Genevieve von Petzinger studies cave art from the European Ice Age and has built a unique database that holds more than 5,000 signs from almost 400 sites across Europe. Her work has appeared in popular science magazines such as New Scientists and Science Illustrated. A National Geographic Emerging Explorer of 2016, she was a 2011 TED Global Fellow, a 2013-15 TED Senior Fellow and her 2015 TED talk has more than 2 million views.
What emerges from this book is the variability and the specificity of human-material interactions and the rather more active role that matter plays in these than traditionally conceived. Rather than being insignificant, a formless substrate or simply a constraint to human action, it is argued that materials are more fundamental. Tracing the processes by which the properties of past materials emerge reveals the working of past worlds, particularly articulations of the cultural, the natural and the supernatural. This book will establish a new perspective on the meaning and significance of materials, particularly those involved in mundane, daily usage, and will be a timely addition to the literature on technologies and materials.
Rock shelters show mainly anthropomorphic figures with body paintings and other embellishments testifying ancient rituals and ceremonies. Only two animal species – antelope and mouflon – appear to be as important as men and women; mixed with them on the same walls, these animals had a fundamental place in the ideology of the period.
Since the discovery by Europeans in the 19th century, research in the Sahara has been scarce due to the difficult working conditions and to the problematic politics associated with national permissions. The rock art and the archaeology have always been treated as separated disciplines and only rarely were the paintings associated with a material culture. They have been described and classified but not interpreted because it was considered unachievable. Using interdisciplinary studies, this book approaches the previously neglected fields of the study of Saharan rock art, and it proposes new ways to research the art and the societies that created it.
The book's title refers to the 1856 discovery of a clearly very old skull cap in Germany's Neander Valley. The possessor had a brain as large as a modern human, but a heavy low braincase with a prominent brow ridge. Scientists tried hard to explain away the inconvenient possibility that this was not actually our direct relative. One extreme interpretation suggested that the preserved leg bones were curved by both rickets, and by a life on horseback. The pain of the unfortunate individual's affliction had caused him to chronically furrow his brow in agony, leading to the excessive development of bone above the eye sockets.
The subsequent history of human evolutionary studies is full of similarly fanciful interpretations. With tact and humor, Tattersall concludes that we are not the perfected products of natural processes, but instead the result of substantial doses of random happenstance.
Gregory Curtis makes us see the astonishing sophistication and power of the paintings and tells us what is known about their creators, the Cro-Magnon people of some 40,000 years ago. He takes us through various theories—that the art was part of fertility or hunting rituals, or used for religious purposes, or was clan mythology—examining the ways interpretations have changed over time. Rich in detail, personalities, and history, The Cave Painters is above all permeated with awe for those distant humans who developed—perhaps for the first time—both the ability for abstract thought and a profound and beautiful way to express it.
Where is the world’s very first art located? When, and why, did people begin experimenting with different materials, forms, and colors? Prehistorians have long been asking these questions, but only recently have they been able to piece together the first chapter in the story of art.
Overturning the traditional Eurocentric vision of our artistic origins, Paul Bahn and Michel Lorblanchet seek out the earliest art across the whole world. There are clues that even three million years ago distant human ancestors were drawn to natural curiosities that appeared representational, such as the face-like “Makapansgat cobble" from South Africa, not carved but naturally weathered to resemble a human face. In the last hundred thousand years people all over the world began to create art: the oldest known paint palettes in South Africa’s Blombos Cave, the famous Venus figures across Europe all the way to Siberia, and magnificent murals on cave walls in every continent except Antarctica.
This book is the first to assess the discovery, history, and significance of these varied forms of art: the artistic impulse developed in the human mind wherever it traveled.