Are ancient cave paintings the work of children?

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Archaeologists have been studying cave paintings for years. Many searched for clues that would reveal information about the artists who created them. Now researchers based in Europe have published their research suggesting they were much younger than previously thought.

Recent work by Veronica Fernandez-Navarro, Edgard Camaros and Diego Garate posits the idea that even very young children could be the source of some of the world’s most famous cave paintings.

To reach this conclusion, scientists examined 180 hand-painted stencils from the Spanish caves of Fuente del Salín, Castillo, La Garma, Maltravieso and Fuente del Trucho nearly 20,000 years ago.

Their investigations revealed that these prehistoric frescoes were made by blowing colored pigments, for example, through a reed or hollow bone to trace the outline of the artist’s hand against the cave wall.

This process makes the hand appear slightly larger than it actually is. The researchers found that a quarter of the stencils studied were not large enough to fit the hands of adults or even teenagers. Instead, they would match children between the ages of 2 and 12.

“This study determined that the proportion of infant, child, and adolescent hands is significantly high, which attests to the clear participation of these groups in the symbolic activities of Upper Paleolithic groups in southwestern Europe. “, underline the authors in the study, recently published. published in the journal Journal of Archaeological Sciences.

Rock art, a group activity

This discovery suggests that the creation of cave paintings was a true family activity. And for good reason, the youngest would not have been able to blow the pigments hard enough to mark the contours of their hand on the rock. They should have been accompanied by their parents or another adult to help them with this task.

“It would seem that artistic activity was not a closed activity closely linked to male individuals and the survival of the group, as it was thought until now,” Fernandez-Navarrogical explained to the Telegraph.

However, researchers are still questioning the significance of such patterns. Were they a form of non-verbal communication? The mystery remains unsolved for the moment. But answers may soon be found, as was the case for the red design that adorns the interior of Pinwheel Cave in California.

An international team of researchers say it is a flower of Datura, a poisonous plant with hallucinogenic properties, unfurling in a whirlwind shape at dusk.

While archaeologists still don’t know the exact conditions under which this illustration was created, they believe it indicates the site was a good place to eat Datura in groups.

This may have taken place during initiation ceremonies, or during preparation for hunting expeditions. -AFP

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