Books about the beginning needed.
March 26, 2012 4:23 PM   Subscribe

I saw Cave Of Forgotten Dreams and loved it. Now I want to read more about early human history. Please recommend some good books on the beginnings of human art in particular and the emergence of human society and the beginnings of conciousness in general. I'm not a scientist and I'm not looking for a textbook, but I'm not afraid of a challenging read, either.
posted by vibrotronica to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you consider cooking an art, then you might enjoy Richard Wrangham's Catching Fire: How Cooking Made US Human. He links cooking to increases in brain size and hence to language, culture, society, etc, etc. Here's a Q&A with him at Scientific American.
posted by col_pogo at 4:40 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Check out Gregory Curtis' The Cave Painters. Covers some of the same territory as the film, but really well done.
posted by hwickline at 4:40 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Mind in The Cave by David Lewis-Williams. It's totally fantastic.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:41 PM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Clan of the Cave Bear is an historical novel by Jean M. Auel about prehistoric times set before the extinction of the Neanderthal race. It is the first book in the Earth's Children book series which speculates on the possibilities of interactions between Neanderthal and modern Cro-Magnon humans.

The sequel, The Valley of Horses, continues Ayla's story, which is further developed in other books of the Earth's Children series, which include The Mammoth Hunters; The Plains of Passage; The Shelters of Stone; and the sixth and final installment in the series, The Land of Painted Caves.
posted by just asking at 5:26 PM on March 26, 2012

I'm in a similar position. My current fascination is Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. I am hunting for a good book on the subject.
posted by Jode at 5:48 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh my God yes! Gobekli Tepe and Catal Huyuk are crazily fascinating to me. The tips of the prehistoric iceberg, they are. I'm also looking for anything anyone can recommend about that whole area.
posted by General Tonic at 6:17 PM on March 26, 2012

The Nature of Paleolithic Art by R. Dale Guthrie is interesting. He's a good writer. I can't vouch for the accuracy of what he says, since I'm no expert.

(Keep in mind that basically, we just don't have a lot of evidence that allows us to build firm knowledge about what people were like or what their societies or motivations or worldviews were like.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:51 PM on March 26, 2012

I very much enjoyed “After the Ice”.
posted by nfg at 6:59 PM on March 26, 2012

Neolithic by Susan McCarter
posted by gwint at 9:56 PM on March 26, 2012

General Tonic: Gobekli Tepe and Catal Huyuk are both covered extensively in the follow-up to The Mind in The Cave, Inside The Paleolithic Mind. It's another fantastic read.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:11 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a seminal work:

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

It definitely falls into the challenging category, and has provoked a lot of debate:

Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited
posted by woodman at 4:21 AM on March 27, 2012

The Leopard's Tale is about Catalhoyuk. It's dense, but manageable.

"The book begins with a puzzle: leopards are a central part of Çatalhöyük’s art, but virtually none of their remains have been found. In solving this mystery, the reader is led into the elaborate social and symbolic world of Çatalhöyük—a world where people were buried beneath the floors of houses, later to be exhumed and decapitated, and the head handed down from generation to generation.

This lively firsthand account of a major archaeological site is full of insights into past lives and momentous events, and is richly illustrated with images of the art, the artifacts, and the excavations themselves."

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:31 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Julian Jaynes ("Origin of Consciousness etc") a terrifically original and gripping and stimulating read. I read it decades ago and still think about it! It was the first thing I thought of when I read your question.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 6:44 AM on March 27, 2012

Although he says nothing about those albino crocodiles . . .
posted by fivesavagepalms at 6:44 AM on March 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I got an ebook of Mind In The Cave, and am already enjoying it. And this is the first time I've heard of Gobekli Tepe and Julian Janes, so I've got plenty to chew on! I'll leave the thread open for more recommendations, since I always love talking about books.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:50 AM on March 27, 2012

I enjoyed Fairweather Eden by Michael Pitts and Mark Roberts. There's also a new book by Chris Stringer which has had good reviews (haven't read it yet myself) - The Origin of Our Species. Stringer is a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum and is usually pretty readable.
posted by paduasoy at 1:48 PM on March 27, 2012

« Older What's this 1966 Chevy vehicle called?   |   This relationship is so puzzling. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.