Rock Gongs of Lewa Downs

The Rock Gongs of Lewa Downs

The Lewa Downs Wildlife Conservancy is situated on the northern slopes of Mt Kenya with spectacular views over the Samburu Reserve and Ewaso Nyiro River towards the Mathews Range and the great precipice of Mt Lolokwe. This wildlife paradise is a place with an ancient past including a lakebed where many hand axes have been found dating back several hundred thousand years.

The rock art at Lewa Downs consists of geometric and abstract rock paintings as well as of rock gongs. Gongs can be recognized for the large numbers of cupules – carved cup-shaped depressions. When struck in different places with a hammer gongs produce different tones just like a musical instrument. Rock gongs were likely used for divining purposes and ritual communication in the past.

The rock paintings consist of white concentric circles, grids and lines along with ochre paintings, which may be more recent. It is believed that the paintings have been made by Twa hunter-gatherer people between 1000 and 3000 years ago. The site may have been used for rain making rituals, as were the similar sites found in Uganda and around Lake Victoria.

Visitors interested in seeing the rock art at Lewa should contact Sophie and Calum Macfarlane who are specialists in the ancient archeology of Lewa.

How to get there

Lewa Downs canbe reached by air and road. There are daily scheduled flights to Lewa Downs from Wilson Airport in Nairobi (Air Kenya & Safarilink). It takes approximately four and a half hours to drive to Lewa from Nairobi.

Where to stay

There are several nice safari camps and lodges at Lewa and cheaper hotel accommodation can be found in the town of Isiolo.

Other Attractions

Other attractions at Lewa include wildlife viewing, horse riding, hiking, camel safaris, climbs up Mt Kenya and trout fishing on the mountain.

Please find more information about the rock art in Lewa Downs from Rock Art in East Africa –booklet.