South Africa is covered in stunning rock art. Most of this art was made by Khoisan communities and it includes engravings found on the boulders in the interior parts of the country and paintings found in the shelters on the mountains that fringe the interior plateau. The rock paintings in these shelters are incredibly sophisticated; they are small and have complex shading. They are also often superimposed in many layers,made over many years—sometimes centuries.These qualities make it very difficult to record the imagery. The standard practice over the last three decades has been to photograph the images and to make a direct tracing of the panels. Tracing is a laborious affair and requires significant training and experience for proficiency.
New digital techniques allow for images to be enhanced and for some invisible images to be made visible again. Developments in digital photogrammetry have also allowed for the accurate stitching of multiple two-dimensional photos into an accurate three-dimensional model of rock art shelter walls. In the Department of Human Sciences (DHS) at KZNM, two scholars are working on different projects related to digital photogrammetry and rock art. Dr Justine Wintjes is looking at how to reconstruct rock art panels that were destroyed through the removal of sections—some of which are now housed in the KZNM—by digitally integrating removed sections with the material that remains at the site. Angela Ferreira, a volunteer at the museum, is working on how to produce digital tracings from three-dimensional renderings of rock shelters. Both these projects hold the potential to revolutionise the recording of South African rock paintings.