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New views on old hands : the context of stencils in El Castillo and La Garma Caves (Cantabria, Spain).

Pettitt, P. and Maximiano Castillejo, A. and Arias, P. and Ontañon Peredo, R. and Harrison, R. (2014) 'New views on old hands : the context of stencils in El Castillo and La Garma Caves (Cantabria, Spain).', Antiquity., 88 (339). pp. 47-63.


Hand stencils are an intriguing feature of prehistoric imagery in caves and rockshelters in several parts of the world, and the recent demonstration that the oldest of those in Western Europe date back to 37 000 years or earlier further enhances their significance. Their positioning within the painted caves of France and Spain is far from random, but responds to the shapes and fissures in the cave walls. Made under conditions of low and flickering light, the authors suggest that touch—‘palpation’—as much as vision, would have driven and directed the locations chosen for these stencils. Detailed study of the images in two Cantabrian caves also allows different individuals to be distinguished, most of whom appear to have been female. Finally, the project reveals deliberate associations between the stencils and features on the cave walls.

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Publisher statement:This article has been published in a revised form in Antiquity This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Antiquity Publications Ltd 2014
Record Created:09 Aug 2017 10:28
Last Modified:09 Aug 2017 12:58

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