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29 June 2009
Prehistoric European cave artists were female

For about as long as humans have created works of art, they've also left behind handprints. People began stenciling, painting, or chipping imprints of their hands onto rock walls at least 30,000 years ago. Until recently, most scientists assumed these prehistoric handprints were male. But "even a superficial examination of published photos suggested to me that there were lots of female hands there," Pennsylvania State University archaeologist Dean Snow said of European cave art.
     Analyzing hand stencils dating back some 28,000 years in Spain's El Castillo cave, archaeologist Dean Snow concluded many of El Castillo's artists had been female. "The very long ring finger on the left is a dead giveaway for male hands," he said. "The one on the right has a long index finger and a short pinky - thus very feminine." His findings suggest women's role in prehistoric culture may have been greater than previously thought.
    "We don't know what the roles of artists were in Upper Paleolithic society [roughly 40,000 to 20,000 years ago] generally," he said. "But it's a step forward to be able to say that a strong majority of them were women." Snow's research was limited to Europe, but he hopes others will do similar studies at prehistoric sites elsewhere.

Source: National Geographic News (16 June 2009)

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