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Painters of the Caves
Patricia Lauber, 1998, National Geographic, D.C.
From Booklist, Stephanie Zvirin

painters of the caves.Beginning and ending in Chauvet cave in southeastern France, this impressive work is rich in both its artwork and its text. Lauber goes well beyond descriptions of the extraordinary paintings found in the cave to give readers a true sense of the times. Drawing on fossil finds and the cave paintings themselves, she looks back at the development of early modern humans, explaining in seemingly effortless prose how the artists fit into the scheme of human evolution.

We learn what Stone Age humans ate, where they lived, what they wore, why they painted what they did--with Lauber always taking care to draw clear distinctions between accepted fact, informed speculation, and ongoing controversy. The lavish illustrations are as stimulating as the text. There's an excellent map, a selection of expertly reproduced pictures of the cave paintings (including many close-ups), and some recent artwork (always clearly labeled as such) depicting the Stone Age people and their various activities.

One especially fascinating picture is a computer-produced image of what a Neanderthal might have looked like. An appended section explains the process of carbon dating, and a short list of related adult books is provided. Great for browsing and for classroom use at a variety of levels, this is one armchair journey that won't easily be forgotten. end of story.


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