Ancient art comes from the hands of women

by Jamie Lutton

I came across an astounding story from the world of archeology last month. I mentioned it to a few people, and I seem to be the only one who saw the article, so I am passing it on to you.

Archaeologist Dean R. Snow of Pennsylvania State University, studying the prehistoric cave art in Spain and France, that date back to before 40,000 years ago, has concluded that some or all of the paintings were done by women.

He 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 hand prints were small, thought that they had been left by teenagers, as 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 females hands to have different finger lengths.   In most men, the ring finger is longer than in most females hands.  So, after a century of staring at these hands, someone finally noticed that they are women's hands.

So, American Antiquity published Snow's report a few months ago that most of the hands in the cave art, which is 40,000 to 12,500 yeas old,

The very oldest art in the world, art that is found in hundreds of caves, and was 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 far more important).
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 them the wonderful books out there with the paintings of bison, and elephants, and giraffes, and tell them that these are your heritage. And you 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 an 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.

I own about eight or nine books 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.

I find that this news to be  a grand example of unconscious bias when only men are writing the book's and doing the research on the history of art.  People say, well, feminism is dead, but not when we still tell our girls that 'this is not for them' in any field. 
Who knows..perhaps someday we will find...surprise! that some of the beautiful ancient Egyptian art or Sumerian art was created by women.  Or the art of the ancient Far East, in China, or Japan.

When men write the books, at least in Western culture, they seem to forget half the human race when they attribute the creation of beautiful or important artifacts of human history.


  1. Thanks for this post. Never have given a thought to the question was the artist a Woman or Man. The thing that always impresses me about the ancient cave art is how good it is overall. There are many wonderful examples. You would think that we might see some really bad cave art in the mix. How were ancient tribes able to achieve such high standards?

    Old Dude


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