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Journey Through the Ice Age Paperback – July 2, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This publication updates Images of the Ice Age (Facts on File, 1988) with new discoveries and illustrations. The reproduction of the photographs is greatly improved over the first edition. As with similar popular books on ice age art (for example, The Cave Beneath the Sea: Paleolithic Images at Cosquer, Abrams, 1996), the strength is photographs taken by Vertut. This work is too detailed for general readers, though it is very readable overall, covering many aspects of various art forms, their creation and meaning, dating techniques and results, forgeries, and their history and discovery. The text reflects Bahn's experience with compiling popular and reference works on archaeology. As it is very up-to-date, informative, and beautifully produced, including a scholarly bibliography, it is recommended for art lovers, archaeology fans, and libraries with collections of any size in art, archaeology, and anthropology.?Joyce L. Ogburn, Old Dominion Univ., Norfolk, Va.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Bahn's conclusions about Paleolithic art are revealing and humble in understanding our ancestors."--"Sacramento Bee

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (July 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520229002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520229006
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,485,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
As an artist whose work is inspired by the cave paintings of Lascaux, I am always on the lookout for new books about the prehistoric cave art of Europe. This book is a delightful addition to my collection. I should caution that I approach books like this strictly from a layman's and artist's point of view, as I have a limited background in archeology.
Before I read this book, I'd always considered the cave art of Lascaux as the "birthplace of human art" (which was how it was presented in most of my art history courses at school.) Now I realize that the artists of that period are actually almost exactly halfway, timewise, between the earliest evidence of prehistoric art, and the art of today. Each new discovery of prehistoric cave art seems to push back the "birthdate" of human art a few tens of thousands of years.
Rather than focusing on a single cave site, this book is a more comprehensive treatment of Ice age art, discussing caves across Europe, with references to caves in Russia and China. It presents a more complete treatment of all aspects of these caves, discussing anthropological characteristics of the people who created the art, similarities and differences in the artwork, theories about their signicance(mostly debunked here), forgeries, history of the caves' discovery, etc. The photographs are excellent, and many are of paintings and objects I've never seen before. The writing, though comprehensive, is also entertaining and engaging, a good read. I enjoyed this book immensely.
This book is unique to me for several reasons.
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Format: Paperback
I wasn't sure whether this book or "Prehistoric Art: The Symbolic Journey of Humankind" by Randall White would be better, so I bought them both.

It turns out that they are both excellent books. Both are loaded with color photographs of artifacts famous and less well-known. Both have scholarly, informative text, considering anthropological and historical contexts, the techniques and materials used by the artists, the history of the study of prehistoric art, and plenty of cautious speculation about the functions the art had to its artists' communities.

They are organized quite differently: Bahn's moves from topic to topic: chapter 7 is on portable art, chapter 8 on rock shelters and cave art, chapter 9 on outdoors art, and so on. But White's book has a regional arrangement: chapter 4 is on Western Europe, chapter 5 is on Central and Eastern Europe and Sibera, chapter 6 is on Africa, the Near East and Anatolia, and so on.

Obviously you can see that White's book has more of a global focus than Bahn's. In fact, Bahn's third chapter deals with prehistoric art outside of Europe; in every other chapter he focuses on European art, especially the caves.

Although Bahn's book devotes a chapter to "Portable Art" such as jewelry and miniature statues (including the famous "Venus figurines"), White's book has a far superior coverage. On the other hand, Bahn has better coverage of interesting issues such as how to reproduce prehistoric art for public enjoyment, dating issues, and forgeries.

If you are primarily interested in European cave art and will be content with a glance at the rest of the world, then Bahn's book is better for you.
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Format: Paperback
After a brief overview of the "oldest art in the world" and a discussion of the caveats associated with the term `art' as applied to extinct cultures Bahn describes the problem of taphonomy where knowledge of another older culture is shaped by the survival of artifacts. He also discusses the problem of controlled and limited access to ancient sites, as well as the use of modern photography to capture and transmit information about these sites to a larger audience.
Next, Bahn discusses different kinds of ice age art, which he categorizes as: 1) parietal art which takes the form of wall paintings and sculptures, floor tiles, and other large relatively immovable blocks of stone on which "signs" have been worked. Wall art can be incised, sculpted (additive or subtractive), or painted. 2) portable art which takes the form of figurines, musical instruments, tools, weapons, pottery, and other items that could be easily carried. Surviving portable items are generally made of ivory, bone, or ceramic clay or some other relatively durable inorganic substance.
Bahn then describes how analysts attempt to date ice age material. At one time, scientists believed ice age art could not be dated because it was either inorganic or the methods available for dating organic material were clumsy and destructive. Recent improvements in dating techniques have changed that. For example, charcoal (an organic substance) was frequently used by ice age artists to create the black outlines seen in many wall paintings. For years, scientists thought the black paint was manganese dioxide, an inorganic substance. Since only a pinprick of paint is now required for radio carbon analysis, scientists have been able to test the black paint, discover it was carbon based, and date it.
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