Page 89

78 selection is not random, but is guided by what questions are being asked by which theoretical framework. Yet, uncovering meaning in individual depictions is no easy task. Individual depictions most often have complex contexts, but complexity of context must not be confused with complexity of meaning. Visual complexities of painted contexts can hold the key to understanding the metaphoric complexities of meaning. In this regard, Stone Age and Iron Age studies provide a simple analogy; if a site yields two stone flints or potsherds, it is often not as informative as one yielding large amounts of the same material. Many kinds of analyses are possible in larger contexts, as these offer far more information in their varied associations. Put simply, complex sites are better for the purposes of analysis. If one or two scrapers or potsherds are encountered at a single component site, one can only make informed surmises based on the knowledge learned from their occurrence in other more complex contexts and sequences. In the same way we can hope to interpret small simple rock art sites on the basis of knowledge we gain at larger more complex ones. Layers upon layers of archaeological deposit thus constitute ‘layers of meaning’. In rock art, more complex panels and their varied ‘layers of meaning’ have a firmer chance of interpretation than less complex ones, or single images. Contrary to archaeological stratigraphy where later layers accumulate without regard to earlier accumulations, in rock art later generations of artists took into account the works of their predecessors (see Lewis-Williams 1972) and their own work was conditioned by what had gone before. It is therefore pertinent that I anaylse and tease out ‘layers of meaning’ in the more complex formling depictions with their opulent symbolism.

Continuity and change in San belief and ritual  

A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand,Johannesburg, for the degree of Master of Arts. 2002, by Siyakha...

Advertisement