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books about prehistoric 'Rock Art', 'Petroglyphs' & 'Cave Art' from around the world
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Below are a selection of books about prehistoric 'Rock Art', 'Petroglyphs' & 'Cave Art' from around the world. From the simply marvelous cave drawings at Lascaux in France, and the petroglyphs of the American SouthWest, to the ancient rock art of Africa, the various peoples of antiquity left records of their daily lives and their archaic world on stones, cliff-faces and deep inside the earth on the walls of caves that were 'sacred' to those peoples for many millennia.

In recent years, many researchers have attempted to 'translate', or 'decode', the archaic symbolism portrayed in these unique records of the peoples of the Stone Age and the Ice Age, and some of the results have given a greater insight into their lives and understanding of the natural world, as well as their obvious artistic abilities.

Archaeologists have begun to study the 'acoustic properties' of many the caves used by the ancient artists, and interpretations range from shamanic ritual usage to the recording of the movements of migrating animals according to the cycles of the sun and the moon. Of the caves at Lascaux in France, it is said the Pablo Picasso once visited them, and that upon exiting the cave gallery where the drawings are estimated to be between 17,000 and 11,000 years old, he is reputed to have exclaimed:

"We have learned nothing!" ...


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"The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of
the World's First Artists"

Gregory Curtis


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"For centuries, people have been going into caves in France and Spain, looking at the 30,000-year-old pictures painted there and asking, "What can they be?" In this lively survey, Curtis, former Texas Monthly editor, makes it clear that while we'll never have a definitive answer, the quest will always be fascinating. He begins by laying out who the painters probably were and what their world was like during the waning days of Neanderthals.

Then he dives into the caves and the bitter controversies on the art within, from the war of ideas between Marcelo Sautuola and Emile Cartailhac in the late 19th century to Jean Clottes's and David Lewis-Williams's current, strongly disputed theory that the paintings are related to shamanic quests.

Curtis's own speculation is sometimes more arguable than believable, but usually intriguing. He bolsters a slim number of illustrations with concise descriptions that convey his own delight, befuddlement, frustration and awe.


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"Stone Chisel and Yucca Brush: Colorado Plateau Rock Art"
by Ekkehart Malotki & Donald E. Weaver

UK Edition

"Stone Chisel And Yucca Brush: Colorado Plateau Rock Art collaboratively developed by Ekkehart Malotki (Professor of Languages, Northern Arizona University) and archaeologist Donald E. Weaver, Jr. is a stunningly impressive coffee table book which is filled from cover to cover with gorgeous color photography of ancient Native American rock art, as well as a detailed, "reader friendly" text explaining the most recent discoveries, theories, and speculations about these fascinating rock art creations in the American Southwest, and what they represented to the Native American peoples and cultures who made them.

Stone Chisel And Yucca Brush is strongly recommended for Native American Studies supplemental reading lists and academic reference collections."


"World Rock Art (Conservation and Cultural Heritage Series)"
by Jean Clottes & Guy Bennett

UK Edition

"Although cave paintings from the European Ice Age have gained considerable renown, for many people the term "rock art" reamins full of mystery Yet it refers to perhaps the oldest form of artistic endeavour, splendid examples of which exist on all continents and from all eras Rock art stretches in time from more than forty thousand to less than forty years ago and can be found from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America, from the caves of southern France to the American Southwest It includes animal and human figures, complex geometrical forms, and myriad mysterious markings. Illustrated in colour throughout, this book provides an engaging overview of rock art worldwide. An introductory chapter discusses the discovery of rock art by the West and the importance of landscape and ritual. Subsequent chapters survey rock art sites throughout the world, explaining how the art can be dated and how it was made. The book then explores the meaning of these often-enigmatic images, including the complex role they played in traditional societies A final chapter looks at the threats posed to rock art today by development, tourism, pollution, and other dangers, and discusses current initiatives to preserve this remarkable heritage."


