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Twyfelfontein, officially known as ǀUi-ǁAis, is a site of ancient rock engravings in the Kunene region of northwestern Namibia. It consists of a spring in a valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain that receives very little rainfall and has a wide range of diurnal temperatures.
See the fact file below for more information on the Twyfelfontein or alternatively, you can download our 19-page Twyfelfontein worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Twyfelfontein is situated in the southern Kunene region of Namibia, an area formerly known as Damaraland. The site lies on the banks of the Aba Huab River in the Huab valley of the Mount Etjo formation.
- The rocks containing the art work are situated in a valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain. An underground aquifer on an impermeable layer of shale sustains a spring in this otherwise very dry area.
- The name Twyfelfontein refers to the spring itself, to the valley containing the spring, and in the context of traveling and tourism also to a greater area containing nearby tourist attractions: the rock engravings, the Organ Pipes, Burnt Mountain, Doros crater, and the Petrified Forest. The World Heritage Site covers the area of rock engravings.
- Twyfelfontein valley has been inhabited by Stone-age hunter-gatherers of the Wilton stone age culture group since approximately 6,000 years ago.
- 2,000 to 2,500 years ago the Khoikhoi, an ethnic group related to the San (Bushmen), occupied the valley, then known under its Damara/Nama name ǀUi-ǁAis (jumping waterhole). They made most of the engravings and probably all the paintings.
- The Khoikhoi also produced rock art that can clearly be distinguished from the older engravings. The area was inhabited by Europeans until after World War II, when a severe drought caused white Afrikaans-speaking farmers (Boers) to move in.
- The farm was later procured by the apartheid government as part of the Odendaal Plan and became part of the Damaraland Bantustan. The white settlers left in 1965.
- Topographer Reinhard Maack, who also discovered the White Lady rock painting at Brandberg, reported the presence of rock engravings in the area in 1921. A more thorough investigation was conducted only after David Levin studied the feasibility of farming in 1947.
- He rediscovered the spring, but struggled to extract enough water to sustain his family and his herd. As he slowly became obsessed with doubts about the capacity of the spring, an Afrikaans-speaking friend began calling him David Twyfelfontein (David Doubts-the-spring) in jest.
- When Levin bought the land and registered his farm in 1948 he gave it the name Twyfelfontein. Commonly translated as doubtful spring, a more accurate translation for the word twyfel is “questionable” or “uncertain.”
In 1950 scientific investigation of the rock art started with an investigation by Ernst Rudolph Scherz who described over 2500 rock engravings on 212 sandstone slabs. Today it is estimated that the site contains more than 5000 individual depictions.
- Sandstone rocks at Twyfelfontein are covered by the so-called desert varnish, a hard patina that appears brown or dark grey. Engravings were affected by chiseling through this patina to expose the lighter rock underneath.
- The indentations were created over the course of thousands of years. The oldest engravings might be as old as 10,000 years, and the creation of new works probably ended by the arrival of pastoral tribes around 1000 AD.
- Three different types of engravings can be distinguished at Twyfelfontein: iconic imagery (images of animals, humans, and fantasy creatures), pictograms (geometric rock art, like pecked circles and rows of dots), and indentations for or from everyday use (grinding hollows, board games, and gong stones).
- Additionally, the site contains rock paintings at 13 different locations, with depictions of humans painted in red ochre in six rock shelters. The occurrence of similar rock paintings and rock engravings is very rare.
- The hunter-gatherers made most of the iconic engravings and probably all of the paintings. The carvings represent animals such as rhinoceroses, elephants, ostriches and giraffes, as well as depictions of human and animal footprints.
- Some of the figures, most prominently the “Lion Man” – a lion with an extremely long, rectangular, kinked tail ending in a six-toed pugmark, depict the transformation of humans into animals.
- The archaeological name of the site is Twyfelfontein 534. It is subdivided into 15 smaller sites as described by Scherz in 1975. Objects from the site include a variety of stone tools made mostly from quartzite.
- Type and shape of these tools indicate not only the use on rock, but also the prevalence of wood and leather working. Artwork such as pendants and beads from ostrich eggshell fragments have been found at several places.
- The archaeological value of the site does not compare with its importance as a rock art collection. The findings do, however, support the shamanist origin of the engravings, because food remains from the site proved to be bones of small antelope, rock dassie, and even lizards, rather than the large species depicted.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Twyfelfontein across 19 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Twyfelfontein worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Twyfelfontein, officially known as ǀUi-ǁAis, which is a site of ancient rock engravings in the Kunene region of northwestern Namibia. It consists of a spring in a valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain that receives very little rainfall and has a wide range of diurnal temperatures.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
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- Latest Info!
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