Seaman, Donna.
The Shamans of Prehistory (review)
Booklist 95. 9-10 (Jan 1, 1999): 816

©1999 American Library Association

Clottes, Jean and Lewis-Williams, David.
The Shamans of Prehistory.
1998. 120p. index, illus.
Abrams, $49.50 (0-8109-4182-1). DDC: 709.

The most obvious question about cave art is why is it there, and Clottes, a prehistoric rock art expert associated with the French ministry of culture, and Lewis-Williams, a South African professor of cognitive archaeology, propose an elegant answer in this beautifully illustrated volume. They begin by documenting the universality of certain cave art images, then suggest that these paintings are shamanic in nature. They make their case in a fresh and lucid discussion of the methods shamans use to achieve altered states of consciousness in order to get in touch with the spiritual realm, then, shifting to a neuropsychological perspective, characterize the types of hallucinations experienced at the three main stages of trance: geometric shapes, objects of religious or emotional significance, and visions of animals, monsters, and people. The three sets of visions are depicted gracefully on cave walls deep beneath the surface of the earth, the perfect setting for a journey to another world. This is a handsome and quietly thrilling solution to an old and essential mystery.






Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles