Taking the huge jump from the hunter-gatherer era thousands of years ago to the 21st century, we begin to appreciate the recognition and attention given to the Twyfelfontein engravings in recent times. This occurred while the country was going through wars, occupied first by the Germans and then by the South Africans, finally becoming independent as Namibia in 1990.
Word of the engravings reached the western world when Reinhard Maack
mentioned the Twyfelfontein site in his 1921 report to the Administrator
of South West Africa. A land surveyor named Volkmann had written to
him, informing him of a remarkable group of rock engravings at a spring
In 1946 a farmer, David Levine from Mariental, moved onto the land.
The family arrived by donkey cart, having followed an elephant track.
Levine reported the engravings to the authorities in Windhoek and named
his farm Twyfelfontein, meaning ‘doubtful spring’, which referred to his
not being sure whether the spring would provide sufficient water for
his animals and family. The name stuck and as the years went by more and
more interest was shown in the engravings.
In 1964 Twyfelfontein was incorporated into a communal area for the
Damara people as proposed by the Odendaal Commission. The Levine family
left a year later. In 1971 the South West African Administration
allocated the lands around Twyfelfontein as communal area for the
exclusive use of Damara farmers.
In 1963, however, Rudolf Scherz had surveyed the site in detail,
documenting over 2 500 individual engravings and paintings, and in 1968
an archaeological investigation was carried out by Erich Wendt to
establish the age and cultural affinities of the rock art. Excavations
at the site yielded dates of 3 450 and 5 850 years ago, confirming an
archaeological affinity with late Holocene hunter-gatherers.
The rock engraving site at Twyfelfontein is one of Africa’s largest
and most important concentrations of rock art. Twyfelfontein was
proclaimed a National Monument in 1952 and the National Heritage Council
of Namibia (NHC) is now the legal custodian. At the time of its
proclamation as a National Monument, the site received less than a
hundred visitors per year. This has now increased to more than 40 000,
making Twyfelfontein one of the more popular destinations for
international tourists to Namibia.
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