Rock and ochre; paper and ink; a handprint, a stylus, a quill, a printed book: These remnants of two material cultures intertwined in the eighteenth century at the Cape of Good Hope offer an unconventional starting point for writing a history of colonial interactions, and a previously underutilized way into the environmental histories of colonialism.1 Individuals used these artifacts to create art and texts that reveal ways in which two different societies used, represented and thought about the natural world and its resources. Starting from those representations, I seek to frame an ideologically rooted explanation of colonial confl icts that complements the materially based understandings which prevail in environmental history.2 This perspective contributes a new way into the vibrant dialogue about the variety of cross-cultural dynamics that accompanied early-modern European expansion and an expanded notion of environmental history in Africa.