The Cave and the Mind: Towards a Sculptural and Experimental Approach to Upper Palaeolithic Art

  • Andrew Meirion Jones
Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH, volume 11)


This chapter is a direct response to the recent British Museum exhibition ‘Ice Age Art: arrival of the modern mind” which ran from 7 February–26 May 2013 (see Cook, Ice age art. Arrival of the modern mind, London, British Museum Press, 2013). The exhibition offered an unparalleled chance to see many pieces of Ice Age sculpture ‘in the flesh’; I found the experience both astonishing and thought-provoking and I want to communicate that experience here.


Art Archaeology Palaeolithic Sculpture Experimentation Cognition 



This chapter owes its genesis to Jill Cook and Andrew Cochrane, Curator and Project Curator, of the ‘Ice Age Art’ exhibition at the British Museum. The ‘Ice Age Art’ exhibition has opened my eyes to the wonders of Upper Palaeolithic art, a formative experience for me. I would like to thank them both for this experience. I would also like to thank Ian Dawson and Louisa Minkin, Winchester School of Art for helpful discussion of some of the issues in this chapter.


  1. Alberti, B. (2007). Destabilising meaning in anthropomorphic vessels from northwest Argentina. Journal of Iberian Archaeology, 9/10, 209–30.Google Scholar
  2. Alberti, B. (In press). Archaeology and Ontologies of scale: the case of Miniaturisation in First Millennium Northwest Argentina. In B. Alberti, A.M. Jones, & J. Pollard (Eds.), Archaeology after Interpretation. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
  3. Alberti, B., & Marshall, Y. (2009). Animating Archaeology: local theories and conceptually open-ended methodologies. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 19(3), 344–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Azéma, M., Clottes, J, & Tavernier, B. (2011). La Préhistoire du cinema. Origines paléolithiques de la narration graphique et du cinématographe. Paris: Editions Errance.Google Scholar
  5. Bailey, D. (2005). Prehistoric figurines. representation and corporeality in the Neolithic. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bourriaud, N. (2002). Relational aesthetics. Paris: Les Presses du Réel.Google Scholar
  7. Breuil, H. (1952). Four Hundred Centuries of Cave Art. Montignac: Centre d’Etudes et de Documentation Préhistoriques.Google Scholar
  8. Carlson, M. (1996). Performance. A critical introduction. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Carpenter, E. (1973). Eskimo realities. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Wilson.Google Scholar
  10. Clottes, J. (2008). Cave Art. London: Phaidon.Google Scholar
  11. Clottes, J., & Lewis-Williams, D. (1998). The Shamans of prehistory. Trance and magic in the painted caves. New York: Harry Abrams.Google Scholar
  12. Cochrane, A., & Jones, A. M. (2012). Visualising the Neolithic: An introduction. In A. Cochrane & A. M. Jones (Eds.), Visualising the Neolithic (pp. 1–14). Oxford: Oxbow.Google Scholar
  13. Conkey, M. (2009). Materiality and meaning-making in the understanding of the Palaeolithic ‘arts’. In C. Renfrew & I. Morley (Eds.), Becoming Human. Innovation in Prehistoric Material and Spiritual Culture (pp. 179–194). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Conkey, M. (2010). Images without words. The construction of prehistoric imaginaries for definitions of ‘us’, Journal of Visual Culture, 9(3), 272–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Conneller, C. (2011). An Archaeology of Materials. Substantial transformations in Early prehistoric Europe. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Cook, J. (2013). Ice age art. Arrival of the modern mind. London: British Museum Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dawson, I. (2012). Making contemporary sculpture. Malborough: Crowood Press.Google Scholar
  18. Delannoy, J.-J., David, B., Geneste, J.-M., Katherine, M., Barker, B., Whear, R. L., & Gunn, R. G. (2013). The social construction of caves and rock shelters: Chauvet Cave (France) and Nawarla Gabarnmang (Australia). Antiquity, 87(2013), 12–29.Google Scholar
  19. Dezeuze, A. (2010). The ‘do-it-yourself’ artwork. Participation from Fluxus to new media. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Donald, M. (1991). Origins of the modern mind. Three stages in the evolution of culture and cognition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Dunbar, R. 1998. The social brain hypothesis. Evolutionary Anthropology, 6, 178–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Elkins, J. 2000. What painting Is. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Farbstein, R. (2011). The significance of social gestures and technologies of embellishment in Palaeolithic portable art. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 18, 125–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fell, M. (2013). Collateral damage. Wire, 348, 18–19.Google Scholar
