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Chauvet Cave [Hardcover]

Jean Clottes , Paul Bahn
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 226 pages
  • Publisher: University of Utah Press (May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874807581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874807585
  • Product Dimensions: 34.3 x 27.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,411,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wall in the Hole Gang 17 Feb 2006
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
It's dark in there. Deep in the caverns located in cliffs of the Ardeche River gorge somebody left images of a world unseen. Bears, ibexes, lions and more are depicted in over three hundred complete and and partial imagery along the rock walls. Some have even been "erased" by smudges overlying the originals. In some cases the animals are probably fighting. The rutting season? Others are massed together as if migrating or hunting in packs. To depict these fauna so precisely required immense talent. Yet they could only have been drawn in the flickering light of oil lamps or torches. The very walls must have seemed to flicker with life as the painters went about their craft. Who were they? Why did they put so much effort into these images? What can we learn from them?
Jean Clottes, leading a team of researchers, has been examining the Chauvet caves for over a decade. In this book, the images are catalogued, defined and analysed for age and content. More than anything else, this book is a fantastic depiction of the images, in both panoramic and in close detail. It has been an immense task and the work has barely begun, as Clottes notes. Access to the cave, even when permitted, requires patience, dexterity and allows no tinge of claustrophobia! Yet some of the photographs show the researchers at their work or examining their surroundings. It's a vivid contrast to see but the boots of one crawling through an access tunnel, then standing almost lost in an immense grotto.
A compilation of the work of several authors, Clottes' book offers more than the images of our ancestors' paintings.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wall in the Hole Gang 17 Feb 2006
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's dark in there. Deep in the caverns located in cliffs of the Ardeche River gorge somebody left images of a world unseen. Bears, ibexes, lions and more are depicted in over three hundred complete and and partial imagery along the rock walls. Some have even been "erased" by smudges overlying the originals. In some cases the animals are probably fighting. The rutting season? Others are massed together as if migrating or hunting in packs. To depict these fauna so precisely required immense talent. Yet they could only have been drawn in the flickering light of oil lamps or torches. The very walls must have seemed to flicker with life as the painters went about their craft. Who were they? Why did they put so much effort into these images? What can we learn from them?

Jean Clottes, leading a team of researchers, has been examining the Chauvet caves for over a decade. In this book, the images are catalogued, defined and analysed for age and content. More than anything else, this book is a fantastic depiction of the images, in both panoramic and in close detail. It has been an immense task and the work has barely begun, as Clottes notes. Access to the cave, even when permitted, requires patience, dexterity and allows no tinge of claustrophobia! Yet some of the photographs show the researchers at their work or examining their surroundings. It's a vivid contrast to see but the boots of one crawling through an access tunnel, then standing almost lost in an immense grotto.

A compilation of the work of several authors, Clottes' book offers more than the images of our ancestors' paintings. It's made clear that whatever the painters' drive to convey their views of lions, mammoth or bison, it wasn't an evolving aesthetic sense or the expression of a leisure class. Among the collections of photographs, analysts attempt to derive some meaning from the depictions. To Joelle Robert-Lamblin, the closest approximation to these Palaeolithic artists are the Inuit. In an essay pointing out similarities and differences, attention is given to the role of the cave itself and known shamanic practices. For both societies, the bear is a figure of significance. At Chauvet, paintings are done over cave bear scratchings, and in one place a bear's skull has been carefully positioned. Were the skull and the many paintings of bears an appeal for their power, or an attempt to ward off predation?

Interpretation of these images isn't easy, but Clottes explains some of the patterns and practices involved. Reading his text requires a bit of page flipping, since the cave has so many chambers, all named for some factor or another [although "The Sacristy" at the far end defies explanation]. In the "earlier" part of the cave, the images are rendered mostly in red ochre. In the deeper chambers, the dominant colour is black. Certain animals abound in some grottoes, while others are nearly devoid of images. Many surfaces which almost cry out for use remain blank. Clottes suggests these divisions are based on initiation levels of those allowed within the sacred confines - a practice common in many of today's religions. Further, the mystery of the lack of human figures remains unresolved.

Beyond the glorious photography, Clottes provides maps of the various chambers and a table of dated artefacts. The dating, as he notes, was a shocking revelation. The images were depicted over thirty thousand years ago. And their creation wasn't continuous. A five thousand year stretch, a distance in time equal to that of the Old Kingdom of Egypt to today, separates the two major periods of occupancy. Was the location lost, or simply visited without adding new graphics? The notes and bibliography for this account are thorough, but are limited to the immediate work. Clottes is still working on the images and their meaning. He may produce another book on Chauvet, but it will not truly replace this one. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a class by itself among works on rock art 29 May 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The discovery of Chauvet Cave in France's Rhone Valley in 1994 created an international sensation. Its floors were littered with the remains of cave bears, giraffes, auroch, and horses, and its walls displayed fantastic art depicting mammoths, rhinos, and lions-all signs of human occupation dating as far back as the Aurignacian period (37,000-29,000 years BP). No other site exists that is as close in age to the currently accepted date for the appearance of modern humans. Chauvet Cave documents this priceless find. The far-reaching significance of Chauvet Cave has yet to be realized, but the early implications are staggering-it has the earliest known cave paintings, the earliest known footprints from an anatomically modern human, a fossil record of Pleistocene cave bear skeletons. Based on the first three years of formal study at the site, Chauvet Cave, published in France in 2001 and now available for the first time to English-speaking readers, offers the first in-depth research report accessible to the general public. The text is accessible and the stunning photography speaks for itself providing an absorbing introduction to one of the most important archaeological finds of the twentieth century. Since it's discovery, French archaeological authorities have tightly restricted access to Chauvet cave. It is unlikely it will ever be opened to more than a handful of specialists. Fortunately, the full color photographs, maps, and probing text Chauvet Cave will allow the rest of us intimate access to the timeless, beautiful images found inside.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 30,000 years old 1 Dec 2003
By Steve E - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is a bit different from many of the others that one can purchase about cave art. This focuses on a relatively newely discovered cave (1994) and documents the fruits of the first years of exploration and investigation. The results of this research are well written in this book and highlight a lot of the excitement of finding paintings that were as old when the Lascaux paintings were made as those Lascaux paintings are now! 30,000 years ago man made sophisiticated and mature pictures and this book does them justice. Parts of the text are quite technical and maybe not of great interest to someone just trying to 'learn a little bit about cave art.' But this book was not realized to be just another overview of cave art in general and does not really take the place of one either. It is as beautiful book as the cover would suggest and is full of luscious photographs not only of the art works themselves, but also of the raw natural beauty of the cave. I highly recommend this book!!!
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chauvet Cave: The Art of Earliest Times 8 Mar 2004
By C. Graham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I purchased this book more as an art lover than an anthropologist and have found it fascinating. The authors have been maticulous in their documentation of their findings. The art and the cave floor photos with inhancements are incredible. History, animal and art lovers will all benefit from this work. My only suggestion to the authors is that the glossary be expanded to aid readers such as myself who have a limited knowledge base of archeology et al. A great addition to anyones library.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars the same book by another name 15 Jun 2009
By William Mixon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Beware. This is the same book as Thames and Hudson's "Return to Chauvet Cave: Excavating the Birthplace of Art--The First Full Report," published in London. The British version seems to be available quite a bit cheaper, perhaps because the Thames and Hudson editions of book like this tend to get remaindered and are easier to find in used-book stores. So on price grounds I can't really recommend the US edition.
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