New evidence shows early women were artists and warriors

All week, I’ve been trying to get a minute to blog about new evidence showing the earliest artists were women. From NBC News:

Alongside drawings of bison and horses, the first painters left clues to their identity on the stone walls of caves, blowing red-brown paint through rough tubes and stenciling outlines of their palms. New analysis of ancient handprints in France and Spain suggests that most of those early artists were women.


This is a surprise, since most archaeologists have assumed it was men who had been making the cave art. One interpretation is that early humans painted animals to influence the presence and fate of real animals that they’d find on their hunt, and it’s widely accepted that it was the men who found and killed dinner.


But a new study indicates that the majority of handprints found near cave art were made by women, based on their overall size and relative lengths of their fingers.

“The assumption that most people made was it had something to do with hunting magic,” Penn State archaeologist Dean Snow, who has been scrutinizing hand prints for a decade, told NBC News. The new work challenges the theory that it was mostly men, who hunted, that made those first creative marks.


Another reason we thought it was men all along? Male archeologists from modern society where gender roles are rigid and well-defined — they found the art. “[M]ale archaeologists were doing the work,” Snow said, and it’s possible that “had something to do with it.”

What, rigid gender roles now, in 2013? But I thought were we beyond all that, living in a post-feminist world and all. Here are some stats on women artists today:


Want to see something else fucked up? Looking for this story, I typed “cavewomen artists” into Google. Here’s the first match I got.cavewomen

A pink bow, are you kidding me? Looks like Disney has been here or perhaps, just Hollywood.

Think gender bias is restricted to archeology “experts”? Here’s another story from NBC News

Last month, archaeologists announced a stunning find: a completely sealed tomb cut into the rock in Tuscany, Italy. The untouched tomb held what looked like the body of an Etruscan prince holding a spear, along with the ashes of his wife. Several news outlets reported on the discovery of the 2,600-year-old warrior prince.


But the grave held one more surprise. A bone analysis has revealed the warrior prince was actually a princess…The mix-up highlights just how easily both modern and old biases can color the interpretation of ancient graves.


I see these two stories as related, showing how gender bias today influences how we interpret at the past. It’s funny because I’ve heard a lot from others that I look at the world through a feminist lens, but what if it’s not me wearing the funny glasses?

 Update: Commenter says pic is satirical (like the first) in which case, I like it. Maybe it’s saying, “Is this the proof archeologists are looking for to attribute work to women?”

2 thoughts on “New evidence shows early women were artists and warriors

  1. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your comment, I couldn’t tell from the text that it was satirical but I updated. It’s pretty funny that these are the symbols future archeologists will be studying when they look at 2013!


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