Cave paintings of mutilated hands could be a Stone Age sign language -Dlight News

Cave paintings of mutilated hands could be a Stone Age sign language

DEEP in the Gargas cave, in the Pyrenees mountains of southern France, there is something that has baffled all visitors who have made the journey to its dark inner chambers. Among the prehistoric paintings and engravings of horses, bison and mammoths are hundreds of stencils made tens of thousands of years ago by people who spat red and black paint onto their outstretched hands. These motifs are found at ancient sites around the world, from Australia to the Americas and from Indonesia to Europe. For years, archaeologists have wondered about its meaning. But Gargas’s are especially mysterious because about half of the hands appear to be injured.

“It’s very obvious that some of the fingers are missing,” he says. Aritz Irurzún at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Bayonne, France. The so-called mutilated hands can be seen in many other prehistoric rock art sites, but the Gargas cave is the most striking example of this phenomenon.

It has been suggested that these missing fingers are the result of accidents, freezing, or ritual mutilation. Another possibility is that their creators deliberately bent their fingers to produce specific patterns. irurtzun and ricardo etxepare, also at the CNRS, have now found a way to test this idea. What they have discovered convinces them that Gargas’ hand stencils reflect a Stone Age sign language. If so, these patterns add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that Paleolithic cave paintings may contain a variety of hidden codes. Gargas stencils could even represent the oldest…

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