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Unformatted text preview: e about righthand versus lefthand dominance comes from stencils and prints found in rock shelters in Australia and elsewhere, and in many Ice Age caves in France, Spain, and Tasmania. When a left hand has been stenciled, this implies that the artist was righthanded, and vice versa. Even though the paint was often sprayed on by mouth, one can assume that the dominant hand assisted in the operation. One also has to make the assumption that hands were stenciled palm downward—a left hand stenciled palm upward might of course look as if it were a right hand. Of 158 stencils in the French cave of Gargas, 136 have been identified as left, and only 22 as right; righthandedness was therefore heavily predominant.
Cave art furnishes other types of evidence of this phenomenon. Most engravings, for example, are best lit from the left, as befits the work of righthanded artists, who generally prefer to have the light source on the left so that the shadow of their hand does not fall on the tip of the engraving tool or brush. In the few cases where an Ice Age figure is depicted holding something, it is mostly, though not always, in the right hand.
Clues to righthandedness can also be found by other methods. Righthanders tend to have longer, stronger, and more muscular bones on the right side, and Marcellin Boule as long ago as 1911 noted the La Chapel leaux
Saints Neanderthal skeleton had a right upper arm bone that was noticeably stronger than the left. Similar observations have been made on other Neanderthal skeletons such as La Ferrassie I and Neanderthal itself.
Fractures and other cut marks are another source of evidence. Righthanded soldiers tend to be wounded on the left. The skeleton of a 40 or 50yearold Nabatean warrior, buried 2,000 years ago in the Negev Desert, Israel, had multiple healed fractures to the skull, the left arm, and the ribs.
Tools themselves can be revealing. Longhanded Neolithic spoons of yew wood preserved in Alpine villages dating to 3000 B.C. have survived; the signs of rubbing on their left side indicate that their users were righthanded. The late Ice Age rope found in the French cave of Lascaux consists of fibers spiraling to the right, and was therefore tressed by a righthander.
Occasionally one can determine whether stone tools were used in the right hand or the left, and it is even possible to assess how far back this feature can be traced. In stone toolmaking experiments, Nick Toth, a righthander, held the core (the stone that would become the tool) in his left hand and the hammer stone in his right. As the tool was made, the core was rotated clockwise, and the flakes, removed in sequence, had a little crescent of cortex (the core's outer surface) on the side. Toth's knapping produced 56 percent flakes with the cortex on the right, and 44 percent leftoriented flakes. A lefthanded toolmaker would produce the opposite pattern Toth has applied these criteria to the similarly made pebble tools from a number of early sites (before 1.5 million years) at Koobi For a, Kenya, probably made...
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This note was uploaded on 09/17/2013 for the course LANGUAGE 13DL208 taught by Professor Wang during the Fall '13 term at East China Normal University.
- Fall '13