free hit counter code The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art - GoBooks - Download Free Book
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art

Availability: Ready to download

Emerging from the narrow underground passages into the chambers of caves such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and Altamira, visitors are confronted with symbols, patterns, and depictions of bison, woolly mammoths, ibexes, and other animals. Since its discovery, cave art has provoked great curiosity about why it appeared when and where it did, how it was made, and what it meant to the Emerging from the narrow underground passages into the chambers of caves such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and Altamira, visitors are confronted with symbols, patterns, and depictions of bison, woolly mammoths, ibexes, and other animals. Since its discovery, cave art has provoked great curiosity about why it appeared when and where it did, how it was made, and what it meant to the communities that created it. David Lewis-Williams proposes that the explanation for this lies in the evolution of the human mind. Cro-Magnons, unlike the Neanderthals, possessed a more advanced neurological makeup that enabled them to experience shamanistic trances and vivid mental imagery. It became important for people to "fix," or paint, these images on cave walls, which they perceived as the membrane between their world and the spirit world from which the visions came. Over time, new social distinctions developed as individuals exploited their hallucinations for personal advancement, and the first truly modern society emerged. Illuminating glimpses into the ancient mind are skillfully interwoven here with the still-evolving story of modern-day cave discoveries and research. The Mind in the Cave is a superb piece of detective work, casting light on the darkest mysteries of our earliest ancestors while strengthening our wonder at their aesthetic achievements.


Compare
Ads Banner

Emerging from the narrow underground passages into the chambers of caves such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and Altamira, visitors are confronted with symbols, patterns, and depictions of bison, woolly mammoths, ibexes, and other animals. Since its discovery, cave art has provoked great curiosity about why it appeared when and where it did, how it was made, and what it meant to the Emerging from the narrow underground passages into the chambers of caves such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and Altamira, visitors are confronted with symbols, patterns, and depictions of bison, woolly mammoths, ibexes, and other animals. Since its discovery, cave art has provoked great curiosity about why it appeared when and where it did, how it was made, and what it meant to the communities that created it. David Lewis-Williams proposes that the explanation for this lies in the evolution of the human mind. Cro-Magnons, unlike the Neanderthals, possessed a more advanced neurological makeup that enabled them to experience shamanistic trances and vivid mental imagery. It became important for people to "fix," or paint, these images on cave walls, which they perceived as the membrane between their world and the spirit world from which the visions came. Over time, new social distinctions developed as individuals exploited their hallucinations for personal advancement, and the first truly modern society emerged. Illuminating glimpses into the ancient mind are skillfully interwoven here with the still-evolving story of modern-day cave discoveries and research. The Mind in the Cave is a superb piece of detective work, casting light on the darkest mysteries of our earliest ancestors while strengthening our wonder at their aesthetic achievements.

