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Journey Through the Ice Age [Hardcover]

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

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Book Description

25 Aug 1997
This new andauthoritative book is the most up-to-date account of a mysterious and fascinating period. It makes use of the most modern analytical techniques and has the only photographic images of many caves which have been closed to protect their fragile environment. Paul Bahn describes the varied background to the sites, their enigmas and mysteries, while the unsurpassed photogrphy is a tribute to the skill of the late Jean Vertut.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; 2nd Revised edition edition (25 Aug 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297835882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297835882
  • Product Dimensions: 28.4 x 23.8 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 444,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Bahn's conclusions about Paleolithic art are revealing and humble in understanding our ancestors."--"Sacramento Bee

About the Author

Paul Bahn is a writer, translator, and broadcaster specializing in archaeology. He lives in Hull, England. The late Jean Vertut was the foremost photographer of European cave art. A pioneer of new techniques for recording difficult images, he was also the last person given access to many of the caves featured in this book.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for anyone interested in cave art 25 Aug 2008
By NARV
Format:Paperback
This is an update of Bahn and Vertut's fantastic 1988 book 'Images of the Ice Age', about the portable art and cave art of the Upper Palaeolithic. The book covers the methods used by the Ice Age artists, possible meanings, and the discovery and study of the art.

'Journey through the Ice Age' contains a few new chapters on fakes and forgeries and art in the open air, plus some other material. Besides this the lucid and interesting text is largely the same as in the original, but there is also a wealth of new photographs (suitably so given the subject matter, and given that Chauvet Cave with its treasure trove of cave art was not discovered until 1994). The photographs are beautiful - even surpassing the original book in sumptuous clarity.

The book is very informative without being overly technical, so it could be enjoyed by professional archaeologists and laymen alike (I should know, I've been both). But quite simply, I haven't come across another book on this subject that comes even close in it's breadth without stinting on the substance. I can't imagine it being bettered.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey Through the Ice Age 27 Dec 2000
By Luann Udell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As an artist whose work is inspired by the cave paintings of Lascaux, I am always on the lookout for new books about the prehistoric cave art of Europe. This book is a delightful addition to my collection. I should caution that I approach books like this strictly from a layman's and artist's point of view, as I have a limited background in archeology.
Before I read this book, I'd always considered the cave art of Lascaux as the "birthplace of human art" (which was how it was presented in most of my art history courses at school.) Now I realize that the artists of that period are actually almost exactly halfway, timewise, between the earliest evidence of prehistoric art, and the art of today. Each new discovery of prehistoric cave art seems to push back the "birthdate" of human art a few tens of thousands of years.
Rather than focusing on a single cave site, this book is a more comprehensive treatment of Ice age art, discussing caves across Europe, with references to caves in Russia and China. It presents a more complete treatment of all aspects of these caves, discussing anthropological characteristics of the people who created the art, similarities and differences in the artwork, theories about their signicance(mostly debunked here), forgeries, history of the caves' discovery, etc. The photographs are excellent, and many are of paintings and objects I've never seen before. The writing, though comprehensive, is also entertaining and engaging, a good read. I enjoyed this book immensely.
This book is unique to me for several reasons. First, the wonderful photographs not only feature the more widely known paintings inside the caves (referred to in the book as "parietal art" or wall art), but also the artifacts found in conjunction with the paintings--"portable art". I found more photographs of such objects than in any other book I've read. Many are of artifacts I've never read about before.
Also, almost every possible theory ever presented to explain these paintings and artifacts is examined--and most of them debunked. Somehow, this is reassuring to me as an artist--although it would be exciting to understand more about the purpose of the art, it is also satisfying to realize that there is still no encompassing theory about why these amazing paintings and artifacts were created. Their mystery is still profound, intact and untouched. The various theories and conjecture throughout the years about these caves, argues the author, clearly reveals more about US, as modern people, than it does about the cultures that created the cave art. We overlay our desires, prejudices and blind spots onto the art, and for the last 150 years, observers have tended to "find" what they are looking for in the paintings.
There is a whole chapter devoted to fakes and forgeries of Ice Age art, a subject I find fascinating. My favorite phrase in this chapter is a caption of a photograph (p. 81)"...the dot and plantlike sign near the dreadful hand stencil appeared after the first photographs were taken."
In summary, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in archeology, cave paintings, art history, and art.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compared to Randall White's "Prehistoric Art" 22 July 2006
By Wyote - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I wasn't sure whether this book or "Prehistoric Art: The Symbolic Journey of Humankind" by Randall White would be better, so I bought them both.

It turns out that they are both excellent books. Both are loaded with color photographs of artifacts famous and less well-known. Both have scholarly, informative text, considering anthropological and historical contexts, the techniques and materials used by the artists, the history of the study of prehistoric art, and plenty of cautious speculation about the functions the art had to its artists' communities.

