Association of Southern African Archaeologists biennial conference, Botswana

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Aron Mazel attended the biennial conference of the Association of Southern African Archaeologists (ASAPA) that took place at the University of Botswana, in Gaborone, between 3 and 7 July 2013. It was Aron’s first ASAPA conference since 2000. The conference covered a range of archaeological topics from the Early Stone Age over a million years ago to the building of bridges in the industrial era. Aron did two presentations:   (i) ‘It’s about time: reflections on recent papers about Didima rock art and the construction of hunter-gatherer history in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg’ and (ii) ‘Politics, Education and Archaeology: a personal reflection on the period between 1979-1994.’ The first paper was a continuation of research he has been doing over an extended period which (i) investigated the reluctance of rock art specialists to engage with information generated from the excavation of rock art shelters and surface collections in addressing hunter-gatherer history and (ii) continued with the process of integrating information from rock art studies with excavation research work done in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg to construct a richer hunter-gatherer history. The second paper reflected on the author’s experiences of archaeology in South Africa between 1979 when he joined the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, and 1994 when South Africa voted in its first democratic government. He used his experiences (and that of colleagues) to challenge the comments made by Shepherd (2003) that: ‘The defining characteristic of archaeology under apartheid was the growing separation between archaeology and society.’

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First CARE project focus group held

At the end of June the “Heritage and Science: Working Together in the CARE of Rock Art” project held its first focus group for rock art enthusiasts.

The event involved 16 rock art enthusiasts who, along with the project team, visited the rock art at Lordenshaw so that they could test out the draft tool kit, which is one of the key deliverables of the project. A discussion was then held in Rothbury to gain feedback on possible improvements and changes to the tool kit.

There was a significant interest in the event, which was oversubscribed. Participants’ feedback suggested that they all really enjoyed the day and indeed one sent a letter afterwards suggesting “the event was a five star rating”!

the focus group tests out the draft tool kit on Lordenshaw main rock

the focus group tests out the draft tool kit on Lordenshaw main rock

discussion on improvements to the tool kit in Rothbury

discussion on improvements to the tool kit in Rothbury

The feedback on the tool kit is vital as part of project aim to co-produce its resources with the assistance of rock art enthusiasts, heritage professionals, non-specialists and end-users. The end product will help protect open-air rock art by creating a means for anyone to quickly evaluate the condition of rock art based on scientific research into potential risks to the stone.