Mwela Rock Art Paintings – Kasama, Zambia - Atlas Obscura

Mwela Rock Art Paintings

One of the largest concentrations of rock paintings in Southern Africa. 


Head to the outskirts of Kasama, and you’ll find a series of rock outcroppings containing hundreds of paintings from Stone Age communities. It’s one of the largest collections of such paintings in all of Southern Africa.

The rock outcroppings, which dominate the local landscape, contain numerous caves and were a natural gathering point for both animals and ancient humans. The majority of the paintings there are attributed to the Batwa.

The paintings at the site, which covers an area of about 40 square miles, fall into two distinct categories. Some have a geometric or schematic style, while others follow a more realistic animal tradition. The geometric paintings include dots and lines arranged in squares, grids, circles, and ladders. Animals depicted in the paintings include elephants, elands, lions, bush pigs, and praying mantis. The paintings are thought to have either been guides to the animals that people hunted or used for ceremonies such as weather divination.

Nearby archaeological digs have discovered Stone Age tools. These artifacts include blades, bored stones, dimpled anvils, grindstones, axes, and microliths. These tools, along with the rock painting, show that the area around modern Kasama has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years.

Know Before You Go

The site is located along the tarmac of the Mungwi road, heading east out of Kasama. Signs will point the way to the entrance. The site is open during daylight hours throughout the year, and a caretaker is present to collect the entry fee and provide a guided tour of the area. Many of the paintings are hidden or faint, so the guide is invaluable is spotting the paintings and providing a history of the area. Parking is available at the entrance.

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September 18, 2018

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