An evaluation of the possibilities to estimate the sex of authors of Palaeolithic parietal art from handprints
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Even though Palaeolithic cave painters are traditionally regarded as being male, the majority of recent studies have shown that the handprints that occur in the context of paintings belong to women. These surprising results have in recent years given rise to multi-disciplinary discussions among archaeologists, biologists and socio-cultural anthropologists, reaching a better understanding of the role of men and women in Palaeolithic societies. The aim of this study is to demonstrate that all studies to date that focus on the estimation of the sex of cave painters based on handprints are methodologically problematic and do not allow for the reliable estimation of sex. The sex of Palaeolithic painters was revealed in studies on the basis of morphological norms of today’s populations, which were erroneously applied to the Palaeolithic population bearing a different morphology. In the text, the authors propose a methodology more suitable for estimating the sex of Palaeolithic painters based on handprints, and discuss the level to which the proposed procedure is practical in the given moment.