Twyfelfontein Adventure Tours

Twyfelfontein is a site of ancient rock engravings in the Kunene Region of north-western Namibia. It consists of a spring in a valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain that receives very little rainfall and has a wide range of diurnal temperatures. The site has been inhabited for 6,000 years, first by hunter-gatherers and later by Khoikhoi herders. Both ethnic groups used it as a place of worship and a site to conduct shamanist rituals. In the process of these rituals at least 2,500 items of rock carvings have been created, as well as a few rock paintings. Displaying one of the largest concentrations of rock petroglyphs in Africa, UNESCO approved Twyfelfontein as Namibia’s first World Heritage Site in 2007. On 15 Aug 1952 the area was declared a National Monument by the South-West African administration. Despite its early recognition, the site was left unguarded until 1986 when the entire area was declared a nature reserve. As a result, many of the petroglyphs were damaged or removed. Additionally, visitors have left their own graffiti on the sandstone slabs.

Under Namibian legislation, the site is protected under Section 54 of the National Heritage Act. In 2007, UNESCO approved Twyfelfontein as Namibia’s first World Heritage Site as one of the largest concentrations of rock petroglyphs in Africa. The organization recognized “a coherent, extensive and high-quality record of ritual practices relating to hunter-gather communities […] over at least two millennia”, and “links between ritual and economic practices in the apparent sacred association of the land adjacent to an aquifer” according to criterion V of the cultural selection criteria.

To achieve having the site listed by UNESCO, the government of Namibia defined a buffer zone of 91.9 km2 (35.5 sq mi) to protect the visual setting. In the 0.6 km2 (0.2 sq mi) core site, grazing is restricted and the establishment of tourism facilities is prohibited. Although Twyfelfontein is regarded as “generally intact”, the Twyfelfontein Country Lodge within the “Zeremonienplatz” (Place of Ceremonies) rock engraving site in the buffer zone is of concern to UNESCO, who stated, “This has severely compromised the integrity of the rock engravings in this area.” The hiking trail allowed visitors unsupervised access and is seen as running too close to many of the rock-art sites. Site management has, however, improved since applying for World Heritage status, particularly with regards to visitor management; unsupervised hiking is no longer allowed.

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