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Dawn of Art: The Chauvet Cave (The Oldest Known Paintings in the World) Hardcover – March 30, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

The 1990s have witnessed a sort of renaissance in cave art, thanks to new discoveries from the south of France. Previously, the oldest examples of human art were thought to have been painted 15,000 years ago. When these three spelunkers-turned-authors happened upon the Chauvet cave (named after one of them), however, they visited an underground art gallery that had been closed for 30,000 years. It's still inaccessible today, except to specialists. But this wonderful book of pictures and text allows virtual tourists to appreciate the creations of our remotest ancestors. This may be primitive art in the literal sense of the term, but it's remarkably sophisticated.

From Library Journal

The prehistoric paintings recently discovered in Chauvet Cave are twice as old as the paintings of Lascaux, and show both considerable strength and beauty. The discoverers of Chauvet Cave are well known and respected speleologists who maintained impeccable records while exploring their find. It is they who tell the story of their explorations. In many ways this book is reminiscent of Carter's writings about Tutankhamen's tomb with a similar sense of awe at the millennia that had passed between the fabrication of the work and the modern discovery. The text is good, with a clean, easy-to-read translation by prehistorian Paul G. Bahn, who also provides the foreword. It is the photographs, however, that capture the real power and beauty of these paintings, bringing the humanity of their Stone Age artists close to home. Very highly recommended for any collection on art history or prehistory.?Mary Morgan Smith, Northland P.L., Pittsburgh
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 135 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH edition (March 30, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810932326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810932326
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 0.8 x 12.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on August 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In December 1994, three speleologists were exploring in the Ardèche region of France when they discovered an underground system of caves that came to be known as the Chauvet Cave (named for one of the three). Because these individuals were highly aware of the potential for finding ice age cave art in this region and extremely responsible human beings, they behaved with the utmost propriety, taking care to preserve their find for scientific research. As a result, they have ensured the protection and continued existence of a treasure trove of paleolithic art. In DAWN OF ART: THE CHAUVET CAVE, Jean-Marie Chauvet, Eliette Brunel Deschamps and Christian Hillaire tell the story of the discovery that has rocked the art world.
The Chauvet Cave paintings were executed sometime during the Aurignacian Period. Radiocarbon dating indicates the wall art is probably about 30,000 years old, making it twice as old as Lascaux. CHAUVET CAVE (the book) includes over 100 pages of stunning photographs of this fabulous art. Literally hundreds of Aurochs, Bison, Mastodons, Horses, Lions, Bears and other animals have been depicted.
The Chauvet Cave paintings are extremely well executed, leading many archeologists and art historians to completely reformulate extant theories concerning the evolution of human art. It would seem our forebears were not clumsy louts who drew stick-like versions of organic life. The wall art at Chauvet shows perspective, modeling, color, line, form, and other visual aspects associated with post-Renaissance representational and abstract art. In my estimation, the Chauvet wall paintings -executed in charcoal, ochers, and other material - are comparable to the chalk drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The Chauvet Cave in Southern France has caused art history to have to be re-written. This brilliantly painted cave- far older than Lascaux and others in the region is exhibited beautifully here in a lush "Coffee Table" book form. These are well reproduced photographs of superb art work. Some of the animals drawn by the ancient artists have multiple legs- suggesting motion. Also surprising is the attempt at a realistic perspective in some of the works. As excellent as the book is in its photographs it is short on explaining the many questions this art brings to mind such as - "What function did this art serve." Perhaps this is for the best since the answers may always remain in the realm of speculation. This book is the only way to see this great art- as the cave will probably never be opened to general public visitation.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book has an epilogue and prologue written by professional archaeologists that will put the discovery in its proper academic perspective. The real thrill of the book is the narrative by the amateur speleologists as they discover and share with their friends what they recognize as an extraordinary site. Their first effort is to protect the cave bear bones from disturbance by the traffic of the experts who will come when they share their discovery with the world. The book invalidates so much previous speculation about the development of human art that it is a must read.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is filled with beautiful photographs of the oldest known cave art in the world. Simply flipping through and examining these paintings is an amazing experience. However, the text is a little less than breathtaking, providing little information for even those of us who know very little about cave art. It is little more than a description of how the discoverers felt upon finding this cave. Nonetheless, this book is worth purchasing, if only for the spectacular photos.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Spring on December 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
. A few stars are twinkling. I take a deep breath and think. What to do at 3 a.m.? I take down a book I had been intending to read: Chauvet Cave--the oldest paintings in the world. It was a great choice. I am astonished by the gorgeous cave paintings, the oldest found yet--they are some 30,000 years old. I am awed by the shapes and colors of animals: mammoths, rhinoceros, lions, horses, bears and one owl. Maybe just like the owl I am listening to right now.
When the cave was discovered in France in 1994, specialists were astonished by its location and the beauty of its art. Who would have guessed that people that long ago could be so sophisticated in their drawing. They used contours of the cave to dramatize the shapes of animals. The unknown master artist used perspective to show great herds of animals running and used shading on their bodies. There were a few hand prints outlined in red and the imprints of a pair of hands in the clay on the floor of the cave.
Even more astonishing were the huge footprints of cave bears and mixed in their tracks were paint pigments used on the walls. Imagine painting a masterpiece and having huge bears tracking through the paint. How distracting. In some places, the bears had incised the paintings on the cave walls with thier huge claws.
Cave bears are now extinct. They were larger than even the largest bears we know of today. Chauvet Cave was littered with many bear skulls and bones. If the bears had died while hibernating, that might explain part of it. But one bear skull had been deliberately set on a huge stone that had fallen from the ceiling as if an altar.
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