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Shamanism and the Ancient Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Archaeology (Archaeology of Religion) Paperback – 28 Feb 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press,U.S. (28 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0759101566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0759101562
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 1.3 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,419,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


In this very well written account, James Pearson discusses the major trends in archaeological thought that made [a] revolution in the interpretation of prehistoric art possible. His thoughtful discussion of the many pros and cons of various competing theories regarding the origins of Paleolithic cave art is both interesting and insightful.--Danny A. Brass "National Spedeological Society News "

Pearson usefully thinks in terms of a continuous range from less towards more 'processual' and 'post-processual' positions... he stresses the research value of rock art, for these are ancient images which seem directly to express what it was that existed and seemed to be important in their world as ancient peoples knew it to be...Pearson presents his partisan view briefly and well, with verve and conviction.--Christopher Chippendale, Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology "Cambridge Archaeological Journal "

The time is long overdue for a step back from the basic data, for a synthesis of what we know, and do not know, about the role of shamanism, hallucinogenic drugs, and altered states of consciousness as part of a cognitive approach to archaeology. Jim Pearson now provides us with such an overview. He gives us a valuable critical synthesis of theoretical approaches to cognitive archaeology and reminds us that a large part of the archaeological record results from human cognition.This is an important book that should be on every aspiring archaeologist's bookshelf.--Brian Fagan, (University of California, Santa Barbara)

This is an eminently useful book in a much wider sense. It sees rock art not merely as a side alley...of archaeology but as an attractive and varied path to more general debate of archaeological theory and methodology. The clarity with which [Pearson] sets out his review of the literature, the persistent misunderstandings, and even the abuse to which some writers appear dedicated is timely and necessary if researchers are to move closer to what he calls "Archaeology's final frontier" ancient beliefs and meanings.--J.D. Lewis-Williams, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa "Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol 59, 2003 ""

About the Author

James L. Pearson has a Ph.D. in archaeology from University of California, Santa Barbara. He became an archaeologist after a long career as a business executive and is now working toward bringing archaeology to the general public.

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Pearson begins with a history of archaeological thought in America. This part of the book is not as coherent as the rest. It is somewhat repetitive and not always logically sequenced. Personally I would also have liked to see more about the thinking beyond America. Though European schools of thought are touched on, they are not explored in detail. The main section of the book is an extremely well argued investigation of the evidence suggesting that shamanism and the hallucinogenic substances often associated with shamanistic practices played a role in the creation of ancient rock art. The evidence is drawn from multiple sources, including examinations of and comparisons of bodies of rock art, laboratory studies of responses to hallucinogens and ethnographic material from a variety of locations. The final section of the book attends to all the counterarguments which have been raised by others with respect to the proposed connections between shamanism, hallucinogens and rock art. Pearson's final conclusion is that he believes that the proposals he makes take account of the greatest amount of evidence available and are therefore the best available theory.This book truly makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in prehistoric rock art. With the exception of some of the jargon associated with the history of archaeological thought in the first section, it is also a very approachable book and does not require an in-depth understanding of archaeology.
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