  25. Gamble, C. (2007). Origins and revolutions. Human identity in Earliest Prehistory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gamble, C., Gowlett, J. & Dunbar, R. (2011). The Social brain and the shape of the Palaeolithic. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 21, 115–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Goldberg, R. (1979). Performance art. From Futurism to the present. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  28. Hodder, I. (2012). Entangled: An archaeology of the relationships between humans and things. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hodgson, D. (2008). The visual dynamics of Upper Palaeolithic cave art. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 18(3), 341–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hill, E. (2011). Animals as agents: Hunting ritual and relational ontologies in Prehistoric Alaska and Chukotka. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 21(3), 407–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ingold, T. (2000). ‘People like us’. The concept of the anatomically modern human. In T. Ingold (Ed.), The Perception of the Environment. Essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill (pp. 373–391). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jones, A., & Bonaventura, P. (2011). Shaping the past: Sculpture and archaeology. In P. Bonaventura & A. Jones (Eds.), Sculpture and Archaeology (pp. 1–18). Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  33. Leroi-Gourhan, A. (1967). Treasures of prehistoric art. New York: Harry Abrams.Google Scholar
  34. Leroi-Gourhan, A. (1968). The art of Prehistoric man in Western Europe. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  35. Lesure, R. (2011). Interpreting Ancient Figurines. Context, Comparison and Prehistoric Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lewis-Williams, D. (2002). The Mind in the Cave. Consciousness and the origins of art. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  37. Lorblanchet, M. (1989). From man to animal and sign in Palaeolithic art. In H. Morphy (Ed.), Animals into Art (pp. 109–43). London: Unwin Hyman.Google Scholar
  38. Malafouris, L. 2007. Before and beyond representation: towards an enactive conception of the Palaeolithic Image. In C. Renfrew & I. Morley (Eds.), Image and imagination. A global prehistory of figurative representation (pp. 287–300) Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs.Google Scholar
  39. McDermott, L. (1996). Self-representation in Upper Palaeolithic female figurines. Current Anthropology, 37(2), 227–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mithen, S. (1996). The prehistory of the Mind. A search for the origins of art, religion and science. London: Phoenix.Google Scholar
  41. Mitchell, W. J. T. (2005). What do pictures Want? Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Onians, J. (2007). Neuroarchaeology and the origins of representation in the Grotte de Chauvet. In C. Renfrew & I. Morley (Eds.), Image and Imagination. A global prehistory of figurative representation (pp. 307–321). Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs.Google Scholar
  43. Pfeiffer, J. E. (1982). The Creative Explosion: an inquiry into the origins of art and religion. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  44. Pike, A. W. G., Hoffmann, D. L., Garcia-Diez, M., Pettitt, P. B., Alcolea, J., de Balbin, R., Gonzalez-Sainz, C., de las Heras, C., Lasheras, J.A., Montes, R., & Zilhao, J. (2012). U-series dating of Palaeolithic art in 11 caves in Spain. Science, 336(6087), 1409–1413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Renfrew, C. (2007). Prehistory. The making of the human mind. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson.Google Scholar
  46. Renfrew, C., & Morley, I. (2009). Becoming human. Innovation in Prehistoric Material and Spiritual Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Schechner, R. (1988). Performance theory. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  48. Soffer, O., Vandiver, P., Oliva, M., & Svoboda, J. A. (1993). The pyrotechnology of performance art: Moravian venuses and wolverines. In H. Knecht, A. Pike-Tay, & R. White (Eds.), Before Lascaux: The complex record of the Early Upper Palaeolithic (pp. 259–75) Boca Ranton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  49. Taylor, T. (2010). The artificial Ape. How Technology changed the course of human evolution. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  50. White, R. (1997). Substantial acts: from materials to meaning in Upper Palaeolithic representation. In M. W. Conkey, O. Soffer, D. Stratmann, & N. G. Jablonski (Eds.), Beyond Art: Pleistocene Image and Symbol (pp. 93–121) San Francisco: Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences, no. 23.Google Scholar
  51. Wynn, T., Coolidge, F., & Bright, M. (2009). Hohlenstein-Stadel and the evolution of conceptual thought. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 19(1), 73–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of SouthamptonHighfieldUK

Personalised recommendations