Cave Paintings and the Human Spirit

Cave Paintings and the Human Spirit : The Origin of Creativity and Belief

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The magnificent prehistoric art discovered in caves throughout France and Spain raises many questions about early human culture. What do these superbly rendered paintings of horses, bison, and enigmatic human figures and symbols mean? How can we explain the sudden flourishing of artistic creativity at such a high level? And in what ways does this artwork reflect the underlying belief system, worldview, and life of the people who created it? In this fascinating discussion of ancient art and religion, Dr. David S. Whitley one of the world s leading experts on cave paintings guides the reader in an exploration of these intriguing questions, while sharing his firsthand experiences in visiting these exquisite, breathtaking sites. To grasp what drove these ancient artists to create these masterpieces, and to understand the origin of myth and religion, as Whitley explains, is to appreciate what makes us human. Moreover, he broadens our understanding of the genesis of creativity and myth by proposing a radically new and original theory that weds two seemingly warring camps from separate disciplines. On the one hand, archaeologists specializing in prehistoric cave paintings have argued that the visionary rituals of shamans led to the creation of this expressive art. They consider shamanism to be the earliest known form of religion. By contrast, evolutionary psychologists view the emergence of religious beliefs as a normal expression of the human mind. In their eyes, the wild and ecstatic trances of shamans were a form of aberrant behavior. Far from being typical representatives of ancient religion, shamans were exceptions to the normal rule of early religion. Whitley resolves the controversy by interweaving the archaeological evidence with the latest findings of cutting-edge neuroscience. He thereby rewrites our understanding of shamanism and its connection with artistic creativity, myth, and religion. Combining a colorful narrative describing Whitley s personal explorations at key archaeological sites with robust scientific research, Cave Paintings and the Human Spirit makes for engrossing reading. It provides a profound and poignant perspective on what it means to be human."show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 250 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 30.48mm | 544.31g
  • Prometheus Books
  • Amherst, United States
  • English
  • illus
  • 1591026369
  • 9781591026365
  • 329,453

About David S. Whitley

David S. Whitley, PhD (Tehachapi, CA), who has served as Chief Archaeologist at UCLA, is a Principal at ASM Affiliates, Inc., an archaeological consulting firm. He is also an adjunct professor in the School of Geographical Sciences at Arizona State University and the author of Introduction to Rock Art Research, selected by Choice in 2006 as an Outstanding Academic more

Table of contents

Preface; Foreword; The World#s Earliest Cave Art; Inside Chauvet; The Dating Game; Finding Coa; The Myth of Ecstasy & the Origins of Religion -- Entry into the Volp Caves; Creativity & the Emotional Life of the Shamans; Art Beyond Belief: Creativity & Religion in Perspective; more

Review quote

"This intriguing book is quite suitable for general interest readers. It will appeal to anyone attempting to more fully understand and appreciate the underlying symbolism and cultural significance of Ice Age cave art. In addition to providing a theoretical framework within which to interpret such art, this book reflects the lifelong odyssey of one rock art researcher's own journey to discover humanity's distant origins. In this regard, it is both a scientific treatise and a personal narrative. Recommended. All levels/libraries." -- Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, Vol. 46, No. 09, May 2009. "If you hold an interest in Palaeolithic art, or even an interest in science and its applications through many guises, this will prove to be an engrossing read. Open up to some imaginative ideas; sit back and attempt to dispute Whitley's discourse. It will make you think, successful or not. And you will certainly be entertained." -- Descent, August/ September 2009show more