Friday, August 04, 2006

Paleolithic Juvenilia

Were cave artists sex- and hunting-obsessed teenage boys?

I discovered an article with the title "Paleolithic Juvenilia" in the August 2006 issue of Scientific American. It was written by JR Minkel and it covers the research of R. Dale Guthrie, a paleobiologist emeritus at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Dr. Guthrie argues that Paleolithic cave art differs greatly from art created for ritualistic or shamanic purposes. "Paleolithic art isn't like that," he said. "It was done in a more naturalistic way, [showing] real animals eating, copulating, braying or bellowing, biting."

Guthrie studied 201 handprints found in caves from Spain and France. He measured them and compared them to modern humans. Statistically, the cave handprints match children ages 10 to 16. Much of the cave drawings focus on hunting and mating as well. As these are well know activities that have fascinated adolescent males in the past, it is reasonable to assume they are the ones most likely to have created the cave art.

Clearly, the Paleolithic cave drawings today are world treasures. They have taught us a lot about the world our ancestors lived in as well as teaching us about our ancestors as well. And to think we may have hormonally driven boys to thank for it...

1 comment:

Jennie W said...

That's certainly a new way to look at cave art!