Tsodilo Hills: The Louvre of the Desert

A little about the site…

  • The Tsodilo Hills are a World Heritage Site located in the Kalahari desert in Ngamiland District, Botswana. Spread over 10 sq km, the hills are home to over 4,500 rock paintings.
  • Tsodilo comprises four hills – the Male Hill, the Female Hill, the Child Hill and an unnamed hill. Archaeologists trace the existence of human life in this area back to 100,000 years. Even today, people consider Tsodilo as a place of worship frequented by ancestral spirits. Declared a heritage site in 2001, Tsodilo is sometimes known as the ‘Louvre of the Desert’ because of the vast number of paintings found there.

The paintings of Tsodilo

  • The artwork found in the hills are believed to span from the Stone Age to the 19th century. They trace the evolution of human activities in the area for millions of years. The paintings are spread across the hills in various caves and shelters. UNESCO estimates nearly 500 individual sites there, representing centuries of human habitation.
  • The paintings at Tsodilo can be distinguished as Red paintings and White paintings. Most of these depict animals such as rhinos, giraffes and cows.

Red Paintings

  • The Red paintings are found all over the site, but are concentrated in the Rhino Cave. These paintings are mainly attributed to the San people, who are Khoisan-speaking indigenous hunter-gatherers representing the first nation of Southern Africa.
  • The Rhino Cave is located at the north end of the Female Hill and consists of two main walls, where the paintings are located. The cave is named after the white rhino painting found on the north wall. Most of the paintings in the Rhino Cave are found on this wall. Except the white rhino painting, most paintings are in red or red-orange pigment. The wall opposite the north wall contains grooves and depressions created using hammer stones or grindstones.


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