Friday, September 25, 2009

Research Shows More Women Cave Artists

Painting from Pech-Merle in France showing several hand prints.

Much more Stone Age cave art seems to be the creation of women artists than previously thought, according to new research.

An American archaeologist has measured outlined handprints found on cave walls in France and Spain ~ some dating back 28,000 years ~ and has shown that the relative lengths of fingers fit the proportions of female hands better than those of males.

“I had access to lots of people of European descent who were willing to let me scan their hands as reference data,” says Dean Snow, of Pennsylvania State University.

According to the London Times:

By matching their hand profiles against photographs of paint-outlined hands from the caves of El Castillo and Gargas, in northern Spain, and Pech-Merle in the Dordogne region of France, “even a superficial examination of published photos suggested to me that there were lots of female hands there."

The handprints were created by placing the palm, or possibly the back, of the hand against the cave wall, taking a mouthful of powdered pigment ~ usually red ochre ~ and blowing it, as Michel Lorblanchet showed many years ago. Sometimes a finger appears to be missing. Such absences have been attributed to mutilation, but bending the finger back while spraying the hand with the pigment powder would give the same effect.

Snow believes that many of these hand prints are those of women. In two examples from Castillo, about 28,000 years old, “The very long ring finger on one example is a dead giveaway for male hands,” he said. “The other has a long index finger and a short little finger — thus very feminine.”

Click here for the London Times article.

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