On the Trail of Pre-Historic Man

Location: Cologne, Germany
Address Neues Seminargebäude, Tagungsraum on the Ground Floor, Albertus-Magnus-Platz

On the Trail of Pre-Historic Man Press Conference on “Tracking in Caves” Project to be held by the Academics and Namibian San Trackers

The “Tracking in Caves” team, which comprises both academics and trackers, will be reporting at a press conference on their discoveries in the Ice Age caves of Ariège in the South of France. The expedition first went to Namibia over a month ago to prepare for the project with three San trackers. Since the beginning of the month, the experienced trackers Tsamkxao Cigae, C/wi /Kunta and C/wi G/aqo De!u have been unravelling the mysteries of the history of the hand and footprints on the cave floors. Now the academics and trackers will be presenting their findings at a press conference. The University of Cologne and the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann cordially invite all interested parties to the press conference at 11 am on the 17th of Jul, 2013. The Khoisan language of the trackers will be translated into English by Tsamkxao Cigae.
Dr. Tilman Lenssen-Erz from the Forschungsstelle Afrika of the University of Cologne and Dr. Andreas Pastoors from Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann are in charge of the project. The academics are cave and rock art experts. Tsamkxao Cigae works as a tracker in the Tsumkwe Country Lodge, lives in Tsumkwe; speaks good English and will act as interpreter. C/wi /Kunta works as a tracker for a professional hunter, lives in //xa/oba, a village 20 km north of Tsumkwe, which is also a “Living Hunters Museum” where the San people’s contemporary and traditional living modes are exhibited. C/wi G/aqo De!u works as a tracker for hunting teams and lives in a village ca. 20 km south-south west of Tsumkwe.

The backdrop to the project is the good condition of some of the tracks. A series of caves in the Pyrenees contain foot and hand prints that are up to 17,000 years old. These remnants of our ancestors have not been examined in much detail yet. A team of archaeologists from the University of Cologne and the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann have put together a group of specialists to this end: San hunters from Namibia.

The hunters are excellent trackers who can read information from tracks that escape others. “The San people belong to the last ‘trained’ hunters and gatherers of southern Africa,” explains Tilman Lenssen-Erz. “The tracks in the caves are being examined by people who really know something about them.” The academics are comparing thereby the methods of the trackers to scientific empiricism. “It is an early from of academic work. A hypothesis is worked out and the facts are examined. There is therefore a scientific process involved.”  

This area of research has been a little neglected. Scholars of pre-history have recorded the location and size of the tracks. However, Andreas Pastoors would like more than this: “We hope to gain additional information: e.g. whether the person was in a rush, or maybe ill or carrying something.  More information that will give life to the tracks.” The idea behind this is to gain a better understanding of the cultural life of prehistoric man: “Our biggest job is to interpret cave art and to find out what the people did with these cave paintings. We have to gather all information about the context of these images.”

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