30 review for The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I'm pretty sure I would have been the person in the deepest cave, drawing cats.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art [2002] – ★★★ This month is dedicated to the Non-Fiction November Reading Challenge and therefore I am trying to read more non-fiction books. My first non-fiction book of this month is The Mind in the Cave, which I have been meaning to read for years (given that I am interested in anthropology, cave art and in the origin of consciousness). The Mind in the Cave is by David Lewis-Williams, a South African archaeologist known for his research The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art [2002] – ★★★ This month is dedicated to the Non-Fiction November Reading Challenge and therefore I am trying to read more non-fiction books. My first non-fiction book of this month is The Mind in the Cave, which I have been meaning to read for years (given that I am interested in anthropology, cave art and in the origin of consciousness). The Mind in the Cave is by David Lewis-Williams, a South African archaeologist known for his research into South African rock art, and, in his book, he describes the most breath-taking cave art from the Upper Palaeolithic Period (examples found in the Cave of the Trois-Frères, France and in the Altamira Cave, Spain), tracing the way people thought about cave art through the ages and trying to theorise why Upper Palaeolithic people made such art and what it represented for them. Although the book is engaging, with interesting case studies and beautiful illustrations, it is also problematic. The Mind in the Cave is chaotic, repetitive, not as insightful as one would have hoped, and centres almost exclusively on shamanism and altered states of consciousness. For me, it was only sporadically informative, and made a very feeble attempt to answer one main question for which I picked the book up in the first place. David Lewis-Williams makes it clear that art (as we define it now) started to appear in caves in the period of “Transition” (the period between 45.000 and 35. 000 years ago), and it is during this period that Neanderthals gave way to Homo sapiens in Europe. The author also states that Neanderthals did not use their tools in such a diverse way as Homo sapiens, and did not borrow from Home sapiens such sophisticated rituals as certain burial techniques and image-making in caves. This is because Neanderthals possessed a different (inferior) “consciousness” capability. Thus, early Homo sapiens made art first. All this is fascinating, but I thought that the way the author approached the topic of consciousness and its origin was odd, and it is evident that he is no neuroscientist (or expert in the topic of consciousness). I agree that consciousness is a continuum, and that there are different levels, but, instead of focusing on self-awareness, memory, imagination or abstract thought as elements related to consciousness to explain first art-making, Lewis-Williams talks about dreaming and its recall, which I found to be a strange focus. His musings on dreaming are also surprising. The author provides certain explanations of dreaming as though they are undisputed facts, when, in reality, we still know very little why we dream and cannot say for absolute certain how the process of dreaming takes place inside our heads. Lewis-Williams states categorically that dreaming is the product of a random neurological activity [2002: 123], without providing any evidence of this, and his explanation for dreaming does not take into account the simple fact that dreaming helps our learning or that we find ourselves in a dream sometimes and are capable of controlling it (lucid dreaming). Lewis-Williams’ other musings are even more surprising. He states that altered states of consciousness can somehow explain cave art, which is an interesting thesis, but he also picks vivid dreaming and hallucinations as vital elements capable of explaining art, being capabilities of the first Homo sapiens (to which I want to reply that my cat undoubtedly has vivid dreams and he would not think of creating pictures of any animals on any walls). In that vein, Lewis-Williams does not attempt to answer the main question of the origin of consciousness with the first appearance of cave art or elaborate on the link between the two (even though he clearly asks numerous times in the book this question – how did human consciousness evolve?). To be fair, he does venture an explanation for the consciousness origin by hinting that it might have evolved through a genetic mutation over a long period of time. Lewis-William’ other statements and examples in the book would have sounded clever if they were not also so obvious and overused. For example, he states “one cannot notice a presentational image in a mass of lines unless one already has a notion of images” [2002: 183], as though no one would have thought of this before, and produces as an example the well-know allegory of the cave as though it is an unheard of allegory, without even stating that it was written by Plato (the only person referred to in the text is Socrates). The author’s other statements are as obscure and self-important-sounding as he undoubtedly wanted them to be – “art-making, if and when it appears, is an active member of a dynamic nexus of interdigitating factors” [2002: 73] (whatever he means by this, he does not clarify), and “art and cosmos united in a mutual statement about the complex nature of reality” [2002: 149]. Other unsupported statements emerge in the book, such as – “body decoration could not have evolved into the making of two-dimensional images of animals on cave walls” [2002: 90], and the chaotic nature of the narrative is evident when one considers that Lewis-Williams jumps frequently in his book from topic to topic, debating altered states of consciousness and why sleep was necessary one minute, and discussing The Iliad and Shakespeare in the next [2002: 190]. The Mind in the Cave’s main problem is summed up in one sentence in Lewis-Williams’ book – “the fascinating issues of consciousness, self-awareness, introspection, insight and foresight… remain, and they are not a destination of our present inquiry and can be circumnavigated” [2002: 105] . I disagree with the author on this point and would say that this inquiry is essential to the topic. Overall, The Mind in the Cave provides a good overview of cave artworks found mainly in France, as well as of speculations as to why ancient people made those artworks (the author brushes off the idea that art may be made for art’s sake). The book contains Lewis-William’s social (shamanic) interpretation of the art found in ancient caves, but touches only very briefly and unsatisfactorily on the central question or mystery that is considered to be one of the main ones in science – how consciousness could have began and how cave art may shed some clues that can lead to some explanation.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Brilliant, insightful and clear book tying discoveries in cave art and paleolithic culture to neuroscience and emerging study of consciousness. At times, as others have observed, Lewis-Williams goes out on what appear to be limbs (especially the last chapter on conflict), but he makes clear his methodological approach and presuppositions in a way that I think forgives that. His approach to the shamanism he discovers in the cave art is quite insightful, although at moments I detect hints of reduc Brilliant, insightful and clear book tying discoveries in cave art and paleolithic culture to neuroscience and emerging study of consciousness. At times, as others have observed, Lewis-Williams goes out on what appear to be limbs (especially the last chapter on conflict), but he makes clear his methodological approach and presuppositions in a way that I think forgives that. His approach to the shamanism he discovers in the cave art is quite insightful, although at moments I detect hints of reductionist analysis. To be clear, I do not find the basic claim that mystical experiences are related to neurology reductionist in the least. But from time to time, especially when talking about the place of mysticism in paleolithic society, I think he lapses into a kind of almost Marxist functionalism that fails to appreciate the power of religious experience. I also wouldn't have written the conclusion he wrote, which sort of takes a gratuitous shot at neo-shamanism and various "modern primitive" new religious movements. Not that there aren't shots to be taken, but it didn't fit what until then had been a measured, thoughtful book. These are minor points, all in all. If you are interested in the evolution of consciousness or the ancient religion, don't miss this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    It may seem odd to give this book only four stars and yet give the older Bahn book on Ice Age art five - see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11... - but there is a reason. There is absolutely no doubt of the value of Lewis-Williams attempt to create a theory of cave art nor the insights that he provides into consciousness studies and what such studies may be able to tell us about the motivations and culture of palaeolithic homo sapiens. The doubt derives from the same scepticism about what we c It may seem odd to give this book only four stars and yet give the older Bahn book on Ice Age art five - see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11... - but there is a reason. There is absolutely no doubt of the value of Lewis-Williams attempt to create a theory of cave art nor the insights that he provides into consciousness studies and what such studies may be able to tell us about the motivations and culture of palaeolithic homo sapiens. The doubt derives from the same scepticism about what we can ever actually know that we recorded in our review of the earlier work. The data is too spread out over too great a length of time and is too represented by what can survive materially to allow any strong claims of knowledge. All theory in this area tends to tell us more about our preoccupations than those of pre-historic man and woman, although one must concede that each intervention by the Academy does add something, a new angle to compare with the angles shown to us in the past. But caution is inevitable, much as one should be deeply cautious about constructing theories of rampant matriarchalism from fat little stone ladies when textiles, wood carvings and body decoration have long since decayed, let alone social structures and micro-environments. Yes, there are limitations on what might have been thought which arise from simple ecological truths and which do permit some analogy from current indigenous activity but modern indigenes are not ancient peoples – though, to be fair, Lewis-Williams does put in his own caveats here. But the real warning signs that we may be jumping too far ahead in our thought processes lies in the closing words of the book. The author quotes Julian Jaynes in his claim that we see a break in consciousness in the break between the Iliad and the Odyssey in order to make his own claim. Oh dear! What is it with academics who take textual history as human history? Forget Jaynes. Lewis-Williams dumps text but replaces it with art, equally unwarrantably. There is no evidence of actual brain structures changing very much in thousands of years for the simple reason that brain structure is an evolved function and evolution is a slow and wasteful process. Indeed, Lewis-Williams’ core argument depends on comparative consciousness studies that assume such long range structural similarities for them to make any sense - and yet here we have appeal to the sort of radical view of consciousness change that appeals to New Agers. Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens will have had very different modes of consciousness because of their different speciation (meaning different brain structures) but we see no necessity for the nature of the sapient form to provide more than the fact of art rather than its precise forms. This does not diminish the thesis that rock art forms have some derivation from altered states and that, possibly (which I find plausible), 'artists' and shamans could manipulate social conditions to their own benefit. Both those propositions are highly plausible. I have no doubt that homo sapiens has heard ‘inner voices’ in the palaeolithic age but we are equally certain that those ‘inner voices’ are not of one kind that morphs into another kind over time but were as variant then amongst individuals as they are now. The artistic impulse may just as likely then, as now, be much more complex in its relationship to so-called spiritual, magical and community impulses than we like to think. Lewis-Williams’ theorizing seems plausible but, I repeat, we should not be seduced into believing we know. What we have to be careful of is assuming that the rock art we see and the social change being postulated is quite so neatly connected as the theory suggests. The truth – we do not, cannot and never will know. In some cases, they may be and, in others, not. Grand narratives are presumptuous. Nevertheless, though perhaps a trifle intellectually confused at the end (simply pushing Jaynes back a few thousand years with no sounder evidence than Jaynes has for the claims he makes), this book is still highly recommended. It is full of scholarly and intelligent material on a number of related issues – Western European cave art itself, consciousness studies, the history of archaeology and the rock art of Africa and the Americas. There is easily enough evidence to come to an independent view of one’s own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I couldn't put this down. It's fascinating.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    Access to most caves adorning parietal art is sadly restricted, this book helped make that a little less of a tragedy. Lewis-Williams was one of the few researches who had the chance of stepping into Chauvet and Lascaux, the great paleolithic caves. The virtual visit of Lascaux he relates in chapter 9 makes this book a true journey. Travelling within Lascaux was organized methodologically from the entrance down to the deepest chambers, stopping at every "panel" or rock face to view the art and t Access to most caves adorning parietal art is sadly restricted, this book helped make that a little less of a tragedy. Lewis-Williams was one of the few researches who had the chance of stepping into Chauvet and Lascaux, the great paleolithic caves. The virtual visit of Lascaux he relates in chapter 9 makes this book a true journey. Travelling within Lascaux was organized methodologically from the entrance down to the deepest chambers, stopping at every "panel" or rock face to view the art and to review the interpretation of different researchers and studies that have tried to interpret the painting since the discoveries of the caves. Understanding strange manifestations in early human behavior such as the beginning of art has evolved from loose assumptions into a science in itself, the first chapters of this book outline this development by offering an overview of the paleolithic period which helps put the reader in the cultural context of the study. Lewis-Williams gathers background data before delving into his own theoretic work: he defines cave art and retells the stories of researchers and explorers who first discovered the caves and the first attempts at understanding their purpose. The Shamanistic argument isn't the most favorable among scientists, it is sometimes used as the easy cop out against a more grounded explanation, however it is the main tenant to DLW's theory and he successfully takes a multidisciplinary approach in its favor: archaeology, anthropology, ethnographer and neuroscience. Studies conducted among the San people of Africa and North American ethnic group try to relate their shamanistic rituals to the subterranean traces left in various caves across Europe over 20 000 years ago. One of the most interesting questions raised in the book was how people unfamiliar with 2 dimensional imagery were able to paint and transfer their 3D world onto flat surfaces. The 2D concept isn't easy to grasp, modern generations are familiar with it, but it is alien and strange to our ancestor who only know the natural 3 dimensional world. Shamanism and spirituality are convincingly offered up again as explanation to this question, the images aren't representations of living creatures; to a shaman they are alive and potent spirits who reveal themselves through the rock face. The Neanderthals adopted Homo Sapiens tools but not hunting techniques, they occupied the same ecological areas but not the Sapiens procurement strategies, Neanderthal never made art (arguably)...an entire chapter is dedicated to such claims. DLW uses biology and neuroscience as the reason behind cultural differences between Neanderthal and Sapiens, they are, according to him, wired differently: the Neanderthal's wiring doesn't have the capacity for the evolution of consciousness and therefore can't experience "heightened states of consciousness" that permitted Sapiens to innovate and create. It was one of the most interesting chapters but wasn't as clearly explained as the rest of the book, the study papers referenced are intimidating at first sight. The amount of information packed in this book is astounding. Methodological and well organized. It has raised some very interesting questions, very well argued but not unchallengeable, the shamanistic argument is a leap in the dark. It contains some high quality illustrations and photographs. I was deeply invested in this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kecia

