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Painted Caves, a beautifully illustrated introduction to the oldest art of Western Europe, charts the historical background to the acceptance of a Palaeolithic age for the very ancient paintings found in caves. Offering an up-to-date overview of the geographical distribution of the sites found in southern France and the Iberian Peninsula, and examples known in Britain, Italy, Romania, and Russia, Lawson's expert study is not restricted to the art in caves, but places this art alongside the engravings and sculptures found both on portable objects and on rock faces in the open air.
Written from an archaeological perspective, the volume stresses how the individual images cannot be considered in isolation, but should rather be related to their location and other evidence that might provide clues to their significance. Although many scholars have put forward ideas as to the meaning and function of the art, Lawson discusses some of the substantive theories and offers glimpses of his own experience in the field and enduring fascination for the subject.