In Twyfelfontein, red sandstone rocks perch precariously atop other rocks, looking as though they are ready to tumble at any moment and join the field of boulders below. Some have taken on shapes that are reminiscent of the sea and others that have been artfully carved and arranged by the elements look like transient public art sculptures.
The rock formations alone are captivating, but a closer look at the sandstone reveals a lot more — thousand of carvings and several paintings that depict humans, animals, and footprints. The rock art at Twyfelfontein dates back to the Stone Age when hunter-gatherers inhabited the area, and the oldest engravings could be up to 10,000 years old. It is believed that much of the art was part of shamanistic rituals and the Khoikhoi people who came after the hunter-gatherers also used the stones as game boards, for grinding, and as gongs in addition to adding to the artwork.
The name Twyfelfontein comes from a much later era when a European sheep farmer rediscovered a spring on the site and settled there in 1947. He had difficulty collecting enough water from the spring for his family and his herds and because of this, the area came to be known as Twyfelfontein which means “uncertain spring” in Afrikaans. As our guide showed us, the spring for which the site is named still exists, as well as the pump the sheep farmer used to extract it. The ruins of his residence also remain.
From the Stone Age to the 20th century, thousands of years of history converge at Twyfelfontein, embedded and etched into the stone: