The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art

The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art


By (author) David J. Lewis-Williams

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  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
  • Format: Paperback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 231mm x 30mm | 658g
  • Publication date: 17 April 2004
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0500284652
  • ISBN 13: 9780500284650
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Illustrations note: 94 illustrations, 27 in colour
  • Sales rank: 43,278

Product description

The breathtakingly beautiful art created deep inside the caves of western Europe in the late Ice Age provokes awe and wonder in equal measure. What do these animals and symbols, depicted on the walls of caves such as Lascaux, Chauvet and Altamira, tell us about the nature of the ancestral mind? How did these images spring, sophisticated and fully formed, seemingly from nowhere into the human story? The Mind in the Cave puts forward the most plausible explanation yet proposed for the origins of image-making and art. David Lewis-Williams skilfully interweaves a lifetime of anthropological research with the most recent neurological insights to offer a convincing account of how we became human and, in the process, began to make art. This is a masterful piece of detective work, casting light on the darkest mysteries of our ancestors and on the nature of our own consciousness and experience.

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Author information

David Lewis-Williams is Professor Emeritus and Senior Mentor in the Rock Art Research Institute, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His other books include Believing and Seeing: Symbolic Meanings in the Southern San Rock Paintings and, with Jean Clottes, The Shamans of Prehistory: Trance and Magic in the Painted Caves.

Review quote

"Combines a lifetime of archaeological research with the most recent insights into the workings of the human brain and the nature of consciousness."

Editorial reviews

The cave art of Europe and the Americas has fascinated and intrigued anthropologists and art lovers for decades. Since the discovery of Upper Palaeolithic art in the mid-nineteenth century, the ochre figure of the running bison has become a symbol for the human race in transition: the first step out of Neanderthal darkness and the first sign of the modern mind at work. The Mind in the Cave explores the beginnings of a consciousness capable of representational imagery and investigates the societies and environmental conditions which produced it. Drawing on disciplines as diverse as biology, religion, psychology and Marxism, Lewis-Williams presents comprehensive and fascinating arguments for the development of primitive societies from their art and social structure to their agriculture and mythology. This is a lovingly researched, carefully organised and brilliantly argued work, full of unusual detail and convincing explanation. A classic in the fields of art and anthropology. (Kirkus UK)

Table of contents

Preface; Three Time-Bytes; 1. Discovering Human Antiquity; 2. Seeking Answers; 3. Creative Illusion; 4. The Matter of the Mind; 5. Case Study 1: Southern African San Rock Art; 6. Case Study 2: North American Rock Art; 7. An Origin of Image-Making; 8. The Cave in the Mind; 9. Cave and Community; 10. Cave and Conflict