular view. There are 47 Bushman rock paintings. These include 2 felines, eland, a shaman transforming into her/his source of animal potency, 7 women with weighted digging sticks and some enigmatic parallel red lines.
National Museum, Bloemfontein
Facilities include displays, a shop and a large rock art display within the museum, on Charles Street and at Oliewenhuis Art Museum. See the Bushman diorama, hallucinatory rain-animals and coverage of the Archaeology of South Africa’s central interior. The Rock Art Department also maintains a display series in its offices in Elizabeth Street.
QwaQwa National Park
The QwaQwa National Park is the location of a unique Bushman rock painting of two crabs as well aa rare painted animal spoor and quivers. Beautiful shaded eland and human figures. The whole cliff line is one big site with 3 ‘pulses’ at which paintings occur.
Located near Clarens (Eastern Free State), the site is home to a large painted cave with 35 Bushman rock paintings. These include 8 paintings of therianthropes or part-human, part-animal beings that represent Bushman shamans utilising the potency of certain powerful animals whilst in an altered state of consciousness. There are also paintings of eland and a rhebuck hunt. Fossil footprintscan be found at the site.
A large Bushman/San engraving site with about 80 images including baboon, eland, ‘goats’, human figures, a rain-animal and some large quadrupeds is located at the site. The site is also used for mining – people looking for a legendary missionary treasure. Slypsteenberg is located within the city limits of Bloemfontein.
The Spitskop site complex consists of three San or ‘Bushman’ as well as Khoe or ‘Khoi’ rock-engraving sites located on adjacent farms. These sites are all within sight of the 1580 m high sandstone mountain known as Spitskop. There are images of eland – one is 1.35 m long – geometric forms, human figures, ostrich and also the remains of a mysterious historic settlement. Tragically, the last gathering and hunting San was shot 15 km from the farm in the 1860s.Spitskop is located 12 km west of Verkeerdevlei.
The site houses a spectacular 18 m long wall of Bushman rock paintings. Baboon, eland, elephant, hartebeest, monsters, spirit world beings and much more are depicted, including the famous rain-animal of the Bushman chief Baartman. Look for the smallest known painting of a buck in South Africa as well as at the Khoe geometric motifs at the far end of the shelter. Sterkstroom is located between Rouxville and Aliwal North.
Tandjiesberg is one of South Africa’s 12 Rock Art National Monuments. This is a small, spectacular shelter with over 500 Bushman rock paintings. See bees, birds, cattle, exotic elephant, a frenetic medicine dance, animated human figures, rain-animals and the enigmatic ‘weird white’ tradition. Archaeological excavations establish that Bushmen lived here for at least 1 000 years. Located between Ladybrand and Clocolan, it is an important pilgrimage site among the impressive ‘teeth’ of sandstone.