Monday, May 13, 2013

Brandberg - Namibia

Declared as National Monument on 15.06.1951 by the Historical Monuments Commission for South West Africa (HMC).

The Brandberg is one of the Cretaceous anorogenic complexes of northwestern Namibia, and from a spacecraft, it is one of the most eye-catching circular features visible on Earth. The isolated massif of granite, with approximate dimensions of 26 by 21 km, rises more than 2000 m above the surrounding peneplain of the Namib Desert. The edges of the roughly cupola-shaped plutonic body are dissected by numerous gorges, which penetrate the central part of the complex to form a radial drainage system. The summit, named Königstein, at 2573 m above sea level is the highest elevation in Namibia. The reddish colour of the weathered granite surfaces led to its German name “burning mountain” as well as its original Damara name “Doreb” meaning a pile of ash. The Brandberg is a National Monument, and the main access is via the road from Uis leading to the “White Lady” rock painting in the Tsisab Gorge.

Brief History:

About 130 million years ago volcanic activity pushed through the earth’s crust causing an up-doming of the overlaying rocks, the eventual breakthrough and resultant collapse caused the formation, following 100 million years over 1000m of the mountain and its surroundings eroded away leaving only the granite core, the brandberg mountain. Remnants of the lava plateau can still be seen. The name describes the lighting effect of the sunrise and sunset on the mountain. The archaeology of the Brandberg has been the subject of serious research for more than eighty years.

 Detailed surveys of the rock art have recorded more than 1000 sites, some with a hundred or more individual paintings. Although the most famous site, the Maack or “White Lady” Shelter, has given rise to several fanciful interpretations, systematic excavations in other parts of the mountain show that the area was inhabited by hunter-gatherer communities until the first appearance of nomadic livestock farming about 1000 years ago. Small bands of hunters evidently lived in the upper parts of the mountain during the dry season when little water or food could be obtained in the surrounding desert. The structural geology of the mountain, with its well-developed sheet joints, provides many small aquifers and where these emerge, rock painting sites are never far away. In the rock art of Brandberg, human figures comprise more than 40% of the images and among the many animal species depicted giraffe are often the most numerous.
Few of the animals featured in the paintings are represented in bones recovered from archaeological excavations. Indeed, very few of the species in the paintings actually occur on the mountain itself which is far too rugged for most of them to ascend. This and other evidence, such as artifacts of crystalline quartz, marine shells and some metal objects, suggests that the people who inhabited the Brandberg also inhabited a far wider area. A clearer pattern of movement arose with the development of pastoralism when stock camps were established at remote waterholes and the herds were pastured far into the Namib Desert after the summer rain. In the dry season, however, pastoral communities would retreat to the upper Brandberg with its reliable waterholes and nutritious pastures, usually camping in the same places as their hunter-gatherer predecessors.

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