Part of me is fairly humble and part of me is not. I did study archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge in the 1970s. I cannot accept with any degree of equanimity the vast posturings and overblown empty, self conscious rhetoric and jargon that inhabits the last half of this book.
It starts quite promisingly with a good discussion of Homo Sapiens/ Neanderthals and perhaps some credence can be given to a psychological estimation that sapiens was better adapted than his contemporaries through a higher intelligence manifested in a more sophisticated mind set and more acute imagination. Perhaps the dreaming/hallucinations trances and shamanistic interpretations are plausible, in a generic sense to 'explain' Palaeoloithic parietal and mobiliar art.
I seem to remember reading similar books written by Carlos Casteneda in the 1970s which discussed native American Indians and Shamans taking mescaline and experimenting with drugs and 'seeing' the world in different ways.
I cannot accept the dismissal of the work of Leroi-Gourhon or even the sympathetic interpretation of some Palaeolithic art. I think it is only reasonable to suggest that a symbiotic relationship between humans and animals did exist and their representation in cave art is to a certain extent a mark of reverence and affection for the animals they hunted and consumed. Societies such as the Lapps today would simply not survive if they did not have a close relationship with their animals.
I am afraid I am not a professor, but should point out that if there is going to be a lot of technical language there should at least be a glossary at the back of the book. I digress here but there is a very good book called the Neanderthal's Necklace which was published a few years ago which I do recommend by Juan Luis Arsuaga. I find it hard to believe that Chris Stringer has nailed his cross to this book.
In what I regard as a simplistic interpretation the author suggests that these remarkable Palaeolithic people were little more than a drug taking colony of spaced out hippies who on analogy with tribes some several thousand years later and on the basis of ethnographic analogy managed to produce some highly symbolic paintings. I think this interpretation belittles the imagination of our ancestors though it may do wonders for David Lewis-William's academic career.
I would rather be descended from a neanderthal than a 21 century rock art researcher!
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