Water Middlemen

Rock formation Roth Kroonkop Photo: Simone Brunton, Univ. of Cape Town
Rock formation Roth Kroonkop
Photo: Simone Brunton, Univ. of Cape Town

It’s only been three days since the heat of summer started in earnest here after a cold, wet spring and a long winter. And yet, I’m already scanning the skies for a welcome downpour.

When water is present, we either take it for granted or (as during this past soggy spring) we wish the skies would kindly stop dispensing. When it’s not there, it’s all we think about.

An ancient rain control tower known as Ratho Kroonkop (RKK) found in South Africa shows another facet of water anxiety. Farmers employed shamans from the San, an indigenous hunter-gatherer people of southern Africa, and the chiefs of the farmers groups would have been tasked with maintaining good relations with shamans in order to ensure rainfall.

Using tunnels accessible only to select shamans, water rituals and animal sacrifice were carried out atop the 1000-foot-high (300m) rock formations. The remains of over 30,000 animals were found at the base of the RKK site, which is located in a semi-arid region near Botswana and Zimbabwe.

It seems that when it comes to water, it’s not easy to avoid the necessity of the middleman, whether water company or shaman.

Rock paintings made by the San people in the Drakensberg mountains. Photograph: Alexander Joe/AFP
Rock paintings made by the San people in the Drakensberg mountains. Photograph: Alexander Joe/AFP

 

More:

LiveScience article – Shaman ‘Rainmaking’ Center Discovered in South Africa by Owen Jarus