Rock your world

Sevilla Rock Art Trail

A story-rich exploit awaits in the dramatic Cederberg mountains.

While everything else in the world has been turned topsy-turvy, the ways and wiles of Mother Nature remain unchanged: dazzling us with beauty and comfort. And the best way to soak up all that goodness is on foot.

The Sevilla Rock Art Trail in the Cederberg is a self-guided walk which enriches and educates in one fell swoop. Estimated at between 2 000 and 8 000 years old, the San paintings on this trail are among the finest rock art examples among the 2 500 found in the caves of the Cederberg. As a matter of interest, the density of preserved images per km2 in this rugged mountain area is believed to be the highest in the world.

For roughly 100 000 years, the San roamed Southern Africa as the only humans – which is why their story-telling is all the more compelling. Offering an enthralling glimpse into the world of these early inhabitants, the images often are so pure that you can visualise the Shaman mixing his paints of ochres, ash, blood and clay.


According to a group of academics from the University of Witwatersrand*, for many years people thought that one guess about the art’s meaning was as good as another. Turns out it’s not the case. “We know from the ethnography that the San believe in a universe with spiritual realms above and below the level on which people live. Decades of research has shown that the rock art is deeply religious.”

They explain that to deepen our understanding, the art should be viewed in terms of San shamanistic beliefs and experiences. For instance, as the creature with the most !gi (the |Xam word for the invisible essence that lies at the heart of San belief and ritual), the eland is a connecting element. Also of note is that both smell and rain are supernaturally powerful in San thought.

To understand these early examples of representational art, San Rock Art by JD Lewis-Williams sheds light on how San image-makers conceived their world.

Go the whole hog

Suitable for all fitness levels, the 4.6-km linear walk starts at the farm stall opposite Traveller’s Rest farm, about 36 km outside Clanwilliam between Pakhuis Pass and Bushman’s Kloof. Being linear, it essentially means the faint-hearted can turn back at any stage. Or for that matter, those who might struggle with the searing heat in summer.

With the help of an explanatory leaflet and Peter Slingsby’s illustrative map, you can view nine rock art sites over the course of the three-hour excursion along the Brandewyn river. It’s definitely worthwhile to go for the long haul route-wise, because the general consensus is that the latter five sites are undoubtedly the most exceptional.

For diversion, indigenous plant species are peppered along the way, agile rock agamas provide the awh element and you’re almost guaranteed to spot springbok, eland, dassies, baboons and a plethora of birds.

Buy your R40 permit at Travellers Rest, 027 4821824,

*University of the Witwatersrand authors in The Conversation: David Witelson, professor David Lewis-Williams; associate professor David Pearce and Sam Challis.

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