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David Lewis-Williams

Emeritus professor, University of the Witwatersrand

Principally, Professor David Lewis-Williams’s research has concerned San rock art, but he has also published books on the Upper Palaeolithic cave art of western Europe and the megalithic tombs of the Near East and Europe. Both books, published by Thames & Hudson, have been translated into numerous languages. In 2003 he was awarded the James Henry Breasted Prize by the American Historical Association, and in 2004 the Society for American Archaeology gave him an award for ‘excellence in archaeological analysis’. He is an elected Honorary Overseas Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute. From 1991 to 2000 he served on the executive of the Comite International pour l’art rupestre of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (UNESCO), and from 1998 to 2004 he served on the International Advisory Committee on the Chauvet Cave, France. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town. He is an elected member of the Royal Society of South Africa and a past president of the South African Archaeological Society. He has received three consecutive A1 ratings by the National Research Foundation. In 2007 he was a Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge. In the early 1980s he founded the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2000 RARI supplied the San rock art image that now stands in the centre of the South African coat of arms, and President Mbeki invited him to translate the post-apartheid national motto into the |Xam San language. In 2015 he was awarded the South African Order of the Baobab (Gold Class) for his ‘exceptional and distinguished contribution to the field of archaeology’. His most recent book, Image-Makers: The social context of a hunter-gatherer ritual, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.


  • –present
    Emeritus professor, University of the Witwatersrand