    First of all, I now want to reread my books on cave art. David Lewis-Williams (DLW) in "Mind in the Cave," has given me a lot to rethink, and I want to compare ideas with the fresh set of eyes he has given me. I also have "Dancing at the Edge of Death: The Origins of the Labyrinth in the Paleolithic" yet to read, which should also be amazing. A few thoughts: 1. DLW quotes Levi-Strauss with praise for his ideas about myth, which include a) that myth contains dualistic themes such as light:dark, div First of all, I now want to reread my books on cave art. David Lewis-Williams (DLW) in "Mind in the Cave," has given me a lot to rethink, and I want to compare ideas with the fresh set of eyes he has given me. I also have "Dancing at the Edge of Death: The Origins of the Labyrinth in the Paleolithic" yet to read, which should also be amazing. A few thoughts: 1. DLW quotes Levi-Strauss with praise for his ideas about myth, which include a) that myth contains dualistic themes such as light:dark, divine:human, etc. and b) that "the purpose of myth is to provide a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction," with which DLW agrees and adds, "myth is ultimately fated to fail." I disagree with both of these problems in Levi-Strauss. Non-dualism, in fact, is a hallmark of myth, demonstrated by the impossibility of reconciling mythic cosmos, even those relatively contained. The Hebrew creation myths are an example. There are two in the Bible, and they seem exclusive, yet are simultaneously integrated into the Christian mythos, apparently with acceptance by even the most fundamental of literalists. The Norse creation myths have the same "problem"; two, different myths providing different, though not dualistic or opposed, ways of understanding origin. Obfuscation and ambiguity are the mythic norm. Second, the purpose of myth is not to provide a logical model--of anything. If it were, it would always fail, as DLW stated. However, there are no criteria for failure, so it is impossible to fail. On the contrary, myth has no purpose, in that it's not an entity that decided to instruct or enlighten. Myth is, and the reader (or listener) makes it what it is, much as DLW argues for the cave art, although the idea eludes him because he has failed to understand myth. 2. DLW says the silliest thing. He writes concerning the interactions between H. sapiens and H. neanderthal, "When there was conflict, it seems likely that it was the Homo sapiens men who killed the Neanderthal men and ravished their women." What?! First, he has no evidence of meetings between the two species except for the fact that they have been shown to co-exist in Europe over a period of time. Second, he ignores the fact that Neanderthal was more robust and not stupid. Third, he assumes the two species would recognize each other as potential rivals and/or mating objects. This third one seems ridiculous. Imagine for a moment that Neanderthal is as intellectually dissimilar as he claims in the book. Also, we know that the two species were morphologically quite dissimilar. If they were to come across each other by chance, it is possible they would view each other as, for example, a gorilla and chimpanzee would today. Why assume the chimpanzees would kill the male gorillas (assuming they could) and rape the female gorillas? More likely each group would make wide detours to avoid confrontation with the other. 3. DLW will come back to this interaction between Neanderthal and H. sapiens many times, because he uses it to explain the relatively rapid flowering of cave "art" in Europe. I can't buy it for at least one of the reasons above, that I don't know of evidence describing how the two groups would have reacted to each other (and DLW doesn't provide any). The other reason I don't buy it is because DLW assumes that Neanderthal's consciousness is so alien to H. sapiens (on a par with animals who do not possess memory of their dreams) that they cannot form ideas about an afterlife. I will agree that Neanderthal was probably as different to H. sapiens as DLW says, but we don't know in what manner he was different. Yet, he claims the impetus for the "revolution" was due to this deficiency of Neanderthal, a psychology H. sapiens supposedly understood and which affected H. sapiens so greatly as to make him feel superior (DLW calls it an "inescapable conclusion") and, therefore, crawl deep into caves to begin illustrating his "superior" abilities of memory and imagination. Did DLW toss this strange idea in because he required a cause-and-effect for this issue of the flowering of cave art? How did it advance his thesis that shamanism was the basis of cave art? He showed he can support his thesis without grasping at superior consciousness straws, but maybe he felt the revolution worked against his arguments and, therefore, he wanted to shore up his chain of logic? I don't know. 4. Three of many online references suggesting that Neanderthal possessed a consciousness UN-like that proposed by DLW, who claims they were incapable of remembering their dreams or forming a concept of an afterlife. If he's right, he needs to show the evidence. Rethinking Neanderthals, 2003, Smithsonian Magazine Oldest Discovered Burial Site Karen Armstrong, Myths and the Modern World, 2005 5. I thought he did an amazing job of providing and explaining the evidence for shamanism as the "creative" force of rock art. There were many aha! moments for me, and I came away with a sense of "things falling into place," which a good hypothesis should provide. The "membrane" analogy worked well for him, and the reader is led to understand how this necessitated the touching of the membrane and to accept it. In contrast, the idea of the caves as "art for the sake of art," looks shallow indeed, and DLW's shamanism hypothesis fits in many (if not all) the ways that a sympathetic magic explanation does not fit. Although I pointed out at a little length where I thought the book (and hypothesis) was weak, the greater part of the book is well worth reading. It contained thorough evidence (for laity like me) and stellar interpretation. 6. I would love to leave these ideas with a good deal of praise for this book, but there was one more odd misstep by the author. At the end, he added this strange disclaimer that while shamanism may have worked for these early people, he felt it had no place in the modern world. What that had to do with ANYthing at all is beyond me. Better to do his research and let others decide their own spiritual paths.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jacques Coulardeau

