The spectacular Drakensberg Mountains took their place on the international stage with the proclaiming of the 243 000 hectare Drakensberg Park in December 2002 as a World Heritage Site, significantly meeting the criteria for both cultural and natural properties. This makes it one of 22 sites in the entire world – a truly great achievement. The Amphitheatre is the icon of this achievement.
International recognition was granted in acknowledgement of the areas unique richness of biological diversity, its endemic and endangered species, its natural beauty and its masterpieces of human creative genius in the form of Bushman rock paintings – the Worlds greatest collection of rock art.
The area is home to a total of 2153 species of plants and 298 species of birds with a large number being endemic. There are 48 species of mammals to be found.
The predecessors of the Bushman were here over one million years ago, but it is not much more than 100 years since the last Bushman was seen in the region. They left behind a legacy as precious as any of the great collections of the famous art galleries.
Little is known of these Stone Age people. Archaeological evidence suggests that the region has been densely populated, since around 5000BC by the predecessors of the Bushman living in caves and shelters. Many years later the discovery of the bow and arrow facilitated their hunting way of life and most probably it was at this time that they started creating their art galleries as well as developing their unique cultural and spiritual beliefs. Some time after the eleventh century AD, the influx of African people from the North heralded the introduction of the Iron Age to the region.
In time the Bushman people moved out of the plains and settled in the lower reaches of the Drakensberg. However, in the early 1800s there was a series of invasions by powerful leaders, Matiwane, Shaka and Dingane, followed by occupation of the land by white settlers. This created pressure on resources and the Bushman people began hunting farmed livestock, leading inevitably to their being eradicated from the region.
Until their demise the Bushman people of the Drakensberg continued to live in caves and overhangs. The men hunted with bone or stone tipped poison arrows, while the women collected wild fruits and roots. Using earth colours and primitive tools, they adorned the walls of their caves with scenes that included trance dancing, ceremonies, hunts, animals such as lion, eland and leopard, tribal wars and battles and supernatural creatures. A classic battle between two Bushman tribes can be seen at the Lone Rock on the Cavern nature reserve.