David Lewis-Williams ‘Spiritual Interpretation’ of San Rock Art

Professor James David Lewis-Williams is one of the most prominent theorists concerning the meaning of San Rock Art. The Autumn edition of the Berg Times summarized the outstanding work of Alexander Robert Willcox’s ‘realistic perspective’ in interpreting San Rock Art. David Lewis-Williams offers a different view for such interpretations. He bases his view on his ethnographic research of the San and his understanding of their religious beliefs.

He believes that much of their frescos reflect or are symbols of their belief in anthropomorphism. Prof Lewis-Williams believes that San Rock Art Sites are essential spiritual places for the San and served as ‘gateways’ to their spiritual realm.

David Lewis-Williams founded the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of Witwatersrand. He was a director of this agency. He is currently a professor emeritus of cognitive archaeology at this university. The National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa recognises him as a leading international researcher.

Key publications:

Some of David Lewis-William’s most important works include:

The enigma of Palaeolithic cave art;
The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness And The Origins Of Art;
A cosmos in stone: interpreting religion and society through rock art;
Stories that float from afar: further specimens of 19th Century Bushman folklore;
Images of Mystery: Rock Art of the Drakensberg; and
Consciousness, Intelligence and Art: A view of the West European Upper Palaeolithic Transition.