Friday, December 30, 2011


I was so intrigued by the previous article about children painting in the caves that I emailed Leslie Van Gelder who was one of the prime researchers. How did she figure out their ages? Here is her edited answer:

The most in depth answer to your question is best found in an article we published in Antiquity in 2006. (Here's the link to the reference if you want to get the article That has the long version of the methodology that we used to study childrens' and adults hands.

The short version is that in the cave we had been collecting data on lines that had been drawn with three fingers held together because no matter what the three fingers were the same three fingers, whether left hand or right. We then replicated the wall surface by using clay and asked people of many ages to draw a similar marking with their hands and then we measured the results. We asked people who worked in schools in a number of different countries to work with children in their classes to collect data for us as well as we were especially interested in children because we knew many of the measures in the cave were small.

What we found was that there was a definite clear point of measure where children under 5 seemed to have a measure of 30mm or smaller for their 3 fingered width. Given that we had measures of 22, 28, and 31mm in the cave, that was enormously helpful.

We've also looked at the heights of their flutings from the floor. That, in some areas, gives us a sense of their height, too.

I hope that helps a little in explaining. The Antiquity article would give you the most in depth explanation.
Best wishes and thanks again for your interest,
Leslie Van Gelder, Ph.D.
Program Director
Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership
Walden University


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