Bushman Relics Protection Act, The


Agitations by the South African National Society for protection in legislation of historical artefacts and relics lead to the promulgation of the Act of 1911, the earliest of Union (1910), a Bushman Relic was described as any drawing or painting on stone or engraving of the kind commonly known or believed to have been made by Bushmen or other aboriginals. It included the contents of the caves, rock shelters, graves, middens and shell-mounds which had accumulated on prehistoric living sites. It also laid down that no one could remove or export any Bushman relic without first having obtained a permit to do so. Defacement or destruction of relics became a punishable offence. This effectively put an end to the unlicensed removal and export of prehistoric treasures for which South Africa had become famous. Unfortunately, however, destruction was not entirely stopped. Apart from the normal vandalism of persons who inscribed their initials and the dates of their visits over the engraved or painted frescoes, many caves were used as sheep and cattle pens or other refuges in which fires were often made and the paintings obliterated by soot or otherwise defaced. It was therefore felt that further legislation was necessary which was the passing of the Natural and Historical Monuments Act of 1923.