    Cro-Magnon’s Shamans were Women HOMO SAPIENS & SHAMANISM IN THE CAVES, WOMB-MEMORY & FEMALE SHA-WOMEN DAVID LEWIS-WILLIAMS, THE MIND IN THE CAVE, 2004-2016 This book – David Lewis-Williams, THE MIND IN THE CAVE, 2004-2016 – often presented as the main modern approach of shamanism, to which everybody working on this topic is referred, is crucial, from beginning to end, though not fundamental because of the very traditional approach of Homo Sapiens society only considered from 70,000 years ago, at th Cro-Magnon’s Shamans were Women HOMO SAPIENS & SHAMANISM IN THE CAVES, WOMB-MEMORY & FEMALE SHA-WOMEN DAVID LEWIS-WILLIAMS, THE MIND IN THE CAVE, 2004-2016 This book – David Lewis-Williams, THE MIND IN THE CAVE, 2004-2016 – often presented as the main modern approach of shamanism, to which everybody working on this topic is referred, is crucial, from beginning to end, though not fundamental because of the very traditional approach of Homo Sapiens society only considered from 70,000 years ago, at the most. From the very start, this is going to weigh heavily on what the author says. He starts with four questions: “Does the human brain construct spaceships and the human mind fashion unseen forces and spirits? What is the difference between brain and mind? What is intelligence and what is human consciousness? How did early people reach a stage of evolution that allowed them to make and understand pictures?” (page 18). Note the four question marks cover six questions, and those six questions contain the main blocking shortcoming of the whole book. Just to start the discussion we have to say that the brain constructs nothing because to construct something you need to design it and then to work with hands and machines to produce it. The design involves the brain, but more than the brain it involves the mind and cooperation between human beings, hence communication and social organization. This implies the powerful presence of language. Then I would restate the second double question first and as a triple question: “What are the phylogenic and psychogenetic relationships between the brain (and the whole nervous system), the mind and language?” This implies his questions are in the wrong order, hence they are rhetorical. The first question then appears as absurd as I have suggested: the brain constructs nothing because of what I have said and the mind does not fashion unseen whatever on its own. Without language, the mind cannot even develop as the construct of the brain it is. Language is the second reciprocally simultaneous construct of the brain, along with the mind. The brain can only discriminate patterns and memorize them in brain machine code. It is the fact that man has the articulatory ability to produce articulated language that enables the mind to identify the patterns with words and hence to enter a rich communicational socially constructed situation that enables the phylogenic collective emergence of concepts that are to be psychogenetically integrated and assimilated by every individual to be able to converse, communicate. The first double question is senseless. Having dealt with this set of three questions we can shift to the second set of three questions. Intelligence is nothing at all. There are hundreds of forms of intelligence and all animals have a certain level of intelligence, even if it is not the same in a shark and in a vulture, though for those two there is a similarity. Human beings, thanks to the two virtual constructs of the mind and language are able to conceptualize and that’s what has to be considered: the conceptualizing power of man in general (it increases from age to age) and of each individual and this time it increases with the age of the subject and it can be applied and developed in very different domains. A farmer has little to do with mathematical conceptualization but he has a lot to do with what mathematicians are not required to possess: the conceptualization of nature, its cycles, the role of the farmer, how he or she can use, influence, divert and even change the normal functioning of nature, be it only by watering what needs to be watered in his or her fields. But it is obvious consciousness has nothing to do with intelligence by definition. A dog is conscious of his suffering when it is beaten up by its master. A wolf is conscious of its suffering when its paw is taken in a wolf’s trap but it is also able to gnaw at its paw, increasing the suffering it is able to control and dominate so that it can gnaw off its paw and run away; escape. The question of consciousness is a false question. A child of six who tells “lies” about an adult is not telling lies at all for himself. What he says is his way to either defend himself or to express his desires concerning the adult, including by the way the desire to be beaten up by the father or the mother who hate lying. The child is always telling the truth, but his or her truth is not THE truth in front of supreme authorities, and even so is that truth real truth? Is someone who is saying all the tame “God bless you!” conscious that it is a mental tic that has no ground of truth at all? Of course not. For those who say that, the President of the USA first of all, they are conscious that it is THE truth in their religious frame of mind or that it is the only possible demagogical flattering caress they can use with their audience who is more or less entirely trapped in this tic that is of course entirely conscious in the words used, the tone used, the intonation used and they will not play on any of these dimensions. If they do, they know and are conscious they are changing the meaning and they may get some violent reactions from people around them. Religious irony is not what religious fundamentalists are ready to easily accept. If we want to approach such questions we have to wonder the knowledge the cognitive mind using language which is a cognitive tool, has been reached at this or that moment by an individual in his or her life. Just like Socrates in Plato proves that a slave boy can be MADE conscious of some geometric truth, you have to learn something, hence to enter a cognitive procedure to eventually dominate some knowledge of which you may be, or have been, conscious. A lot of things learned in life become habitual, tic-like and we are no longer conscious of it though we go on doing it. We walk without really being conscious that each step is a salvaged fall. The last question is the object of the book but once again he is going to, as we are going to see, cheat on the merchandise by declaring conditions that are not considered in their phylogeny. According to the author, Homo Sapiens must have full control of fully developed modern language and he states it is around 70,000 years ago that this happened, and note his singular “language.” This and only this is absurd. It is after the last migration out of Black Africa has occurred that he considers these linguistic conditions that he does not describe at all are fulfilled. There are three migrations out of Black Africa, the first one around 200,000 years ago to Northern Africa, the Nile Valley, Crete (with no future) the Levant but to come back around 80,000 BCE and to go back later only after 35,000 BCE. This migration gave all the Semitic languages of this zone and these languages are first articulation languages but communication is full and complete. The second migration took place around 120,000 years ago or slightly earlier and occupied Asia where they found the Denisovans and they spread all over the world with their Denisovans genes in the North from Siberia to Alaska and in the south to Australia (45,000 BCE) New Zealand, Polynesia, Easter Island, and South America. All those languages are of the isolating group (Tibetan Chinese, Burman Tibetan, or other regroupings) and those that derived from there due to migrations to Indonesia and the South Pacific. They all are second articulation languages but communication is full and complete. The third migration is the one that concerns the author. It happened around 70,000 BCE in two waves: the agglutinative wave first going to the Middle East where they met Neanderthals and then moved to Neanderthal territory in Europe. That’s the only one the author considers. The second wave around 50,000 BCE will go to the Middle East but will stay on the Iranian plateau to come down from it after the Ice Peak around 15,000 BCE, to the west to give Sumerian and all Indo-European languages, and to the east to ancient disappeared civilizations in Turkmenistan and then to Pakistan, India and these are the Indo-Aryan languages that pushed the Dravidians down who were of the previous migration. This third migrations gave rise to all third-articulation languages, agglutinative or synthetic-analytical. This is of course sketchy (check my publications on the subject). The author’s approach neglects fundamental facts. First, Homo Erectus migrated a long time before from Black Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia where they evolved into Neanderthals and Denisovans. The Homo Erectus who stayed behind evolved tin Homo Ergaster in Africa and these will evolve into Homo Sapiens some 300,000 years ago. All the monkeys, big apes, hominids and hominins had communication systems based on calls up to Hominins and with Hominins it got to some richer code that enabled, even before the development of the three-articulation languages of ours, them to coordinate their collective actions, to plan and design some vast migrations across continents and to, little by little since it was becoming more and more difficult, devise ways to manage “premature” non-autonomous children for several years in great numbers to be able to expand, meaning bring three children to full normal adult life (life-expectancy 29). These Hominins, after the big apes, had to have a communication system developed enough to enable all that and to know that if they wanted three individuals reaching full adult age per woman they had to accept each woman in procreating age to deliver at least ten children, one every eighteen months and these children had to be breastfed for at least one year if not eighteen months. If the author had thought of that he would have understood that the Marxist reference of Max Raphael was misplaced. The point was not the urgency of producing the means to eat, drink and survive as physiological individuals but the means to survive as a species involved by their ancestors and by themselves in a vast expansion of that species and in migrations far from the nest, always farther from the nest. […] Full review at https://medium.com/@JacquesCoulardeau...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Zachary

