From the jacket:
Ayla, Jondelar and Jonayla are living with the Zelandonii in the Ninth Cave - a shelter of stone. Ayla has been chosen as an acolyte and has embarked on an arduous task of training to become a spiritual leader. It is a daunting, often perilous work that sometimes takes her away from her family. Ayla, Jondalar, and Jonayla are welcomed by the Zelandonii, but problems arise.
They are faced with new challenges, not just the ordinary trials of sheer survival, but the complications posed by many groups of people who need to live and work together. the wisdom that Ayla gained from her struggles as an orphaned child, alone in a hostile environment, strengthens her as she moves closer to leadership of the Zelandonia.
Ayla and Jondalar's first priority is the care for their golden-haird child, Jonayla, and the well-being of their amazing animals Wolf, Whinney, Racer and Gray. The two participate in hunts to provide food, in travels to Summer Meetings for decision making, and in social activities. Whatever the obstacles, Ayla's inventive spirit produces new ways to lessen the difficulties of daily life; searching for wild edibles to make delicious meals, experimenting with techniques to ease the long journeys the Zelandonii must take, honing her skills as a healer and a leader. And then, there are the Sacred Caves, the caves that Ayla's mentor - the Donier, the First of the Zelandonia - takes her to see. These caves are filled with remarkable art - paintings of mammoths, lions, auroches, rhinoceros, reindeer, bison, bear. the powerful, mystical aura within these caves dominates overwhelms Ayla.
Ayla's final preparation for her initiation as a Zelandonie Bring The Land of the Painted Caves to a riveting climax. So much time apart from Jondalar has caused him to drift away from her. The rituals themselves bring her close to death. But through those rituals, Ayla gains a Gift of Knowledge so important that it will change the world.