Depictions of Elephant Vocalisations in Cederberg Rock Paintings:Somatogenesis
Andrew Paterson & John Parkington
Tue, 12/02/2019 - 18:30
SA Astronomical Observatory auditorium
The painted undulating lines surrounding and linking elephants in Western Cape rock art have previously been identified as entoptic visions seen by shaman/painters while in altered states. We argue that relevant Kalahari Ju/’hoansi ethnography, Karoo /Xam accounts, details of the painted compositions, and elephant wildlife observations combine to make these more likely depictions of elephant sounds. Rare depictions by San medicine men of themselves clearly identify undulations and zigzags in their drawings of their bodies as somatogenic feelings, not visual constructs. Ju/’hoansi words like ‘shivering’, ‘shuddering’ and ‘trembling’ link the comments of these men with the notion of ‘presentiments’, as explained by the /Xam to Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd, and with the rumblings and other vibrations
associated with audible and ultrasonic communications of elephants. While somatogenic elements in altered state experiences have been recognised before, they have never been suggested as the source of the undulating imagery.