‘Geometric’ motifs in rock art — so-called because they superficially resemble certain mathematical shapes — are globally widespread and likely have different meanings. Southern African researchers have described these motifs variously as ‘abstract’, ‘non-representational’, or ‘entoptic phenomena’. Research at the Gestoptefontein-Driekuil Complex (GDC), a cluster of rock art sites in South Africa’s North West Province, suggests, however, that certain ‘geometric’ motifs depict recognisable, tangible and significant objects. I use Leonard Schultze’s term Khoe-San (originally Khoi-San) to refer to the speakers of languages in the Khoe- Kwadi, Ju|’hoasi and Tuu language families whose ethnographic accounts and objects I study. I identify motifs that have been scratched and hammered into the rock as designs, patterns, and items of personal adornment, including headbands and hair attachments. These occur on the same rock surfaces as motifs of clothing (especially aprons) and anthropomorphic and zoomorphic depictions. The images of designs, decorations and ornaments can be associated with initiation-related ceremonies that may have been performed at the GDC. Although I do not claim that all geometric-looking motifs depict some ‘thing’, the interpretation of certain geometric motifs as depictions of material objects and designs made on these can fruitfully be extended to many other rock engraving sites in southern Africa.
Much of Lesotho’s cultural heritage has been studied as a result of dam developments. Where dams have been built, heritage studies have provided crucial data for improving our understanding of local archaeological sequences. Ahead of the construction of the Lesotho Highland Development Authority’s (LHDA) new Polihali Dam in Lesotho’s Mokhotlong District and following the recommendations of a heritage assessment (CES 2014), a large-scale five-year cultural heritage management program was launched in 2018 that seeks to excavate and mitigate a number of heritage sites. Here, we provide the background to one of southern Africa’s largest heritage mitigation contracts by contextualising the current research program. We then present the archaeology of Lesotho’s eastern highlands basalt region using data collected during the inception phase of this program. The findings challenge current preconceived notions about the sparsity of archaeological remains for this region.