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on 15 June 2011
This proved to be a fascinating, well researched book. At first I was not sure if I would find it interesting as there is a lot of emphasis on the, often competing, archeologists who have interpreted the cave painting, however I was proved wrong as this analysis helped with understanding the different theories. Could not put it down!
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on 5 April 2013
This is an outstanding introduction to the subject, structured as a history of the discovery of the major sites from Altamira to Chauvet and the successive interpretations and theories they have generated.

The publishers are a little shy of acknowledging this, presumably fearing that 'a history of archaeology' would sound dry and unappealing. They should have had more confidence. It is a wonderful way of communicating the astonishment that was felt as the caves were first explored, the assumptions that were originally made about them and the successive waves of scholarship that overturned these assumptions and reframed their context and meaning. This is particularly valuable for Anglophone readers, as all this has unfolded in French and Spanish, and mostly in learned debates that are unfamiliar in the English speaking world.

Curtis has a crisp and vivid style that gives a satisfying picture of Ice Age life without resorting to novelistic scene-painting. He lays out the facts of each discovery elegantly, and allows the strengths and weaknesses of the theories to emerge from them. He gives the recent shamanic theories of Clottes and Lewis-Williams a generous hearing, while also raising their opponents' objection that such grand, sweeping interpretations are no longer tenable. We are, as it were, in the era of Egyptology before hieroglyphics were deciphered; an interpretation which made full and explicit sense of all the images and symbols would be a quantum leap, and immediately recognised as such.
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on 12 November 2014
If you are looking for a book that is a compile of the historical figures that discovered these caves, and their life story, their struggles and infighting of being recognized in their fields, this is the book you want. The documents seem to be written within their life time. Good stuff!

If you are looking for something more contemporary, this might not be the book you're looking for. This is, from start to finish, a historical piece. In the first chapter, where he is clearly stating his step by step journey into the wonderful world of cave art, he makes statements that are coming out of the mind set of the 50s and 60s. That's fine, as far as it goes, it's his views and he can state them.

The problem(s) I had with the writing, is he did not fact check. He must have written it in late 50s early 60s, and wasn't too clear then what was going on. He published recently without verifying anything might have changed. I've been studying this subject for 50 years myself, I recognize the patter. I see he's not bothered to keep up with new findings, research or verified data. This was painful to read, and I stopped before I threw the book. That was not the spine I wanted to break.

tl;dr This is a HISTORICAL book, it is not current and you will not learn anything to help you understand cave paintings or the people who made them, with current scientific knowledge we now have.
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on 31 January 2014
I bought this for my mum for Christmas as she's really interested in cave paintings and she says it's one of the best books on cave paintings she's ever read, well written and told from a fascinatingly personal perspective. Would definitely recommend.
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on 2 May 2015
Wonderful book! I am completely obsessed with all cave drawings and wish I could meet these artists! I intend having a long holiday visiting as many caves as possible, especially the most recent find in France. Book in excellent condition, well wrapped and a lovely surprise since I had forgotten I ordered it. Many thanks
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on 1 February 2013
I like it. I use it to maintain my lectures and studies on the Cave Art an Culture. It is good.
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on 4 May 2013
Last summer we visited some of the painted caves in Spain and France. I wanted to learn more about the artists behind the pictures and decided to buy this book. What a mistake.
I read up to page 45 where the author claims not just once, but twice, that Darwin wrote that our ancestors were apes ("specifically chimpanzees and gorillas"). If the author can't even get these facts right, how can I trust him about any other claims he makes in this book? This leaves a really bad after-taste of pseudo-science.
22 comments|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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