Cave Art First Edition
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About the Author
- Grade level : 8 and up
- Item Weight : 2.2 pounds
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0714845922
- ISBN-13 : 978-0714845920
- Dimensions : 9.88 x 1.38 x 11.5 inches
- Publisher : Phaidon Press; First Edition (June 10, 2008)
- Reading level : 13 and up
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
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Clottes is an authority to trust in displaying the most important examples of this art. An archaeologist with plenty of books and papers to his credit, he had a leading role in the study of the underwater Cosquer cave discovered in 1985 and the Chauvet Cave discovered in 1991. He summarizes the interpretations that have been put forward to explain these pictures, but it is safe to say that none of them clears the mysteries away. Why are there so few plants here, for instance? What do the abstract paintings here mean? There are dots at random, dots in groups, dots in designs that don't look like anything else, and there are stripes and wavy lines. This book is full mostly of photographs of cave paintings, but there are also some decorated objects; why should this portable art be far more varied, showing birds, snakes, or fawns that don't show up often on the walls, and also showing humans who seldom appear on the walls in comparison with the numbers of beasts? Where are all the people? Many of the paintings here are breathtaking in the way they use minimal lines to bring out a thoroughly realistic beast; many of them are simply primitive (and no less powerful for that). Clottes is not blind to defects in his appreciation of the artwork: ten simple, skillful lines show an animal that is obviously a weasel, but he calls the head "somewhat botched." Among the most easily recognizable forms here are hand stencils. The artist would place his hand on the wall and blow or spit a solution of pigment (hematite for red, charcoal for black) onto the hand and wall, leaving a fully familiar five finger imprint. Strangely, many of the fingers in such stencils are not complete, leading some to speculate that there were medical conditions, accidents, or even religious mutilations affecting the artists; a more likely guess seems to be that the hands were making some sort of hunting signal.
Having these handsome photographs displayed together makes it easy to admire the skill of the artists and the range of their interests. It also has to be a substitute for ever seeing some of the paintings first hand. Only a few of the caves are open to the public; there is a list here of caves you can visit. Some of the photographs here show the art intact where it is intact no longer; an aurochs drawn in the clay of the La Clotilde Cave in Spain was drawn over by some visitor after 1971. Well-meaning cleaners have cleaned off parts of the paintings. And sometimes just visiting them defaces them. The famous Lascaux Cave discovered in 1940 was open to visitors afterwards, but had to be closed in 1963 simply because the carbon dioxide breathed out by visitors was degrading the pigments. Even with the cave closed, the artwork which did just fine for so many millennia risks being attacked by mold. It is a treat to have a spectacular big book of photographs of the pristine artwork, the unity of themes illustrating what Clottes calls "the longest artistic tradition humankind has ever known." One page after another stimulates wonder at the ancientness of one of our specie's admirable traits, the artistic impulse.
It is a wonderful and accomplished reference; and if you care to know more about your curious ancient, human ancestors, it is a treasure book.