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Study suggests women, not men, created much of ancient cave art
by Staff Writers
University Park, Pa. (UPI) Oct 11, 2013


Study suggests Stone Age farmers, hunters chose not to mix
Mainz, Germany (UPI) Oct 11, 2013 - Stone age farmers and hunters co-existed in Europe for centuries but kept their distance, researchers say, rarely crossing cultural boundaries to find a mate.

Genetic studies of ancient bones suggest when farmers moved from the Near East into Central Europe about 7,500 years ago they were met by indigenous hunters and gatherers not exactly pleased to see them, the scientists said.

For some 2,000 years, the genetic work showed, these distinct groups apparently maintained separate cultures.

"We don't really know who set up those social boundaries, so we don't know if it was the farmers who didn't mix with the hunter gatherers or if it was the hunter-gatherers who wanted to stay by themselves," lead study author Ruth Bollongino, a biologist at the University of Mainz in Germany, told The Washington Post.

"Or maybe it's both groups that wanted to keep their own identity."

Eventually the hunter-gatherer communities died out or adopted the agricultural lifestyle, the researchers said.

Scientists have long wondered what impact both groups had on the gene pool of modern Europeans.

"Neither hunter-gatherers nor farmers can be regarded as the sole ancestors of modern-day Central Europeans," study team member Adam Powell, a population geneticist at the JGU Institute of Anthropology, said. "European ancestry will reflect a mixture of both populations, and the ongoing question is how and to what extent this admixture happened."

A study of hand prints on cave walls suggests much of Paleolithic cave art was created by women, a Penn State archaeologist says.

Taking as his starting point previous research that found average finger lengths in people vary by gender, Dean Snow has been studying ancient hand prints in caves for nearly a decade, National Geographic reported.

Looking at pictures of cave art at one point, Snow noticed the fingers on the hands stenciled next to depictions of animals and other objects appeared to conform to research descriptions of female hands.

Hand stencils, found in several cave art sites, where created by the artist or artists placed their hands against a cave wall and blowing paint at them (through a straw or directly from their mouth) to create an outline.

Snow said his studies suggest approximately 75 percent of such hand art samples was likely the work of women as opposed to the common belief that cave art was the purview of men.

The assumption was based on the depictions in most cave art of women and animals being hunted, which seemed to sum up the life of hunters, the male half of a hunter-gatherer society.

If women were doing most of the cave art, Snow said, it's possible they played a larger, more important role in how hunter-gatherer societies functioned than has been thought.

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