What Is Paleolithic Art?: Cave Paintings And The Dawn Of Human Creativity

Paperback | April 19, 2016

byJean ClottesTranslated byOliver Y. Martin, Robert D. Martin

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Was it a trick of the light that drew our Stone Age ancestors into caves to paint in charcoal and red hematite, to watch the heads of lions, likenesses of bison, horses, and aurochs in the reliefs of the walls, as they flickered by firelight? Or was it something deeper—a creative impulse, a spiritual dawn, a shamanistic conception of the world efflorescing in the dark, dank spaces beneath the surface of the earth where the spirits were literally at hand?

In this book, Jean Clottes, one of the most renowned figures in the study of cave paintings, pursues an answer to this “why” of Paleolithic art. While other books focus on particular sites and surveys, Clottes’s work is a contemplative journey across the world, a personal reflection on how we have viewed these paintings in the past, what we learn from looking at them across geographies, and what these paintings may have meant—what function they may have served—for their artists. Steeped in Clottes’s shamanistic theories of cave painting, What Is Paleolithic Art? travels from well-known Ice Age sites like Chauvet, Altamira, and Lascaux to visits with contemporary aboriginal artists, evoking a continuum between the cave paintings of our prehistoric past and the living rock art of today. Clottes’s work lifts us from the darkness of our Paleolithic origins to reveal, by firelight, how we think, why we create, why we believe, and who we are.

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Was it a trick of the light that drew our Stone Age ancestors into caves to paint in charcoal and red hematite, to watch the heads of lions, likenesses of bison, horses, and aurochs in the reliefs of the walls, as they flickered by firelight? Or was it something deeper—a creative impulse, a spiritual dawn, a shamanistic conception of t...

Jean Clottes is a prominent French archaeologist and former general inspector for archaeology and scientific advisor for prehistoric art at the French Ministry of Culture. He is the author of Cave Art, among other books. Oliver Y. Martin is a lecturer in the Department of Environmental Systems Science at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Robert...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:April 19, 2016Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022626663X

ISBN - 13:9780226266633

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter One: What Is the Correct Way to Approach Art in Caves and Shelters?
Chapter Two: Encountering Multiple Realities on Other Continents
Chapter Three: Perceptions of the World, Functions of the Art, and the Artists

Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Clottes’s Pourquoi l’art prehistorique? has at long last been translated into English. . . . In this latest offering he tackles the question of ‘why’ not just ‘what.’ This is a great leap for most archaeologists, who prefer to describe what they can see and hold in their hands, rather than the nebulous realms of dreams and thoughts behind the works. Stepping beyond the traditional realm of archaeology, Clottes takes the reader on a worldwide journey from well-known Ice Age sites such as Chauvet and Lascaux to the work of contemporary aboriginal artists, tracing some of the earliest examples of human creativity in the shamanistic tradition of Homo spiritualis (man the spiritual being) rather than homo faber (man the toolmaker). Though not all readers will agree with the author’s interpretation of the shamanistic art of rock art, the theory is credible. This readable and appealing translation is a must for those serious about archaeology or art history. Essential.”