Author of the Month

Star Beings In Stone? —A Rock Art Site In Central South Africa (cont.)
By Gary A. David

We arrived on the vernal equinox (September 22) at about 5:00 a.m., when Orion was just reaching its meridian. Getting out of the car to open the farm gates, I saw both Crux (the Southern Cross) and the brilliant Canopus for the first time in my life—the second brightest star in the night sky after Sirius. The San, by the way, consider Sirius to be the Grandmother of Canopus. A few rabbits and a steenbok (antelope) darted across the dirt road as we made our way to the site in the predawn chill. (Later in the day we saw a warthog dash across the road and a troop of mongooses scampering about and chattering. Surely a cobra must have been nearby.)

The Riet (“Reed”) River, a tributary of the mighty Orange River that flows into the Atlantic, is lined with non-indigenous eucalyptus trees and reeds over 15 feet high.[3] Driekopseiland contains over 3,500 engravings pecked or chiseled into a glaciated andesite “pavement” that parallels the river. The main part of this blue-gray slab is cut by natural fractures, thin and straight, that divide the horizontal rock expanse into various sections or panels. The whole area is at least 150 yards long and 75 yards wide.

View from a koppie near Kimberley in the northern Karoo.
Barely visible on the horizon is Platfontein, one of the final relocation settlements of the San.
A giant red anthill is seen in the foreground.

According to archaeologist David Morris, whom we later met at McGregor Museum in Kimberley and who autographed his new book for us (see Endnote 8.), over 90% of the petroglyphs are geometric, abstract, or nonrepresentational: grids, meanders, dots, hatches, zigzags, concentric circles, ovals, spirals, star shapes, sunbursts, nested figures, and calendar wheels. Every foot or so we came across some bewildering design deeply carved into a plane of stone so smooth it almost looked polished. Ranging in size from a few inches to a few feet, these perplexing petroglyphs were rarely superimposed—that is, one carved on top of the other.

We even found a great number of Celtic crosses, which are equilateral crosses inside circles. South African scholar Brenda Sullivan comments on their meaning:

“This symbol has many names. It has been called the five-fold bond, the tree of life enclosed within the circle of eternity, and more commonly, the Celtic cross. Well, the Celts may claim pride of name, but this most ancient symbol has been associated with the isangomas [medicine people] of Africa for millennia, and is still one of Africa’s most powerful signs of protection and communication with the Creator through the Shades.”[4]

Dawn along the Riet River, South Africa.
The dam (seen in the background) was built upstream from the petroglyphs in the 1920s.
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  1. As I wrote in my book Eye of the Phoenix, the reed is a universal symbol of civilization, high culture, education, writing, and even celestial significance. For instance, the Hopi refer to the Milky Way by the term songwuka, literally “big reed.” They have a legend of coming up through a great reed from the previous Third World to the present Fourth World. This perhaps suggests an interstellar journey along the galactic axis.[back to text]
  2. Brenda Sullivan, Spirit of the Rocks (Cape Town/Pretoria/Johannesburg, South Africa: Human & Rousseau, 1995), p. 13. For information on the Celtic cross as ancient navigational instrument and architectural tool, see Crichton E M Miller’s excellent book The Golden Thread of Time (Rugby, Warwickshire, UK: Pendulum Publishing, 2001), [back to text]

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