SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY -- October 11, 2013 at 1:19 AM ET
Researchers debate whether prehistoric cave artists were mostly women
Women created most prehistoric cave art. That's according to Dean Snow of Pennsylvania State University, who will soon publish a report called "Determining the Sexual Identities of Prehistoric Cave Artists using Digitized Handprints" in the journal American Antiquity.
Snow examined 32 ancient handprints in caves from Spain to France, and by looking at the lengths of each finger, he determined that over 75 percent of the handprints were from women. He concluded, contrary to popular scientific opinion, a lot of cave art was created by women.
The idea that men created most cave art has been prevalent for some time. Paintings showcased hunting and animals, so researchers assumed that they were made by male hunters as a way to memorialize their kills.
Some researchers, such as R. Dale Guthrie at University of Alaska, Fairbanks, don't believe the paintings were made by male hunters still dispute Snow's assertions. Guthrie believes that most handprints were from adolescent boys. "They drew what was on their mind, which is mainly two things: naked women and large, frightening mammals," he said to National Geographic.
But Snow is confident in his assertions. "There has been a male bias in the literature for a long time. People have made a lot of unwarranted assumptions about who made these things, and why." And the feminine already is already extremely important in ancient art. The oldest piece of cave artwork is believed to be a carving of a vulva. Regardless of the sex of the artists, these cave paintings give modern people a way to connect to our ancestors on a primal level. Werner Herzog, director of "The Cave of Forgotten Dreams," calls artwork like this: "the first evidence of the modern human soul."