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The Cave Beneath the Sea
Bradshaw Foundation Books
Paleolithic Images at Cosquer
by Jean Clottes
• Hardcover: 200 pages
• Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (1 Mar 1996)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0810940337
• ISBN-13: 978-0810940338
• Product Dimensions: 31.6 x 27.4 x 2.6 cm
In 1991, a diver named Cosquer discovered an important prehistoric painted cave. The entrance lay 120 feet below sea level, sealed by the flooding Mediterranean at the end of the last ice age, 9500 years earlier than Lascaux. This is an account of the initial discovery and an analysis of the images found there. The artworks were dated by radio-carbon tests to an age of 27,000 years. The undersea gallery includes pictures of land animals such as horses, ibex, chamois, and the huge, long-extinct megaloceros deer; marine animals such as seals and great auks, which flourished in the then-frigid Mediterranean climate; dozens of paintings of human hands; and amazingly, a drawing of a human killed by a spear, an unusual subject in paleolithic art. The authors discuss in detail the size, style and location of the images, and compare them with art found in other prehistoric caves.
From Publishers Weekly
In 1991, French deep-sea diver Henri Cosquer discovered an underwater cave 120 feet below sea level near Marseilles containing Paleolithic paintings and engravings of animals, complex geometric signs, stenciled human hands and innumerable finger tracings. Once several miles inland, the cave's mouth became submerged when seas rose at the end of the last Ice Age some 12,000 years ago. French archeologists Clottes and Courtin took part in expeditions to the submerged cavern. Using radiocarbon tests, they dated some of the artwork to 27,000 years ago-9500 years earlier than the celebrated paintings of the Lascaux cave. Although the Cosquer cave's animal paintings do not seem nearly as powerful as those of Lascaux, the art and artifacts left behind by adventurous Homo sapiens hunters add up to an extraordinary find, as documented in this attractive album. Among the prehistoric artworks are pictures of plains horses, ibex, bison and the extinct deer called megaloceros; rare images of marine animals such as seals, auks and a fish; and an engraving of a killed man, his skull crushed by a spearhead-an image that suggests to the authors a murder or execution. Natural Science Book Club main selection.
Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Marking 1991 as a landmark year of discovery in archaeology was the the recovery of the Iceman of Tirol (a desiccated Bronze Age body from the Alps) and the discovery of stunning Paleolithic underwater cave paintings in France. The prehistoric paintings of Cosquer invoke awe, fascination, and a strong human connection to the past while providing scientific insight into the culture and psychology of earlier humans. Though not as artistically spectacular as Lascaux, the Cosquer cave has several unique characteristics: firm dates established by chemical methods, unique animal images, an underwater location, and a particular danger associated with the discovery and exploration of such a location. The authors, principal investigators of the site, expertly describe the context, meaning, and significance of the paintings and draw comparisons with similar sites. The quality of the production is excellent, and the book teems with color images. The main detraction is the lack of an index, though a helpful glossary and an extensive bibliography are included. This book is a treat for lay and undergraduate readers alike. Joyce L. Ogburn, Yale Univ. Lib., New Haven, Ct.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Jean Clottes
Jean Clottes is a prominent French prehistorian. He was born in the French Pyrénées in 1933 and began to study archaeology in 1959, while teaching high school. He initially focused on Neolithic dolmens, which were the topic of his 1975 Ph.D. thesis at the University of Toulouse. After being appointed director of prehistoric antiquities for the Midi-Pyrénées in 1971, he began to study prehistoric cave art in order to fulfill the responsibilities of that position. In the following years he led a series of excavations of prehistoric sites in the region. In 1992, he was named General Inspector for Archaeology at the French Ministry of Culture; in 1993 he was appointed Scientific Advisor for prehistoric rock art at the French Ministry of Culture. He formally retired in 1999, but remains an active contributor to the field.
To date he has written over 300 scientific papers, and has edited, co-edited, written, or co-authored a total of over 20 books. He has also lectured around the world, taught at the University of Toulouse and the University of California at Berkeley, and engaged in numerous public outreach and professional service activities. He has received several honors from the French government and also from the Blue Tuareg people of the Sahara Desert, who made him an honorary Tuareg in 2007.
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