Tracking the Trackers

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Stone Age hunter-gatherers who lived thousands of years ago in what is now Namibia put a lot of detail into their rock art and engravings.

Case in point, engravings found in Doro Nawas Mountains in the west include depictions of a variety of subjects, particularly animal tracks and human footprints.

The remarkable aspect of these engravings is their level of detail, which has allowed modern Indigenous trackers to not only identify the species of animals but also make educated guesses about their age and gender, Newsweek reported.

For their study, scientists cooperated with modern-day Indigenous tracking experts from the Kalahari Desert to thoroughly analyze the ancient artworks. Researchers showed the trackers a total of 513 engravings, a majority them of consisting of tracks and prints.

Their findings not only revealed the meticulous detail ancient artists employed, but also the pivotal role of traditional Indigenous knowledge.

The trackers were able to decipher more than 90 percent of the engravings and precisely describe the species depicted, including its age, gender and leg used.

This analysis also sheds light on the preferences of the ancient artists, such as their choice of certain animal species and their preference for adult animals over juveniles.

However, the true meanings and contexts of these engravings remain enigmatic. The team acknowledged that the symbolism and cultural significance of these prehistoric artworks are not easily decrypted.

Even so, they emphasized the importance of involving Indigenous knowledge in archaeological research, recognizing their capacity to significantly advance our understanding of ancient cultures and their practices.

“In the future, it will be difficult not to involve track experts in the study of Stone Age track depictions,” said co-author Andreas Pastoors.

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