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For Centuries, people have been going into caves in France and Spain, looking at the 30,000-year-old-pictures painted there and asking, "What can they be?" In this lively survey, Curtis, former Texas Monthly editor, makes it clear that while we'll never have a definitive answer, the quest will always be fascinating. He begins by laying out who the painters probably were and what their world was like during the waning days of Neanderthals. Then he dives into the caves and the bitter controversies on the art within, from the war ideas between Arcelo Sautuola and Emile Cartailhac in the late 19th century to Jean Clotte's and David Lewis-William's current, strongly disputed theory that the paintings are related to shamanic quests. Curtis's own speculation is often more arguable than believable, but usually intriguing. He bolsters a slim number of illustrations with concise descriptions that convey his own delight, befuddlement, frustration and awe. At the cave Les Tres-Freres, he is overwhelmed by the images and by being "as close as I would ever be-physically close-to the truth." For readers who may never visit the caves, Curtis's sensitive narration gives a chance to share that encounter with mystery. 20 b&w illus. and 8-page color insert. - Publishers Weekly