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on 10 August 2017
One to have if you are interested in this type of art, good reference points and details.
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on 5 March 2017
An outstanding book that I shall treasure for many years. Beautiful clear & detailed photos. Well wrapped & quick postage.
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on 3 June 2017
This is a catalogue for an exhibit and it is quite thorough in presenting the material that was in the show. The catalogue claims that the material in the show is presented as art. The catalogue does not treat the material in the show as art; it treats it as archaeological artifacts, which it is. Presenting the material as art, it is necessary to go beyond just archaeological description and deal with the esthetics of the objects.
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VINE VOICEon 12 December 2013
This is a superbly illustrated work with very readable, descriptive text by Jill Cook, a senior curator at the British Museum who, whilst obviously steeped in the knowledge of her subject, has a pleasingly detached style that avoids any personalised slants of opinion. The reader is simply presented with the facts and, where there is uncertainty, it is acknowledged. All told, the reader is left with the overwhelming impression that the creators of Ice Age art were every bit as intelligent as modern humans and that the modern world had already dawned. It was simply a question of the accumulation of knowledge and skills, which were handed down and improved upon from generation to generation. The humans of twenty, even thirty, thousand years ago were already observing, interpreting and devising, one of the results of which is that the quality of both their art work and craftsmanship has never been surpassed. Equalled, yes, but not surpassed.

On page 178 there's an illustration of a masterfully crafted, laurel leaf shaped flint tool that perfectly illustrates how skilled these early people must have been. As we study their work we cannot fail to become aware of the relationship between craftsmanship and pure art and also become aware of the the differences between the two, epitomised by cave paintings on the one hand and flint tools on the other. It is said that, when Pablo Picasso was taken into the caves to see the paintings, he exclaimed: 'We have learned nothing!' In those far off days they already had both innovators and copyists: those with new ideas and those who copied and exploited them. Looking back over the past thousands years we can see how, whilst some art is original and innovative, other so called art is really no more than top quality craftsmanship. An innovator comes along and is followed by load of band wagon jumpers. The fact that it was the same then is so well brought out in this book.

The book has eight chapters: 1: Introduction. 2: Europe's oldest sculptures, 30,000-20,000 years ago. 3: Soft curves and full figures, 30,000-20,000 years ago. 4: Art and identity, 40,000-20,000 years ago. 5: Animals in art, 30,000-20,000 years ago . 6: Renaissance art in Western Europe, 22,000-12,000 years ago. 7: Sex of symbol? Images of women, 18,000-11,000 years ago. 8: Late drawings, sculptures and stories, 15,000-10,000 years ago. There's also an afterword, notes, further reading, picture acknowledgements and an index. A few illustrations of art from the past 2000 years, mainly very recent, have been included for comparisons. All told, this is one of those great works that will never fail to inspire the eagerly returning reader. Jill Cook and her helpers have done us all proud.
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on 23 April 2013
Wonderful book with lots of new insights. I loved the juxtaposition of ice age art and modern art which was inspired by it. Also the first book with a decent overview of the various periods and different types of art as well as providing new theories concerning what it was all about. Highly recommended.
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on 19 March 2013
This is a lavish and well produced book about an excellent exhibition currently on at the British Museum. Although I enjoyed the book it started to annoy me after a while, the reason being the hushed reverential tones! Why does all the art have to have a spiritual meaning? It never seems to enter the academic mind that these were people like us who maybe created a bit of art just for the sheer pleasure of it! And couldn't some of it been practice pieces or doodles - the Teufelbrücke slate for instance (p245) or the Montastruc slab (p248)? Further on Cook says' these people weren't just drawing and sculpting for the sake of it, their images were intentional, conveyed meaning and represented deeply held traditions'. Really? How the hell do you know that?

OK, no doubt a lot of it did have religious overtones, but the exploration of a few alternative ideas would have been nice