    4 stars from a layperson, and let me preface this review with that, although I'm certainly left feeling that I have a lifetime's worth of knowledge about art and it's place in our culture when compared to the author's understanding to be honest. The book is brilliant and thorough as one can be regarding the fragments left from a civilization gone now for ten thousand years, it certainly filled in many gaps of understanding as my mild interest in the prehistoric world over the years has turned to 4 stars from a layperson, and let me preface this review with that, although I'm certainly left feeling that I have a lifetime's worth of knowledge about art and it's place in our culture when compared to the author's understanding to be honest. The book is brilliant and thorough as one can be regarding the fragments left from a civilization gone now for ten thousand years, it certainly filled in many gaps of understanding as my mild interest in the prehistoric world over the years has turned to obsession. Several points where I doubted the book, interestingly enough are often pointed out by Lewis-Williams. Specifically I find it hard to accept that he could preface his thoughts on the full spectrum of consciousness by stating why 'altered states of consciousness' is a poor phrase, then go on to use the phrase for the entire book, eventually falling into the trap of poorly stereotyping non-rational thought that he himself had pointed out earlier. Similarly, the author does a great job of pointing out present bias as he gives a history of anthropological thought regarding the caves which almost seems(or may have actually been) a warning regarding his own present bias. I feel that there were many times where Lewis-Williams fills in the cracks of knowledge with loaded words when trying to get into the mind of the shamans themselves. The oversimplification of the differences in neanderthal and modern human consciousness seemed off though to be fair I don't know if we could ever understand the differences between our brains and theirs and my opinions could be colored by advances in neanderthal understanding that the book preceded. The final chapter is where this book went from 5 stars to 4. Honestly after reading a book filled with this much wonder to have the writer trivialize complex, cultural, conscious phenomena as being nothing but neurobiological processes, it makes me think that he has no idea what a shaman(or 'art', which he seems to like to put in quotations for some reason) actually is or does. Hopefully as the years go on this great work will be added to by research from a wider cultural background. The most frustrating thing to me about this book other than the last chapter is that 12 years on I would love to get an update on his ideas considering that the past 12 years have seen a considerable amount of prehistoric progress and discovery, not even including most recently the debate on neanderthal burials seemingly closed as well as analysis of neanderthal DNA. However nothing seems to be available on the internet regarding any edits or changes to the book or even an author's website which might have answered my questions. I should also add that there is probably a little bit of jealousy in my review as I will never be able to get over the fact that guys like David have been able to actually stand in these caves while I will never be able to. It sucks. Overall I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject, David Lewis-Williams does a masterful job of laying out not only the history of modern thought on the subject but specific case studies of cultures that may have lived similarly from opposite ends of the world. It's the type of shit that will always inspire me to make more art.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Palmer

    David Lewis-Williams’ 'The Mind In The Cave' is one of a number of attempts to imagine the psychology and condition of our prehistoric ancestors – and it’s one of the best. Though Steven Mithen’s 'The Prehistory Of The Mind' was an excellent and thought-provoking read, there was running through it an element of speculation that to my mind seemed a step too far. (Admittedly his 'The Singing Neanderthals' was somehow more reasonable…) Steven Pinker’s 'How The Mind Works' meanwhile took the recent David Lewis-Williams’ 'The Mind In The Cave' is one of a number of attempts to imagine the psychology and condition of our prehistoric ancestors – and it’s one of the best. Though Steven Mithen’s 'The Prehistory Of The Mind' was an excellent and thought-provoking read, there was running through it an element of speculation that to my mind seemed a step too far. (Admittedly his 'The Singing Neanderthals' was somehow more reasonable…) Steven Pinker’s 'How The Mind Works' meanwhile took the recent plague of computational metaphors of consciousness way too far. Lewis-Williams on the other hand anchored his speculation more firmly into his research into shamanic cultures and practices. A South African investigator into prehistoric rock art, his early paper 'The Signs Of All Times: Entoptic Phenomena In Upper Palaeolithic Art' courted the same controversy as that outsider imaginer of ancient times Richard Rudgley. But 'The Mind In The Cave' managed to wear its deep research lightly as it told a compelling tale of what we can learn from prehistoric rock art, and how we attempted to learn it. The author perhaps didn’t intend to explain everything he discovered or observed, but I think he did get very close to that goal. Yet that might have been by accident, given that a second, similarly brilliant volume 'Inside The Neolithic Mind' appeared only three years later. This first book covers methodology, historical attempts to explain rock art, then symbolic, totemic and shamanic meanings, with the latter explanation being the favoured one. Cave walls are asserted as a kind of “membrane” between the physical world and the spiritual one universally imagined in past human cultures, with associated art explained as a variety of shamanic spirituality related to neuronal optical activity. It is a brave man who ventures into the world of the prehistoric mind, given that no stone or metal tools directly mark our cognitive evolution, no buildings, post-holes or other marks in the soil give away the evolution of consciousness, and nothing can be said with certainty about rock art. But I do think we can nonetheless – by using the evidence of present day hunter-gatherer societies not least, as Lewis-Williams does – reasonably describe a lot about the development of the human mind from rock art. Many other authors have done so. In The Mind In The Cave, David Lewis-Williams made one of the most significant contributions to that difficult task. I don’t think he, or indeed anybody, will get all the details correct – how could we? – but the man deserves massive kudos for his ambition and his brilliance. Maybe it’s more likely that the art itself was reason enough for it to be brought into existence rather than any shamanic one-upmanship. Creativity, after all, is a self-sustaining human activity. An outstanding book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mindy McAdams

    I have a weird interest in prehistoric cave paintings. I like looking at them (in full-color photos; I've never seen any in person). It amazes me that humans living 30,000–40,000 years ago (in what is now Europe) created these awesome images — and that they did so deep inside hard-to-access dark caves, working by the light of torches. When I came across this book by a South African scholar, I was drawn to it because of its promise to explain something I'd never learned before: Why did those earl I have a weird interest in prehistoric cave paintings. I like looking at them (in full-color photos; I've never seen any in person). It amazes me that humans living 30,000–40,000 years ago (in what is now Europe) created these awesome images — and that they did so deep inside hard-to-access dark caves, working by the light of torches. When I came across this book by a South African scholar, I was drawn to it because of its promise to explain something I'd never learned before: Why did those early humans make the cave paintings? I was not disappointed. Lewis-Williams lays out a good theory, brick by brick. I wasn't 100 percent convinced, but I wouldn't be able to dispute much of what he's said. I especially liked that he brought in examples from Native American rock art and also examples from his area of expertise, the rock art of the San Bushmen of southern Africa. Eventually I reached a part where I felt like he was rehashing The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind without even referring to it (he did finally talk about that book in his final pages), and I got a bit weary after that. However, I loved his arguments about why these paintings are not "art" (in spite of what the title says), and probably not "communication" in most senses of the word. I enjoyed the trippy parts about hallucinations and shamans of many cultures. It was especially nice how the author frequently cited anthropologists' work on the roles of shamans in pre-industrial societies and what living shamans have said in interviews about their experiences. Rather than relying solely on the role of myth in traditional societies and facts about hallucinogenic substances, he discusses the reports given by shamans and connects those to a theory of why some of our ancient ancestors in Europe made the cave paintings. I enjoyed the care with which he supported his arguments even when I didn't fully agree.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Thor Nordahl

