Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa

The Natal Drakensberg

Drakensberg: History

Hunter-gatherer Bushmen lived in the Drakensberg for thousands of years. Classed as vermin, they were shot on sight.

The Drakensberg Mountains: A History

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Evidence of human occupation goes back more than 20,000 years with stone age hunter-gatherers moving into the area about 8,000 years ago. These were the ancestors of the Bushmen, who lived by hunting eland around the ridges and valleys of the Drakensberg and collecting the fruits of the grasslands. Their paintings show a deep understanding of their environment.

1,000 years ago, Bantu speaking farmers moved into the lower valleys. At first, they lived in harmony with the Bushmen but the Mfecane - the depredations of Shaka and his armies in the early 19th century - threw the area into chaos.

Bushman museum at Giants Castle, Drakensberg

Refugees from Shaka resorted to cannibalism in the high Berg until a leader - Moshoeshoe - moulded them into the modern nation of Lesotho. Survivors of the Mfecane became locked in a struggle with the Bushmen over increasingly rare resources.

Later, white settlers moved into the lower Berg and increased the pressure on the Bushmen, who then resorted to rustling. They were classed as vermin and shot on sight. By late 19th century, these diminutive people had disappeared after 10,000 years.

Bushman Rock Art

Fortunately, these peaceful people who lived in complete harmony with their environment have left thousands of wonderful examples of their artistry in the caves and overhangs of these mountains.

The Drakensberg is without a doubt, the richest repository of rock art in the world with over 600 rock art sites and 30,000 paintings. The art is by no means confined to caves - most occurring on sandstone under overhangs in the open.

There is little of the landscapes that were part of Bushman way of life and most pictures showed animals and birds - eland, baboon, buck of various species, birds, snakes and fish. The majority of paintings are of either eland or bees.

There are also scenes of fighting between Bushman tribes, Bushman hunts and later, white people on horses with rifles and wagons. Despite its abundance, there is only one known picture of a wildebeest.

Iron oxide was used for the reds, charcoal for the blacks and fine clay for the whites. The colours were bound using either blood or eggwhite. The paint was applied with either animal hair brushes, sticks or with fingers. Many are as vivid today as the day they were painted - it is the friable sandstone that is eroding.

Bushman rock art Early rock climbers circa 1950 Early rock climbers circa 1950 Early rock climbers circa 1950

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Natal Accommodation Guide
Natal Accommodation Guide
Natal Accommodation Guide