Women Painting Caves

No, it's not the latest design show on HGTV|DIY. It's what passes for news in some circles:

Women made most of the oldest-known cave art paintings, suggests a new analysis of ancient handprints. Most scholars had assumed these ancient artists were predominantly men, so the finding overturns decades of archaeological dogma.

Well, if you hang around these parts, that's olds, not news!

Last 5 posts by David Byron

Comments

  1. says

    the finding overturns decades of archaeological dogma

    I should write a note to myself on my hand in indelible ink before I forget this and read other articles in the National Geographic.

  2. En Passant says

    Aside from the handprint and sex of atist issues, the thing that most strikes me about all the cave art is how well the artist(s) rendered the images of animals. As modern line and shading drawings with modern materials they would be well done by someone with considerable skill. But they were made umpteen thousand years ago, rendered with unknown instruments and only vaguely known materials.

    To my naive mind (unschooled on these subjects) that indicates the skill of rendering accurate representational images developed long before the more complex manifestations of language. Certainly it developed before written language.

  3. Allen says

    When one is on the ragged edge of survival, a prayer, or a thanks for the hunt seems rather universal. As a matter of scholarship it might look different.

  4. Tom says

    Thanks for the link to your old post. It brought back great memories and reminded me why I still cling to some hope that we humans may yet find our way.

    In an undergrad field-school I got the behind-the-velvet-ropes tour of les Grottes d'Arcy sur Cure. I've got tears in my eyes thinking about what their insight and techinuque tells us about the arc of humanity. My mind is still blown by how they used the contours of the cave-walls to nail the relief of bellies and butts, how they told stories that to them were and, in retrospect, are obvious, but took my professors and my-professors'-professors decades to decipher.

    Addendum: check out the crazy French website that the full-fat-fall-bear-goes into-cave-skinny-spring-asshole-bear-comes-out picture came from.

    Second addendum: A fair amount of Pleistocene hand silhouettes have the ring finger tucked under at the second knuckle. Though lots of those hands are obviously kids, I wonder if the adult ones were trying to fool the cave-wall/spirits/whatever into thinking the hand belonged to two X chromosomes. Or not. Or something.

    [Edits: I fixed the "crazy French website" link and HOLY CRAP!! Ten minutes to edit? You guys are the best.]

    [Edit: just cuz I still can]

  5. Tom says

    This is also a sentence worth the price of being alive to read:

    Together, these cultural clues whisper a tantalizing, not quite indiscernible message about how the cultures that crafted them regarded themselves and regarded the Queen of Beasts.

    ". . .tantalizing, not quite indiscernible. . . " makes me something [/no words]

  6. grouch says

    I cancelled my subscription to National Geographic sometime in the '80s. They created some tv show which depicted hordes of brown recluse spiders streaming out of a pair of shoes. Fine print in the credits warned of some scenes being "dramatized".

    My house, garage, barn and other outbuildings have lots of fiddlers. (I prefer their company over that of the various poisons used by exterminators). In over 35 years of co-existence with these sneaky little bastards, I've found exactly 0 in any of my shoes.

    NatGeo's "dramatizations" called into question everything they have ever asserted as fact. I don't trust liars regardless of their motives.

  7. Rob says

    To my naive mind (unschooled on these subjects) that indicates the skill of rendering accurate representational images developed long before the more complex manifestations of language. Certainly it developed before written language.

    The first anatomically modern humans showed up approximately 100,000 years ago, a good 70,000 years prior to these paintings. Given that we have a number of mutations specific to speech, spoken language almost certainly showed up sometime prior to that.

    Sometimes I think about the massive stretch of time between our appearance on the planet and the first written records, and wonder just what human achievements we haven't got a clue about simply because no artifacts survived. We have vague notions about just what humans were up to in those 90,000 or so years, but that's about it. The gaps in our knowledge are big enough to drive entire civilizations through.

  8. Steven H. says

    @Rob:

    Certainly it developed before written language.

    The first anatomically modern humans showed up approximately 100,000 years ago, a good 70,000 years prior to these paintings. Given that we have a number of mutations specific to speech, spoken language almost certainly showed up sometime prior to that.

    And your point was? Almost certainly spoken language came first, as you said. And, certainly, WRITTEN language came much later, as the person you quoted said.

  9. interloputor says

    1) who owns NG these days?

    2) what has ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor and/or dustbin of article concepts since the last change of leadership? and the one before that?…

    (i vaguely recall hearing which big dogs of industry are up-chain parent-company-wise, and i'll give it a search party after i get home from school, just throwing those out there in case anyone cares to dig and/or wax informative on a pet subject or whatnot)

  10. Rob says

    And your point was? Almost certainly spoken language came first, as you said. And, certainly, WRITTEN language came much later, as the person you quoted said.

    It's interesting that you quoted the one sentence I was NOT responding to.

  11. says

    @David

    Of course, it's possible that the male European lion had no maneā€¦.

    Maneless males like tigers, with which they share cranio-facial morphology and faint stripes as depicted in the cave paintings.

  12. says

    The cave paintings do not uniformly, nor often, present the lions with faint (or any other) stripes.

    Even so, these could be male. But I like to think that, as with their modern counterparts, the lionesses take pride of place.

  13. Bryan says

    On a cold winter day, what does the modern cave woman do while waiting for her husband to return with dinner? A bit of interior decorating of the humble cave…

    Plus it's likely a bit warmer far back in the cave.

  14. says

    A bit o' spelunkin'
    In spaces quite sunken
    Turns up artifacts kitschual
    Well suited to ritual.
    I don't mean to impeach,
    But these caves? Hard to reach.