Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

San Rock Art

By J.D. Lewis-Williams

“This little book is exceptional in that the subject is so clearly explained. It was wonderful to learn that [South African former] President Thabo Mbeki incorporated a San rock painting into our new national coat of arms.… I recommend you dip into this pocket book. You won’t be disappointed.”

Dee Andrew, Citizen, “Citi Vibe,” South Africa

“(San Rock Art) serves as an excellent introduction to the possibilities of studying the subject and would be useful in many sorts of classes. Professionals will also find the volume useful for both general concepts and clear and concise summaries of many of the key points of Lewis-Williams’ interpretive efforts. In summary, this book is a good read. I recommend it for all levels of those interested in the subject of rock art.”

Azania: Archeological Research in Africa

“Perhaps only the eloquent and succinct prose of J.D. Lewis-Williams could present, examine and explain the ethnology and artistry of the San culture in such a quintessential manner…. From explanations of the 'terpsichorean exercises' and the all-important 'trance-dance' to how the San person, shaman or not, can use a painting to go through the 'veil' to the spirit world beyond, the author reveals a world of ethnographic and artistic potency.”

Bradshaw Foundation Book Review

“Making sense of these fascinating artifacts as a novice requires the assistance of an informed guide and Lewis-Williams’ credentials speak for themselves.… This deceptively ordinary-looking book is a fascinating read and will spur you on your travels to view as many San paintings as you can at close-hand, fuelled by your newfound knowledge of the complexity of the beliefs, rituals, and practices of the first inhabitants of South Africa.”

Sunday Tribune, Sunday Magazine, South Africa

San rock paintings, scattered over the range of southern Africa, are considered by many to be the very earliest examples of representational art. There are as many as 15,000 known rock art sites, created over the course of thousands of years up until the nineteenth century. There are possibly just as many still awaiting discovery.

Taking as his starting point the magnificent Linton panel in the Iziko-South African Museum in Cape Town, J. D. Lewis-Williams examines the artistic and cultural significance of rock art and how this art sheds light on how San image-makers conceived their world. It also details the European encounter with rock art as well as the contentious European interaction with the artists’ descendants, the contemporary San people.

J. D. Lewis-Williams is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. He has written more than 135 articles in a wide variety of academic journals as well as authored or coauthored more than sixteen books. His recent books include the award-winning The Mind in the Cave; Inside the Neolithic Mind, co-authored with David Pearce; and Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion.More info →

Order a print copy

Paperback · $13.56 ·
Add to Cart

Retail price: $16.95 · Save 20% ($13.56)

Buy from a local bookstore


US and Canada only

Buy an eBook

Amazon Kindle Store Barnes & Noble NOOK Google Play iBooks Store

Availability and price vary according to vendor.

Cover of San Rock Art

Share    Facebook icon  Email icon


Desk Copy Examination Copy Review Copy

Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center

Related Subjects

Click or tap on a subject heading to sign up to be notified when new related books come out.

In Series

Ohio Short Histories of Africa


Retail price: $16.95, S.
Release date: February 2013
20 illus. · 158 pages · 4¼ × 7 in.
Rights: World except SADC

Release date: February 2013
20 illus. · 158 pages
Rights: World except SADC

Related Titles

Cover of 'Unconquerable Spirit'

Unconquerable Spirit
George Stow’s History Painting of the San
By Pippa Skotnes

George Stow was a Victorian man of many parts—poet, historian, ethnographer, artist, cartographer, and prolific writer. A geologist by profession, he became acquainted, through his work in the field, with the extraordinary wealth of rock paintings in the caves and shelters of the South African interior. Enchanted and absorbed by them, Stow set out to create a record of this creative work of the people who had tracked and marked the South African landscape decades and centuries before him.Un

African History · Southern Africa · South Africa · 19th century · Victorian Era · Khoisan · Anthropology · Art · History · African Studies · Africa

Sign up to be notified when new Art History titles come out.

We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.