eCRAG, the eastern Cederberg Rock Art Group, is a voluntary group of members of the Western Cape Branch of the South African Archaeological Society (ArchSoc). The aim of eCRAG is to locate and document rock art sites in the eastern Cederberg and to make the information available for management and research. The organisation was established in 2007 by Dr Janette Deacon, one of South Africa’s most renowned archaeologists, and Simon Liell-Cock, a member of ArchSoc and an avid rock art enthusiast.
Simon has a personal connection to the eastern Cederberg and has spent much of his time exploring the area for the last 20 years. Prior to the formation of eCRAG, only a handful of sites had ever been surveyed in the eastern Cederberg as most of the research work had been carried out around the Clanwilliam and Pakhuis areas. Janette was very familiar with the various stakeholders of the Cederberg, in particular with CapeNature, as she had completed the Cederberg Wilderness Management Plan in 1991 with Stephen Townley-Bassett. At the outset, eCRAG therefore had a very clear research agenda as well as providing a fun and meaningful way for members of ArchSoc to experience rock art and other heritage sites first hand in the field.
eCRAG is now in its 9th year and will be celebrating 10 years of surveying in 2016. They have accumulated over 1000 site recordings, primarily of rock art, Stone Age artefacts, vernacular ruins and some historical graveyards. They have made an enormous contribution, particularly when one compares their work to other efforts in the past. eCRAG has recorded over 700 rock art sites – this is 200 more than the Johnson, Rabinowitz and Seeff collection which spanned over 20 years. This site tally also compares favourably with the department of Archaeology at the University of Cape Town which managed to log 2000 rock art sites between the mid 1960s and 2000.
What is perhaps even more impressive is the scale and quality of the work that has been undertaken thus far. All the data has been digitally recorded with tens of thousands of images, full and detailed site recordings and accurately mapped and moderated GPS recordings. The data has also been uploaded to the national heritage management system, SAHRIS, so that the various researchers, owners and stakeholders are able to access this work online. Furthermore, a comprehensive Heritage Management Plan focusing on rock art and other archaeological sites has been written for each major landowner. So far the group has managed to write no less than 9 management plans – all of this has been done free of charge.
Johan van der Westhuizen
Bakkrans Nature Reserve