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Stepping-Stones: A Journey through the Ice Age Caves of the Dordogne Hardcover – April 20, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Desdemaines-Hugon takes readers on a fascinating journey through the ice caves of the Dordogne. . . . Her vivid descriptions help readers visualize the Cro-­Magnon man or woman painting the beautiful bison, horses, mammoths, and other symbols. [A] fine reading experience.”—Library Journal 
(Library Journal 2010-06-01)

“The next best thing to actually seeing the prehistoric cave art of southern France’s Dordogne region is reading about it, as lovingly and meticulously described by Christine Desdemaines-Hugon in Stepping-Stones. . . a rapturous guide through five major Ice Age sites, each open to the public, and each with its own magical beauty.”—Peter A. Young, Archaeology  
(Peter A. Young Archaeology)

“Dedemaines-Hugon speaks with enthusiasm and a love for the culture and its artwork.”—Brian Skinner, Yale University

(Brian Skinner)

About the Author

Christine Desdemaines-Hugon is an eminent scholar of prehistoric anthropology and cave art of the Dordogne region of France. She lives in Campagne, France.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (April 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300152663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300152661
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #529,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was heading back to the caves in the Dordogne for a second look and someone suggested this book to me. I ordered it, thinking in the back of my mind that it in spite of my best intentions it would likely remain unread in the bookshelf because most books about rock art are either excruciatingly dry or dippy New Age. This book is neither. I read it bit by bit over about a week. The author has such a deep understanding and length of exposure to these treasures that she was able to create a real page turner. Her explanation of the context in which these works of art were created, and of the evoultion of our species, is a very valuable source.
I could not recommend this book more highly and have ordered copies to give friends and family members who may never be able to experience these wonders first hand. This book is the next best thing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This must be a very difficult subject to write a book about because after several tries I haven't found one yet that hasn't been, as another reviewer said, overwhelmingly "dry or New Age". Having said that I think this is the best yet for someone like me who doesn't have an academic background in the field. It is certainly well written and eminently readable for the layman as an overview of the subject, but In the end it is disappointing.

The real question the reader wants answered is "why" and, apparently so far, that answer is simply unknown. But that doesn't stop other authors from profoundly speculating.

Thankfully this book does not focus on that type of guessing game. Ms. Desdemaines-Hugon does a very good job of sticking to what it is and not why it is.

The problem however, it seems to me, based on what is actually known this is a subject for a book of illustrations, not page after page after page of text. If you haven't seen at least a copy the painting a glowing description of the "Mona Lisa", no matter how accurate, is a rather useless and frustrating experience. I found myself simultaneously ( and for the most part unsuccessfully ) searching other sources for some visual confirmation of the authors rapturous opinions.

Bottom line, good but not great.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have previously visited several of the caves discussed in the book and found that I now have many new insights. The author gives us a fascinating view of the lives and inspirations of these gifted people. The writing style is entertaining and non-academic, without being sensational or flippant. This book is an indispensable starting point for real appreciation of the origins of our artistic traditions. I will re-read as a preparation for future visits to these sites and recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in these remarkable examples of human creativity .
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have recently started the kindle edition of this book and have learned this edition is missing the color plates which are an essential feature of the book. I will buy the book version now but wish I had been warned about this in advance. I know that the kindle does not show color pictures but I did not know there were color plates in the book.

I believe the product description for the kindle edition should mention when important features of the book are missing.

I have really enjoyed the book so far so my rating is just for the kindle edition!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am thoroughly enjoying this book.
The author, Christine Desdemaines-Hugon, writes in a fashion that is informative, but not above my head.
She freely states this book is a "more like a story, than anything else" and that is what I was looking for, regarding ice age cave art.
I am interested in an introduction, a basic understanding of the subject, and Ms. Desdemaines-Hugon provides that very well.

I highly recommend the book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book as a companion to a recent (September 2013) visit to the Dordogne region. I knew about "cave art" but I did not know much more than the very basics. After reading this book I knew a whole lot more. In addition to describing the major caves in Les Eysies/Vezere Valley and the prehistorical/cultural context for the cave art, this book helped me appreciate the complexity of expression and "humanity" of the art in a quite modern sense. On a practical level, the book helped me plan a very nice two-day itinerary in Les Eysies/Vezere Valley. A big plus, when we toured the Font-de-Gaume cave our guide spoke no English - and I speak nearly no French - but since I had just re-read that chapter I was actually able to follow the guide's descriptions well enough.

For what it's worth, this book is one of the few English language books that is on sale in *all* of the museum shops in the region.

And, for anyone thinking of visiting the region it is absolutely awesome to stand in places with 50,000 years or more of human history under foot.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author does an excellent job of conveying a sense of several particular caves in France, their art and the fascination it can hold. All without creating fiction. With this as an introduction, one will have a real framework in which to incorporate more narrow and fact-list types of work on the subject.

Even more significantly, Desdemaines-Hugon is insightful and profound without projecting personal or cultural interpretations on the imagery or it's location (inside caves). Throughout the book, while questions and reflections flow, interpretations are notably absent. She consistently demonstrates a method of experiencing the place and the art with unassuming openess. Then in the last 3 pages she makes a concise and well supported statement, concluding, "What moves us today, whether for aesthetic or mystical reasons also touched these Paleolithic artists...Stylistic conventions, techniques, cultural motivations may vary over time, but . . . Beauty is spiritual." Some may disagree with that statement on the surface, but keep in mind I jumped from the middle to the end of 3 important pages. I recommend reading this book just for the broader implications of that idea and its fleshed out argument, as well as to enable one to avoid approaching Paleolithic art without a conceptual box in hand, looking for pieces that fit.
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