October 10, 2013

Chauvet Cave Paintings: Cave Women Left Their Artistic Mark - Now A World Heritage Site



 Some truly beautiful images.

THE history of art is studded with the names of great men - Leonardo, Rembrandt, Picasso - but the pioneers of painting were probably women.

A study by an American archaeologist has revealed that at least three quarters of examples of one of the earliest forms of cave painting may have been made by women.

Stencils created by blowing pigment over an outstretched hand are one of the earliest and most common forms of prehistoric art. Hand pictures have been found all over the world but the best known examples are in caves in southwest France and northern Spain and date from 40,000 years ago.

By comparing the relative length of the fingers, Dean Snow, Professor of Archaeological Anthropology at Penn State University in Pennsylvania, has been able to determine which were made by men and which by women. His findings overturn the traditional assumption that most, if not all, cave painting was the work of men.

Many of the handprints share wall space with ochre and charcoal images of the animals hunted by Stone Age man. Up to now most archaeologists have believed they were created by men as part of a hunting ritual. 

The discovery that women probably made the majority of the handprints suggests that they may also be responsible for the other paintings.

Professor Snow measured 32 hand stencils from eight caves. His research began after John Manning, a British biologist, discovered that the ring and index fingers of women are about the same length, whereas the ring fingers of men tend to be longer.

The study of faint images created tens of thousands of years ago was made slightly easier because the differences were even more marked in prehistory. His analysis suggested that 24 of the 32 hands were female.

The research is published in American Antiquity. In an interview with National Geographic, which sponsored his work, Professor Snow said: “In most hunter-gatherer societies, it's men that do the killing, but it's often the women who haul the meat back to camp, and women are as concerned with the productivity of the hunt as the men are. It wasn't just a bunch of guys out there chasing bison around.”

Professor Snow's theory is that the handprints were the cave artist's signature. “A pretty good hypothesis is that this is somebody saying, 'I did this'.”

The earliest date of 40,800 years ago raises the possibility that the cave artists might have been Neanderthals, who were still in northern Spain at the time modern human beings arrived.

by: Simon de Bruxelles

With many thanks to The Australian

Picture:Prehistoric paintings in the Chauvet Caves in France - Flickr

Prehistoric paintings in the Chauvet Cave in southern France. Picture: Flickr
- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/cave-women-left-their-artistic-mark/story-fnb64oi6-1226736857551#sthash.5vC8aVMj.dpuf
Prehistoric paintings in the Chauvet Cave in southern France.
- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/cave-women-left-their-artistic-mark/story-fnb64oi6-1226736857551#sthash.5vC8aVMj.dpuf
Lots more pictures there.

Prehistoric paintings in the Chauvet Cave in southern France.
- See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/cave-women-left-their-artistic-mark/story-fnb64oi6-1226736857551#sthash.5vC8aVMj.dpufFlickr 
Further reading here: Did Neandertals Paint Early Cave Art?

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