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This blog seeks to explore the divine feminine by examining the history of women. The analysis of archaeology and history found here is meant to raise questions, not necessarily find answers. In addition, by looking at our female ancestors, we can seek to make connections in our current lives and define ourselves as women in fresh ways.

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The Women Who Painted in Caves

As the upcoming Mercury retrograde and the natural progression of the seasons here in the Northern Hemisphere takes us on a journey into the Underworld, let us contemplate our deep, ancient ancestors. Fittingly, we will travel into the caves of our past, if only in our minds.

Cave paintings have been presented to us as a masculine narrative. Often, these stunning examples of paleolithic art, have been interpreted as created by male hunters to increase the hunt. Other theories have suggested that the paintings were to communicate something to visitors to the caves, perhaps of religious significance. Intriguingly, these paintings depict both predator and prey animals. However, that’s not all. Cave paintings also sometimes depict voluptuous female figures and symbols for the vulva.

Who painted these images?

If you listen to most theorists, watch documentaries on this subject, or skim articles, the answer is men. However, the hand prints and finger trails left by these ancient artists have been found to indicate otherwise. Various studies of these prints suggest that women, young girls, and young boys did some of the art that was left deep underground.

According to a recent article by Virginian Hughes on the National Geographic website:

Archaeologist Dean Snow of Pennsylvania State University analyzed hand stencils found in eight cave sites in France and Spain. By comparing the relative lengths of certain fingers, Snow determined that three-quarters of the handprints were female.

Were these cave painters ancient shamans? If so, what message does their art leave for us today? Perhaps, one intended to give a symbolic message to each viewer?

In the same article archaeologist Dave Whitley of ASM Affiliates speculates on the question of who these female artists might have been:

His view is that most of the art was made by shamans who went into trances to try to connect with the spirit world. "If you go into one of these caves alone, you start to suffer from sensory deprivation very, very quickly, in 5 to 10 minutes," Whitley said. "It can spin you into an altered state of consciousness."

Contemplating this today, I feel intrigued. As I welcome the journey into the darkness this month, I plan to meditate on these images. I'm excited that each new discovery that we make, uncovers a more egalitarian view of our past. Uncovering our Goddess heritage is a rich and intricate journey into the darkness, punctuated with these moments of light, revelation, and art.


National Geographic



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Emily has a master's degree in literature with a focus on women's history and works as a writing teacher. She is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids.


  • Jamie
    Jamie Monday, 14 October 2013

    Ms. Mills,

    Thanks for the insight! It helps to illuminate not only the how and the why, but the who, of paleolithic cave art.

    It also reveals some of the inherently patriarchal assumptions of 20th-century archeology.

    Great post.

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