Book Note of ‘An Analysis of Ice Age Art. It’s Psychology and Belief System’ by Noel W. Smith

11th February 2014

‘An Analysis of Ice Age Art. It’s Psychology and Belief System’ by Noel W. Smith, 1992, New York: Peter Lang, 242 pp. ISBN 0-8204-1557-X (hbk)

Review by Robert G. Bednarik

Rock art studies stand to gain considerably from the involvement by psychologists (and some recent efforts in this area, such as that of Australians J. Bradshaw and L. Rogers have been exceptionally successful). But this book delivers not a single one of the promises implied in its title: instead of addressing Ice Age art, it deals almost exclusively with just one component(parietal art) of the Ice Age art of one small region (the Franco-Cantabrian region, a term eschewed by the author who misconstrues it as implying a French part of Cantabria). The book is not an analysis in the usual sense of the word, nor is there any attempt at scientific rigour, and the only belief system about which the reader becomes well informed is the author’s own.

The terminology pertaining to rock art research is atrocious, consisting mostly of various invented terms (such as pectoglyph), misused terms and misunderstood terms. The author is unfamiliar with recent developments, for instance in rock art dating, and scholars are badly misquoted. The book can serve as an example of what happens when a professor of psychology perceives four hypotheses about some rock art in a far-away country, having read about it in books, and then sets out to prove his hypothesis by selecting any confirming evidence and ignoring whatever might contradict his pet theories: that the cave art is the work of shamans, and that the anthropomorphs depicted in it are dead shamans.

Bednarik, R.
Book Note of 'An Analysis of Ice Age Art. It’s Psychology and Belief System’ by Noel W. Smith
December 1993
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