Riddles of the stone age : rock carvings of ancient Europe

by Jean McMann

Paper Book, 1980



Call number

GN776.2 .A1M3


New York : Thames and Hudson, 1980.

User reviews

LibraryThing member keylawk
Jean McMann is a Northern California writer and photographer whose work has added significant fuel to the contemporary interest in sanctuary and altars of contemplation in home and living places.
The photographs of the megalithic Art are themselves Art, and frame-able, meditations.
Not content with recording beautifully, McCann proceeds to probe the meaning of the circles, triangles, and spirals. She uses "scientific" developments in linguistics and semiotics, neuro-physiology and physics, as well as comparative studies of religion and anthropology to scrape the meaning out of the symbols.
Picking up on Claude Levi-Strauss' observation that direct links with the past and other persons through oral traditions have been replaced by libraries, and direct connections between persons and the rulers or governments have been replaced by media, McCann adverts to the importance of the symbolic links which ancient graphic art created. She entertains the "structuralist" view, understanding the decorated stone in the field as metaphysics, or a Stone Age "belief".
By studying the symbols we are not constructing an alphabet but we are seeing the poetic nature of the archaic men. Symbols, of course, are esoteric; they are not specific or formulating. Compare Words, which are static and self-referential, even objective [148].
McCann cites and relies heavily upon Mercea Eliade, [148b]an authority on comparative religions (the most esoteric of all religious studies, since most "believers" are familiar only with their own particular Way). The profane world is a recent discovery. For the archaic, "real" means "sacred", and absolute reality must be its summit, its center, its temple. The spirals at the entrances to the passage graves of Newgrane could represent the road to the Center, from illusion to reality [149c]. Initiation into the real, the effective, and for mortals, for the enduring.
McCann speculates that spirals, parallel lines, circles and arcs could symbolize 'force' in both a mythic sense and a physical Newtonian sense. She references the "proven effectiveness" (?) of divining rods and dowsers. But at least she honors this for what it is -- a speculation [149d].
Graceful use of scholarship, and one of the loveliest collections of photographs, film-craft, I have ever seen. These carved symbols are "messages from fellow human beings" [153].
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Physical description

160 p.; 24 cm


0500050333 / 9780500050330



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