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Stepping-Stones: A Journey through the Ice Age Caves of the Dordogne

The cave art of France’s Dordogne region is world-famous for the mythology and beauty of its remarkable drawings and paintings. These ancient images of lively bison, horses, and mammoths, as well as symbols of all kinds, are fascinating touchstones in the development of human culture, demonstrating how far humankind has come and reminding us of the ties that bind us across the ages.

Over more than twenty-five years of teaching and research, Christine Desdemaines-Hugon has become an unrivaled expert in the cave art and artists of the Dordogne region. In her new book she combines her expertise in both art and archaeology to convey an intimate understanding of the “cave experience.” Her keen insights communicate not only the incomparable artistic value of these works but also the near-spiritual impact of viewing them for oneself.

Focusing on five fascinating sites, including the famed Font de Gaume and others that still remain open to the public, Stepping-Stones reveals striking similarities between art forms of the Paleolithic and works of modern artists and gives us a unique pathway toward understanding the culture of the Dordogne Paleolithic peoples and how it still touches our lives today.

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  1. Laura FitzSimmons says

    Brilliant accessible narrative about complex topics I was heading back to the caves in the Dordogne for a second look and someone suggested this book to me. I ordered it, thinking in the back of my mind that it in spite of my best intentions it would likely remain unread in the bookshelf because most books about rock art are either excruciatingly dry or dippy New Age. This book is neither. I read it bit by bit over about a week. The author has such a deep understanding and length of exposure to these treasures that she was able to create a real page turner. Her explanation of the context in which these works of art were created, and of the evoultion of our species, is a very valuable source.I could not recommend this book more highly and have ordered copies to give friends and family members who may never be able to experience these wonders first hand. This book is the next best thing.


    Like Being There I have previously visited several of the caves discussed in the book and found that I now have many new insights. The author gives us a fascinating view of the lives and inspirations of these gifted people. The writing style is entertaining and non-academic, without being sensational or flippant. This book is an indispensable starting point for real appreciation of the origins of our artistic traditions. I will re-read as a preparation for future visits to these sites and recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in these remarkable examples of human creativity .

  3. jrc griffin says

    Tough subject, good book This must be a very difficult subject to write a book about because after several tries I haven’t found one yet that hasn’t been, as another reviewer said, overwhelmingly “dry or New Age”. Having said that I think this is the best yet for someone like me who doesn’t have an academic background in the field. It is certainly well written and eminently readable for the layman as an overview of the subject, but In the end it is disappointing.The real question the reader wants answered is “why” and, apparently so far, that answer is simply unknown. But that doesn’t stop other authors from profoundly speculating.Thankfully this book does not focus on that type of guessing game. Ms. Desdemaines-Hugon does a very good job of sticking to what it is and not why it is.The problem however, it seems to me, based on what is actually known this is a subject for a book of illustrations, not page after page after page of text. If you haven’t seen at least a copy the painting a glowing description of the “Mona Lisa”, no matter how accurate, is a rather useless and frustrating experience. I found myself simultaneously ( and for the most part unsuccessfully ) searching other sources for some visual confirmation of the authors rapturous opinions.Bottom line, good but not great.

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