From Library Journal
Since the first report of cave art (at Altamira in 1879), attempts have been made to explain the purpose of the mysterious drawings. Art for art's sake; totemism; hunting, destructive, or fertility magic; and modern structuralist theories have all been proposed. Clottes (The Cave Beneath the Sea: Paleolithic Images at Cosquer, LJ 4/1/96) and Lewis-Williams (cognitive archaeology, Univ. of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg) propose a new theory emphasizing the shamanic aspects of Paleolithic cave paintings. After an unavoidably technical chapter providing the basics of shamanism, the authors examine Paleolithic paintings from across France and Spain, noting the use of animal figures, composite figures combining both human and animal characteristics, and geometric designs that are all common elements of shamanism. The bulk of the book is both fascinating and thought-provoking, and while it is not likely to be the last word on the subject, it is an important contribution to the field. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.?Mary Morgan Smith, Northland P.L., Pittsburgh
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The most obvious question about cave art is why is it there, and Clottes, a prehistoric rock art expert associated with the French ministry of culture, and Lewis-Williams, a South African professor of cognitive archaeology, propose an elegant answer in this beautifully illustrated volume. They begin by documenting the universality of certain cave art images, then suggest that these paintings are shamanic in nature. They make their case in a fresh and lucid discussion of the methods shamans use to achieve altered states of consciousness in order to get in touch with the spiritual realm, then, shifting to a neuropsychological perspective, characterize the types of hallucinations experienced at the three main stages of trance: geometric shapes, objects of religious or emotional significance, and visions of animals, monsters, and people. The three sets of visions are depicted gracefully on cave walls deep beneath the surface of the earth, the perfect setting for a journey to another world. This is a handsome and quietly thrilling solution to an old and essential mystery. Donna Seaman