    Very interesting book with an ambitious aim: to explain the origins and cultural function of cave art - a prehistoric practice with unknown purpose that arose independently on several continents during the upper paleolitic. The author is probably correct in broad strokes, that is, cave art had some religious purpose and was related to a belief in a spirit world that interacted with the real world and could be accessed by performing certain rituals, many of them through states of altered consciou Very interesting book with an ambitious aim: to explain the origins and cultural function of cave art - a prehistoric practice with unknown purpose that arose independently on several continents during the upper paleolitic. The author is probably correct in broad strokes, that is, cave art had some religious purpose and was related to a belief in a spirit world that interacted with the real world and could be accessed by performing certain rituals, many of them through states of altered consciousness. However, one of his main assumptions, namely that cave art was incomprehensible to neanderthals has been falsified by the discovery of cave art that predates homo sapiens, meaning it has to have been made by neanderthals.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Miller

    A hard read. If that scares you off, then don't bother. But this books repays the effort if you give it. This looks at the development of human consciousness and art in the Stone Age people. Working with what little we have of theirs (cave paintings, tools, etc.), David Lewis-Williams works to broaden our sense of the psychology and experience of the neolithic people. The difference between these Cro-Magnon people (our ancestors) and the Neanderthals(not our ancestors) lies in the consciousness a A hard read. If that scares you off, then don't bother. But this books repays the effort if you give it. This looks at the development of human consciousness and art in the Stone Age people. Working with what little we have of theirs (cave paintings, tools, etc.), David Lewis-Williams works to broaden our sense of the psychology and experience of the neolithic people. The difference between these Cro-Magnon people (our ancestors) and the Neanderthals(not our ancestors) lies in the consciousness and neurological make-up. The origin of shamanistic trances and practices lies back here in the Stone Age. As I said, a hard read, but I found it fascinating and went looking for more.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Harikrishnan Tulsidas

    Cave paintings appear at the start of Upper Palaeolithic. These paintings mark the dawn of a newly attained gift of humans to represent three-dimensional features into two-dimensional figures. How did they get this gift, that was not seen in any human species previously? We have evidence of people (for example in the 18th century Islamic societies), who lived without ever seeing an image of an animal. When shown a picture of the horse, they are unable to comprehend it easily. Understanding of sca Cave paintings appear at the start of Upper Palaeolithic. These paintings mark the dawn of a newly attained gift of humans to represent three-dimensional features into two-dimensional figures. How did they get this gift, that was not seen in any human species previously? We have evidence of people (for example in the 18th century Islamic societies), who lived without ever seeing an image of an animal. When shown a picture of the horse, they are unable to comprehend it easily. Understanding of scaled representations of actual things is not something that is built into the human brain. It is a learned craft. How these humans around 50,000 learn this. Bigger brain size? Humans had large brains for large parts of their history, yet representational art appeared only 40,000 years ago. This creativity happened only in one species of humans. Homo sapiens sapiens (H. sapiens), is the only surviving human species. Several human species had coexisted with other species since 3 million years - H. habilis, H. erectus, H. rudolfensis, H. gautengensis, H. ergaster, H. antecessor, H. cepranensis, H. heidelbergensis, H. neanderthalensis, H. naledi, H. tsaichangensis, H. rhodesiensis, H. floresiensis, etc. The interesting question is why other species vanished, while H.sapiens survived. Human species remained without change for a long time. H.sapiens evolved 300,000 years ago (or even probably earlier according to current DNA evidence). Something happened only in H.sapiens, not in other humans, at around 70,000 years. That unique event took place when H.sapiens were still in Africa. Sometime before this the H.sapiens species were almost on the way to extinction, with the population reduced to some 600 individuals. The change, now called the “Cognitive Revolution”, turned the fortunes of this weak and insignificant species at that time. Around this period H.sapiens made the second attempt (?) to leave Africa and was quite successful. An earlier known attempt around 100,000 years ago to leave Africa was a disaster. After the second successful attempt in migration, H.sapiens also started dominating other humans. Brain size of H.sapiens was a bit smaller than Neanderthals. H.sapiens were also weak scavengers, not brutal savages as we would like to believe today. From where did H.sapiens get this power to dominate others human species (as well as other animals)? Central to this answer is belief. H.sapiens at 70,000 years back got the ability to believe in things that do not exist. Complex language, art, commerce and religion made its appearance. The first figurine known today is from around 40,000 ago, and it a the Lion-man (or Lioness-woman) of the Hohlenstein-Stadel. The ability to believe in things that do not exist in real world became a distinctive character of H.sapiens. How did this help H.sapiens? This ability to believe gave H.sapiens capacity to form larger groups. Other humans, as wells as other animals, could create only groups up to 20 or 30 individuals. Today, India or China is a group of over 1.2 billion H.sapiens each. The Catholic church is a group of 1.5 billion H.sapiens led by an alpha male. Except that this alpha male does not procreate. He is a shaman. Larger groups are readily equated with superior physical strength, which is true. However, the real advantage is in an exponential increase in creativity when different brains come close. Today, inventions come from the most populous cities. However, is this belief based only on imagined things? Is there another reality behind this creative imagination? Cave art makes its appearance from around 40,000 years. The surprising fact is that cave art has a similarity wherever you go in the world, be it France or Indonesia. Animals and some geometric shapes are carved or painted in caves. Why dark caves? Why only animals, not the landscape, not even realistic humans (only stick people or human-animal figurines are painted). Importantly, animals seem to float on the walls and ceilings of the caves. In many cases legs are hanging, sometimes even the underside of the hoofs are seen. James David Lewis-Williams in this book says that cave artists are not making up things. They are not letting their imagination run wild. They are drawing things they “saw”, in their minds, in altered states of consciousness. This belief makes us what we are today, and they exist in the spectrum of our consciousness. Cave art could be the evidence for expanded human consciousness. This consciousness can be referred as higher consciousness, that is different from the ordinary awareness. We may call it altered the state of consciousness, but is not something separate from our normal consciousness. We all experience such consciousness when we slowly drift into sleep. We are very much aware of dreams, and there are other stages of consciousness when we move in and out of a deep sleep. Several psychotropic substances enhance these altered states of consciousness. Other conditions could also be responsible. However, we have several pieces of evidence of psychotropic substance use in ancient religions and also in ethnographic groups of the present. Cave artists are not making up things. They see reality on rock surfaces. They are making animals appear from the rocks, a reality they have experienced. To the people who made the pictures, they are not images; they are not symbolic representations, but real “beings”. When you drift into higher states of consciousness, you see and experience a variety of visual images. You also hear, smell and feel many things. Initially, you are choked and constricted; you feel you are falling through a long dark tunnel. Or else you are drowning in waters and feel tremendous pressure on your chest. Then the animals and other "spirits" appear. They help you navigate and assist you to rise to higher levels - into the light. The cave art also includes many symbols - grids, zig-zags, dots, etc. Do they persist to this date as the cross and swastika? A “wounded man” lies among the ethereal animals, speared. “Crucified man” imagery continues to this age. Neanderthals, who co-existed with humans for some time and interbred (the book gets this wrong) did not indulge in cave art, even though they occupied some of the same caves at times. In all probability, Neanderthals saw the paintings left by their cousins. They could have been baffled and never made any sense out of the figures. Cave art ended with the conclusion of the last ice age. History saw the start of a new dawn that ended the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that gave way to cities and settled agriculture. Caves and tunnels did not disappear. They make the appearance as cavernous buildings - pyramids, ziggurats, temples and churches, with paintings covering the walls and ceilings. Another set of animals and half animal - humans images, floating out of the walls. They beckon you to another world. Geographic patterns persist. Of chanting, singing and dancing we have no evidence from the Upper Palaeolithic, but if “present is key to the past”, we have to conclude that all the religious paraphernalia and beliefs have a long history. Why belief arose in one animal species has the answer in the higher consciousness that H.sapiens acquired 70,000 years onwards. It has deep relations to dreams, in the sense that dream state consciousness is part of this higher consciousness. The cave paintings are not graffiti painted by bored individuals or aesthetically inclined artists. They represent part of our consciousness that we all experience, yet not understand well. Lewis-Williams talks about social stratification and conflicts maybe from a Marxist perspective. I am not sure how relevant this could be. Shamanism does not indicate social stratification. Such rigid social stratification happened after the hunter-gatherer mode of living was abandoned. So these views should be taken cautiously. Otherwise, the book is a good read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    keko

