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The Cave Painters

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  171 ratings  ·  33 reviews
"The Cave Painters "is a vivid introduction to the spectacular cave paintings of France and Spain-the individuals who rediscovered them, theories about their origins, their splendor andmystery.
Gergory Curtis makes us see the astonishing sophistication and power of the paintings and tells us what is known about their creators, the Cro-Magnon people of some 40,000 years ago
ebook, 288 pages
Published December 10th 2008 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (first published 2006)
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In this easily read and fascinating book, Curtis traces the discovery, archaeological exploration, and evolving explanations related to the spectacular cave paintings found especially in the region of the Pyrenees in southwestern France and northeastern Spain, paintings that have been found to have been painted up to 30,000 years ago. He provides a chronology of their discoveries, including the personalities critical to the finding and exploration of each, and he includes details of the response ...more
If, like myself, you are a neophyte at thinking about prehistory, then I have a proposition for you: Try to imagine 30,000 years of human history. And not abstractly, not by simply saying, "Thirty thousand years. Wow. That's a long time," but by really considering the march of 30,000 years.

In relation to the span of a single human life, a few decades ago seems like a long time. For the more historically-minded, a few centuries or even a millennium might constitute "a long time". The geologist o
Reya Kempley
A mixture of history, mystery, and speculation, The Cave Painters is a fascinating and engrossing journey through the history of the study of Europe’s Paleolithic cave art. It begins with an introduction for context, which lays out what we know about the history of humans, focusing on the Paleolithic era. Most of the book deals with the past 100 years or so of study and discovery, since it took us some time to realize that these cave paintings were from the Stone Age in the first place! The idea ...more
This book teaches us about the artists who did the intriguing works in the caves of southern France and northern Spain. Curtis tells us about the discoveries of the caves, but his chief contribution is to examine the scholarly debates during the late 19th and 20th century about this fantastic cave art.

How do we moderns evaluate and “explain” this magnificent cave art that dates back 14,000 to 32,000 years? Should we try to explain this art by comparing it with art produced by 'primitive' people
A wonderful book! Very well researched and well written. And excellent for lay readers. A great introduction to the art of the prehistoric caves and the Cro-Magnons painters (as well as a little about the Neanderthals who preceded and briefly co-existed with them).

Perhaps because Curtis is a journalist, not an archaeologist or anthropologist, this is an extremely readable and enjoyable book. He gives a lot of detail — as well as interesting asides and anecdotes — and includes a lot of informatio
This is an introductory, but very well written book about european prehistoric cave art. If you knew nothing about the matter, you will end with a decent knowledge about the current understanding on it. If you have read about the subject before, you will find the book very illustrative about the people you read from and find out a couple of things you didn't know, while following a very entertaining narrative, heavily anchored in the southern France landscape.

There is something about prehistoric
Thank you, Gregory Curtis, for writing this book. I found it absolutely fascinating. Cave painting is one of the oldest forms of art. It dates back 40-30,000 years in a tradition that continued with consistency for an entire 20,000 years among Europe's first homo sapiens. Unbelievably, the images look familiar and relatable to us today. With the first paleolithic cave discovered only about 200 years ago, the dramatic tale of each cave's discovery, and of the competing theories amongst the prehis ...more
Alex Telander
THE CAVE PAINTERS: PROBING THE MYSTERIES OF THE WORLD’S FIRST ARTISTS BY GREGORY CURTIS: It was a special day when Gregory Curtis was vacationing in France with his family and entered some famous caves. When he gazed upon the unique cave paintings for the first time, this book was born. The Cave Painters is a two-part story: one small part the story of the rise of Cro-Magnon, modern humans, and their painting abilities; the rest the history of those people who first discovered the paintings and ...more
Nicole Marble
Aug 26, 2014 Nicole Marble rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in ancestors
Ice Age cave paintings in Spain and France are beautiful. And many look remarkably similar in style - the side view, the outline with color added to indicate muscle and/or fur. So I was interested in this book 'just because'. But somewhere along the way, the author said that the recently discovered cave at Chauvet was at least 15,000 years older than the long known cave at Lascaux. If you look at the paintings and their style - they are nearly identical. If the dating is correct - and the scient ...more
Curtis does a fine job of “probing the mysteries of the world’s first artists” in this readable book on the discovery of the cave paintings in Spain and France, done as much as 18,000 years ago. The paintings in the cave at Altamira were discovered 1879 by the young daughter of Marcelino Sautora, who went to the cave with her father one day and looked up at the walls while he was busy digging in the ground. At first, scientists couldn’t believe that the paintings were prehistoric; now there are ...more
My only real wish for this book is that it would be updated! I'd really like to know about newer techniques for image analysis and dating, techniques that were hinted at here. Curtis makes no claim to provide an exhaustive catalog of knowledge about cave art, but he does a splendid job of making things clear to the novice.
Really fascinating, I immediately want to read another book to learn more (one with more pictures!) Includes a lot of history of science which focuses on the archaeologists and the different flawed interpretations and theories that have come and gone over the past 150 or so years since the cave paintings were discovered and first recognized for what they are. I was less interested in the scientists, but his context helped make clear why interpretation and analogy can be dangerous, and just how l ...more
This is far from a perfect book, but it's so well researched and so well written for the layman that I can't help but give it five stars. Because the author's relationship is roughly yours (he's not an expert, just a passionate layperson looking for meaning in the oldest art in the world), it's an excellent introduction to the history of western European cave painting and the anthropological/art arguments around them. The negatives are only that there aren't enough illustrations (thank god for t ...more
As someone who was researching Paleolithic paintings for an Art History paper, I found this book extremely helpful. I'm an Art major, not an anthropology major so this was a very good jumping off point and helped me understand the rest of the articles I read. (Most of them were scholarly sludge, which means that it's impossible for people without a degree in radio carbon dating and/or anthropology to make out more than the occasional "the" or "to".)
I have the feeling however that most people who
I got this book as a gift, and was prepared to find it very boring. I mean, cave paintings. How interesting can that get? I'm glad I was proved wrong.

