A study of prehistoric paintings claims that many works were made by children

Author: Clark Tos
2022-09-12 16:20:02

New research is shaking up the image we have of Paleolithic artistic creation, claiming that children, even toddlers, may have been responsible for some of the oldest works of art known to date.

Credit: Mariano

Indeed, the results obtained suggest that ancient cave painting was in fact a family-oriented group activity, and not a solitary male activity. Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Spanish University of Cantabria examined 180 hand-painted stencils in Spanish caves some 20,000 years ago. The study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, used three-dimensional models of hand paintings discovered in Spain's El Castillo, Maltravieso, Fuente de Salín, Fuente del Trucho and La Gama caves.

These drawings of the prehistory would have been made by blowing pigment through a hollow reed or bone onto hands placed against the cave wall, a process that would have made the outlines slightly larger than the hands themselves. Taking this difference into account, the researchers found that up to 25% of hand marks were not large enough to belong to adults or teenagers. They estimated that they were made by children between the ages of two and twelve, with the majority probably made by children between the ages of three and ten.

“Many more children's hands appeared than we expected. It would therefore seem that artistic activity is not a closed activity closely linked to male individuals and the survival of the group, as it has been thought until now. lead author Verónica Fernández-Navarro told The Telegraph. Like the little ones children wouldn't have been able to blow the pigment hard enough to create the marks, we can reasonably assume that their parents or other adults were helping them. Painting could be an important community activity for the peoples of the Paleolithic.

Credit : Veronica Fernandez-Navarro

Credit: Veronica Fernandez-Navarro

Painting to convey messages

Verónica Fernández-Navarro is now working to analyze hand marks in more detail to determine if the gestures made in certain images have meaning. She suspects that the bent fingers of some hand silhouettes, which appear to appear in recurring patterns, may have been used as a form of non-verbal language. “We want to know if it is a code that they knew how to interpret, in the same way that we understand a stop sign today” she added.

Incredible, isn't it?

Source : ScienceDirect