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The article outlines the main ideas of the archaeologist David Lewis-Williams and his contribution to the study of shamanism and the analysis of rock paintings. Author examines the depicted scenes, the process of the painting, as well as artifacts and ethnographic evidences of the alleged rituals. The reconstruction of rituals is accompanied by the Lewis-Williams’s conception of the spectrum of consciousness and its various states. Universal mental images arising during ASCs played a large role in the genesis of shamanism, and their fixation in rock art allows one to reconstruct the inner state of the creators of images and the role of trance experiences. The author finds confirmation of his concept in the history of religions. The article also contains critical remarks on the Lewis-Williams’ theory, mainly related to the definition of symbolic activity and the insufficient attention of the author to social organization. The author of the article partially agrees with the criticism, and also brings auxiliary theories that remove some of the criticism. The article outlines the prospects for using the Lewis-Williams’ method in analyzing not only rock paintings, but also folklore sources.

Key words: Lewis-Williams, rock paintings, altered states of consciousness, methodology of religious studies, anthropology, shamanism, Bogoraz

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2019.2.92-97

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About the author 


Aleksandra D. Belova – Master in Religious Studies PhD Student, Research Assistant at St. Petersburg State University;

9/11 Universitetskaya naberezhnaya, St. Petersburg, Russia, 199034; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.