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Information on doing a Masters degree in Rock Art Studies


This is a one year course offered in alternate years (2005, 2007, 2009 etc.); all courses commence in February. Applications should be received by 31st September in the year preceding registration. Late applications will be considered only if places are available. The Masters degrees and Diploma may be taken full-time over one year or part-time over two teaching years (three calendar years).

This degree can be taken as an MA and MSc or a Postgraduate Diploma. The Masters course comprises four components: three courses and a research report. The Diploma comprises only the coursework component.


Anthropological Theory and the Philosophy of Rock Art as Information:
How do we escape from the gaze-and-guess syndrome that has plagued rock art studies in many parts of the world? This series of seminars, spread over six months, addresses the problem through an examination of theory and method in Rock Art Studies. The course has a global focus, drawing on examples of the history and development of interpretative frameworks for rock art from around the world. We examine both informed and formal approaches to rock art interpretation and consider Anthropological as well as Art Historical theory. Issues relating to chronology challenge the application of all these approaches. An obsession with age often appears to hold back potential advances in our understanding of rock art, but how far can one
extend informed ethnographic approaches in the absence of knowledge about dating? The fineness of South African rock art and the beauty of its mountain setting draw visitors and researchers from around the world.

The Rock Art of Africa:
This course considers rock art interpretation as it is applied within Africa. The seminars, spread over six months, provide an overview of the principal rock art traditions of the continent. We examine the San art of southern Africa, the 'schematic rock art zone' of central Africa, the east African art in Tanzania that became famous through the work of Mary Leakey, and the celebrated art of Tassili and the surrounding area of the Sahara desert. The seminars will use the rock art of Africa to raise issues of debate that revolve around the recognition of style, sequence, composition, symbols and symbolism, the judging of relationships between figures, the application and relevance of ethnography, the role of gender, the rock surface as a context,
shamanism, vision experience, neuropsychology, polysemy, multivocality and art and agency. Those studying at the Rock Art Research Institute spend much time in the field learning and practising site survey and recording work.

Rock Art Management:
This course explores the intellectual as well as the practical challenges faced by those who manage rock art. The structure, seminars and field exercises spread over six months, centres on the development and implementation of a management plan for a single rock art site or a group of sites. Rock art management is not a simple administrative exercise but an emotive process fraught with value judgements and difficult compromises. For whom do we manage rock art? Is conservation the sole or even primary aim of management? Who has the right to deny/allow access to rock art sites? Should concerns about conservation take precedence over traditional cultural practices? Where do we draw the line between maximising protective physical
interventions, such as conservation measures, and minimising visual intrusions upon the site? How should we display a site to visitors and what information should we present? A section of the course focuses on the more technical aspects to rock art management such as the methods of
recording and documenting rock art, the conservation measures that are available to arrest natural destructive processes and the measures that have proven effective in the control of human agency.

Course Structure
The Masters degree is a combination of coursework (50%) and research (50%). The Diploma comprises coursework and field training only. All candidates are required to sit three courses (candidates can elect to sit a fourth course for an additional fee). Two of the courses must be chosen from those offered in Rock Art Studies. The others may be in Rock Art Studies or may be chosen from a wide range of courses in the field of Heritage Studies, or from a wide range of other available courses. Candidates sitting the Masters degrees, in addition to coursework, will complete a research report. This report may relate to any subject in the field of Rock Art Studies, provided that it is accepted by the course convenor. The research report has a minimum length of
20,000 words and a maximum length of 30,000 words.

Candidates should possess an honours-level degree and have achieved at least 65% in their final year of study. The course is particularly suitable for candidates with degrees in Archaeology and other Earth Sciences, Anthropology, Art History or History, but those with degrees in Chemistry,
Religious Studies, Sociology, Philosophy, Fine Art and related subjects are also encouraged to apply.

The University of the Witwatersrand offers generous scholarships for candidates with good transcripts.


Contact Dr David Pearce
Rock Art Research Institute
University of the Witwatersrand
Private Bag 3
Wits 2050
South Africa
Tel: ( 27) 11 717 6062
Fax: ( 27) 11 339 1620,