Archaeology

Rock Art Collection                                                   

Our rock art collection was started about 1908 by Maria Wilman, first museum director, and has grown steadily since then. Representing the rock art of the Cape interior, now mainly within the Northern Cape Province, the collection contains some 23 000 items. These include a small number of engraved rocks, latex moulds and casts, and large numbers of rubbings, tracings, photographs and slides.   

Art on a Karoo hill Engraving at Pniel

Maria Wilman, doyenne of early rock engraving researchThe Wilman Years

Maria Wilman, Cambridge educated daughter of the Karoo, produced a paper on the rock paintings at Ntlo-Kholo, Lesotho, as the museums first publication in 1911.  Alongside her active pursuits in other fields, she continued to amass data on rock engravings around Kimberley, in the Karoo and as far afield as Botswana. These records, with photographs and rubbings she made, were published in 1933 in a book that was the standard text on this art for more than four decades.   

A Stow copyStow's Copies 

In 1944 Dorothea Bleek - daughter of the renowned Dr W.H.I. Bleek and herself a noted anthropologist - offered to the museum a batch of watercolours and pencil drawings of rock engravings, made by George William Stow when he was on the Diamond Fields in the early 1870s. The set includes seven copies of engravings from Riverton, a site which was submerged when the present weir was built in 1906.  

Power and Swan 

John Power became director of the museum after Miss Wilman's retirement in 1946. His fine watercolours and rubbings of rock art supplemented the collection. He published remarks on the Driekopseiland rock engraving site. His contribution to the museum's archaeological collections in general, from the days of his youth in Kimberley, was enormous.  James Swan, a noted amateur archaeologist and collector, recorded rock paintings along the Ghaap Escarpment. He left a bequest in the form of the Swan Fund, administered by Oxford University, which continues to support archaeological research in South Africa. 

Dr Gerhard Fock at VaalpanGerhard and Dora Fock

Dr G.J. Fock came to the McGregor Museum in 1958 as South Africa's first specifically appointed Museum Archaeologist. Initially he and his wife, Dora Fock, spent weekends recording local rock engravings - carrying on where Wilman had left off. Following Fock's retirement in 1967, their quest for recording rock art became a full-time project. Between them they produced more than 120 publications, lectures and exhibits on the art - including three books in their Felsbilder in Südafrika series. Their collection was donated to the McGregor Museum in 1987.   

Northern Cape Rock Art Trust

In 2001 the McGregor Museum, along with colleagues in the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and other stakeholders in the Northern Cape, contributed to a project funded by the national Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism, to develop sustainable public access to rock art in the Kimberley area. One of the express conditions was that the development should generate jobs as part of poverty alleviation. The first phase has seen the opening of the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre. Furtherance of the project and its overall aims is now ensured by the formation of the Northern Cape Rock Art Trust, with trustees including representatives of Khoe-San communities and organisations, and experts on rock art.

Engraving near Vosburg

Staff Publications

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