This book has the potential to change the public perception of San rock art as a relatively trivial pastime and replace it with convincing evidence that many images and themes are in fact based on sophisticated religious symbolism that permeated all aspects of San life over thousands of years. – Janette Deacon
In Termites of the Gods, Siyakha Mguni narrates his personal journey, over many years, to discover the significance of a hitherto enigmatic theme in San rock paintings known as ‘formlings’. Formlings are a painting category found across the southern African region, including South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, with its densest concentration in the Matopo Hills, Zimbabwe.
Generations of archaeologists and anthropologists have wrestled with the meaning of this painting theme in San cosmology without reaching consensus or a plausible explanation. Drawing on San ethnography published over the past 150 years, Mguni argues that formlings are, in fact, representations of flying termites and their underground nests, and are associated with botantical subjects and a range of larger animals considered by the San to have great power and spiritual significance.
This book fills a gap in rock art studies around the interpretation and meaning of formlings. It offers an innovative methodological approach for understanding subject matter in San rock art that is not easily recognisable, and will be an invaluable reference book to students and scholars in rock art studies and archaeology.
Preface: Searching the pasts
Chapter 1: Ancient mysteries on rocks
Chapter 2: Meaning in San rock art
Chapter 3: Tricksters, potency and dance
Chapter 4: Ways of seeing San rock art
Chapter 5: Probing deep into formlings
Chapter 6: Formlings and San cosmological belief
Chapter 7: Symbolic theatres of San cosmos
List of maps and figures
SIYAKHA MGUNI is project manager of the International Rock Art Collaboration coordinated from the Rock Art Research Institute, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He holds a PhD from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Siyakha Mguni explores the deeper meanings of San rock art motifs called ‘formlings’, that have so far remained mysterious, hence their puzzling name … This is not an easy task, because the San way of looking at the world and interpreting it is so different from ours. He makes it clear that the rock art at the eNanke Cave site in the Matopo Hills in Zimbabwe is symbolically rich and complex and that what lies behind it all is the search for supernatural potency that can take many different forms.
Jean Clottes is a former General Inspector for Archaeology and Scientific Advisor for prehistoric rock art in the French Ministry of Culture.
This book has the potential to change the public perception of San rock art as a relatively trivial pastime and replace it with convincing evidence that many images and themes are in fact based on sophisticated religious symbolism that permeated all aspects of San life over thousands of years. It is a milestone in rock art interpretation because it focuses specifically on the complexity of one particular theme, the elusive formlings, which have challenged rock art specialists for decades.
Janette Deacon, co-author of Human Beginnings in South Africa: Uncovering the Secrets of the Stone Age.
Reading Termites of the Gods - https://africanrockartblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/reading-termites-of-the-gods/
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