SCHULTERBLICK FORSCHUNG – Tracking in Caves … two months later

von Holger Neumann

The return of the three trackers to their homes in Namibia occurred without incident. Some days afterwards, the ‘Tracking in Caves’ project took a deserved vacation. This was necessary in view of the magnitude of upcoming tasks. For one thing, the international interest in this project has convinced us to change the reporting language. Like this blog all further contributions will be written in English.

As one of the first steps after our trip, we checked the documentation of our cave visits to prepare for future publications and presentations. In view of the short time we spent in every cave, we decided to render the results in info-graphics which illustrate the footprints as symbols. With this done, we are able to contrast precisely the former and new interpretations.

As a cornerstone of the explanation of the method used by the trackers, the original recordings from inside the caves have to be transcribed. The realisation of this task demands somewhat complex organisation. It will not be finished quickly since it can only competently be done by the Ju/’hoan Transcription Group (JTG) in Tsumkwe. The transfer of big audio files is a bottleneck problem that strains the capacity of the web-connection in Tsumkwe. We expect the results in spring 2014. To bridge this long period one of us (Megan Biesele) is examining the audio files with the purpose of gathering information about the most important aspects of the tracking method. This is particularly important for the determination of age and sex of the persons making the tracks, because western science casts doubt on the practicability of the method.

The tracker C/wi /Kunta, C/wi G/aqo De!u and Tsamkxao Cigae in Niaux (07.2013).

The tracker C/wi /Kunta, C/wi G/aqo De!u and Tsamkxao Cigae in Niaux (07.2013).

The documents from the caves, together with the basic methodological information, comprise a package of evidence which is worth publishing in internationally recognised journals and presented at relevant congresses. We will provide information about published articles and upcoming congress presentations via Twitter and via this blog.

The audio files as well as photos and video-clips from our 2013 expedition are unique and they require a state-of-the-art backup. We decided to store all relevant files in NESPOS (, an established data-repository for archaeological and anthropological data. As a first step, access will be restricted to the project members, but for the future we anticipate opening parts of the database for the public. A short collection of clips from the trip will soon be available on the homepage of the University of Cologne and on YouTube.

Several colleagues have encouraged us to develop follow-up research projects which use ‘Tracking in Caves’ as a base. We have already developed some ideas but they are not yet confirmed and therefore not publishable – not even in a tweet or blog. Despite these reservations we can reveal that the envisaged projects will deal with the question of how indigenous knowledge can be used with methodological soundness in the archaeological sciences.

At the end of this month one of us (Andreas Pastoors) will again travel to the Pyrenees in order to finish, among other things, the photographic documentation of the new discoveries of the San in Tuc d’Audoubert.

Best regards Andreas Pastoors, Tilman Lenssen-Erz and Megan Biesele

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