Exposé or misconstrual? Unresolved issues of authorship and the authenticity of GW Stow’s ‘forgery’ of a rock art painting
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George William Stow (1822-1882) is today considered to have been one of the founding fathers of rock art research and conservation in Southern Africa. He arrived from England in 1843 and settled on the frontier of the Eastern Cape where he gradually started specializing in geological exploration, the ethnological history of the early peoples of the subcontinent and the rock art of the region. By the 1870s he was responsible for the discovery of the coalfields in the Vaal Triangle of South Africa. In recent years Stow’s legacy has been the subject of academic suspicion. Some rock art experts claim that he made himself guilty of ‘forgery’. In the article the authors argues in favour of restoring the status of Stow by pointing to the fact that two mutually exclusive interpretational approaches of rock art, than it is about an alleged forgery, are at the heart of the attempts at discrediting his work. In the process, irreparable and undeserving harm has been done to the name of George William Stow and his contribution to rock art research and conservation in South Africa.