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Distributed for Reaktion Books


Nature and Culture

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Nature and Culture

Shortlisted for the Tratman Award 2015

To enter caves is to venture beyond the realm of the everyday. From huge vaulted caverns to impassable, water-filled passages; from the karst topography of Guilin in China to the lava tubes of Hawaii; from tiny remote pilgrimage sites to massive tourism enterprises, caves are places of mystery. Dark spaces that remain largely unexplored, caves are astonishing wonders of nature and habitats for exotic flora and fauna.

This book investigates the natural and cultural history of caves and considers the roles caves have played in the human imagination and experience of the natural world. It explores the long history of the human fascination with caves, across countries and continents, examining their dual role as spaces of both wonder and fear. It tells the tales of the adventurers who pioneered the science of caves and those of the explorers and cave-divers still searching for new, unmapped routes deep into the earth. This book explores the lure of the subterranean world by examining caving and cave tourism and by looking to the mythology, literature, and art of caves. This lavishly illustrated book will appeal to general readers and experts alike interested in the ecology and use of caves, or the extraordinary artistic responses earth’s dark recesses have evoked over the centuries.

224 pages | 70 color plates, 30 halftones | 5 4/5 x 8 1/4 | © 2015


Earth Sciences: General Earth Sciences

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“Caves are seen as a source of creation and wisdom, as well as a source of our worst fears. In both cases, they represent the unknown. This book provides an intriguing opening into that poorly understood underground world and the mysteries and secrets (both imagined and real) that lie deep within it.”

Australian Book Review

“The adventures of cavers who have pushed the boundaries of cave study make fascinating reading. . . . The book presents much food for thought and left me pondering the subject for several days. Surely, the mark of a ‘Good Read.’”


“[Cave] examines the position of caves in our culture in the broadest of senses and with some considerable success. . . . It is both well written and mouth-watering to look at . . . beautifully produced and illustrated, interesting to read, and deserves a place on the bookshelf of most cavers and speleologists.”

Cave and Karst Science

“Cave is unusual in that it succeeds in crossing divides, merging legend and fact, science, and art —any caver willing to be challenged with new ideas will enjoy this book.”


“This insightful and well-written book by Ralph Crane and Lisa Fletcher takes the reader on an amazing journey of the importance of caves from a cultural point of view and how these natural wonders have played a special role in mankind’s evolution and search for something more. . . . Apart from the amazing information contained in this book, Cave also boasts some amazing photography of not just the caves themselves but also artwork throughout the ages . . . an insightful and historical look at caves from various points of our history that includes a variety of genres from science to mythology and even tourism. If you are fascinated by the history of caves then this tome is definitely a must read!”

Table of Contents

1. What is a Cave?
2. Speaking of Speleology
3. Troglodytes and Troglobites: Living in the Dark Zone
4. Cavers, Potholers and Spelunkers: Exploring Caves
5. Monsters and Magic: Caves in Mythology and Folklore
6. Visually Rendered: The Art of Caves
7. ‘Caverns measureless to man’: Caves in Literature
8. Sacred Symbols: Holy Caves
9. Extraordinary to Behold: Spectacular Caves
Notable Caves
Select Bibliography
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements

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