by Jamie Lutton
- The Capitol Hill Times -
I came across an astounding story from The World of Archeology last month. Archaeologist Dean R. Snow of Pennsylvania State University, who studied prehistoric cave art in Spain and France that dated back to 40,000 years ago and before, concluded that some or all of the paintings were done by women.
Snow reached this conclusion because the artists, over thousands of years, left hand prints behind them by blowing paint through a tube at their hands while they held them up to the wall. These prints date back to the same time as the artwork.
Archeologists, noticing that the handprints were small, thought that they had been left by teenagers, since the prints were smaller than the average adult hand. By which they meant, adult male hand.
But there is a little known tendency for adult male and adult females hands to have different finger lengths. In most men, the ring finger is longer than in most females hands. After a century of staring at these hands, someone finally noticed that they belong to women.
So, American Antiquity published Snow’s report a few months ago, stating that most of the hands in the cave art, which is 40,000 to 12,500 yeas old – the oldest art in the world –found in hundreds of caves, and painted over tens of thousands of years, seem to have been painted mainly by women. Of 32 prints, 24 were from women’s hands, five were adolescent male hands, and three were adult male hands.
One of the problems in the West is the base canard that women do not have the genius or creativity to be great painters. Women were not mentored to be painters, or if they were, they were daughters or mistresses of ”’more important” painters, such as the modern case of Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo (though, after their deaths, her paintings are more celebrated).
With this new information, the text of all the books on ancient cave art will have to be tossed out, and rewritten. And perhaps we can start telling our daughters and nieces that the greatest and earlier artists of Europe, the ancient cave artists, were women. Show them the wonderful books out there with the paintings of bison, elephants, and giraffes, and tell them that these are their heritage, and that they can go and be a great painter, too.
When I was a child of five, I won a contest painting a watercolor of a ”caveman” throwing a spear at a mammoth or mastodon from a cave. It was realistic, more or less; I still have it (my mother had it framed). I have always been fascinated by both the animals of the ancient past, the people of the time, and what they looked like. I still collect books on these subjects, and own eight or nine on cave art; I buy the new ones when they come out, with new photography, and I go to the films of them when they are created.
Who knows, perhaps someday we will find, that, surprise(!), some of the beautiful ancient Egyptian or Sumerian art was created by women. Or the art of the ancient Far East in China or Japan.
At least in Western culture, the men writing books, attributing the creation of beautiful and important artifacts of human history, seem to forget half of the human race.