The dawn of art is sometimes equated with the birth of the human spirit. But when and how did figuration - sculpture, painting, drawing - actually begin? And did these first figurative creations coincide with the emergence of our own species, Homo sapiens ? Is figuration a general and fundamental feature of the human condition? In this challenging volume leading experts review the evidence now available from the worldwide practice of prehistoric archaeology, and go on to formulate some important conclusions. The scope of this work is global. It sets out to explore the first stirrings of artistic endeavour and of figurative imagery on each continent, and to consider the social context in which they arose. It will be a fundamental resource for all those seeking to understand the origins of art and the beginnings of human spirituality.