National History Museum

Rock Art Site Management

Rock Art site management - Tandjiesberg

Southern African rock art has long been seen as a part of our prehistory that is enjoyed by a select few. Recent attempts to disseminate insights gained from rock art research to as wide an audience as possible in a variety of media have seen some positive interest in rock art. Various rock art publications, be it academic or popular, have revealed that the interpretation and presentation of the art has clearly influenced public perception. This is evident in the demand for visits to rock art sites by learners and local and international travellers. We have welcomed this by continually striving to offer these visitors professionally managed and visually appealing rock art sites.

The Rock Art Department endeavours to convince all South Africans to take ownership of our heritage. Rock art should no longer be perceived as belonging only to ancient communities that are revered from a distance. The incorporation of rock art into South Africa's national coat of arms serves to strengthen the view that our ancient cultures are very much a part of our new nation. The knowledge held in the rock art is ours as this is our nation, not separate from the past, present or future. We are therefore responsible for the preservation of our heritage and we ask that all visitors, local and foreign, gracefully respect this.


All rock art is protected by the National Heritage Resources Act (No. 25 of 1999) published in Government Gazette 19974, volume 406, dated 28 April 1999.

National Heritage Resources Act

No 25, 1999

This legislation aims to promote good management of the national estate, and to enable and encourage communities to nurture and conserve their legacy so that it may be bequeathed to future generations. Our heritage is unique and precious and it cannot be renewed. It helps us to define our cultural identity and therefore lies at the heart of our spiritual well-being and has the power to build our nation. It has the potential to affirm our diverse cultures, and in so doing shape our national character.

The National Estate may include (b) ROCK ART, being any form of painting, engraving or other graphic representation on a fixed rock surface or loose rock or stone, which was executed by human agency and which is older than 100 years, including any area within 10m of such representation;

Rock art tourism

Cultural Tourism is a growing financial resource that if handled well, can be socially aware and culturally responsible. If handled badly this form of tourism becomes a disempowering form of cultural appropriation. Anyone wishing to allow public visitation to a rock art site, whether for financial gain or not, must ensure that they comply with the relevant legislation. Opening a rock art site should not be undertaken before you have received professional advice.

It is important to note that you are required by law to apply to the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA) before any site is opened for public visitation.


The Archaeologist
Head Office
South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA)
P.O. Box 4637
Cape Town

Tel:  +27 21 462 4502
Fax: +27 21 462 4509