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The Oldest Enigma of Humanity

Narrated by: Jason Culp
Length: 3 hrs and 12 mins
Categories: History, Ancient
4.5 out of 5 stars (54 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Thirty thousand years ago our prehistoric ancestors painted perfect images of animals on walls of tortuous caves, most often without any light. How was this possible? What meaning and messages did the cavemen want these paintings to convey? In addition, how did these perfect drawings come about at a time when man’s sole purpose was surviving? And why, some 10 thousand years later, did startlingly similar animal paintings appear once again, on dark cave walls? Scholars and archaeologists have for centuries pored over these works of art, speculating and hoping to come away with the key to the mystery. No one until now has ever come close to elucidating either their origin or their meaning. In their stunning audiobook and for the first time, David and Lefrre, after working together for years, give us a new understanding of an art lost in time, revealing what had until recently remained unexplainable - the oldest enigma in humanity has been solved.

©2014 Bertrand David and Jean-Jacques Lefrere (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Amazing conclusion that will change your views

Would you listen to The Oldest Enigma of Humanity again? Why?

I would actually listen to this one again, and plan to. There was an incredible amount of new information packed into such a short work.

What does Jason Culp bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narration was wonderful. The pronunciations did seem a bit off to me at times, but in no way did it detract from the book. He had a splendid voice and just enough gravitas.

Any additional comments?

This was right on the verge of being a 5 star book for me. The information inside is a paradigm shift in how we view humanities first artistic endeavor through painting/drawing on a 2-d surface (at least that we know of because it has survived). I've been reading and looking through these images for years, but the conclusions drawn by the authors have completely changed how we need to understand them. I can't believe a book less than 200 pages was able to teach me SO freaking much, and change the way I view the world in a small way.

I had to lower the rating for 4 stars because there was, I felt, an excessive amount of ego stroking involved by the author for his discovery. It struck me as more of a Victorian way of expressing how awesome he was at figuring something out. One could probably making a drinking game with one shot for each time the authors brings up the fact that no other scientists had even thought of his conclusion before. I completely understand and respect the thrill of discovery, but there was a tad too much hubris and ego stroking by the author for my tastes.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • United States
  • 04-11-15

Finally a plausible explanation

What did you love best about The Oldest Enigma of Humanity?

The cave paintings are stunning so where are the "apprentice" student sketches? The talent in these many many works seem to have been done by masters who left no developmental works. This is the first plausible explanation.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Creative Interpretation of Cave Arts Function.

Where does The Oldest Enigma of Humanity rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Right at the top.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The author. His brilliant hypotheses.

Have you listened to any of Jason Culp’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Not sure.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. Too rick. Requires contemplation before listening to subsequent sections.

Any additional comments?

What academic inquiry should be.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Bertrand David- A Successful Art Detective

A careful description that explains how the author Bertrand David intuited how ancient cave art was most likely done. He carefully separates the speculations about the "why" from the more certain "how." At no point did I feel like I was missing out on images from a hard copy book. When I wanted to go deeper and see examples of particular cave paintings, I googled the images easily. Bertrand David's ideas will integrate into art history books going forward. Spoiler below:

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Spoiler Alert: My Opinion on the "Why" Speculation

We spend more modern resources on education than burial. Although the explanation David offers has a thoughtful basis, my intuition would be that we are looking at the work of teachers, history teachers augmenting their oral history stories with a really OLD school slide projector, a really OLD school chalkboard, a really OLD school Powerpoint, a really OLD school movie projector. How David intuited the method of making the images included his role as a teacher of others in the technique, so there is definitely a transmission aspect. I think it highly unlikely that the OLD school teachers would not have also done similar or different images in less durable materials that did not last until the present. Cave symbols might even be rudimentary math lessons or ways of reckoning seasons or dates. I am no scholar or specialist, but teaching has a greater societal value than necropolis building. Hand prints might represent a social contract or a way of voting or a pledge. People determined to survive in hard times do not tend to over-invest in the dead but use the stories and memories to inform the next generations. So, I turn the orientation around from having markers for the dead or symbols for the dead to instead inform the present and future about the past. A teacher often will superimpose today's lesson on a chalkboard with little regard to the faint markings of yesterday's calcium carbonate markings. Many teachers like to draw while teaching - - -we talk, we use our arms, we draw, and maybe even sing or play music. We also want the respect of our students and we don't want the shame of drawing clumsy images on the chalkboard - - - the teacher's satchel has the method and the clay object. This OLD school xerox machine technique might have heightened interest and awe and respect from the students. We use what tools we have, whatever the weather, to teach. We draw images in the dirt - - not available on a snowy or muddy day. We tell stories with dried leaves and pine cones, and we tell stories with sketches. Other OLD school classrooms were likely less durable, but we know that oral histories were valued as important to preliterate peoples. I vote for signing, sketching, community, sharing happening in the caves, and perhaps social agreements with hand prints. Just throwing it out there. . . A wishful thinking speculation that I think is less likely but not impossible. . . .perhaps some instruction was also given on stewardship and species lost to over-hunting. Instead of instructions on how to hunt - - perhaps the lessons were also about how to not over-hunt.

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Very disappointed, very repetitive and not sourced

This is a topic I am very interested in. Unfortunately, the author mainly muses on his own art training, and the lack of art training for cave painters. He keeps repeating several times the same point. Almost as if he had drafted a comment and then tried to say it in 3 ways, but left all the options in the final edit. I kept thinking the recording must have skipped because the point was so similar to the previous point. When he launched into his opinion that the cave artists painted over prior paintings because they found the older ones of little value, I had to click off the recording in irritation and frustration. (Perhaps he gets to a point where he cites a rationale for this theory, Idk I stopped listening.) On this point, as an artist I can imagine many more logical reasons to paint on top of someone else’s work: to honor their work; to recommit to the story or fable being expressed; or to practice from a master. Anyway, it could just be me but I found this book more his long winded musing on his theory of drawing, etc. than what I was expecting. I am no expert—and I’m sure he is. But it was disappointing to me.

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Very entertaining

Short but fun book, very good info and also convincing theory of the secret of these paintings

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The Oldest Enigma of Humanity

This book has been a wonderfully delightful experience. I have followed the book as both an audio and a kindle book. It is well organized, well written, extremely logical, and truly seems to resolve a true historical enigma. Like the author, David, I too ask, why didn't anyone think of the technique of tracing shadow images sooner?? Wonderful read!!