The Hands of Gargas: Toward a General Study


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Publication Date

January 1986


Beginning in 1906, the year of Cartailhac's writing on the hands in red and black in the cave of Gargas,' several articles and numerous have confronted the problem raised by the 160 or so hands grouped walls. In 1952 the Abbe Breuil devoted forty lines to them in his Quartre d'art pariital, summing up his point of view at that time: "The majority hands, outlined in black or red, sometimes in white or yellow, are there are more than 150 of them, many of which appear mutilated, joints of one or several fingers had been cut off."2 He adds one very detail which does honor to his power of observation: "It is certain here the same hand, with the same mutilation, in multiple examples." he states, "Gargas is thus far the only European cave, among the dozen discovered containing hands in outline, in which these mutilations In 1958, upon republishing the text of Four Hundred Centuries in J.-B. Noulet, he added a mention of the outlined hands recently the cave of Tibiran, a few hundred yards from Gargas.3 Indeed, Maltravieso in Estramadura, Gargas and Tibiran are the only hands with missing fingers are to be found. Gargas and Maltravieso, more, differ considerably from each other. In the latter cave, all formly lack the last two joints of the little finger, while at Gargas different forms out of the fifteen possible combinations obtainable the finger. This variety in "mutilation," the grouping of hands in the pairs of identical hands, and the distribution of red in relation gone unnoticed by writers on the subject. Assisted by Father Hours sieur Brezillon, we undertook a survey of the totality of graphical setting, solution to all vide insight.


Caves, Fingers, Pathology, Thumb, Animal Figurines, Bison, Parallel Lines, Horses




October, Vol. 37 (1986).