Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) petroglyph on rhinoceros
rubbed rock face. Fig. 17.8, Heyd and Clegg, 2005, p. 267,
Free State, South Africa.
The term “incorporation” in rock art generally refers to the inclusion of natural features of the rock surface in the design of the image on a rock art panel. On December 8, 2010, I published a posting on a rock face that had been polished by its use as a rubbing post by mammoths. A fascinating example of South African incorporation of animal rubbing on a rock art panel was reported by Sven Ouzman in his paper Seeing is Deceiving: Rock Art and the Non-Visual, pages 253-269, in Aesthetics and Rock Art, edited by Thomas Heyd and John Clegg, Ashgate Publishing Ltd., Aldershot, England, and Burlington, VT., 2005. In this paper Ouzman examines "episodes of use" of the image.
According to Ouzman the first use of this portion of the rock face was as a rubbing post by rhinoceroses and then it was later engraved with the image of a black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). Adding the image in this location confirms the recognition by the artist that this particular portion of rock face has been made special by the attention paid to and the usage of it by rhinoceroses, and that then the addition of the image of a black rhinoceros suggests that the petroglyph was believed to actually incorporate some of the spiritual essence of that animal.
Unfortunately, the article does not state how the original use as a scratching or rubbing post by the rhinoceros was established or confirmed. Until I find out otherwise I will have to assume that this was done with protein residue analysis or some related technique. Whatever the case, however, I find this remarkable instance of incorporation to be absolutely fascinating, and it may represent a phenomenon that we should look for in other locations.