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Stepping-Stones: A Journey through the Ice Age Caves of the Dordogne Hardcover – April 20, 2010
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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.
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.
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.
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.