The noted archaeologist explores the varieties of prehistoric cave art across the world and offers surprising insights into its purpose and meaning.
What drew our Stone Age ancestors into caves to paint in charcoal and red hematite, to watch the likenesses of lions, bison, horses, and aurochs as they flickered by firelight? Was it a creative impulse, a spiritual dawn, a shamanistic conception of the world?
In this book, Jean Clottes, one of the most renowned figures in the study of cave paintings, pursues an answer to the “why” of Paleolithic art. Discussing sites and surveys across the world, Clottes offers personal reflections 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—and 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 surprising insights into how we think, why we create, why we believe, and who we are