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Thought provoking works of art including the famous White Elephant painting.


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Philipp's Cave Bushmen Paintings Erongo Mountains Namibia

Thought provoking works of art including the famous White Elephant painting.



Philipps Cave location

The Philipps Cave Location

Philipps Cave

The Cave


If you are driving in the Karibib / Usakos area you should try to plan a visit to the Ameib Game Ranch. It nestles in the magnificent Erongo Mountains. Here you can see the famous Philipp's Cave which has some excellent examples of Ancient Bushman Paintings; and also the area known as the Bull's Party where the surrealistic rock formations and massive boulders perched precariously on top of each other will present a challenge to your imagination and photography capabilities. Some of the granite rock faces on the farm also offer an interesting challenge to enthusiast rock climbers. If you are not planning to overnight on the Ameib Ranch you should budget a minimum of 4 hours which should just give you enough time to visit the Bull's Party and the Philipp's Cave. Mid day temperatures in summer can reach 40c. There's an amount of reflection from the rocks, so wear a high protection factor sun screen and carry enough water. If you're a keen photographer, be prepared to do an amount of rock hopping, as there's much to 'shoot'.


The Hike:  It's about a half hour hike to the cave. There's a bit of boulder hopping required, but you don't have to be an athlete to get there. The path is signed with painted arrows and circles. Keep looking for these direction signs as it can be a bit inconvenient if you wander off track. If you are visiting in the rainy season be careful when climbing on the granite rock faces, many of which are wind polished and can become slippery.

Philipps Cave the path is marked

Marked path


The Cave:  When at the cave you can appreciate why the Bushmen made this a resting or ritual point. The natural shelter and excellent viewpoint offered safety and an amount of security. The Cave was formed from the granite by what is referred to as being Tafoni Weathering which usually takes place on the shaded side of rock formations. The Philipps Cave faces in a northerly direction. However, the site being north of the Tropic of Capricorn does experience shade during the early months of the rainy season - December and January. It was during these 'wet' periods that this particular area of rock began to disintegrate. Further erosion was caused by wind blown sands.

Map and Directions For Ranch Ameib

Erongo Region

2170'S - 1565'E

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The Philipp's Cave Bushman Paintings: The French rock painting expert Abbe Henri Breuil who had visited the Brandberg in 1947 and made a lengthy study of the White Lady Of Brandberg painting also made a further visit to Namibia in 1950. He spent some time on the farm Ameib at the invitation of owner Emil Philipp who had discovered the cave on the farm housing bushman paintings.


A room with a view...

Philipps Cave Bushman Painting The Antelope


Philipps Cave Bushman Painting Hunting Scene

including interior decorating


Abbe Breuil's book Philipp's Cave contains an extensive commentary on the cave paintings and it can be seen that his understanding of the Ameib paintings was influenced by his earlier theory that people from the Eastern Mediterranean had long ago made their way to this southern corner of Africa. He noted similarities in the style of certain of the paintings and postulated that they were the work of the same artists or of similar influence. Of the procession of human figures he deduced, 'of these people six clearly have European profiles and one is of Semitic type....... all of these details show clearly that these people belong to the world of the White Lady. The only thing lacking, and invariably lacking is that no one wears the arm, leg and breast bands, beaded or otherwise, worn by the figures in the White Lady group, nor is there any evidence of shoes.' He further wrote, ' with faces of European type and page (boy) hair; these must, therefore, be foreigners of Nilotic (Egypt) origin.


The Abbe's conclusions as to the origin of the people depicted on the cave paintings were later proven to be incorrect. However, the book has excellent photographs and commentary of the animals and aging of the artwork.


Philipps Cave Bushman Painting Man with ornate hair style

Helmut or hairstyle?

Philipps Cave Bushman Painting Hunting Game

The hunt

Philipps Cave Bushman Painting Hunters

Hunters or procession?

Philipps Cave Bushman Painting The White Elephant

The White Elephant


Following the hike to the cave, and particularly if it is hot, you might be feeling a bit 'whacked'. Have a rest, drink some water. and then carefully study the paintings. Some of them may look a bit faded, but, seek and you will find. There are some very interesting figures. For example the below left photo shows a hunter with hair styled that was once mistaken for a helmet of some kind. Look at the graceful stance of the antelope, above row of pictures left. The oldest of the paintings are claimed to be of the larger animals. The white elephants and the giraffe having a red head. The large animals in black can also be from this period.  The smaller white and red animals, giraffe, quagga, and ostriches and possibly those to the right of the cave including the man apparently apparently hunting the ostrich are thought to be from a middle period.


It is thought that the Springbok and procession of people carrying weapons are from a later period.


Acknowledgements and further reading:  G1, R3, P1


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Of Interest: The distance from the Brandberg to the Philipp's Cave is about 140kms and to the Spitzkoppe about 50kms. It is possible that the paintings are from the same, or a related group of Bushmen that once roamed this area of Namibia


Philipps Cave


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