Called the “Louvre of the Desert”, the Tsodilo Hills are home to one of the highest collections of rock art in the world.  The almost 500 sites containing 4,500 paintings are found in a small area of only 10 km2in four quartzite rock formations rising out of the sand dunes of the Kalahari Desert.  Preservation of the area, which provides a chronological account of human activities and environmental developments over the past 100,000 years, is attributed to its remoteness, the low population density, and a lack of erosion of the rock. 


The original inhabitants of the area were the San people, who were most likely responsible for the red finger paintings in the first millennium.  Many depict isolated figures and more than half show wild and domestic animals. Often they are outlined by geometric patterns.  In addition to the art, pottery, iron, glass beads, shell beads and carved bone and stone tools have been found, and over 20 mines have been excavated that extracted specularite, which was used as a cosmetic.


Local inhabitants consider Tsodilo a sacred, mystical place of worship containing ancestral spirits.  The largest rock is referred to as the “Male”, the smaller one the “Female”, and the smallest one the “Child”.  The fourth hill is known as the Male hill’s first wife.  The hills are believed to be a resting place for the spirits of the deceased, and their gods are thought to live in and rule the world from the Female hill.   Preservation of the site is aided by the belief that the gods will cause bad luck if anyone hunts or causes death near the hills.




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