Teenage graffiti as cave art

I’ve always had an interest in archaeology. Indeed, one of the elective courses that I most enjoyed in college was a prehistoric archaeology course. All of this shows why the following interests me.

Through a scientific analysis of ancient cave art, it’s been found that human nature hasn’t changed much in 35,000 years:

Many art historians and anthropologists believe Paleolithic cave wall art was done by accomplished shaman-artists, but mixed in with the finer paintings are graffiti-like scenes of sex and hunting.

An analysis of thousands of paintings from the late Pleistocene epoch suggests the graffiti artists back then were likely the same as today–teenage males.

Most cave art from 10,000 to 35,000 years ago was done by hand, quite literally. Artists would chew up a bit of red ocher, place their hand against a wall, and spit over their hand.

“It was like kids taking a pencil and drawing an outline around their hand,” said Dale Guthrie, a paleobiologist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Men and women have different hand proportions–men have thicker thumbs and palms–so by analyzing the dimensions of the hands in European cave art, and comparing them to 1,000 photocopies of modern hands of men and women of different ages, Guthrie determined just who painted what.

Men and women and boys and girls of all ages left their marks but, statistically, teenage males dominated, contrary to popular belief.

Most of the paintings are of large game, such as bison, horse, ibex, and red deer. Cave bears and lions, which would have inspired fear, were also depicted.

Many of the hunting scenes, although sloppily done compared to the fine, finished work of an adult artist back then, are full of graphic detail.

“Lots of the wild animals in the caves have spears in them and blood coming out of their mouths and everything that a hunter would be familiar with,” Guthrie told LiveScience. “These were the Ferraris and football games of their time. They painted what was on their minds.”

And as with modern teenagers, the ancients had more on their minds than just cars and sports.

“In the graffiti, there is a lot of below-the-belt-art,” Guthrie said. “The people in the art are predominantly women, and not a single one has any clothes on.”

But these weren’t just any women, they were Pleistocene Pamela Andersons adorned with ludicrously huge breasts and hips. The walls were also decorated with graphic depictions of genitalia.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


  1. #1 un malheureux vetu de noir
    February 16, 2006

    “…and not a single one has any clothes on.” said Guthrie.

    I’m sorry, but that is just an idiotic statement in reference to prehistoric humans.

  2. #2 Cheeto
    February 16, 2006

    You should be sorry – for not thinking before vomiting out the garbage that was stuck in your head.

    Lets see – 30,000 years ago or less is the time-frame of the cave art. Almost all of it in Europe – during an ice-age. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and make a hypothesis that the humans of that time used some type of covering (or clothing) to protect them from the less than temperate climate of the time. I’m also gonna go out on a limb here and say that when most people wear coverings, and the pictures of women are all not wearing coverings and have exaggerated feminine features – it might be sexual in nature.

    In conclusion I think the idiotic statement was actually from un malheureux vetu de noir

  3. #3 Graculus
    February 16, 2006

    According to genetics of human lice, clothing was regularly worn at the latest 30,000 years ago, more likely 70,000 years ago.

    Some humans may have been wearing clothing as long as 300,000 years ago, if the Diring Yuriakh site is correctly dated.

    So, yeah, clothing is a given.

    However, ascribing the nekkid chicks to teenage males (or even males), involves a number of assumptions that are not supported. It’s unlikely that the Berekhet Ram or Tan-Tan figures were the work of adolescents, or the multiplicity of later “Venus” figurines. It seems like there’s a bit of projection going on regarding how our ancestors regarded nakedness. After all, there’s plenty of “below the belt” bronze age art, and it wasn’t the equivalent of “teenage graffiti”.

    The funny thing is that some of the “feminist” archeologists were pointing out that the hand prints on the cave walls weren’t all male decades ago, and were pretty much ignored.

  4. #4 Bartholomew Cubbins
    February 17, 2006

    If this was ignored some time ago by the establishment then someone should really biatch-slap the oldschool boys in public. It would also be quite interesting to see if, at approximately the same time, there were cave drawings in more temperate climates. Do the drawings in temperate climates emphasize nudity and do they show the human figure clothed?

    btw, Cheeto, thanks for providing some good context. But do you think s/he got your point? It’s been some time since I’ve seen flames like that outside of FARK or maybe an AOL chatroom (pre 1995). Assuming you don’t have some legitimate standing feud with said individual, might I suggest you save your energy for the homeopaths and ID’ers – they’re coming.

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