World Heritage

UNESCO approved Twyfelfontein as Nambia's first World Heritage site in 2007. Offically known as |Ui-?Ais (is a site of ancient rock engravings in the Kuene Region of north-western Namibia. The site has been inhabited for 6,000 years first by hunter-gatherers and later by Khoikhoi herders.)
Namibia has two World Heritage Sites: Twyfelfontein and Namib Sand Sea. Twyfelfontein (Afrikaans: uncertain spring), officially known as |Ui-?Ais (Damara/Nama: jumping waterhole), is a site of ancient rock engravings in the Kunene Region of north-western Namibia. It consists of a spring in a valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain that receives very little rainfall and has a wide range of diurnal temperatures.

"The site has been inhabited for 6,000 years, first by hunter-gatherers and later by Khoikhoi herders."
The site has been inhabited for 6,000 years, first by hunter-gatherers and later by Khoikhoi herders. Both ethnic groups used it as a place of worship and a site to conduct shamanist rituals. In the process of these rituals at least 2,500 items of rock carvings have been created, as well as a few rock paintings. Displaying one of the largest concentrations of rock petroglyphs in Africa, UNESCO approved Twyfelfontein as Namibia's first World Heritage Site in 2007.


Twyfelfontein valley has been inhabited by Stone-age hunter-gatherers of the Wilton stone age culture group since approximately 6,000 years ago. They made most of the engravings and probably all the paintings. 2,000 to 2,500 years ago the Khoikhoi, an ethnic group related to the San (Bushmen), occupied the valley, then known under its Damara/Nama name |Ui-?Ais (jumping waterhole). The Khoikhoi also produced rock art which can clearly be distinguished from the older engravings.

The area was uninhabited by Europeans until after World War II, when a severe drought caused white Afrikaans speaking farmers (Boers) to move in. The farm was later procured by the apartheid government as part of the Odendaal Plan and became part of the Damaraland bantustan. The white settlers left in 1965.

Topographer Reinhard Maack, who also discovered the White Lady rock painting at Brandberg, reported the presence of rock engravings in the area in 1921. A more thorough investigation was only conducted after D Levin purchased the land for farming in 1947. He discovered the spring and gave it the name Twyfelfontein after it repeatedly dried up. While commonly being translated as doubtful spring, a more accurate translation for the word twyfel in this connection is "questionable" or "uncertain". Shortly thereafter scientific investigation of the rock art started in 1950 by Ernst Rudolph Scherz who described over 2500 rock engravings on 212 sandstone slabs. Today it is estimated that the site contains more than 5000 individual depictions.  

Location and Description

Twyfelfontein is situated in the Huab valley of the Mount Etjo formation in southern Kunene Region of Namibia, an area formerly known as Damaraland. The rocks containing the art work are situated in a valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain. An underground aquifer on an impermeable layer of shale sustains a spring in this otherwise very dry area.

The name Twyfelfontein refers to the spring itself, to the valley containing the spring, and in the context of traveling and tourism also to a greater area containing nearby tourist attractions: the rock engravings, the Organ Pipes, Burnt Mountain, Dorros crater, and the Petrified Forest. The World Heritage Site covers the area of rock engravings. The area is a transitional zone between semi desert, savanna, and shrubland and receives less than 150 mm (5.9 in) annual rainfall. Diurnal temperatures vary from 10 to 28 °C (50 to 82 °F) in the winter month of July and 21 to 35 °C (70 to 95 °F) in the summer month of November.

Twyfelfontein lies 20 km (12 mi) south of the C39 major road from Sesfontein to Khorixas. From there it is connected by the district road D3214. The Twyfelfontein Country Lodge features a gravel airstrip. The lodge, camp site, visitor's centre and most of the other tourist facilities are managed as a joint venture between the lodge owners and the Twyfelfontein-Uibasen Conservancy. The rock art area consists of fourteen smaller sites that have been introduced by Scherz in his initial site survey. They are still used to describe the location of artworks in Twyfelfontein.

"Every society needs sacred places. A society that cannot remember its past, and honour it, is in peril of losing its soul"
- vine deloria, Lakota sholar