An analysis of thousands of paintings from the late Pleistocene epoch suggests the graffiti artists back then were likely the same as today—teenage males.
Most cave art from 10,000 to 35,000 years ago was done by hand, quite literally. Artists would chew up a bit of red ocher, place their hand against a wall, and spit over their hand.
“It was like kids taking a pencil and drawing an outline around their hand,” said Dale Guthrie, a paleobiologist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Men and women have different hand proportions—men have thicker thumbs and palms—so by analyzing the dimensions of the hands in European cave art, and comparing them to 1,000 photocopies of modern hands of men and women of different ages, Guthrie determined just who painted what.
Men and women and boys and girls of all ages left their marks but, statistically, teenage males dominated, contrary to popular belief.
“Lots of the wild animals in the caves have spears in them and blood coming out of their mouths and everything that a hunter would be familiar with,” Guthrie told LiveScience. “These were the Ferraris and football games of their time. They painted what was on their minds.”
And as with modern teenagers, the ancients had more on their minds than just cars and sports.
“In the graffiti, there is a lot of below-the-belt-art,” Guthrie said. “The people in the art are predominantly women, and not a single one has any clothes on.”
But these weren’t just any women, they were Pleistocene Pamela Andersons adorned with ludicrously huge breasts and hips. The walls were also decorated with graphic depictions of genitalia.