The Cave of Hands in Argentina

Silhouettes of hands spray-painted in the Cuevas de los Manos

Cueva de las Manos (Spanish: Cave of Hands) is a series of caves located in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, 163 km south of the town of Perito Moreno.

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The main cave is 248 m deep with an entrance 15 m wide and 10 m high. Inside, the ground slopes upward, reducing the height to no more than 2 m. The site was last inhabited around 700 AD, and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999.

The art in the cave dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago. The age of the paintings was calculated from the remains of bone-made pipes which were used for spraying the paint on the wall of the cave to create silhouettes of hands. The images are negative painted, that is, stencilled. Most of the hands are left hands, which suggests that painters held the spraying pipe with their right hand or they put the back of their right hand to the wall and held the spraying pipe with their left hand.

Besides the hands there are also depictions of human beings, guanacos (llamas), rheas and other animals, as well as geometric shapes, zigzag patterns, representations of the sun and hunting scenes. These depict a variety of hunting techniques, including the use of bolas. Bolas were weapons made with cords which had weights on each end. They were thrown at the legs of animals in order to trip them so that they could then be killed. Similar paintings can be found in other nearby caves.


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