I recommend you read this book in conjunction with Cave Art by Jean Clottes which is a perfect compliment ( and a bit less starry eyed in it's interpretations)
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on 13 March 2013
This multidisciplinary analysis of Ice Age art is beautifully illustrated, with all the closeups needed to see the details. And details there are, for the author and the experts she quotes see things in these works of art which I certainly would miss. The analysis is so thorough that in a few cases, I wonder if too much has been read into certain features, such as the carving of a woman's head which "has a twist to her smile and an injured eye." I just can't see it. This milestone of a book can stand up to another backhanded compliment from a layman, which is that the idea of Ice Age "goddesses" actually being self-portraits or otherwise carved or drawn by women for some purpose of their own gets a well-deserved mention but no further analysis in the text. BTW, the book and its sources give no support to the theory that these prehistoric depictions of women were goddesses any kind, so don't come looking for that. At the moment, Amazon UK has no "look inside" or chapter list for the book, but there's one at [...] , which is actually where I bought my copy the day it went on sale.
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on 24 June 2013
I was prompted to buy this book after a recent visit to the museum of prehistoric rock engraving in Lussac-les-Chateaux which was both moving because of the intimacy of the art work and informative due to the excellent guide who was able to answer my questions with clarity and detail. Although I haven't been to the British Museum exhibition, I am glad that I visited Lussac-les-Chateaux beforehand as it helped me put the art work in this book in to a more historical context and, more importantly, demonstrated that as wonderful as this book is, it is generally one person's point of view. The quality of the photographs make this book an essential purchase for anyone interested in this subject but I felt that the text sometimes over-estimated the quality of the finds which, in some cases, were inferior to those displayed at Lussac-les-Chateaux. From my experience, I would have to say that this book is not necessarily "The best of prehistoric art" and is probably dictated to a degree by those finds loaned to the British Museum. There is a lot of excellent pre-historic art that is not shown in Jill Cook's book.

Obviously, anything that is broadly from 12,000 to 40,000 years old is always going to be subject to conjecture and this must also be tempered with the fact that the appreciation of artwork is also of a subjective nature itself. For these reasons, I felt that my reaction to the text was not always one of belief and whilst there are elements where the writing regarding the animal carvings and engravings on horn and ivory are convincing, there were other sections such as those discussing the rock carvings at Roc-aux Sourciers which I felt was over-played. I struggled to make out the images of the women in the photos presented. Whilst I appreciate Jill Cook's authority on this subject, I think the reader is sometimes best to make their own opinion of what has been presented. The other slight disappointment is the lack of photographs of cave paintings and I would have liked to have seen more pictures of Lascaux, Niaux or Altamira.

In it's favour, the artwork concerning animals is exceptional and it is a shame that these a sacrificed for a more balanced view to include the figurative sculptures which do not appeal to the same degree for this reviewer. I suppose the animals make up about 40% of the content but the examples of so fantastic that I would have willingly have put up with 100%. I love the fact that the book also includes photos of animals which match the behaviour portrayed in the artwok such as the reindeer swimming. At this point, it might also be worth recording that much of the book is given over to the female sculptures (even where they are so abstract as to make you scratch your head to work out what they are such as the tits on a stick described on page 69!) and the text does go on to consider the various understandings of the scultures in a manner that leaves nothing of a biological nature left unturned! I much preferred reading about the spear throwers but abstract art has never been my thing!!

Setting aside these reservations, this is a wonderful book that is beautifully illustrated and that endeavours to put the prehistoric efforts in to context of other more recent artworks whether from Ancient Greece or Picasso. Whilst you could argue that this may or may not be relevent, I thought this was thought provoking. The text does try to make an educated guess as to the origins of the various pieces of art found as well as describing the context in which they were found. I would have liked to have learned more about the archaeological aspect of these scultures and engravings as where this was discussed, I felt this was the most interesting element.

I was engrossed in this book and the quality of the photography makes it an essential purchase. In some instances opposing interpretations of the finds are offered and there is also information describing the process of carving which has been identified by almost forensic research.

All in all, this is a very good book indeed even if it is not a comprehensive study of this oeuvre and is skewed by the author's own particular bias / selection of artwork.
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on 25 July 2013
If you have any interest at all in the birth of the human psyche then this book is a must. Lovely photography and insightful text: the next best thing to viewing the exhibition at the British Museum and a wonderful keepsake
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on 30 May 2014
This is stunningly beautiful book full of excellent photographic reproductions of exceedingly ancient objects. It is a perfect complement to a wonderful exhibition - often the images are 'better' in the book; it's important to remember just how small the real objects are and, even though they were well displayed, it was often difficult to make out some of the detail at the exhibition.
Contrary to some reviews, Jill Cook's text is also a admirable achievement. She synthesises a great deal of current archeological knowledge into a clearly written, accessible text that is fair and balanced to the available evidence. If it seems 'simplified' that is because it is written to appeal to those without prior knowledge and, as any academic 'expert' knows, that is no mean feat. An important underlying aim of the exhibition and the book is to reveal the commonalities between our ancestors ourselves, refuting once and for all the old anthropological notions of 'primitive mind'. It is unlikely that, for Upper Palaeolithic peoples these objects were 'art' in the sense that we know it. Nevertheless, they were undoubtedly immensely skilled artists, comparable to any great artist of the modern era. The exhibition and the book make that point extremely well.
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