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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!" ...


- New books October 2006 -


"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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"Cave of Lascaux" by Mario Ruspoli

UK Edition

"The prehistoric cave in France's Dordogne region, with its 17,000-year-old animal paintings discovered accidentally in 1940, was sealed in 1963 due to deterioration in atmospheric conditions. Two decades later, television producer Ruspoli went underground to take the photographs that form the basis of this handsome, comprehensive book. The murals he recordedelegant renderings of animals in stately friezes, courting rituals and overlapping groupingsare here beautifully reproduced. The text elucidates the theory that the paintings were created as part of a paleolithic mythology, with Lascaux a religious sanctuary. Bolstering this, the author shows stenciled handprints, shamanistic human figures and arcane symbols (perhaps prewriting).

He also includes an abundance of background information, including scientific data on both the animals and the artists. This is a fascinating and beautiful addition to the library of amateur anthropologist and art lover alike."


"Ajanta Caves" by Benoy K. Behl

UK Edition

"Some 2000 years ago, the first of the magnificent temples of Ajanta were carved directly into the great volcanic cliffs of the Waghora River in western India. In a series of creative bursts over the centuries, they were decorated with hundreds of subtle and beautiful murals depicting scenes from the lives of Buddha and the Buddhist cosmology. Although most of the other ancient temple murals of India disappeared long ago, those in Ajanta have survived in the dark of the cavelike temples. To further the murals' preservation and enhance the viewer's understanding of how beautiful they are in their original setting as seen by an oil lamp's dim light, the author has photographed the murals for the first time without using strong artificial lighting. Since Buddhist art spread with the wandering monks into Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, these murals are a fascinating glimpse at the wellspring of a great deal of Asian art. The 189 superb color photographs are complemented by a concise text and a series of explanatory line drawings and maps."


"First Painter" by Kathryn Lasky & Rocco Baviera (Illustrator)

UK Edition

"A powerful, eerily beautiful book about self-expression -- and who the "first" painter might have been.

The moon of the singing grass has come and gone three times, and still there is no rain. Mishoo's prehistoric clan is starving, her little sister's arms like twigs. Can a Dream Catcher bring them rain? Mishoo's mother had been the clan's Dream Catcher. She spoke with spirits, trying to catch a dream of rain. Now she is a spirit herself. She tells a sleeping Mishoo: "You are Dream Catcher. You must go to the cave of the she-tiger." Mishoo dares to go-and there discovers rock that looks like dripping animal fat, rock like giant fangs from the saver-toothed tiger. Something stirs inside her. And as she picks up a charred stick from the fire and begins to draw the animal she sees buried in the stone, she wonders, "Am I catching spirits or being caught myself?" This powerful and strikingly original picture book provides a fascinating glimpse into the prehistoric world as it imagines who the first painter might have been. "


"Painters of the Caves" by Patricia Lauber

UK Edition

"Describes the 1994 discovery made in Chauvet, France, of a cave with Stone Age rock paintings, and discusses the significance of cave art to people living in prehistoric as well as modern times.

Lauber goes well beyond descriptions of the extraordinary paintings found in the cave to give readers a true sense of the times. Drawing on fossil finds and the cave paintings themselves, she looks back at the development of early modern humans, explaining in seemingly effortless prose how the artists fit into the scheme of human evolution. We learn what Stone Age humans ate, where they lived, what they wore, why they painted what they did--with Lauber always taking care to draw clear distinctions between accepted fact, informed speculation, and ongoing controversy. The lavish illustrations are as stimulating as the text. There's an excellent map, a selection of expertly reproduced pictures of the cave paintings (including many close-ups), and some recent artwork (always clearly labeled as such) depicting the Stone Age people and their various activities."


"Cave Temples of Mogoa: Art and History on the Silk Road"
by Roderick Whitfield, Susan Whitfield & Neville Agnew

UK Edition

"The Mogao grottoes in China, situated near the oasis town of Dunhuang on the fabled Silk Road, constitute one of the world's most significant sites of Buddhist art. In some five hundred caves carved into rock cliffs at the edge of the Gobi desert are preserved one thousand years of exquisite murals and sculpture. Mogao, founded by Buddhist monks as an isolated monastery in the late fourth century, evolved into an artistic and spiritual mecca whose renown extended from the Chinese capital to the far western kingdoms of the Silk Road. Among its treasures are miles of stunning paintings, more than two thousand statues, magnificent works on silk and paper, and thousands of ancient manuscripts, such as sutras, poems, and prayer sheets, which in 1900 were found sealed in one of the caves and then dispersed throughout the world.

Illustrated in color throughout, Cave Temples of Mogao combines lavish photographs of the caves and their art with the fascinating history of Mogao, Dunhuang, and the Silk Road to create a vivid portrait of this remarkable site. Chapters discuss the development of the cave temples, the iconography of the wall paintings, and the extraordinary story of the rare manuscripts—including the oldest printed book in existence, a ninth-century copy of the Diamond Sutra. Also discussed are the collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute and Chinese authorities in conservation projects at Mogao and the ways in which the site can be visited today. The publication of this book coincides with the centenary of the discovery of the manuscripts in the Library Cave."


"Cave of Altamira" by Pedro A. Saura Ramos

UK Edition

"This volume offers a fresh look at one the finest surviving works of Palaeoithic art: the paintings in the cave of Altamira in Northern Spain. Charts, maps and descriptions guide the readers through the cave chamber by chamber, and theories on the paintings' significance are explained.

