Study suggests women, not men, created much of ancient cave art

Oct. 11, 2013 at 7:09 PM
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., Oct. 11 (UPI) -- A study of hand prints on cave walls suggests much of Paleolithic cave art was created by women, a Penn State archaeologist says.

Taking as his starting point previous research that found average finger lengths in people vary by gender, Dean Snow has been studying ancient hand prints in caves for nearly a decade, National Geographic reported.

Looking at pictures of cave art at one point, Snow noticed the fingers on the hands stenciled next to depictions of animals and other objects appeared to conform to research descriptions of female hands.

Hand stencils, found in several cave art sites, where created by the artist or artists placed their hands against a cave wall and blowing paint at them (through a straw or directly from their mouth) to create an outline.

Snow said his studies suggest approximately 75 percent of such hand art samples was likely the work of women as opposed to the common belief that cave art was the purview of men.

The assumption was based on the depictions in most cave art of women and animals being hunted, which seemed to sum up the life of hunters, the male half of a hunter-gatherer society.

If women were doing most of the cave art, Snow said, it's possible they played a larger, more important role in how hunter-gatherer societies functioned than has been thought.

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