I grabbed a copy of this book fully expecting to love it. The Mind in the Cave is packed with information about ancient history, anthropology, archaeology and the Lascaux and Chauvet cave complexes – some of my favourite subjects. Although I have to say that this book was written in a style that was confusing to read, difficult to wade through and some of the information didn’t make sense, even to this non-expert on the topic.
The good parts – the book is beautiful to look at with some interesting case studies and illustrations. However the way that information is organised is chaotic and difficult to follow.
Lewis-Williams only very tenuously answers the questions of where creativity and consciousness originate from and the genesis of creativity in ancient cave art. Instead, his arguments delve into the grey and murky areas of dreaming and ancient shamanism as sources for ancient creativity – in other words social origins, rather than exploring brain development, genetic inheritance, Darwinism and biology as a basis for the origins of creativity. There’s no real solid conclusions or arguments to surmise from this book, because of the rambling, long-winded quality to the writing. If you look only at its description, this book seems really exciting, however it failed to deliver. The chaotic and confusing writing style and lack of solid arguments or conclusions made it an incredibly frustrating reading experience for me. I would not recommend it. 2.5/5.
2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Mind in the Cave by David Lewis Williams”
Hmmm, I must go back and have another look at it in light of your comments. I’m not even sure I read it completely the first time. I do love the San rock paintings though. I visited one of the classic ‘cave’ sites in South Africa when i was 10, and went back there again many years later.
I haven’t heard of he San caves. How amazing that would have been to see them at such a young age. I would love to do that one day, or go to Lascaux or Chauvet. I am still not sure about this book, it seems like you got way more out of it than me. Perhaps I just need to understand more on the topic in order to read it, but in my opinion the best science or history books are accessible and written with the layperson in mind. This one failed in my opinion.