Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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San “Rain Control” in South Africa

Friday, May 31, 2013

ratho-kroonkop-site(Simone Brunton)RATHO KROONKOP, SOUTH AFRICA—The remains of more than 30,000 animals have been found in a naturally formed “rock tank,” a depression in the rock on top of the 1,000-foot-tall hill known as Ratho Kroonkop. Simone Brunton of the University of Cape Town says that the site was used over a long period by San shaman for rain-making rituals. “The shaman or ritual specialist was usually the only one directly involved with the actual doing of the rituals. It would have been strictly forbidden for normal folks to go near the site,” she explained. Ethnographic studies indicate that the animals may have been sacrificed for their fat, believed to have a supernatural potency that would empower the shaman to make the request for rain. Bones from rhinoceros legs, bush pigs, and eland support this idea. A termite mound in the rock tank has complicated the dating process, but rock art at the base of the hill could help determine how long the site was in use.