This book isn't just about cave paintings themselves, it's also the story of the people who find them, the people that look for them, the people that study them, and even the people who made them. There's drama, a little humor, and a healthy dose of awe for what our ancestors were capable of, even in the days before civilization.
Excellent introduction to the history of the discovery of Paleolithic art, both in terms of archeology and paleontology as well as art history. Just what is meant by the art is only hinted at (and, in truth, can at best only be guessed at, anyway).

If you are looking for a lay person's account (Curtis is a reporter, not a scientist) of early man's art and what might be glimpsed of his imagination, this is a great place to start.
While the theories in artistic analysis that call these works 'hunting magic' are a bit far fetched for me (I believe human burial just 60,000 years earlier makes a case for the paintings as funerary; something no one has yet suggested in all of the research I've read), this is still a worthy overview of the most fascinating art known to man.
Lewis Weinstein
We saw the caves at Lascaux, then read this book. It is incredible to imagine people, perhaps 14,000 years ago, making these drawings. How were decisions made about who would paint and what would be painted? The artists had to be supported, so the community must have provided food and other necessities.
Jackie Mclean
One of the most fascinating books I've read. Wonderful descriptions of cave paintings, the stories of those who discovered them, and theories about what they could have meant, along with a real insight into the kind of people our distant ancestors were.
Things learned: The cave paintings are not hunting pictures; the oldest art is not the crudest, with the artists getting "better" over time. The oldest art found so far -- 30,000 years old -- is probably the most illusionistic and skillfully done.
Jessica Liew
A great read on a topic rarely covered in such detail. Not the dry history that one often encounters. The exploration of various theories on cave art is done judiciously and a complete picture of the art and those who have studied it is given.
Fascinating look at the cave paintings in France and Spain. A short and easy read that made we want to explore this subject more. The author really communicated how magnificent the paintings are and provided the historical context very well.
A great read about the fascinating cave paintings. The most interesting aspect was illustrating a possible link between shamanistic practices and the production of the paintings.
Oct 19, 2008 Suzi rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: High school reader or someone just wanting an introduction to Cave Paintings
Recommended to Suzi by: Dr. Ramsey and the Scholars Program
A good introduction to the world of cave paintings and it def. piqued my interest, but it was not as scientific or unbiased as I had hoped. Still good for the high school aged reader.
Adam Sol
Fascinating stuff. Curtis gets more into the politics of the eccentric scientists and archaeologists than I'd prefer, but it's a very good introduction to the material.
The book summed up the research and excavations of the large caves of France and Spain with cave art. The author gave his own thoughts on what it can all mean.
Donovan Foote
A thought provoking read. Probably the most interesting book I've read so far on cave painting and like any good non-fiction it points you towards a dozen other books.
Curtis is such an icon as a writer, editor, researcher, and mentor. I would read anything he pens. This is a fascinating book.
Well-written discussion of the early art of modern man. An on-going mystery...
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