Thames & Hudson, £12.95
Reviewed by: George Nash
In recent decades, research into Upper Palaeolithic rock art has firmly pushed the boundaries of science and interpretation to a new level of understanding. The early dating sequences from caves and rock shelters from around the globe have started to challenge traditional views on the artistic endeavours of our early ancestors; there is even the possibility that some art was executed by Neanderthals.
These sometimes controversial ideas are eloquently summarised in a new book by Bruno David. The book is probably one of the more rigorous accounts currently on the market dealing with the complexity of cave art. Lavishly illustrated, it is divided into seven stimulating chapters, the first of which discusses the controversy surrounding the first scientific discovery at Altamira in Spain and the gradual acceptance of an art tradition that pre-dates the Great Flood. Other chapters explore various scientific and technological developments that have occurred over the past 120 years.
In his final chapter, David skilfully incorporates Palaeolithic art from elsewhere around the globe, with particular focus on Australia and South Africa, suggesting that cave art from this early period in human history was already a global phenomenon. The book will be an essential reference for those interested in how and why this art was so fundamental to our ancient ancestors.