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NEW PUBLICATION Early Rock Art of the American West

Thursday August 2018
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Early Rock Art of the American West: The Geometric Enigma

Ekkehart Malotki and Ellen Dissanayake

Early Rock Art of the American West: The Geometric Enigma. Rock Art EKKEHART MALOTKI AND ELLEN DISSANAYAKE

Available now from the University of Washington Press

The earliest rock art — in the Americas as elsewhere — is geometric or abstract. Until Early Rock Art in the American West, however, no book-length study has been devoted to the deep antiquity and amazing range of geometrics and the fascinating questions that arise from their ubiquity and variety. Why did they precede representational marks? What is known about their origins and functions? Why and how did humans begin to make marks, and what does this practice tell us about the early human mind?

Rayed concentric-circles theme on dolomite marble, California. Photographed by Ekkehart Malotki.

With some two hundred striking color images and discussions of chronology, dating, sites, and styles, this pioneering investigation of abstract geometrics on stone (as well as bone, ivory, and shell) explores its wide-ranging subject from the perspectives of ethology, evolutionary biology, cognitive archaeology, and the psychology of artmaking. The authors’ unique approach instills a greater respect for a largely unknown and underappreciated form of paleoart, suggesting that before humans became Homo symbolicus or even Homo religiosus, they were mark-makers - Homo aestheticus.

Praise for Early Rock Art in the American West

“In this welcome book a long-neglected rock art tradition is examined at length. The work is so wide-ranging that any reader will also learn about many important anthropological concepts. Last but certainly not least, splendid photographs accompany the texts throughout.” - Jean Clottes, author of What Is Paleolithic Art?

“Ellen Dissanayake is always fascinating on the subject of aesthetics. Here she turns her attention to early rock art and, once again, has produced an original study that encourages us to look with new eyes at the fundamental human impulse to make marks.” - Desmond Morris, author of The Biology of Art and The Naked Ape

“A tribute to the artistic and intellectual achievements of Paleoamericans. Scholarly and innovative, sophisticated yet accessible, and with a wealth of breathtaking pictures.” - Tilman Lenssen-Erz, African Archaeology, Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Köln

“Presents new ideas on the origin and importance of art to all human cultures and shows that the neglected geometric rock art of the American West has an intriguing and essential story to tell.” - Paul Taçon, chair in Rock Art Research, Griffith University

The Authors:
EKKEHART MALOTKI is professor emeritus of languages at Northern Arizona University. He is the author of The Rock Art of Arizona: Art for Life’s Sake and Stone Chisel and Yucca Brush: Colorado Plateau Rock Art.
ELLEN DISSANAYAKE is an independent scholar, author, and lecturer. She is the author of Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began; Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why; and What Is Art For?
Publication details:
314 pp., 200 illus., 193 in color
34.95 paperback, 9780295743615
July 2018
Call Hopkins Fulfillment Service at
1-800-537-5487 or order online. Use promo code WST30.
Canada: University of British Columbia Press
World: Combined Academic Publishers
Purchase from the University of Washington Press:
Amazon USA:
Amazon UK:
See also:
The Rock Art of Arizona - Art for Life's Sake 
by Ekkehart Malotki


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