They are organized quite differently: Bahn's moves from topic to topic: chapter 7 is on portable art, chapter 8 on rock shelters and cave art, chapter 9 on outdoors art, and so on. But White's book has a regional arrangement: chapter 4 is on Western Europe, chapter 5 is on Central and Eastern Europe and Sibera, chapter 6 is on Africa, the Near East and Anatolia, and so on.

Obviously you can see that White's book has more of a global focus than Bahn's. In fact, Bahn's third chapter deals with prehistoric art outside of Europe; in every other chapter he focuses on European art, especially the caves.

Although Bahn's book devotes a chapter to "Portable Art" such as jewelry and miniature statues (including the famous "Venus figurines"), White's book has a far superior coverage. On the other hand, Bahn has better coverage of interesting issues such as how to reproduce prehistoric art for public enjoyment, dating issues, and forgeries.

If you are primarily interested in European cave art and will be content with a glance at the rest of the world, then Bahn's book is better for you. Personally, although Bahn deals with some interesting issues that White neglects, ultimately I prefer White's global perspective; further, I appreciate his introductory comments about modern Western art and cultural assumptions, and consideration of what might be universal in human art.

Incidently, when it comes to books about art, for some reason I prefer hardcover to paperback; and at this time White's book in hardcover is available at great discount on Amazon, making it almost as inexpensive as Bahn's.

So, my preference is clear. However, I want to emphasize that despite my partiality to White's book, they are certainly both excellent, and I do not think one of them is clearly, inherently better than the other. It just depends on what you are looking for.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, factual, unbiased..... 5 Aug 2002
By Dianne Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
After a brief overview of the "oldest art in the world" and a discussion of the caveats associated with the term `art' as applied to extinct cultures Bahn describes the problem of taphonomy where knowledge of another older culture is shaped by the survival of artifacts. He also discusses the problem of controlled and limited access to ancient sites, as well as the use of modern photography to capture and transmit information about these sites to a larger audience.
Next, Bahn discusses different kinds of ice age art, which he categorizes as: 1) parietal art which takes the form of wall paintings and sculptures, floor tiles, and other large relatively immovable blocks of stone on which "signs" have been worked. Wall art can be incised, sculpted (additive or subtractive), or painted. 2) portable art which takes the form of figurines, musical instruments, tools, weapons, pottery, and other items that could be easily carried. Surviving portable items are generally made of ivory, bone, or ceramic clay or some other relatively durable inorganic substance.
Bahn then describes how analysts attempt to date ice age material. At one time, scientists believed ice age art could not be dated because it was either inorganic or the methods available for dating organic material were clumsy and destructive. Recent improvements in dating techniques have changed that. For example, charcoal (an organic substance) was frequently used by ice age artists to create the black outlines seen in many wall paintings. For years, scientists thought the black paint was manganese dioxide, an inorganic substance. Since only a pinprick of paint is now required for radio carbon analysis, scientists have been able to test the black paint, discover it was carbon based, and date it.
The book is filled with wonderful technical material as well as plenty of stylistic and other material of interest to art historians. I most appreciated the section that reviewed the various theories about "Why" ice age art was created. Was it art for art's sake? Was it the work of hunters practicing sympathetic magic? Was it a fertility ritual? Bahn pretty much dismisses these theories with practical observations about their shortcomings. What he does not dismiss is the creation of the ice age art for mythical purposes associated with healing rituals. Parietal ice age art is located inside dark passages near water. Often this water derives from warm springs. Sometimes the water flows from dark passages into the daylight. Often, mysterious markings that correspond to the seasons and the moon can be found at the entryways to cave chambers. Does this circumstantial evidence point to ritual undertakings that involved a Mother Goddess?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 6 Feb 2011
By Selene - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Paul Bahn's, "Journey through the Ice Age", is the most comprehensive book on cave art available today. His scholarship is extensive, very readable and is illustrated through the excellent photography of Jean Vertut. The art itself encompasses a wide range of forms Journey Through the Ice Ageincluding paintings, drawings (using perspective), engravings, relief sculptures (life-size horses at Cap Blanc) and smaller portable sculptures. Treated in a very respectful way, animals are the predominant subject matter. The drawing skill, and the range and quality of the art is as sophisticated as anything being done today. My only suggestion for the next edition would be to expand the size of the photographs of the mural-size art. Having seen some of the the actual artwork myself, I felt that the layout reduced to small things that were amazingly large in reality.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous overview of Prehistoric art in Europe. 4 Dec 2012
By Thomas Powers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Paul Bahn's grand survey of prehistoric art in Europe opens a conversation with the men, and possibly the women, who made it. The art and artifacts are all carefully chosen and clearly described. The rest is up to the reader.
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