This beautiful book explores the cave of Altamira in Spain, called "The Sistine Chapel of Quaternary Art" for the splendour of its drawings, engravings and paintings. The cave was first occupied 18 450 years ago and its early history ended about 13 000 years ago when the entrance vault collapsed. It was discovered again in 1879. The text comprises an introduction by Antonio Beltrán and various articles: The Cave And Surroundings by José Lasheras Corruchaga; Altamira: Art, Artists And Times by Federico de Quirós; Techniques Individual Artists And Artistic Concepts by Matilde Pérez-Seoane; Photographing Altamira by Pedro Ramos; Conservation Problems by Corruchaga and a Conclusion: The Future by Beltrán."


"Return to Chauvet Cave: Excavating the Birthplace of Art: the First Full Report" by Jean Clottes

UK Edition

"The discovery of the Chauvet Cave in December 1994 was a remarkable event. The incredible age of the paintings, which dated back 35,000 years, and their exceptionally high quality were the source of both astonishment and admiration, and the images of mammoths, rhinoceroses, lions, bears, horses and bison have since been seen around the world.Several years ago, a team of specialists from many different disciplines, led by Jean Clottes, began the first detailed scientific study of the cave. This collaborative project has been extremely fruitful and the cave has slowly revealed many of secrets of its origins: its dating, the traces left by animals and humans, the artistic techniques that were used, and the themes of the paintings and engravings.

New light has also been cast on this unique art by art historians and ethnologists.All these discoveries are published together for the first time, accompanied by numerous colour illustrations, allowing the public to share not only this new knowledge but also the thrill and fascination of looking back thousands of years into an ancient world."


"The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art"
by David Lewis-Williams

UK Edition

"The breathtakingly beautiful art created deep inside the caves of western Europe in the late Ice Age has the power to dazzle even the most jaded observers. Emerging from the narrow underground passages into the chambers of caves such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and Altamira, visitors are confronted with symbols, patterns, and depictions of bison, woolly mammoths, ibexes, and other animals.

Since its discovery, cave art has provoked great curiosity about why it appeared when and where it did, how it was made, and what it meant to the communities that created it. In the most convincing explanation for Upper Palaeolithic art yet proposed, David Lewis-Williams describes how nineteenth-century beliefs that the drawings were "art for art's sake," or totemism, were supplanted in the wake of Darwinian evolutionary theory. The earliest human beings had a more advanced neurological makeup than their Neanderthal neighbors, allowing individuals to induce altered states of consciousness during which they experienced vivid mental imagery. It became important for people to "fix," or paint, these images onto cave walls, which they perceived as the membrane between their world and the spirit world from which the visions came. Over time, new social distinctions developed as individuals exploited their hallucinations for personal advancement, and the first truly modern society emerged."


"From the Mouth of the Dark Cave: Commemorative Sculpture of the Late Classic Maya" by Karen Bassie-Sweet

UK Edition

"The southern lowlands of the Maya region are honeycombed with caves formed by the erosive action of underground rivers. These caves, with their dramatic dripwater formations, winding tunnels, and huge caverns, played a major role in the ideology and world view of the Classic Maya. Considered to be the home of ancestors and of deities associated with the sun, moon, rain, wind, and corn, caves were a portal between the tangible human world and the invisible world of the gods. It was at this portal that the Maya performed their most sacred rituals. Bassie-Sweet argues that it is these cave rituals that are most often illustrated on Late Classic Maya sculpture. Scenes found on the sculpture frequently comprise both a hieroglyphic text and an image of an action. In discussing the relationship between text and image, this groundbreaking study defines a Late Classic framing convention used to indicate which of many events described in the text is illustrated in the image. It is demonstrated that the traditional interpretation of some of these scenes as accession events is incorrect, and that they in fact represent preaccession and Period Ending rituals.

Bassie-Sweet further argues that some of the motifs found in the image, such as cauac monsters, sky bands, and serpents, symbolize the cave openings and tunnels where these rituals took place."


"Handbook of Rock Art Research"
by David S Whitley (Editor)

UK Edition

"The archeological study of rock art is, at the beginning of the 21st century, still in its infancy. Intensive research in the 1990s has revolutionized the field and new methods of dating and analysis has helped to pinpoint the makers of the images and to put them in a cultural context. This handbook provides summaries of the technical, interpretive, and regional advances in rock art research and offers a basic reference to information on key topics for archaeologists, anthropologist, art historians, and enthusiasts.

While there has always been a large public interest in ancient pictures painted or carved on stone, the archaeological study of rock art is in its infancy. But intensive amounts of research has revolutionized this field in the past decade. New methods of dating and analysis help to pinpoint the makers of these beautiful images, new interpretive models help us understand this art in relation to culture. Identification, conservation and management of rock art sites have become major issues in historical preservation worldwide. And the number of archaeologically attested sites has mushroomed. In this handbook, the leading researchers in the rock art area provide cogent, state-of-the-art summaries of the technical, interpretive, and regional advances in rock art research."

"Guide to the Ajanta Paintings: Narrative Wall Paintings"
Dieter Schlingoff

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"Dawn of Art: The Chauvet Cave: the Oldest Known Paintings in the World"
Jean-Marie Chauvet

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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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"Summit of Treasures: Buddhist Cave of Dazu, China"
Angela Falco Howard

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UK Edition

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