The Penultimate Curiosity

Roger Wagner & Andrew Briggs, Oxford University Press, £25

FROM Charles Darwin’s first encounters with the ‘savage’ people of Tierra del Fuego and the discovery of human bones and stone tools at Aurignac in Haute-Garonne this is a fascinating look at the development of human – and artistic – thought.

Why did the first humans extend their tool-
making beyond their basic tools?

What drove them to create
easily-recognisable drawings, paintings and sculptures of the animals they hunted; and those they feared most?

Raging far and wide across the globe and in time, the authors make links between the curiosity that drove these first French artists to the development of early science in the face of religious antagonism and, ultimately, to the questions science is seeking to answer today.

It seems dense and unapproachable but the text has a magnetic quality that belies the initial doubts.

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