Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes has one of the largest concentrations of [...] petroglyphs, i.e. rock engravings in Africa. Most of these well-preserved engravings represent rhinoceros, . The site also includes six painteelephant, ostrich and giraffe, as well as drawings of human and animal footprintsd rock shelters with motifs of human figures in red ochre. The objects excavated from two sections, date from the Late Stone Age. The site forms a coherent, extensive and high-quality record of ritual practices relating to hunter-gatherer communities in this part of southern Africa over at least 2,000 years, and eloquently illustrates the links between the ritual and economic practices of hunter-gatherers.
Twyfelfontien is known for its rock engravings and paintings and associated Late Stone Age material culture dating between 6000 and 2000 years. The site has one of the known largest concentrations of engravings in Africa executed on flat and upright slabs. Over five thousand individual figures have been recorded to date.
Outstanding Universal Value
The rock art forms a coherent, extensive and high quality record of ritual practices relating to hunter-gather communities in this part of southern Africa over at least two millennia and, eloquently reflects the links between ritual and economic practices of hunter-gatherers in terms of the value of reliable water sources in nurturing communities on a seasonal basis.
Criterion (iii): The rock art engravings and paintings in Twyfelfontein form a coherent, extensive and high quality record of ritual practices relating to hunter-gather communities in this part of southern Africa over at least two millennia.
Criterion (v): The rock art reflects links between ritual and economic practices in the apparent sacred association of the land adjacent to an aquifer as a reflection of its role in nurturing hunter-gather communities over many millennia.
The integrity of the property is generally intact. The Twyfelfontein Country Lodge was permitted by the Conservancy in 1999/2000 within the Seremonienplatz rock engraving site in the buffer zone. This has severely compromised the integrity of the rock engravings in this area.
All the rock engravings and rock paintings within the core area are without doubt the authentic work of San hunter-gatherers who lived in the region long before the influx of Damara herders and European colonists. The setting of the Twyfelfontein rock art is also authentic as other than one small engraved panel which was removed to the National Museum in Windhoek in the early part of the 20th century, no panels have been moved or re-arranged.
The core area was designated a national monument in 1948 and is now protected by the National Heritage Act 2004. A buffer zone has been established and proclaimed. The overall state of conservation of the property has improved over the past few years, particularly in terms of the way visitors are managed. Implementation of the Management plan began in 2005.
In the 1940s the Twyfelfontein land was granted on licence to a settler. At that time a few Damara people lived close to the spring in 32 huts. The land was transferred to communal use for Damara farmers in 1964 on the recommendation of the Odendaal Commission. But no farmers came forward to make use of it and it lay abandoned for 20 years. Following Namibian independence in 1990, the land became State Land under the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation.
Before the 1940s, there is little evidence for the use of the area by the Damara; it is likely that as nomadic pastoralists, they used the area on a seasonal basis congregating near the spring after rains. However nomadic pastoralism had been almost completely destroyed in the preceding 100 years by the Rinderpest epidemic of 1897 and by ensuing government policies which encouraged people to leave the land.
Interviews with local residents in 2004 failed to collect oral evidence for living cultural association with the rock art, although the rock art sites were seen as powerful places and the rock art the work of ‘ancestors'. The imagery of the art suggests it is part of the belief system of hunter-gathers, the San, who lived in the area until partly displaced by Damara herders about 1,000 years ago and finally displaced by European colonists within the last 150 years. No San now live in the area, although the beliefs of present-day San who live some 800km away in the north-eastern part of Namibia, give insight into the meaning of the rock paintings and engravings at Twyfelfontein.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation