George William Stow

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George Stow was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, on 2 February 1822. He arrived in South Africa, Port Elizabeth in 1843.

Mr Stow was a Victorian man of many talents; he was a poet, a historian, an ethnographer, an artist, a cartographer and a writer. As a geologist by profession, through his field work, he became acquainted with rock art paintings in the caves and shelters of South African interior. Stow started recording rock art sometime in the 1860s, and in a letter to T. Rupert Jones, published in 1870 in Nature, Stow wrote:

“During the last three years I have been making pilgrimages to the various old Bushman caves among the mountains in this part of the Colony and Kaffraria; and, as their paintings are becoming obliterated very fast, it struck me that it would be well to make copies of them before these interesting relics of an almost extinct race are entirely destroyed.”

In a letter written to Lucy Lloyd in June 1877, Stow outlined his plan to further record rock art with the help of a young Bushman. Without much funding, Stow carried on recording rock art through his life not only to preserve it to posterity, but also as an indication of the San’s extensive and lengthy occupation of the country, what he deemed both worthy and valuable.

In 1880, Stow unsuccessfully tried to find a publisher for his manuscript Native Races of South Africa, which was eventually published in 1905.

Stow died in 1882 of heart failure in Heilbron, Free State.

After his death, all of Stow’s papers about scientific subjects and his cartoons of Bushman paintings were probably sent to his friend Charles Sirr Orpen.

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