A conservation model for rock art in South Africa: a management perspective

Katsetse, Elijah Dumisani
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A call for a more systematic approach to site protection and management has long been made for rock art conservation in South Africa. This study heeds the call as it aims to develop a conservation model for rock art in South Africa from a management perspective. Site protection and management principles that have been successfully implemented in Australia and America have seldom been implemented in South Africa. Conservation researchers argue that it is relatively easy to identify theoretically the requirements of a management or conservation policy; however, developing a conservation model and policy that will successfully maximize the conservation opportunities is an abstract task. As such building a conservation model founded on abstract concepts on conservation would not lead to an improved conservation practice and would be unsuccessful. In world heritage systems there are, however, essential agreed upon principles on assessment, criteria, guidelines, standards, and implementation. Such systems therefore, underscore that the problem is perhaps not with theory but with conservation practice in South Africa. This study presents new and original research on rock art conservation interventions assessment on rock art. As a point of departure this study investigated the history of conservation practice in South Africa using a conservation assessment model developed by Kathleen Dardes (1998) for museums in America. The history on conservation practice has identified inconsistencies in the management of conservation treatments and approaches to interventions. Conservation interventions are still based on inductive, emergency salvage approaches with no thorough understanding of either site or environmental conditions in South Africa. There is little attention paid to indigenous sensitivities with conservation practices and there are no standard systems of monitoring and reporting. While far more data is required to provide definitive conservation strategies, this study proposes a three step conservation model for rock art in South Africa from a management perspective. This model focuses on initiating, planning and controlling conservation projects.
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science. October 2015.