Shamanism and the Ancient Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Archaeology

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Overview

Pearson brings a cogent, well-argued case for the understanding of much prehistoric art as shamanistic practice. Using the theoretical premises of cognitive archaeology and a careful examination of rock art worldwide, Pearson is able to dismiss other theories of why ancient peoples produced art_totemism, art-for-art's sake, structuralism, hunting magic. Then examining both ethnographic and neuropsychological evidence, he makes a strong case for the use of shamanistic ritual and hallucinogenic substances as the genesis of much prehistoric art. Bolstered with examples from contemporary cultures and archaeological sites around the world, Pearson's thesis should be of interest not only to archaeologists, but art historians, psychologists, cultural anthropologist, and the general public.

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Editorial Reviews

Cambridge Archaeological Journal
Pearson usefully thinks in terms of a continuous range from less towards more 'processual' and 'post-processual' positions... he stresses the research value of rock art, for these are ancient images which seem directly to express what it was that existed and seemed to be important in their world as ancient peoples knew it to be...Pearson presents his partisan view briefly and well, with verve and conviction.
— Christopher Chippendale, Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
National Spedeological Society News
In this very well written account, James Pearson discusses the major trends in archaeological thought that made [a] revolution in the interpretation of prehistoric art possible. His thoughtful discussion of the many pros and cons of various competing theories regarding the origins of Paleolithic cave art is both interesting and insightful.
— Danny A. Brass
Nebraska History
[Pearson's] thoughtful discussion of the many pros and cons of various competing theories regarding the origins of Paleolithic cave art are both interesting and insightful.
Canadian Journal Of Archaeology
Pearson's book is a solid introductory text suitable for anyone who understands the fluid nature of research at an early stage.
Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol 59, 2003 - J.D. Lewis-Williams
This is an eminently useful book in a much wider sense. It sees rock art not merely as a side alley...of archaeology but as an attractive and varied path to more general debate of archaeological theory and methodology. The clarity with which [Pearson] sets out his review of the literature, the persistent misunderstandings, and even the abuse to which some writers appear dedicated is timely and necessary if researchers are to move closer to what he calls "Archaeology's final frontier"—ancient beliefs and meanings.
Cambridge Archaeological Journal - Christopher Chippendale
Pearson usefully thinks in terms of a continuous range from less towards more 'processual' and 'post-processual' positions... he stresses the research value of rock art, for these are ancient images which seem directly to express what it was that existed and seemed to be important in their world as ancient peoples knew it to be...Pearson presents his partisan view briefly and well, with verve and conviction.
National Spedeological Society News - Danny A. Brass
In this very well written account, James Pearson discusses the major trends in archaeological thought that made [a] revolution in the interpretation of prehistoric art possible. His thoughtful discussion of the many pros and cons of various competing theories regarding the origins of Paleolithic cave art is both interesting and insightful.
Brian Fagan
The time is long overdue for a step back from the basic data, for a synthesis of what we know, and do not know, about the role of shamanism, hallucinogenic drugs, and altered states of consciousness as part of a cognitive approach to archaeology. Jim Pearson now provides us with such an overview. He gives us a valuable critical synthesis of theoretical approaches to cognitive archaeology and reminds us that a large part of the archaeological record results from human cognition. This is an important book that should be on every aspiring archaeologist's bookshelf.
Canadian Journal of Archaeology
Pearson's book is a solid introductory text suitable for anyone who understands the fluid nature of research at an early stage.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759101555
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Series: Archaeology of Religion Series , #2
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

James L. Pearson has a Ph.D. in archaeology from University of California, Santa Barbara. He became an archaeologist after a long career as a business executive and is now working toward bringing archaeology to the general public.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Foreword by Brian Fagan Chapter 2 Introduction Chapter 3 Antecedents to Cognitive Archaeology Chapter 4 The Roots of Cognitive Archaeology Chapter 5 The Tools of Cognitive Archaeology Chapter 6 The Evolution of Rock Art Research Chapter 7 Rock Art Research in the Americas Chapter 8 Shamanism Chapter 9 Using the Tools of Cognitive Archaeology Chapter 10 The Non-Archaeological Case for Shamanism Chapter 11 The Archaeological Evidence for Shamanism Chapter 12 Summary and Conclusions

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