David Lewis-Williams demonstrates how the San peoples used rock art images to sustain complex social relations and status.
"Ethnographic evidence, together with the images themselves, shows that the imagery is not an easily intelligible record of every-day events, as modern viewers tend automatically to assume if they cannot find painted elements that are patently non-real. Many of the images are set outside of time in another existential realm, one of which ritual specialists had inside knowledge and about which they generally spoke freely, as San ethnography shows. That conclusion leads onto the ways in which the acquisition and dissemination of spiritual knowledge involved the participation of numerous people, not just the image-makers themselves. It becomes clear that relations between images refer, sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely, to relations between people. This is a central point, In manipulating imagery, the painters were simultaneously defining and manipulating social relations." from the introduction
David Lewis-Williams is Professor Emeritus in the University of the Witwatersrand, where he founded the Rock Art Research Institute in 1980. His books include San Spirituality: roots, expressions and social consequences, Myth and Meaning: San-Bushman folklore in global context and The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art.