"Chauvet Cave: The Art of Earliest Times"
by Jean Clottes & Paul G. Bahn

UK Edition

"The discovery of Chauvet Cave in France's Rhone Valley in 1994 created an international sensation. Its floors were littered with the remains of cave bears, giraffes, auroch, and horses, and its walls displayed fantastic art depicting mammoths, rhinos, and lions-all signs of human occupation dating as far back as the Aurignacian period (37,000-29,000 years BP). No other site exists that is as close in age to the currently accepted date for the appearance of modern humans. Chauvet Cave documents this priceless find. The far-reaching significance of Chauvet Cave has yet to be realized, but the early implications are staggering-it has the earliest known cave paintings, the earliest known footprints from an anatomically modern human, a fossil record of Pleistocene cave bear skeletons. Based on the first three years of formal study at the site, Chauvet Cave, published in France in 2001 and now available for the first time to English-speaking readers, offers the first in-depth research report accessible to the general public. The text is accessible and the stunning photography speaks for itself providing an absorbing introduction to one of the most important archaeological finds of the twentieth century."


"Prehistoric Art: The Symbolic Journey of Humankind"
by Randall White

UK Edition

"While some prehistoric sites - notably the painted caves at Lascaux in France and at Altamira in northern Spain - are familiar, many more such places are almost unknown. In fact, remains left by prehistoric men and women are far more numerous and have been found over a much greater territory - including Eurasia, Africa, Australia and the Americas - than most people are aware. These remains include paintings and engravings in caves and rock shelters, but also decorated tools, weapons, statuettes, personal ornaments and even musical instruments made of stone, ivory, antler, shell, bone and fired clay. In "Prehistoric Art", anthropologist Randall White presents a global survey, starting with the first explosion of imagery that occurred approximately 40,000 years ago but also including the creations of essentially "prehistoric" peoples living as recently as the early 20th century. Drawing on up-to-date research, White places these discoveries in context and discusses possible uses and meanings for the objects and images."


"A Field Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest"
by Alex Patterson

UK Edition

"This is the first specifically designed key to the interpretation of American rock art. Interest in the subject has grown significantly among professional archaeologists and informed lay persons in recent years, but the purpose and meaning that the intriguing symbols had for their creators remain a mystery. Although the significance of the symbols will never be known for certain, educated guesses can be made. The "Field Guide" brings together 600 commentaries on specific symbols by over one hundred archaeologists, anthropologists, researchers, and Native American informants. Intended to be used in the field, as well as a reference, the book includes a pictorial key at the beginning and is organized by tentative meaning or by description. The reader can easily find the one or several of the 500 illustrations that most closely match the symbol in question. Patterson emphasizes the tentative nature of the interpretations and has included an index by neutral archaeological description as well as complete documentation of every excerpted comment. The range of the book is from the northern states of Mexico to Utah and from California to Colorado."


"Signs of Life: Rock Art of the Upper Rio Grande"
by Dennis Slifer

UK Edition

"Within the Southwest United States, the upper Rio Grande presents the most consistency in rock art styles. This volume analyzes sites in natural geomorphic, cultural, and stylistic contexts. Publicly accessible sites are noted. Includes 200-plus photos and illustrations.

Relative to his work for the state of New Mexico as a water resource geologist, Slifer sees that "one of the principal ideas conveyed by rock art is a sense of place in the landscape...the creation of people who knew intimately their surroundings...they were keenly aware of territory since they walked everywhere; they knew which way the water ran because it was a life-sustaining element." The book includes descriptions of more than a hundred rock art sites in the region beginning near the headwaters of the Rio Grande in Colorado and progressing downstream through New Mexico to south of El Paso, Texas, with more than 300 illustrations, selected not only to represent the various styles, but to be visually interesting and when possible, not previously published. Some relatively unknown sites are presented from more than a decade of fieldwork in the region. Drawings are used when the rock art is so deteriorated that it doesn't photographs well."


"The Archaeology of Rock-Art (New Directions in Archaeology Series)"
by Christopher Chippindale (Editor), Paul S. C. Tašon (Editor)

UK Edition

"Rock art--prehistoric pictures--gives us lively and captivating images of animals and people painted and carved in caves and on open rock surfaces. It is all too easy to guess at the meanings the images carry. This pioneering set of essays instead explores how we can reliably learn from rock art as a material record of distant times by adapting the proven methods of archaeology to the special subject of rock art.

