From the African Savannah to the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming

decipheringmind in cave

It’s always a thrill to come across a new book by David Lewis-Williams, a world leading rock art-expert for over thirty years. His latest book centers on the prehistory of his native South Africa: Deciphering Ancient Minds: The Mystery of San Bushman Rock Art (co-authored with Sam Challis).

The prehistoric San people left a remarkable number of picture galleries across east and southern Africa, some dating back to approximately 27,000 years ago. Deciphering Ancient Minds is richly illustrated, and full of insights into San beliefs and ways of thought — showing the prehistoric bushman society to be easily as complex and sophisticated as our own:

Though less well known, these spiritual panoramas rival in complexity, detail and variety the Ice Age painted caverns of Western Europe, ancient Egyptian art and the intricately carved Maya temples and stelae.

Lewis-Williams’ earlier book, The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art (also pictured above), is mainly focused on the wall and ceiling art found in French and Spanish caves, making it an excellent compliment to Deciphering Ancient Minds.

daviddrakensberg
David Lewis-Williams, professor emeritus, Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

eland
The Eland, a spiral-horned antelope of east and southern Africa — and a favorite subject of the San bushman artists.

Bringing this subject closer to home, Deciphering Ancient Minds spends a chapter comparing & contrasting prehistoric African rock art with the intriguing images from the Dinwoody tradition of the High Plains — highlighting the work of Julie Francis & Lawrence Loendorf, past participants of the Rocky Mountain Land Series:

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For more on Rock Art & Cave Paintings be sure to check out our earlier posts!

When the Earth Was Young

Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams

And for more on the Rock Art of the San Bushmen, here’s a 4 minute film clip produced by the Africa Heritage Fund, highlighting Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg Mountains:

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