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103 5 Testimony of the rocks: A ‘cave journey’, 1928–1932 The caves are so crowded with pictures that the student or copyist does not know where to begin. Superpositions are innumerable, five or six layers can be deciphered in places...Not one or two generations only have worked here, but many generations have used these spots for artistic purposes.1 It was not until the late 1920s that Dorothea once again turned her full attention to rock art. Sandwiched between the trips to Angola in 1925 and Tanganyika in 1930 was the three-month ‘cave journey’ she took to sites recorded years earlier by Stow. The expedition, which culminated in her 1930 edited book of Stow’s copies as well as a lecture delivered to the South African Association for the Advancement of Science (SAAAS) in 1932, provided evidence to confirm views she had already expressed in her 1909 collaborative book with Helen Tongue. This chapter discusses continuities in Dorothea’s thinking about rock art and locates her arguments within broader intellectual currents of the time. It suggests that her negative feelings about modernity may have influenced how she structured her research of sites, and the ways in which she responded to debates about the authorship and meaning of rock art. It draws on her introduction and notes in Rock Paintings in South Africa from Parts of the Eastern Province and Orange Free State, and on the published version of her presidential address to the SAAAS meeting in 1932. Titled ‘A Survey of Our Present Knowledge of Rockpaintings in South Africa’, the lecture presented a synthesis of Dorothea’s rock art scholarship up to that point, and delivered her findings regarding authorship, age and meaning of the art, assertions that were sometimes at odds with the ideas of other specialists of the day. These two public Book 1.indb 103 10/12/15 10:57 AM D O R O T H E A B L E E K 104 texts are analysed alongside her field notebooks, her private correspondence and other writings dealing with rock art. All are situated within the wider thinking around archaeology and prehistory, and provide a texture of Dorothea’s interactions with the internationally known prehistorians who passed through Cape Town during the 1920s. Dorothea’s renewed interest in rock art late in the 1920s was no mere coincidence, but a response to the intellectual climate. The Abbé Henri Breuil, Miles Burkitt and Leo Frobenius were the prehistorians who travelled with their expeditions through Cape Town.At the time, Dorothea was immersed in integrating the results of her fieldwork with her collection of Stow’s copies, and preparing these for publication.2 She located her research in a context in which ‘new finds’ of rock art sites were being reported every year, asserting that rock paintings, while not evenly distributed through the country, were nevertheless located ‘wherever suitable caves and rock shelters occur in South Africa’.3 As with bushman language and culture, Dorothea’s aim was to produce a comprehensive record of the country’s rock art, which she thought was ‘fading before our eyes’.4 A yellowed and fragile clipping from The Friend of Bloemfontein, with the date 28 September 1920 noted in Dorothea’s black ink at the top, records that she staged an exhibition of Stow’s rock art copies at the Bloemfontein Museum that year.5 According to the clipping, this ‘remarkable collection of copies of Bushman paintings’ had never been displayed before, and it drew a record number of visitors to the museum. Dorothea, or ‘Doris’, as she is referred to in the report, delivered an accompanying lecture that The Friend carried in full in two instalments on 28 and 29 September 1920.6 These reports reveal how Dorothea, as she had in the notes co-written for Helen’s book, again relied on nostalgic recollections about the‘colonial’ bushmen from her childhood. This situation would change substantially just a few years later. By the end of 1928 she had completed extensive research of rock art sites and would draw on this fieldwork to back up the statements she made thereafter. By late 1928, following on her language work at Sandfontein (where tracings in the Iziko South African Museum collection show that she visited and recorded several engravings at BabiBabi; see Figures 5.1 and 5.2), Angola and Tanganyika, she had completed what she could of the demanding task of tracking down as many as possible of...


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