Pre-colonial Archaeology

Research Interests

Collections Manager: Petro Keene

My main research interest is in rock art reproductions, archival records, folklore and myth, with particular focus on the collection of Leo Frobenius and the expedition he undertook in 1928 to 1930. The rock art paintings and legacies of the Frobenius expeditions are being rediscovered. They are appreciated as works of art in their own right and are also of great historical interest. The Frobenius collection of 500 rock art reproductions housed at Iziko Museums, Cape Town, South Africa were purchased from Leo Frobenius in 1931 for a sum of 5 000 pounds. These are copies of the original works of art produced by Frobenius and his team during the 1928 to 1930 expedition. They travelled through parts of Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa and painted over 2000 copies. The reproductions were produced predominantly utilizing the medium, watercolour. The different styles of the individual artists are reflected in the various copies. The artists executed over 400 drawings and paintings of material culture as well as of village scenes and landscapes. Over 3 000 photographs were taken and a 16mm film was produced. Stories, myths and poems from local peoples were recorded. The archival records from this expedition are housed at the Frobenius Institute, Frankfurt/Main Germany, together with an extensive collection of rock art reproductions. 

Petro Keene tracing in the Eastern Cederberg

I am also interested in Iron Age archaeology and especially in Venda symbolism and folklore. I have undertaken various excavations at Iron Age sites with UNISA and am researching the folklore recorded by different ethnologists such as Stayt and Junod. In a recent visit to the Frobenius Institute, Frankfurt, Germany collaborative projects with the Institute were discussed. I am creating a database of the sites visited by Frobenius during the expedition of 1928 – 1930 and researching folklore collected during the expedition. With the eCRAG group (Eastern Cederberg Rock Art Recording Group), I have trained in rock art recording techniques under Dr Janette Deacon and Dr Simon Hall. Further training in rock art recording has been undertaken with the Natal Museum in the Drakensberg.

Contact details

A rock art reproduction from the Frobenius collection

Collections Manager: Petro Keene

Social History Department 
Iziko Museums of Cape Town 
P O Box 61, Cape Town, 8000

Tel: +27 21 481 3883
Fax: +27 21 481 3993