Brandberg National Monument Area

Date of Submission: 03/10/2002
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Namibia National Commission for UNESCO
Coordinates: 21°10' S / 14°25' E
Ref.: 1744
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Description

Situated approximately 30km north west of the small town of Uis is the highest mountain in Namibia, the Brandberg, that stands out as an imposing feature in the otherwise flat gravel plains of the central Namib Desert. This large, almost circular inselberg is visible from space and rises more than 1800 m above the surrounding plains (highest peak 2573 m.) It has an exceptionally rich palaeo-archaeological heritage with a high concentration of prehistoric rock art (more than 43 000 paintings and 900 sites alone). The two genres of rock art (engravings and paintings) are found in close association in the Brandberg and more than 120 archaeological sites have been recorded. The Brandberg is home to the famous rock art frieze of the "White Lady", the authors and meaning of which has puzzled researchers, as well as numerous other friezes of exceptional quality. The mountain forms part of numerous destinations along prehistoric migration routes of people who migrated seasonally between the coast and the interior. Excavations revealed intensive and repeated human occupation on the higher elevations of the Brandberg from about five thousand years ago. Adequate water and shelter may have served as aggregation areas for otherwise dispersed groups of hunter-gatherers or herders at the onset of increased aridity in the region at that time. Increased social ritual activity associated with human aggregation probably resulted in the accumulation of rock art, and thus the rock art is part evidence of an intricate social and environmental fabric. The Brandberg was clearly an important focus of culture and socio-economic activity for the indigenous people of Namibia. The Brandberg is one of a series of ring complexes of the Etendeka volcanic succession which intruded into the surrounding bedrock of the current Namib peneplain, composed of mica schists of the Damara sequence and sedimentary rocks of the Karoo sequence, at the breakup of western Gondwanaland into the African and South American continents more than 130 million years ago. The Brandberg itself is composed of a circular series of granitic intrusions which marks the remains of an enormous volcano which was reduced by a hundred million years of erosion following the establishment of the South Atlantic Ocean and uplift associated with the new continental margins. Ecologically the Brandberg lies in the transition zone between the Namib Desert and the Savannah regions of the central Namibian interior. Its close proximity to a coast with almost permanent high pressure conditions causes weather fronts, originating from the South Atlantic anticyclone, to sweep much further during the austral winter, resulting in the climatically unique occurrence of winter rainfall within the tropical zone on the high plateau of the Brandberg. As a result the site is endowed with a rich biological diversity which represent 40% o of the mammal and reptile species and 10% of plant species recorded from Namibia. The 480 vascular plant species include 7 species endemic to the Brandberg and another 100 species endemic to Namibia, while the fauna includes 82 species of mammals, 128 species of birds, 86 species of reptiles, 5 species of amphibians, at least 89 species of spiders, and more than 2000 species of insects. More than 50% of the mammal, reptile, and amphibian species are endemic to Namibia, while more than 200 endemic insect species have been recorded from the Brandberg alone. Endemic animal species to the Brandberg included a new order of insect to the world, as well as a new tribe of insect to Africa, which illustrates the ecological importance and uniqueness of the site. The Brandberg is a gazetted national monument with an area of more than 450 square kilometres. The local community still exploits the rich resources of the area and thus derives a living from it. Community participation in the managing of the site is in place as the local population organised themselves into a community based tourism project.