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Children Helped Decorate Prehistoric Caves of France 72

Posted by timothy
from the could've-been-circus-folk dept.
sciencehabit writes "Among the prolific paintings and other art in the 8 kilometer-long Rouffignac cave system in southwestern France are a number of unusual markings known as finger flutings, which are made by people dragging their hands through the soft silt that lines the cave's walls. By analyzing the finger flutings of modern humans, researchers discovered that the ratio of the distance between the three middle fingers indicate that many of the cave artists were very young children, one as young as 2 or 3 years old. The researchers were also able to tell the children's genders from the shape of the fingers."
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Children Helped Decorate Prehistoric Caves of France

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  • by ridgecritter (934252) on Sunday October 02, 2011 @09:46PM (#37586688)

    "Most preschoolers get scolded for writing on walls, but kids living 13,000 years ago were encouraged to scribble, at least in caves. Among the prolific paintings and other art in the 8 kilometer-long Rouffignac cave system in southwestern France are a number of unusual markings known as finger flutings, which are made by people dragging their hands through the soft silt that lines the cave's walls. By analyzing the finger flutings of modern humans, researchers discovered that the ratio of the distance between the three middle fingers indicate that many of the cave artists were very young children, one as young as 2 or 3 years old. The researchers were also able to tell the children's genders from the shape of the fingers. Some of these flutings were too steady for a toddler, suggesting that an adult guided the child's hand while teaching him or her, the researchers will report this weekend at the archaeology of childhood conference in Cambridge, U.K. Since the children's drawings seemed to be concentrated in one chamber, the researchers believe that the alcove may have been a sort of art school. And some of the drawings were high on the walls and on the ceiling, suggesting that the children were lifted."

    Very cool. I love how we can open windows onto our ancestors' lives through a bunch of boring measurements of finger tracks on a dusty cave wall.

  • by billstewart (78916) on Sunday October 02, 2011 @11:35PM (#37587052) Journal

    My mom still has one of those plaster castings of a handprint one of us did in kindergarten sitting in one of her cabinets. I'm not sure we know who, unless the teacher wrote our name on the back :-)

    Meanwhile, if you ever get another chance to see the movie Cave of Forgotten Dreams [imdb.com] in 3D, absolutely go see it. Werner Herzog took a camera crew into the oldest known painted cave in France for a couple of days, and it really did need to be filmed in 3D.

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