David Lewis-Williams was born in 1934 in Cape Town, South Africa. After completing a degree in geography at the University of Cape Town he became a teacher in Kwa-Zulu Natal. It was in the Drakensberg that his interest in rock art flourished.
David Lewis-Williams proceeded to write a landmark doctorate in anthropology that is still hailed as the transition point in the study of South African archaeology.
He completed his Ph.D in 1977 and in 1978 he established the research unit that was eventually to become the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand.
His research interests include southern African San rock art, European Upper Palaeolithic cave art, and the western European Neolithic.
He is acknowledged as the researcher who cracked the code of San rock art, moving us from the colonialist understanding of rock art to a more ethnographic approach. The understanding he has developed has revealed the richness of one of the most complex and sophisticated arts.
In 2008 he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Anthropological Institute, United Kingdom. Professor David Lewis-Williams is Senior Mentor at the Rock Art Research Institute and an A-rated scientist.