Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art
Clarion Books, 2023
48pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99
Give a child a flat space and the means to make a mark and that is exactly what they will do. And not only will they make marks but there will be a story that goes along with them, one that the child can visualise and tell in greater detail than the marks can depict and the viewer can ascertain.
And from this stunning and intriguing book we learn that such activity is almost instinctual as it traces human history and “the lives, dreams and stories of our ancient ancestors” through the images portrayed in rock art. From the earliest known markings – those of prehistoric man discovered in the Biombos Cave, South Africa – these time capsules demonstrate the vital information and connections made between peoples around the globe who, despite the difficulties and dangers they faced daily still took the time to create, even though each etching might have taken many days and many people to complete. From the making of tools to make a mark to the choice of medium to use as an enduring pigment, the effort to create these becomes apparent and underlines their historic importance, with a strong message of why they need to be both appreciated and preserved.
With its clever title, Ancestory takes the reader on a short journey of a long period showing how the creation of pictorial works is an integral part of who we are, and then, in the final pages, offers more detailed insight including links to more information for those who want to know more, making this a book that spans not only its topic but also age groups and the curriculum. While young readers are often fascinated by the lives of the “cavemen”, older visual arts students can also discover much that will satisfy the upper bands of the Australian Curriculum.