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

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591026365
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 12/28/2008
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 492,505
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

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 Title.
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 13, 2009

    Mr. Whitley's Cave Paintings Book A+

    I have found Mr. Whitley's book indispensable with my thesis research. His knowledge of the European caves Altamira, Lascaux and Chauvet have been most helpful in proving one of my points in my paper.

    Cave Paintings is an interesting book that will capture the attention of both scholar and reader. I highly recommend this book to anyone who interested in Paleolithic paintings, the origin of art and religion.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 25, 2012

    A tie between Shamanism and ancient cave paintings..intriguing.

    An interesting combination of a discussion linking Shamanism and ancient cave paintings then a bit of a subject shift to shamanism and mental health.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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