Mwela Rock Art

Reading this Week:

  • Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • The Lost World by Michael Crichton

We are in Kasama this week for some Peace Corps meetings, and we decided to take advantage of the time to see the Mwela Rock Art.

The Mwela Rock Art site is right outside the town of Kasama, and very walkable from most of it. Since we work here, we get in on the Zambia local rate of only 8 kwachaa, instead of $15 USD, which is quite a savings. The site is fairly gorgeous. It is in a series of rocky outcroppings that rise out of the surrounding plains in a weird kind of incongruous manner. It is easy to see why more primitive man would be attracted to the sites. Most of the outcroppings are easy to climb, it is is great to go to the top of the rocks and look out over the plains. You can see for miles into the rolling hills.

The man at the front entrance who takes the entry fee also acts as the tourguide. These men were extremely knowledgeable about the site and were great hosts. We initially tried to just find the art ourselves but this was not a good move. A lot of the art is hidden and not very noticeable, as you might expect after 10,000 years out in the weather. Once you know what you are looking for it is a bit easier. The paintings split into two categories – naturalistic and geometric. The naturalistic paintings were of local animals and birds and warthogs featured prominently. The geometric paintings consist of lines, and the guides told us the current conjecture is that these represented them counting the various types of animals that came through as a record for “collegues” to know about the game in the area.

We were also shown caves where the people who lived here slept, and it was obvious several were still used for that purpose occasionally. You can camp at the site for an extra fee, which is an idea I think would be cool just to carry on a millenia old tradition in that location. In a less awesome take on tradition though, the park was also covered in more modern grafitti, some of it over the ancient rock art itself. Zambia is doing a lot these days to protect its heritage and it is depressing to see some people not onboard with that message. But I highly recommend a visit to the caves to see the rock art and enjoy the views and weather. It is a place I will be going to again.