One up for women artists! / by Jeannine Cook

It's another "revision of history"! It has always been assumed that all those wonderful artists that created such astonishing art in the Paleolithic era in caves and on rock faces around Europe were... men. Shamans, hunters, adolescent boys finding out about sexuality - all manner of theories abound about the artists who left us such dazzlingly powerful art at Altamira, Lascaux, Grotte Chauvet, Foz Coa. (http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_painting and http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Paleolithic_art for a start). Remember that this art was created, it is believed, between 35,000 and 11,000 years ago.

In June's edition of National Geographic (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine), I happened to notice a small paragraph which riveted me to attention, because it has lots of ramifications. Apparently archaeologist Dean Snow has been analysing the art on the walls of a Spanish cave, El Castillo, where the art has been dated to 28,000 years ago. As in so many of the caves, El Castillo apparently has many hand stencils, where outlines of outstretched hands are made on the walls, usually with reddish ochre which could have been blown over the hand to create the stencils. After analysis of these stencils, Dr. Snow's conclusion is that many of the artists working in the cave could have been women. Well, well. The suggestion thus is that women may have played a far greater role in the culture of those distant prehistoric times than has been recognised heretofore. Hardly surprising, is it.