Pictures, painted and carved in caves and on open rock surfaces, are amongst our loveliest relics from prehistory. This pioneering set of sparkling essays goes beyond guesses as to what the pictures mean, instead exploring how we can reliably learn from rock-art as a material record of distant times: in short, rock-art as archaeology. Sometimes contact-period records offer some direct insight about indigenous meaning, so we can learn in that informed way. More often, we have no direct record, and instead have to use formal methods to learn from the evidence of the pictures themselves. The book's eighteen papers range wide in space and time, from the Palaeolithic of Europe to nineteenth-century Australia. Using varied approaches within the consistent framework of informed and proven methods, they make key advances in using the striking and reticent evidence of rock-art to archaeological benefit."


"African Rock Art: Painting and Engraving on Stone"
by Alec Campbell & David Coulson (Photographer)

UK Edition

"Covering the entire continent, this lavishly illustrated book contains over 200 photographs of Africa's rock art, along with historical and interpretive analysis. It covers prehistory through to the 20th century.

This impressive book by photographer David Coulson and co-author Alec Campbell is a comprehensive study of the rock paintings and engravings of the African continent. Chapter I deals with the history and peoples of Africa, with special chapters on the Bushmen and Bantu-speaking people. Chapter II is a discussion of rock art and speculations on who the artists were, including the latest research. Chapter III explores the styles, subject matter and the specific rock art sites, whilst Cheaper IV is devoted to dating. Chapter V deals with Southern Africa under heading for Zimbabwe, Namibia, the southwestern Cape, the Maluti and Drakensberg mountains, the inland plateau and the Tsodilo hills. The following two chapters are devoted to Eastern and Northern Africa respectively, whilst Chapter VIII discusses the geometric designs and the style called Late White paintings. Chapter IX considers aspects of preservation and the future of Africa's rock art."


"Rock Art and the Prehistory of Atlantic Europe: Signing the Land"
by Richard Bradley

UK Edition

"Along the Atlantic seaboard, from Scotland to Spain, are numerous rock carvings made four to five thousand years ago, whose interpretation poses a major challenge to the archaeologist. In the first full-length treatment of the subject, based largely on new fieldwork, Richard Bradley argues that these carvings should be interpreted as a series of symbolic messages that are shared between monuments, artefacts and natural places in the landscape.

He discusses the cultural setting of the rock carvings and the ways in which they can be interpreted in relation to ancient land use, the creation of ritual monuments and the burial of the dead. Integrating this fascinating yet little-known material into the mainstream of prehistoric studies, Richard Bradley demonstrates that these carvings played a fundamental role in the organization of the prehistoric landscape."


"Petroglyphs: Ancient Language, Sacred Art"
by Sabra Moore

UK Edition

"This book is an enticing introduction to this unique art form, its range, diversity and location as well as a record of many sites that are endangered or damaged or have recently been destroyed. As destruction by both vandals and the bulldozer continues, it is the author's hope that this book will bring greater public awareness to a fragile and irreplaceable heritage.

Rock art has been a rich vein for artists and writers to mine. But what makes..."Petroglyphs: Ancient Language/Sacred Art" unusual is that its author, Sabra Moore, seems perfectly OK with not knowing what the images mean. She leaves the right stuff to folks with all those initials behind their names and is content with simply developing a basic affinity with the symbols. In a sense, that may have been what their makers intended, too. Moore's spare text, which thankfully keeps the awestruck yearning to a minimum, relies more on the illustrations she created which were taken from actual sites. In so doing, she makes a convincing case for their preservation and respect. Someone put them there for a reason. They exist for a purpose in that place, at that angle, shaped just so and facing in a certain direction. Just because we aren't tuned in to their thinking right doesn't detract from their importance."

"Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization"
Richard Manning

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"The Cave Beneath the Sea: Paleolithic Images at Cosquer"
Jean Clottes & Jean Courtin

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Yellow Horse
Yellow Horse
Cave Art
28 in. x 22 in.
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Two Reindeer
Two Reindeer
Cave Art
29 in. x 23 in.
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"Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau"
James D. Keyser

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"Petroglyph of Hawaii"
L. R. McBride

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