Deciphering Ancient Minds: The Mystery of San Bushmen Rock Art

( 1 )

Overview

How did ancient peoples—those living before written records—think?
Were their thinking patterns fundamentally different from ours today?
Researchers over the years have certainly believed so. Along with the Aborigines of Australia, the indigenous San people of southern Africa—among the last hunter-gatherer societies on Earth—became iconic representatives of all our distant ancestors and were viewed as either...
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Deciphering Ancient Minds: The Mystery of San Bushmen Rock Art

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Overview

How did ancient peoples—those living before written records—think?
Were their thinking patterns fundamentally different from ours today?
Researchers over the years have certainly believed so. Along with the Aborigines of Australia, the indigenous San people of southern Africa—among the last hunter-gatherer societies on Earth—became iconic representatives of all our distant ancestors and were viewed as either irrational fantasists or childlike, highly spiritual conservationists.

Since the 1960s a new wave of research among the San and their world-famous rock art has overturned these misconceived ideas. Here,
the great authority David Lewis-Williams and his colleague Sam Challis reveal how analysis of the rock paintings and engravings can be made to yield vital insights into San beliefs and ways of thought. This is possible because we possess comprehensive transcriptions, made in the nineteenth century, of interviews with San informants who were shown copies of the art and gave their interpretations of it. Using the analogy of the Rosetta Stone, the authors move back and forth between these San texts and the rock art, teasing out the subtle meanings behind both.

The picture that emerges is very different from past analysis: this art is not a naïve narrative of daily life but rather is imbued with power and religious depth.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500051696
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 6/1/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,058,158
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lewis-Williams is Professor Emeritus and Senior Mentor at the Rock Art Research Institute, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is the author of The Mind in the Cave, Conceiving God, Inside the Neolithic Mind, and Deciphering Ancient Minds.

Sam Challis is a rock art specialist at the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

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Table of Contents

Preface 6

A Note on Pronunciation 15

1 Back in Time 16

2 Dance of Life, Dance of Death 51

3 'These are sorcery's things' 73

4 Discovering Rain 94

5 Capturing Rain 110

6 Truth Hidden in Error 132

7 The Imagistic Web of Myth 153

8 Into the Unknown 172

9 'Simple' People? 189

Notes 202

Bibliography and Guide to Further Reading 209

Acknowledgments 219

Sources of Illustrations 220

Index 221

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2014

    Lewis-Williams are the source for San rock art and history...quick, insightful, entertaining! it when it comes to

    I thoroughly enjoyed "Deciphering Ancient Minds"...Lewis-Williams and Challis show their expertise on the subject of San rock art and history. They demonstrate much insight and really fire your imagination...a must read!!!

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