Friday, August 16, 2013

finger flutings by women cave artists
For thousands of years, these artworks have been credited as the genius of cave men.  Scientists believed these artistic visions were dreamed up and executed by male hands.  But after more than 25,000 years, the results of recent study have indicated prehistoric female artists also helped to created the famous "Spotted Horses" cave mural and various others.
"Most scientists" have long given up the idea that only male adults were active inside the caves.
"Finger flutings" drawn with fingers into soft clay in Gargas Cave in the French Pyrenees at Rouffignac in the Dordogne are examples of cave drawings created by women and children.  The application of the lines in terms of their distance and depth are indicators of women and children.
Line flutings are not as dramatic as paintings to our eyes.  But they are well worth studying in great detail because in some caves the same people made both painted images and the line flutings.  So when we know everything we can about flutings, we will also have learnt something about the cave artists.  And perhaps about the content of their "art" too--because the flutings, drawings and paintings may have arisen from the same social context and impulses.
The upper Paleolithic people love to stencil, paint and press their hands into the soft clay of the cave walls--as if to leave unique, indelible signs of their presence.  Some cave walls are literally covered with  hand prints, but hands also appear around more complicated painted images, such as those surrounding the spotted horses from the Pech Merle cave in south-western France.
How do we compare female and male hand prints? It has long been known that men's fingers (fourth digit) are usually longer and their index fingers (second digit), Women's second and fourth fingers are generlly equal in length.  However, while scientists have been assessing handprints of Europeans who descent from Upper Paleolithic, the size of the digits may not be a universal constant.  There is now evidence that the digit ratio varies among ethnic groups: Caucasians tend to have high second digit-fourth digit, while Black and East Asian people tend to have low second digit-fourth digit.  Also, the second-fourth digit difference may have genetic roots rather than being caused by testosterone in utero, as previously thought, so if it's going to work at all getting to the right ethnic group is of prime importance.
It is also important that the cave artists did not live in the caves.  They used the caves for drawing and storytelling.
-Are the drawings art for art sake, an attempt by Paleolithic people to reproduce the world they experienced?
-We can't reconstruct the past but with your prior knowledge or experience in drawing, what do you think would inspire these people to create drawings? What kind of agenda would women have different from their male counterparts?

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