Review of Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art

Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art
by Hannah Salyer; illus. by the author
Intermediate    Clarion/HarperCollins    48 pp.
4/23    9780358469841    $19.99

Prehistoric rock art can be found all over the globe, forming what Salyer terms our ancestory. She doesn’t belabor the portmanteau but instead invites readers to wonder at the ancient artists whose lives “were filled with difficulties and danger” yet “took the time to create.” Mixed-media illustrations often mimic lithography as they depict humans both modern and ancient as well as the cave art at the center of the book. Salyer carefully emphasizes that the art emerges from many different times and many ancient cultures, one spread depicting samples found in modern-day Namibia, Australia, India, Finland, and more, made between three hundred and seventeen hundred years ago. She covers materials used in the art’s creation, its fragility, and its beauty, speculating as to its purposes and uses at the time. Archaeologists study the art, and “sometimes people who are part of local Indigenous communities still have distant familiarity” with it. (The fact that some archaeologists are also Indigenous goes unspoken, alas.) Extensive back matter buttresses the text, with a glossary, timeline, note, map, resources, and capsule story of the caves at Lascaux. Those caves form the book’s centerpiece, a breathtaking double gatefold that depicts their discovery, small human figures silhouetted against the soaring cave walls, illuminated by lantern light. An effective, efficient celebration of the human need to tell stories through art.

Pubissue-From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith is the children’s editor at Kirkus Reviews. She has served on a bunch of award committees and on the ALSC Board but she speaks for none of them, nor does she speak for this magazine, though it’s nice enough to print her opinions.

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