The oldest record of honey collecting dates back to 8,000-10,000 years ago. Cave drawing depicting a person climbing a rope ladder on the edge of a cliff and collecting honey from a dangerous bee nest.

February 26, 2024

The area between Singida and the Irangi Hills contains one of the world’s finest collections of prehistoric rock paintings, with an estimated 1600 individual paintings at almost two hundred different sites, the most accessible of which are in the Irangi Hills north of Kondoa. The most recent date from just a century or two ago, but the oldest are estimated to be between 19,000 and 30,000 years old, ranking them among the world’s most ancient examples of human artistic expression.

No photo description available.

The Kondoa Rock Art Sites include over 150 natural caves or shelters that have been used for rock paintings over at least two millennia. The paintings have high artistic quality and were made with a brush-like instrument. They depict elongated people, animals, and hunting scenes. The rock art of Kondoa belongs to the distinct rock art traditions of central and southern Africa.

The Rock Art is located nine kilometres off the main highway from Kondoa to Arusha, about 20 km north of the town of Kondoa. The paintings are found high up on the hills. Some of the sites are related to living traditions of the local Hadza and Sandawe peoples. The existence of the paintings was first reported in 1908 by missionaries. The first scientific explorations date back to Louis Leakey in the 1930s. The Leakey Family also developed a small visitor center in the village of Kolo, which is now run by the Tanzanian government and supplies also guides to the sites.

The oldest record of honey collecting dates back to 8,000-10,000 years ago. Cave drawing depicting a person climbing a rope ladder on the edge of a cliff and collecting honey from a dangerous bee nest. Cuevas de la Araña (Spider Cave). Valencia, Spain.

 

As to the meaning of the paintings, no one really knows. Some believe they held a magic-religious purpose, whether shamanistic or as sympathetic magic, where the intent was to bring to life the spirit of an animal by painting it. This was either to enable a successful hunt, or was symptomatic of a more complex belief system which summoned the spirits of certain sacred animals, especially eland, to bring rain or fertility. The latter is evidenced by the practice of San shamans “becoming” elands when in a state of hallucinogenic trance. Another theory states that rock shelters – as well as baobab trees – are Sandawe metaphors for the “aboriginal womb” of creation. Indeed, the Sandawe have a dance called iyari which is performed when twins are born, and part of the ritual surrounding the dance involves rock painting. Other theories, nowadays pretty much discredited, go for the simple “art for art’s sake”. Either way, the rock art of Kondoa gives a vivid and fascinating insight into not just Tanzania’s but humankind’s earliest recorded history and way of thinking.

The oldest record of honey collecting dates back to 8,000-10,000 years ago. Cave drawing depicting a person climbing a rope ladder on the edge of a cliff and collecting honey from a dangerous bee nest. Cuevas de la Araña (Spider Cave). Valencia, Spain.

Getting there.

Kolo Kondoa is roughly 300 km southwest of Arusha between a trip to Tarangire and Lake Manyara or Lake Eyasi. Combined tours are available with a visit to the Rock Art site and a Hadzabe cultural tour in Lake Eyasi. There are no tourist class hotels south of Tarangire and Lake Eyasi, so if you wish to spend time at the site, I hope you like camping or staying local guest house. The facilities are extremely basic, with dry toilet facilities, but at least you can enjoy a shower. We offer “weekend safaris” which includes transport from Moshi or Arusha to the site, site fees, tent lodgings and food. Drinking water and beverages are included in the package. Like I said, basic – but well worth the trip, and the experience. You are in Africa now, so some roughing it is required.

The oldest record of honey collecting dates back to 8,000-10,000 years ago. Cave drawing depicting a person climbing a rope ladder on the edge of a cliff and collecting honey from a dangerous bee nest. Cuevas de la Araña (Spider Cave). Valencia, Spain.

The oldest record of honey collecting dates back to 8,000-10,000 years ago. Cave drawing depicting a person climbing a rope ladder on the edge of a cliff and collecting honey from a dangerous bee nest. Cuevas de la Araña (Spider Cave). Valencia, Spain.
The oldest record of honey collecting dates back to 8,000-10,000 years ago. Cave drawing depicting a person climbing a rope ladder on the edge of a cliff and collecting honey from a dangerous bee nest. Cuevas de la Araña (Spider Cave). Valencia, Spain.
The oldest record of honey collecting dates back to 8,000-10,000 years ago. Cave drawing depicting a person climbing a rope ladder on the edge of a cliff and collecting honey from a dangerous bee nest. Cuevas de la Araña (Spider Cave). Valencia, Spain.
The oldest record of honey collecting dates back to 8,000-10,000 years ago. Cave drawing depicting a person climbing a rope ladder on the edge of a cliff and collecting honey from a dangerous bee nest. Cuevas de la Araña (Spider Cave). Valencia, Spain.
The oldest record of honey collecting dates back to 8,000-10,000 years ago. Cave drawing depicting a person climbing a rope ladder on the edge of a cliff and collecting honey from a dangerous bee nest. Cuevas de la Araña (Spider Cave). Valencia, Spain.