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Pourquoi l’art préhistorique ?

Jean Clottes

The most nagging pain we can have about our distant ancestors’ art is undoubtedly why? Why did they chose caves and paint figures for 20 000 years, a lapse of time our zapping-crazy contemporaries could never fathom? Why did they print so many hands? Why did they represent animals such as the mischievous owl, capable of turning its head at 180°? Jean Clottes is aware of the limits set by the mystery of the origins and has searched for revealing clues in the aboriginal cultures that survived until last century, and he dares drop the “how” and “what” to focus on the stubborn “why?” As if in a police investigation, he chases the truth and interprets shattered stalactites as well as the very rare bird from the Puits de Lascaux, and thus reaches his own conclusion: these Palaeolithic motifs are expressions of a shamanist type religion, where painting was entrusted to insiders.

Pourquoi l’art préhistorique ?, by Jean Clottes, Folio Essais, Gallimard, 2011, 336 p., €8.90.

Pourquoi l’art préhistorique ? - Jean Clottes

Review published in the newsletter #251 - from 22 March 2012 to 28 March 2012

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