SECRETS OF THE ICE AGE: Prehistoric Hunters and Their Art by Evan Hadingham

SECRETS OF THE ICE AGE: Prehistoric Hunters and Their Art

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Common sense, simplicity, and brevity reign in author/archaeologist Even Hadingham's account of the life and times of Ice Age Homo sapiens--as deducible, primarily, from his art. The book opens with a short discussion of human evolution, the discovery of cave art, and the methods of archaeological analysis; then it dives into the controversy about the rise and fall of Neanderthal man. Is there a piece of the intelligent brute in us all or did our ancestors extinguish him without leaving a genetic trace? Cro-Magnon man, the modern form of Homo sapiens that replaced Neanderthal, is the focus of the rest of the book, especially as he lived during the Magdalenian times (16,000-9,000 B.C.) that are known for the vibrant cave paintings at Lascaux, Altamira, and other European sites. At each point Hadingham provides balanced appraisals of competing theories: Marshall Sahlins' view of hunter-gatherers as the original affluent society vs. the Hobbesian view of their existence which Hadingham favors; Francois Bordes' cultural interpretation of differences in stone tools vs. Lewis Binford's functional interpretation. Some of his own assertions will be disputed--that for instance, horses may have been bridled and reindeer semi-domesticated 20,000 years ago--but these are well-argued and properly qualified. Discussions of cave paintings, archaeological sites, and even publications are fresh and lively because Hadingham incorporates the most recent cave discoveries, the latest archaeological excavations, and some reports that are not yet in print. The book ends with a section on the decline of Ice Age hunters and their art and a short, sad chapter on the destruction of cave art by vandals, tourists, and nature. Good popular archaeology, appropriately illustrated--and especially timely now that the Ice Age Art exhibit recently at the American Museum of Natural History is embarked on a national tour.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1979
Publisher: Walker