To the Unnamed Artist: Cave Paintings

Women have always been involved in artistic production. Unfortunately, much of the work done by women has never been attributed to any one person. Often, this means that women don't get credit for their artistic productions. In this feature, I'll be highlighting art which is by (or probably by) women artists but which isn't often included in any catalog of women's art.

This article from National Geographic argues that the finger lengths on thousands of handprints that appear in Paleolithic cave paintings indicate that most cave paintings were made by women rather than men. Cave paintings have traditionally been attributed to men because cave paintings were seen as a product of sympathetic magic rituals to ensure successful hunts. But prehistoric women would, of course, be invested in the successful outcomes of hunts, and it is safe to assume that women were involved in the work of butchering, dressing, and cooking game. Some Paleolithic cultures would also, no doubt, have women as an integral part of their magics and rituals.

So, the earliest art in historic record...made by women.


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