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Who Holds Your Light? Revealing relationships through a forensic approach to Upper Paleolithic cave art

Author(s): Leslie Van Gelder

Year: 2017

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The study of finger flutings, lines drawn with fingers in the soft surfaces of cave walls and ceilings, allows for the identification of unique individuals within a cave’s context. In early years of research we were able to identify men, women, and children in some of the 15 caves which have been studied. These led to discoveries as to which individuals which were often found together in their movement through the caves. The intimacy of cave spaces with artists working side by side, sometimes in very small spaces, and in a variety of combinations of children and adults, males and females, allows us to begin to imagine the embodied experiences and relationships of these people. Through looking at the cave artists with a forensic approach and a relational lens we begin to shine a light on themes of intimacy, cooperation, community and play in the Upper Paleolithic. Finally, this paper considers how our discipline might be radically changed were it to focus research agendas on questions of looking for evidence of intimacy, relationships, and the invisible but powerful impact of the generosity of the human heart in something as simple as holding another’s light in a darkened cave.

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Who Holds Your Light? Revealing relationships through a forensic approach to Upper Paleolithic cave art. Leslie Van Gelder. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429776)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16194

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America