70,000 years old python sanctuary in Botswana

African rock python

From Archaeo News:

Snake carving in Botswana may be first sign of worship

A new archaeological find in Botswana shows that our ancestors in Africa engaged in ritual practice 70,000 years ago — 30,000 years earlier than the oldest finds in Europe.

This sensational discovery strengthens Africa’s position as the cradle of modern man.

Associate Professor Sheila Coulson, from the University of Oslo, can now show that modern humans, Homo sapiens, have performed advanced rituals in Africa for 70,000 years.

She has, in other words, discovered mankind’s oldest known ritual.

The archaeologist made the surprising discovery while she was studying the origin of the San people.

A group of the San live in the sparsely inhabited area of north-western Botswana known as Ngamiland.

Coulson made the discovery while searching for artifacts from the Middle Stone Age in the only hills present for hundreds of kilometers in any direction.

This group of small peaks within the Kalahari Desert is known as the Tsodilo Hills and is famous for having the largest concentration of rock paintings in the world.

The Tsodilo Hills are still a sacred place for the San, who call them the “Mountains of the Gods” and the “Rock that Whispers”.

The python is one of the San’s most important animals.

Sheila Coulson’s find shows that people from the area had a specific ritual location associated with the python.

The ritual was held in a little cave on the northern side of the Tsodilo Hills. …

“In the cave, we find only the San people’s three most important animals: the python, the elephant, and the giraffe. That is unusual.

This would appear to be a very special place.

They did not burn the spearheads by chance.

They brought them from hundreds of kilometers away and intentionally burned them.

So many pieces of the puzzle fit together here. It has to represent a ritual.” concludes Sheila Coulson.

Rare snake species Liopeltis calamaria in India: here.


6 thoughts on “70,000 years old python sanctuary in Botswana

  1. Botswana: The Phika is Real, Dept of Wildlife

    Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

    1 September 2008
    Posted to the web 2 September 2008

    Monkagedi Gaotlhobogwe

    Have you ever ever doubted tales about Phika, the devilish serpent? Well, maybe some of the tales were too exaggerated but snake experts have confirmed that the legendary ‘phika’ does exist.

    Various Botswana cultures are littered with myths about this creature. Amongst the locals, phika is simply explained as that mysterious, all powerful snake with magical powers. It is associated with spiritual beings, and generally all Batswana concur that the phika is untouchable and mysterious.

    A walk to the just concluded Gaborone consumer fair somehow helped unravel the mystery that is phika. Does it exist?

    Mogomotsi Diane, who had a number of snakes on display at the Department of Wildlife’s stall.

    Recently appointed a public relations officer at the Department of Wildlife, Diane says although at times tales about phika are exaggerated, the snake does exist. It is the black mamba, according to Diane.

    He says in instances where phika sightings have been reported, it has always turned out to be the black mamba.

    According to the BBC’s National Geographic website, black mambas are fast, nervous, lethally venomous, and when threatened, highly aggressive. “They have been blamed for numerous human deaths, and African myths exaggerate their capabilities to legendary proportions. For these reasons, the black mamba is widely considered the world’s deadliest snake,” reads the National Geographic article on the snake.

    The Wildlife Department official also confirms myths about the snake that it is often escorted by hundres of birds and other snakes. The phika is sometimes referred to as ‘Mmadinoga’, or queen of snakes, due to the big number of snakes that ‘escort” it.

    However, Diane says the large number of snakes that often accompany the phika in Tswana tales, do not do so out of respect, as many believe.

    He says snakes and birds usually mob the phika noisily, in an attempt to drive it away from their habitat. However, Diane says a full-grown phika is not bothered by the mob of snakes or birds at all.

    This snake, according to the wildlife official at the trade show, grows up to four metres long, while other sources say it can be 4.5m in some instances.

    The National Geographic says, “Black mambas are Africa’s longest venomous snake, reaching up to 14 feet or 4.5 meters in length, although 8.2 feet or 2.5 meters is more the average. They are also among the fastest snakes in the world, slithering at speeds of up to 12.5 miles per hour or 20 kilometers per hour.

    Diane corroborates tales that say the phika can sometimes block the path of an oncoming vehicle with its huge and imposing presence by standing up on the road, menacingly!

    “That’s how it behaves when it has been missed by a car. It springs up in vengeance, to strike fear in the eyes of the driver,” says the official who has been working with the likes of phika for 15 years.

    Diane also confirmed tales that the phika can finish a herd of cattle, striking them one by one. He says contrary to beliefs that phika is a magical creature, perhaps sent by evil spirits to bring disaster to people; this snake can be over-zealous and destructive. “It has very poisonous venom that affects the nervous system of its victims very fast. Because it has so much poison, it can strike so many cattle to death.”

    Diane says phika is a very dramatic creature which enjoys being in the thick of things. “Yes, it is very violent. It enjoys action. We once brought a small phika for exhibition at one of these Trade Fairs, but we regretted it. As people circled its transparent container, that snake became violent, itching for action, yet it was such a baby Phika. It was striking against the container the whole day, and it made us feel very bad, because we could be accused of cruelty to animals”.

    In their brochure, the Wildlife Department describes phika as a slender, very long, elegant looking snake of dark olive or varying grey colourations. Its head is long and narrow. It is never really black, except the inside of the mouth, which gives it the name black mamba.

    Diane, like most Batswana, agrees that the phika is probably the deadliest of snakes found in Botswana. It is actually amongst the poisonous seven species of snakes in this country, according to the Wildlife Department.

    The other deadly snake is ‘kake e e foufatsang’, or the spitting cobra. Its venom can strike a victim blind by just spitting at him or her. There is also the Mozambican cobra, or simply cobra, kake. The puff udder, ‘lebolobolo’, is also counted amongst the poisonous seven, although Diane says its effects are localized.

    “That means, if it strikes you on the arm, and you do not get medical attention on time, that arm will have to be amputated. The vine, twig snake, or ‘legonyana’, in Setswana, affects the blood with its biting effects, according to Diane. Once it strikes and there is no immediate attention, the victim will have blood-clotting problems. The seventh poisonous snake in the country is the boom slang, according to Department of Wildlife.

    The likes of lesolamae or egg-eater, is not considered a poisonous snake, according to Diane. However he says the egg-eater is a tough survivor as it has mastered the art of imitating poisonous snakes, just to scare away people. Diane showed us pictures of the egg-eater posing as the puff udder, ready to strike.

    “Sometimes it can pose like the phika. It can open its mouth threateningly just like the black mamba, and make funny noise just like the real phika. But if you know it, you can just grab it by the tale and throw it away. It is nothing but a mere egg-eater,” explains Diane.

    The Wildlife stall also had the mole snake or ‘phofu’. It proved to be a very shy creature. As people crowded around its container, the mole snake literally buried itself in the sand until its 1.5metre body could not be seen.


  2. Pingback: Python skin trade, crime and fashion | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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