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Prehistoric rock paintings, handprints and stencils span all continents, and began appearing on rock walls around the world at least 30,000 years ago. But Cueva de las Manos in Patagonia contains an exceptional assemblage of cave art.

“Cueva de las Manos”, literally “the Cave of Hands”, is located in Río Pinturas, in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, 163 km south of the town of Perito Moreno. The cave gets its name from the cluster of stenciled outlines of human hands that appear on the cave walls. These rock paintings were made by hunter-gatherer communities estimated to have lived between 13,000 and 9,500 years ago, as determined from the remains of bone-made pipes used for spraying the paint on the wall of the cave to create silhouettes of hands.

The entrance to the cave is screened by a rock wall covered by many hand stencils. Most of the hands are left hands, which suggests that painters held the spraying pipe with their right hand. Within the rock shelter itself there are five concentrations of rock art, later figures and motifs often superimposed upon those from earlier periods. The paintings were made with natural mineral pigments - iron oxides for red and purple, kaolin for white, natrojarosite for yellow, and manganese oxide for black - ground and mixed with a binder, the nature of which is unknown.

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© Amusing Planet, 2013.


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