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IMAGES OF MYSTERY (article first published : 2003-03-23)

Images of Mystery by David Lewis-Williams and published by Double Storey Books takes the reader on an expedition into the lost valleys and up the silent rock shelters of the Drakensberg.

The book guides the reader to see San art as an expression of complex religious beliefs and myths and as the product of rituals around which San thought and religion were built. It helps unravel these beliefs and helps form some idea of the times in which they lived and how those times affected the San and their art.

The paintings with which this book primarily concerns itself are those enigmatic images amongst the paintings of animals on the rock shelter walls: people with antelope heads and hoofs, dancers performing rituals, strange creatures of no known species, and a narrow red line fringed with white dots - each no bigger than a pinhead - that threads its way from image to image and enters, and leaves, cracks in the rock face. Cloaked in mystery, they have baffled scholars for well over a hundred years.

Images of Mystery is a generous book, beautifully designed and produced. Filled with colour illustrations and immensely readable text, it will appeal to tourist and visitor alike as well as the more serious reader.

David Lewis-Williams is widely regarded as the doyen of rock art research in Southern Africa. He is the world famous author of several books on South African rock art, including a book published by the prestigious New York publisher, Harry Abrams. His numerous publications include the bestseller Discovering South African Rock Art and Images of Power. Based in Johannesburg, he has recently retired as director of the Rock Art Institute and is emeritus professor of Cognitive Archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand.




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