In both Scotland and South Africa, as well as worldwide, the potential of rock art to create wider societal benefits has not been fully realised. Critically, rock art is under threat everywhere, from natural erosive forces and climate driven change as well as intensification in mineral extraction and infrastructure development work and vandalism. We are in danger of losing the resource before we have had a chance to harness its potential. Local capacity in South Africa to undertake such activity is limited and urgently needs enhancing through investment in research-based training and public engagement.

The RASSA (Rock Art Scotland and South Africa) project examines:

  • how South African communities perceive, understand and interact with rock art locations
  • government approaches to conserving rock art and the role of the community in this work
  • how effective management of rock art locations can enhance national and international tourist activity
  • methods of community-led recording of rock art using innovative but low-cost digital approaches
  • effective ways of archiving digital rock art data in a Global South context

RASSA is a research collaboration between the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Edinburgh. It brings together the expertise of two world-leading rock art initiatives – Scotland’s Rock Art Project (ScRAP) and the Rock Art Research Institute (RARI). The approach taken in this pilot project is intended to stimulate effective change in the way that local community groups view and value their own heritage, how they can present rock art sites to visitors, and how this activity can create economic and social opportunities.

The pilot phase of the project in 2021 is focused on two main objectives:

  • rock art survey and recording with community groups in South Africa (including the initial training of community rock art custodians/technicians)
  • the creation of a community stewardship template for rock art sites in South Africa

This project was funded by the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) – The University of Edinburgh (UoE) Seed Fund