Most of the prehistoric cave paintings found in France and Spain were made by women, researchers have determined.
The art has long been assumed to have been painted by men, because the works often depict game animals such as bison, reindeer and wooly mammoths, but new research suggests otherwise.
Archaeologist Dean Snow, of Penn State University, said he analyzed hand marks found in eight caves in Europe, and he determined 75 percent of the prints were female by comparing the relative lengths of certain fingers.
He then compared the ratio of the index finger to the ring finger and the index finger to the pinky finger to distinguish between females and adolescent males.
Snow said about 10 percent of the hand prints he studied were from adult males, while the remaining 15 percent were from adolescent males.
Archaeologists have found hundreds of hand stencils, created by paint marks blown around handprints, on cave walls around the world.
Snow based his analysis on visits to multiple caves and by using some of the few photos that give relative size indications.
Then he collected hand images from people of European and Mediterranean ancestry on which to base his measurements.
Although he can’t be certain, Snow believes the handprints were left intentionally, as a form of signature.
[Image via Wikipedia Commons]