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Sunday, Dec. 3
The Indiana Daily Student


Best-selling author receives award at IU

'Clan of the Cave Bear' author speaks about prehistoric life at IU's Alumni Hall

Jean Auel, an award winning and best selling author, sparked an evening of excitement for many in Bloomington, Thursday. The Center for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology (CRAFT) presented Auel with an outstanding craftsmanship award, while promoting its new research center just north of campus, which is expected to be done in a year.\n"There will be a number of different researchers focusing on bones, mainly animal bones, in order to re-construct past behaviors and trying to encompass the whole field of prehistory," graduate student, Melanie Everett said. "This is the first of its kind as far as institutes go. It is specifically focused on human origins."\nFollowing Auel's talk in Alumni Hall, she was joined by colleagues and friends for a thematic dinner of wild foods eaten with stone utensils at the Limestone Grille.\nAuel was taking this chance to promote her latest novel, "The Shelters of Stone." Auel spoke for an hour about her opportunity, as an author, to share her fantasy about prehistory. \n"It is fun to talk about things prehistoric," said Auel, who has submersed herself in archeological and anthropological research since beginning to write her first novel, "Clan of the Cave Bear" in the 1970s.\nAuel spoke about how she looked beyond the image of savage cavemen, wanting to find the humanistic love and compassion she knew existed in prehistory. According to Auel, previous representations of prehistoric people (Cro Magnons and Neanderthals) are incorrect.\n"Hollywood really had it wrong; neither type of men were savages, and there were no dinosaurs, like in 'The Flintstones'."\nAuel is very dedicated to being scientifically accurate in her novels. \n"I think it is very important to know what you are writing about, so I decided to do research."\nFrom an encyclopedia, to a journey to the prehistoric region in the South of France, Auel's passion for the truth has taken her on an extraordinary journey. She claims you can learn a lot from "bones and stones."\n"I think about how lucky I am. I get to see sights maybe 20 people get to see," Auel said.\nAlthough her novels are based on research, Auel mentioned that she sometimes has to put her literary license to use in her novels. She takes what scientists have found and creatively fills in the unknowns.\n"I approached the material with a novelist point of view," she said. "Scientists look at it objectively, while novelists must look at it subjectively, with emotions, characterizations and a story, filling in the missing pieces of science." \nAll the places mentioned in her books existed at some time and some of them still do.\nThe origin of Auel's novel began with a vision she had of a crippled man who receives the help of a little girl. And she said she thought, "Can I write a short story?" \nFour hundred fifty thousand words later, she realized it was not a short story, but a series composed of six different novels.\nTo Auel's surprise, the man she had envisioned actually once existed. The skeleton of a crippled man was found in a cave in Iraq. He had skull damage, he was blind in one eye and his arm was cleanly cut and amputated. She wondered how a man with this many disabilities could survive until he grew old. She came up with one conclusion: He was in the care of someone with love and compassion. \n"Is compassion necessary for survival?" Auel, who pictures the time period she writes about in her books as a time of innocence, wondered. \n"A younger more playful time. A time of the childhood of the human race, when we were Earth's Children," Auel said of the setting in her novels. \nOne minister called Auel describing the religious symbolism he found in her books, although that was not her intention, she said his interpretation was great. \n"Every book that's written is only written half by the author, the other half is written by the reader."\nA graduate student studying archeology spoke about her appreciation of Auel's novels.\n"This was prehistory as fiction, this is a topic I've been interested in my whole life. Her books really bring the things to life that I have learned about," Leslie Harlacker said.\nKathy Schick, co-director of CRAFT, and long-time friend of Auel's, explained that Auel was the recipient of CRAFT's award this year, because she has greatly enriched our appreciation of the prehistoric past.\n"The recipients of the award are always people that create something out of nothing," Schick said. \nThe thematic dinner included foods like Morel mushrooms with herbed Indiana goat cheese and a salad of old world greens that appeared like a plate full of leaves. The entree included grilled bison rib eye, wild mushrooms, asparagus and mashed turnips and parsnips. \nIn actuality, the meal was eaten with silverware. When the bison was brought out, Nicholas Toth, co-director of CRAFT, passed out a stone utensil. The guests could choose to use this stone utensil or not. \nA toast was made to the Auels and other CRAFT affiliates. \n"We're trying to network people." Toth said, as they all raised their glasses to drink.

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