The Tsodilo Hills

The Tsodilo Hills are a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS), consisting of rock art, rock shelters, depressions, and caves. It gained its WHS listing in 2001 because of its unique religious and spiritual significance to local peoples, as well as its unique record of human settlement over many millennia. UNESCO estimates there are over 4500 rock paintings at the site. The site consists of a few main hills known as the Child Hill, Female Hill, and Male Hill.

There are four chief hills. The highest is 1,400 metres AMSL, one of the highest points in Botswana. The four hills are commonly described as the “Male” (the highest), “Female”, “Child”, plus an unnamed knoll. They are about 40 km from Shakawe and can be reached via a good graded dirt road.

There is a managed campsite between the two largest hills, with showers and toilets. It is near the most famous of the San paintings at the site, the Laurens van der Post panel, after the South-African writer who first described the paintings in his 1958 book ‘The Lost World of the Kalahari’. There is a small museum and an airstrip near the campsite.

People have used the Tsodilo Hills for painting and ritual for thousands of years. UNESCO estimates that the hills contain 500 individual sites representing thousands of years of human habitation. The hills’ rock art has been linked to the local hunter gatherers. It is believed that ancestors of the San created some of the paintings at Tsodilo, and were also the ones to inhabit the caves and rock shelters. There is evidence that Bantu peoples were responsible for some of the artworks at the hills.[1] Some of the paintings have been dated to be as early as 24,000 years before present.

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