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The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art

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Beautifully illustrated in color with many rare and unique photographs, prints, and drawings, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art presents the first balanced and truly worldwide survey of prehistoric art. The book also offers the first detailed account of how the world of scholarship became aware of the existence of prehistoric art, reproducing the very earliest drawings by explorers and surveyors from the 1600s onward to create a unique pictorial as well as discursive resource. With this powerful combination of illustration and analysis, Paul Bahn describes what prehistoric art is and the different ways in which it can shed light on the lives and preoccupations of our ancestors: sexual, humorous, social, economic, and religious. The result is a fascinating exploration: a book that Desmond Morris describes as "a model of scientific restraint and objectivity....this is ultimately an art book, and as such it is endlessly provocative and engaging." Paul Bahn is an archaeologist and the author of more than 400 publications. He has authored or coauthored eight books, including The Cambridge Illustrated History of Archaeology. Dr. Bahn is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

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Editorial Reviews

The latest in the Cambridge series on the history of art, highly illustrated, about half in color. Surveys the prehistoric art found throughout the world, and describes the scholarship on it from the earliest drawings by explorers and surveyors in the 1600s to the conflicting current theories and approaches. Also considers what the art can tell us about the sexual, humorous, social, economic, and religious qualities of our ancestors. Covers body art, art on rocks and walls, and objects, but not architecture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521454735
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 1/13/1998
  • Series: Cambridge Illustrated Histories Series
  • Edition description: Illustrate
  • Pages: 334
  • Product dimensions: 7.99 (w) x 9.96 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. The 'discovery' of prehistoric art; 2. The nineteenth century: prehistoric art comes into its own; 3. Bodies and objets d'art - the art of the object; 4. Art on rocks and walls; 5. Putting things in order: dating techniques and criteria; 6. Matters of the body: objects of art; 7. Matters of the mind: reasons for art; 8. The future of prehistoric art; Epilogue; Glossary; Further reading; Map of sites; Index.

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When I first visited the painted cave at Lascaux, not long after it had been discovered, I was stunned by what I saw. The skill of the prehistoric artists and the beauty of the images on the walls overwhelmed me. A companion, staring at them open-mouthed, blurted out that they must be fakes -- they were clearly too good to have been produced by a Stone Age tribe. Of course, she was wrong. Much research has taken place during the half-century since Lascaux ws revealed to the world, and we now know that these remarkable paintings are perfectly genuine. My companion's disbelief was an impulsive reaction to the sheer quality of the portrayals. Therein lies their mystery and their greatest fascination. -- From the foreword by Desmond Morris
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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An Artistic Wonder

    Outstanding book! From Nine Mile Canyon in Utah to ancient drawings and paintings captured in Sefar, Algeria and Arnhem Land in Australia, Paul Bahn delights us with incredible images from our prehistoric past. Petroglyphs of emus, sheep, birdmen, bison, cup marks and shamen leap off the pages of this book, surrounded by riveting historical commentary, including paint pigment details, stories and folktales that help bring the pictures to life. Excellent resource for any library and fascinating coffee table book, too. Students of art, art history and anthropology will adore it.

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