Matsieng Footprints – Kgatleng, Botswana - Atlas Obscura

Matsieng Footprints

Kgatleng, Botswana

Local legend has it that the first humans were created in the pools here, leaving their footprints behind in the rock. 


The creation story told among the peoples of what is now southeastern Botswana involves a great hunter named Matsieng. Some versions say he was a one-legged giant; other versions say he had two legs. All versions, though, describe how he emerged one day from a waterhole, followed by his animals and then by his people, and strode off with them across the wet earth to settle the surrounding lands.

The Matsieng Footprints are a petroglyphic record of this cultural tradition. The footprints are located on a flat expanse of sandstone with several large natural holes that act as excellent basins for collecting rainwater. Thus, humans have been visiting the site frequently for millennia to fill vessels or water their livestock. Over time, the soft sandstone has accrued a collection of some 170 carvings depicting human feet (gigantic and non-gigantic alike) as well as animal feet (frequently feline) and animals in profile (such as giraffes).

These petroglyphs dating from 3,000 to 10,000 years agorepresent the impressions Matsieng and company left on the soft, unformed early earth as the emerged from the waterholes, designating the place as a creation site in local folklore.

Many of the carvings have been worn down by exposure to the elements and regular watering of livestock, which was only recently discontinued. It remains an important ritual site, particularly for conducting rain-making ceremonies.

Know Before You Go

The site is a 30-minute drive from downtown Gaborone north on A1, about 10 km past the village of Rasesa. A new road sign, immediately after Rasesa, marks the site, and you need to drive a short distance on dirt roads to find it.

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