    Quite an intresting read. Frankly I was expecting something a bit different, maybe some more discussion about the philosophy of art and how ancient art could be evaluated dadadada. Nope, this book was better than that! I couldn't help feeling skeptic while reading Lewis-Williams's book. Knowledge and scientefic and artistic discussion does not seem mature enough to avoid any speculative claims in this field. I guess readers have to keep their guard while reading about this subject: Even amond th Quite an intresting read. Frankly I was expecting something a bit different, maybe some more discussion about the philosophy of art and how ancient art could be evaluated dadadada. Nope, this book was better than that! I couldn't help feeling skeptic while reading Lewis-Williams's book. Knowledge and scientefic and artistic discussion does not seem mature enough to avoid any speculative claims in this field. I guess readers have to keep their guard while reading about this subject: Even amond the scholars, it may be hard to settle on common grounds on specific topics covered in this title. The amount of unknown is simply too much. On the other hand, even if some of the authors claims were wholly misguided (I don't know if they are, future will tell), still it was a enjoyable read. The social and scientific information was inclusive. Lewis-Williams's examples from contemporary anthropologic cases were intresting, so was hearing about the history about the caves, and how scientific circles views evaluated through decades. Only maybe half of the book is really about the prehistoric stuff. The rest about techniques and discussions about the our (H.Sapiens and our other distant-relatives) minds, and some animism/shamanism. The author covers a lot of different aspects from different sciences, and discusses alternative points from a wide range of researchers and other authors - which I liked a lot.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mclintoc

    This book is well written and well researched. I have some fundamental disagreements with many of his arguments, yet it is well worth reading. My one big criticism, however, is that when you see what his final thesis is and then look back at all the laborious prefacing, you can't help asking, "you needed that much intellectual apparatus to make that claim?" To make matters worse, some of his key points are based upon assumptions that are not given their needed explanation--he needs to spend more This book is well written and well researched. I have some fundamental disagreements with many of his arguments, yet it is well worth reading. My one big criticism, however, is that when you see what his final thesis is and then look back at all the laborious prefacing, you can't help asking, "you needed that much intellectual apparatus to make that claim?" To make matters worse, some of his key points are based upon assumptions that are not given their needed explanation--he needs to spend more time discussing what the archaeological record has revealed about the societies of the cave painters, their relations to Neanderthals, and the various ways in which shamans related to their own societies (which is quite various, as much ethnography has shown). He also needs more on the difference between primary and higher-order consciousness. These are details central to his thesis, and he doesn't deal with them in nearly enough detail. In short, I think this is a deeply flawed book, but it is, even so, well worth reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Van Leadam

    Presenting a scientific theory to a wide audience is tough; the author manages to do it in a way that must satisfy the already knowledgeable and engage the lay readers, making neither feel stupid or ignored. Going through the amassed evidence takes some perseverance but once the different strands start coming together, the reader feels amply rewarded. What the book proposes seems coherent and compelling but it's exactly the method by which it achieves it that raises questions: if it's all down t Presenting a scientific theory to a wide audience is tough; the author manages to do it in a way that must satisfy the already knowledgeable and engage the lay readers, making neither feel stupid or ignored. Going through the amassed evidence takes some perseverance but once the different strands start coming together, the reader feels amply rewarded. What the book proposes seems coherent and compelling but it's exactly the method by which it achieves it that raises questions: if it's all down to associations and relations between some strands of evidence, what would happen with other relations and other strands? Interestingly, such questions make one value this book even more.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Siri Olsen

    A thought provoking, very well researched and very well argued theory of European Paleolithic cave art. While I would not call myself 100% convinced, I did find this book a very interesting read and I have been thinking about the theory ever since I read it. According to Lewis-Williams, European Paleolithic cave art has to do with the shamanistic practice of trance and the visual hallucinations produced by the human mind under such conditions, which I find a very compelling and reasonable idea. A thought provoking, very well researched and very well argued theory of European Paleolithic cave art. While I would not call myself 100% convinced, I did find this book a very interesting read and I have been thinking about the theory ever since I read it. According to Lewis-Williams, European Paleolithic cave art has to do with the shamanistic practice of trance and the visual hallucinations produced by the human mind under such conditions, which I find a very compelling and reasonable idea. Highly recommended for students of archaeology and everyone interested in cognitive evolution, as well as people interested in the functioning of the human brain.

  19. 4 out of 5

    W. Koistinen

    The most interesting thing in this book was the description of how Neanderthals differed from us humans, and the origins of higher consciousness that developed in humans but not in Neanderthals, and so, the origins of language, which also made possible religions and political thought later. What with the actual cave paintings, they can also be seen as a first step in this development towards more complex societies. It wasn't any fast reading, but interesting enough to go through.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Charles Clarke

    This was the required recommended reading for the modules "Archaeological Theory" when I was at the Sligo Institute of Technology studying Applied Archaeology. This was an excellent book and provided a great deal of food for thought. For those who despise speculation, this book may not be for you. The use of ethnographic sources helps build a picture of what might have been.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jay-Ger Nelson

    Brilliant. Cheated a bit here - still to read a few chapters but though I would log and potentially come back to this with time. Find Upper Palaeolithic rock art just fascinating and DLW does really well as addressing alot of areas and the limits of his word choices and assumptions. I also found it to be clearly written.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Clivemichael

    Brilliant, fantastic exploration, fascinating study well articulated. A page turner and inspiring thought, challenging preconceived conjectures backed up with relevant examples. "The essential elements of religion are thus wired into the brain."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alistair Mungall

    Fascinating theory of the evolution of thinking and expression - Really engages the imagination.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Upendra Sharma

    an informative book ,....enjoyed it ....

