Stacks Image 153
Print No #23

Hallucinatory Giraffe And Gazelle With Entoptic Body Markings

The stylized giraffe and gazelle in this print illustrate a uniquely Tanzanian Sandawe Bushman phenomena. The amateurishly rendered giraffe, for example, is one of only a few examples in archaeologist Mary Leakey’s Kondoa rock art sample in which a single animal has two different entoptic images (dots and grid or lattice pattern) superimposed over its body. The stylized gazelle has a rotated grid pattern superimposed over it that forms an unusual example of a diamond pattern. Both images were construed by shamans in deep stages of altered states of consciousness. Archaeologist John Cavallo contends that the markings can be understood by referring to the “neuropsychologocal model” developed by South African rock art specialists David Lewis-Williams and Thomas Dowson. The model was developed to explain the presence of similar geometric forms in southern Bushman rock art and in some European Upper Paleolithic (i.e. Later Stone Age) cave paintings in France and Spain.

It’s based on their review of some fifty years of modern neuropsychological studies and experiments on the hallucinations experienced by patients during altered states of concsiousnbess while under the influence of psychotropic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin. Many of the patients described and drew pictures of what the saw during trance. From the result of these experiments, Lewis-Williams and Dowson determined that subjects generally experienced three stages of trance, each accompanied by its own visual phenomena. For example, in the early stage of trance (their stage 1), subjects report seeing what Lewis-Williams and Downson call “entoptic phenomena,” meaning within the human optical system. They consist of several basic “self-illuminated” geometrics and permutations of them that include: grid patterns or lattices and ladders, zigzag lines, dots and short flecks, sets of parallel lines, meandering lines, and U-shaped curves that are often nested. In deeper trance (stage 2), subjects attempt to make sense of these by elaborating them into familiar (iconic) images like non-animate objects and natural objects such as people and animals depending on their cultural backgrounds. The images are therefore universal among all modern humans including the Bushmen and other hunters and gatherers. In the third and deepest stage of trance, subjects experience seeing fully recognizable iconic images. Importantly, they are often accompanied by the same entoptic images as in stage 1. The difference is that the entoptics can occur partially or fully juxtaposed, sometimes fragmented, and superimposed over iconic images.
(From M.D. Leakey, 1983. Redrawn by J.A. Cavallo).