archetype Archetype in rock art art

Churn of re-creation also in African rock art

The iconic surreal churn of life and spirit, or interchange between matter and energy, is recognised in Indian art and myth as a milky ocean of soma related to a former spring equinox (Furter 2014). This motif also appears in some inspired rock art worldwide, as in this rock painting in Nanke shelter in Zimbabwe. The infinity wimple here expresses the same meaning, as a totality of responses to external pressures, named ‘panarchical discourse’ in history (Gunderson et al 2009), or ‘phase transit’ in chaos theory 3D graphs. Nanke was one of a set of traditional oracles, on par with Bronze Age and classical Greek, Egyptian and other sites. In addition to semi-conscious icons and visions, all complex rock art works also express archetypal structure (see the rock art analysis below).

Roman spiritual centres such as the oracle of the dead at Baia, in the volcanic Bay of Naples near Rome, also had paintings at their entrances; likewise destroyed (Paget 1967; Robert Temple 2003) to re-appropriate spiritual authority. This post demonstrates that one of the many unschooled surrealist rock paintings in the Matobo range, express the same archetypal features as all complex artworks in all cultures.

The dominant general theme in this Nanke shelter rock painting is type 15 Maker, typical of ropes (named ‘rope of the sky’ in San myth and in rock art), churn (here the central character), or re-creation (here nature, animals and people). Another general theme here is the adjacent type 15g, of limb-joints, here part of the ‘churn’ motif (see the introduction above). Another general theme in the work is type 10 Teacher, typical of raised arms, staff, hunt master, ecology, or school.

One of many example of archetypal structure in rock art (Zimbabwe, Matobo range, Nanke Cave. After Parry 2012. Type labels and axial grid after E Furter 2014, 2019).

Type label; Characters in the Nanke cave ‘churn’ painting (noting archetypal features):

1 Builder; Shoulder-head of rope-man churn (twisted), leaning on staffs (trance, of 8 opposite).

2 Builder; Rope-man churn (twisted) (NO EYE).

2c Basket; Shoulder-head rear, ropes (weave). C-types are usually off the grid.

3 Queen; Ostrich (long neck).

4 King; Antelope cow?, with young.

5a Priest; Antelope running (active).

5b Priest; Bowman spanning (active).

5b Priest B; Priest? (ritual?), axis on his chest (heart, of 13 opposite) and three with beams (horizontal).

6 Exile; Antelope (horned). And swimmer (ingress).

7 Child; Swimmer or walker.

7g Galactic Centre; Swimmer, arms up (limb-joints?), staff (of 10). Some apparently interrupted artworks indicate that visual expression spirals out as bags or limbs (named ‘formlings’ in archaeology) from this junction.

8 Healer; Swimmer in churn centre (strong?), at rope-man’s legs (pillars).

9 Healer; Swimmer? (NO EYE).

9c Basket-Lid; Fish pool churn wave (weave, lid).

10 Teacher; Swimmer (arms up?).

11 Womb; Pregnant womb (womb).

12 Heart; Runner?

13 Heart; Lion (felid), axis on chest (heart, confirmed by 15-14-13 flat outline).

14 Mixer; Dancer (dance), arms up, staff (of 10).

15 Maker; Antelope between two ropes (rope).

15g Galactic Gate; Antelope rump (limb joint).

Axial centre; Unmarked as usual.

4p Galactic S. Pole; Small bowman’s feet? (limb-joint?).

11p Galactic Pole; Bender’s shoulder (limb-joint).

Midsummer (cp); Churn’s front elbow (limb joint), on axis 14-15, implying spring and the cultural time-frame as Age Aries-Pisces, probably the perceived era of cultural formation. But midwinter (csp) could be on the churn’s hip (limb joint), on the axis 5, implying spring and the cultural time-frame as Age Taurus, typical of alchemical works in all cultures, and supported by the centrality and prominence of types 1 and 2. Structuralist time-frames are widely approximate, not exact in conscious terms.

Vishnu churn after the Mahabharata (tracing after De Santillana 1969. Type labels and axial grid after Furter 2014). Ropes, churn, canids and doubling express the general theme of types 15 and 15g, re-creation and incarnation.
  • See the stoneprint structuralist anthropology model, theoretical basis, data sources, examples in several media, conclusion, and references, in the paper Blueprint, in a post on