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dean Lombardo

    Undoubtedly a well-researched and well-thought-out text that has earned the respect of many archaeologists and scientists, "The Mind in the Cave" was challenging for this layman reader--and not due to its complexity. Author David Lewis-Williams prefaces much of the first portion of the book with scientific methodology and caveats that are probably necessary for gaining buy-in from his peers but which proved to be too dry and pedantic for this enthusiast. I got a lot of what I was looking for onc Undoubtedly a well-researched and well-thought-out text that has earned the respect of many archaeologists and scientists, "The Mind in the Cave" was challenging for this layman reader--and not due to its complexity. Author David Lewis-Williams prefaces much of the first portion of the book with scientific methodology and caveats that are probably necessary for gaining buy-in from his peers but which proved to be too dry and pedantic for this enthusiast. I got a lot of what I was looking for once I got past all of the author's caveats and explanations of why alternative theories don't work. There is a wealth of great material in the book that enables the reader to get inside the mind of ancestral humans as they reproduced the images in their heads on cave walls and stone items in Western Europe and elsewhere. The book also explores the question of how and when the advanced consciousness that empowered these early humans to produce art first appeared and why the author believes others human species such as Neanderthals might have lacked this imaginative and advanced artistic capability. Once Lewis-Williams got started, the story he himself painted was fascinating. I just would rather he had started with a vision of what things might have looked like according to his research and theory first, thus placing the reader in a vivid past, before laying the scientific techniques he planned to use on so thickly.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    After reading the first hundred pages, I put this down and picked it up two days ago, finding it so fascinating and stimulating that I read through to the end in less than two days. You can virtually ignore the first hundred pages and start with the discussion of universal neurological experiences from dreams to migraine optical illusions to trances and hallucinations. Then you will be swept into fascinating anthropological studies of hunter-gatherer societies from Africa to Siberia to North and After reading the first hundred pages, I put this down and picked it up two days ago, finding it so fascinating and stimulating that I read through to the end in less than two days. You can virtually ignore the first hundred pages and start with the discussion of universal neurological experiences from dreams to migraine optical illusions to trances and hallucinations. Then you will be swept into fascinating anthropological studies of hunter-gatherer societies from Africa to Siberia to North and South American and learn how their art portrays the mental experiences of shamans who, in a trance, descend or ascend into other worlds to influence hallucinatory animals to bring rain or herds for hunting or cures for the ill. Then, Lewis-Williams shows in great detail that the various prehistoric cave paintings are, like the rock art of modern hunter gatherers, both accounts of shamanistic experiences and also vehicles to bring about religious experiences to those who never experience trance states, but, because they do have dreams, believe there are alternate realities. Not only does this book illuminate the minds of so-called primitive peoples, but it shows how modern religions, especially Christianity, share these shamanistic experiences. Totally illuminating and must reading for anyone who wants to understand how humans are.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julien Dupont

    Overall, this book makes a beautiful and convincing argument. The ancient world of Upper Paleolithic shamanism is revealed in a new light, one that must illuminate the darkness of our past. Certain passages in particular I found exceptional such as the idea that the spectrum of consciousness, like the spectrum of colours, can be experienced by all humans, but is CULTURALLY defined. However, there were some passages that got on my nerves. For example, even though Lewis-Williams defended that alter Overall, this book makes a beautiful and convincing argument. The ancient world of Upper Paleolithic shamanism is revealed in a new light, one that must illuminate the darkness of our past. Certain passages in particular I found exceptional such as the idea that the spectrum of consciousness, like the spectrum of colours, can be experienced by all humans, but is CULTURALLY defined. However, there were some passages that got on my nerves. For example, even though Lewis-Williams defended that altered states are culturally defined as acceptable or not he clearly had a condescending Western rationalist bias towards them. Claims that our ancestors did not understand what we now KNOW to be the truth: that altered states are simply random misfirings of neurons that our mind tries to construct, or that consciousness is generated by the brain. In fact, David, we do not know these things at all. The nature of consciousness is ever elusive and one of the main questions today. So his assumptions that the modern of view of consciousness is the absolute and true one was annoying. I respect the man and his ideas, but given the fact that he refused psychotropic substances in order that he might experience the altered states he speaks with so much authority about weakens his ideas in my view.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Noah M.

    This was a fairly interesting look at the evolution of human consciousness and its relationship to humankind's ability to create two dimensional artwork. I wasn't convinced of all the points this book made, but it was argued well for the most part. I knew literally nothing about prehistoric cave art prior to reading this book, so I would say I'm glad to have read it. There was a very detailed look at the Lascaux cave, its various chambers, the differences and similarities in the art found in thos This was a fairly interesting look at the evolution of human consciousness and its relationship to humankind's ability to create two dimensional artwork. I wasn't convinced of all the points this book made, but it was argued well for the most part. I knew literally nothing about prehistoric cave art prior to reading this book, so I would say I'm glad to have read it. There was a very detailed look at the Lascaux cave, its various chambers, the differences and similarities in the art found in those different chambers, possible uses of different areas of the cave, etc. Lovely photographs as well, just not enough of them. I enjoyed it, certainly, but it was starting to drag by the end. At the very least this book piqued my interest in prehistoric art, so I will probably read more about this subject in the future.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ard

    To a layperson interested in cave art, this book is not an easy introduction. Even though the first chapter is a comprehensible overview of the discoveries that led to the study of prehistoric people, the journey gets more demanding as the various theories are explained about the how and the what of cave art and rock art. So far I have only read a few books on this topic, but this one stands out as the most meticulously researched and best argumented, using not only archeological evidence but al To a layperson interested in cave art, this book is not an easy introduction. Even though the first chapter is a comprehensible overview of the discoveries that led to the study of prehistoric people, the journey gets more demanding as the various theories are explained about the how and the what of cave art and rock art. So far I have only read a few books on this topic, but this one stands out as the most meticulously researched and best argumented, using not only archeological evidence but also findings in anthropology, neurobiology and psychology. The case that cave art and rock art have everything to do with shamanism and altered states of consciousness, and are not merely 'art for art's sake', has in my view never been made as convincing as in this book. Not an easy read, but definitely very much worth while.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Stopped a few chapters short of the end. Lewis-Williams has constructed a fascinating but extended argument about the origin of Neolithic cave art in Europe. Most of his theories seem likely, but a few of his propositions seem off. One was his claim that early Homo sapiens divided the world into three realms--subterranean, earth, and heavens--because of related archetypal images encountered in dream states. Can't humans come up with this three-tiered structure just by standing on the Earth and h Stopped a few chapters short of the end. Lewis-Williams has constructed a fascinating but extended argument about the origin of Neolithic cave art in Europe. Most of his theories seem likely, but a few of his propositions seem off. One was his claim that early Homo sapiens divided the world into three realms--subterranean, earth, and heavens--because of related archetypal images encountered in dream states. Can't humans come up with this three-tiered structure just by standing on the Earth and having a good look around? Overall a rewarding read if just to remind ourselves that current definitions of "art" aren't going to hold true for the images in the caves.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.