PREHISTORIC ART: The Symbolic Journey of Humankind

Randall White, Author . Abrams $45 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4262-2

With academic subheadings like "Powers of Observation and the Space-Time Continuum," this is a comprehensive overview of prehistoric art, not a casual coffee-table book. White, director of the nonprofit Institute for Ice Age Studies, is a New York University anthropologist, and he offers a history of global excavations, the art and the peoples who made it, while also exploring the meanings of the symbols and the social system in which they were crafted. One of his stated goals with this effort is to "illustrate how a modern Western notion of 'art' impedes an understanding of the emergence and adaptive value of the earliest representations in any given region." But 226 full-color illustrations give plenty of opportunity for simply marveling: a pointillist bison; face-to-face woolly mammoths in simple black lines; a 26,000-year-old ivory carving of a human skull. The result is a book that provides a journey as real as it is symbolic, demonstrating the evolutionary power of imagery.. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/02/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
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