By Nerissa Card
Do you want to see my rock?” one of the most adventurous women I have ever met asks me when we meet for coffee.
Annalie Kleinloog (pictured above), author of Forgotten Trails: Across the Midlands of KZN, a history of transport riders during South Africa’s diamond and gold rush eras, is passionate about ancient history.
It is for this reason that she has spent thousands of hours researching gong rocks, or rock gongs, if you like.
These lithophones, which are found all over the world, are said to predate the Romans and pharaohs, some dating back to the Neolithic period, or New Stone Age.
“People used them as musical instruments, to call cattle and in religious ceremonies,” says Annalie, adding that she has always loved rocks, having grown up surrounded by them on mines all over South Africa.
Explaining her interest in gong rocks, Annalie goes on to tell me about “her rock”, which sits at the entrance to Blueberry Café in Nottingham Road.
“I found this clump of rocks that didn’t look they belonged. One was pointing towards the Kamberg. It looked like the Kamberg, triangular in shape.
“If you look at the whole area here, the Kamberg is the dominant peak. This rock formation has to be significant.
“The Kamberg was sacred to the bushmen. They said you mustn’t point at it because you will chase the rain away. If you are going to point it out, you have to do so with your fist. I believe there is a lot of true history in folklore.”
Although Annalie’s research has taken her all over the world, she spends much of her time scouring the Midlands for gong rocks.
“In my free time I hunt for rocks and try to get to all the peaks in the area. I think I have banged every rock in the Karkloof. There are some very significant rocks in that area (referred to as the playground of the giants.)
“We have found rocks there with engravings, which geologists will tell you are natural, but I don’t believe that. Not all the markings look like erosion to me.”
“I believe people like the Mayans, Aborigines, Indians and many other ancient civilisations all passed through Africa and that the rock formations were created by them. I believe Africa is neglected archaeologically. I think it was a major trading and refreshing station for ancient civilisations, but no one wants to give it credit.
“We have been around the longest. The continent was definitely visited and used in ancient times, when civilisations traded in peace, before greed took over. Neither we nor the bushmen were the first people here.
“I want people to open their eyes and look. You live and chase and the world goes by without you noticing what is around you. I want people to start thinking differently, out of the box.”
So when can we expect a new book?
“I have learnt with a book that the research is never done, but I know that one day I am going to have to say, ‘enough’.”
**In the meantime, Annalie will be presenting a slide show on her research into gong rocks at Gowrie Golf Club in Nottingham Road on Thursday, March 28, at 6pm for 6.30pm. Entrance is R20, which will be donated to the Lions Bush and RNR conservancies.
For more information about the event, call Roy Tabernor on 082 487 0922 or Margie Fraser on 084 746 0948.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
According to Wikipedia, rock gongs were brought to the attention of the anthropological community in 1956 by archaeologist Bernard Fagg.
Fagg identified that the first recorded discovery of rock gongs was in Birnin Kudu, Nigeria, in June 1955. He drew a link between the geographic distribution of rock gongs and cave paintings, stating that the gongs’ proximity to cave paintings “leaves little doubt that they are associated in some way”.
Meanwhile, the website, www.openculture.com, has this to say: “Rock gongs, or “lithophones”, if you want to get technical, have been found all over the African continent, in South America, Australia, Azerbaijan, England, Hawaii, Iceland, India, and everywhere else prehistoric people lived.
“Not the cultural property of any one group, the rock gong came, rather, from a universal human insight into the natural sonic properties of stone. (One theory even speculates that Stonehenge might have been a massive collection of rock gongs.)
“Early humans would have searched long and hard for rocks that resonated at particular frequencies, for ringing rocks that could be combined into scales for early xylophones or produce a variety of tones like a steel drum.
“Despite their antiquity, the study of rock gongs is a rather recent phenomenon, part of the emerging field of archaeoacoustics… and there is much researchers do not know about the uses and varieties of rock gongs around the world.