Saturday, February 25, 2017


Wadi Sura II pictographs, Egypt. 
Tiny handprints circled. Photo, 
public domain.

In the past, I have posted columns on human handprints in rock art, and columns about animal tracks in rock art, but this is my first time reporting on little animal hand prints in rock art.

An interesting October, 2016, report by Laura Geggel for Live Science described an important rock art found at a site in western Egypt. Discovered in the Egyptian portion of the Libyan Desert in 2002, the cave is named Wadi Sura II, and is located about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Wadi Sura I, The Cave of the Swimmers, discovered in 1933.

Wadi Sura II pictographs, Egypt. 
public domain.

Among the imagery in Wadi Sura II can be found a large number of hand prints, many of them surprisingly small.  "The roughly 8,000-year-old 'hands' painted on a rock wall in the Sahara Desert aren't human at all, as researchers originally thought, but are actually stencils of the 'hands' or forefeet of the desert monitor lizard, a new study finds.
These tiny lizard hands are intermingled with paintings of human adult hands, which ancient rock artists stenciled around using red, yellow, orange and brown pigments, the researchers said." (Geggel)

Dr. Emmanuelle Honore, a research fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, determined to attempt to find out what the little hand prints meant. "Honore was stunned the first time she walked into Wadi Sura II in 2006. 'I immediately saw those tiny hands among the [nearly] thousands of paintings,' she said. In earlier studies researchers hypothesized that the large and small hands were stenciled around adult and baby hands. Yet, shortly after looking at the 13 'baby' hand drawings, Honore concluded that they weren't human.
For one thing, they were too small to belong to a human infant, she said. Moreover, the digits were pointy and 'very long and thin' Honore said. In contrast babies have fingers that are roughly the same length as their palms." (Geggel)

Tiny hand print - center.
Wadi Sura II pictograph, Egypt. 
public domain.

Honore's research began with careful measurements of human hand prints, including the hands of a number of normal and premature babies. "Honore and her colleagues also measured 11 of the tiny hands at the Wadi Sura II site. (The other two were incomplete and difficult to measure, she said.) In addition, they measured 30 of the large hands at Wadi Sura II and 30 hands from living adults, and found that they matched well, she said.
But several parameters indicated that the tiny hands were not human. Though the stenciled fingers were long, overall the hands were small - just 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) from the base of the palm to the end of the middle finger. That's much smaller than a human baby hand, which measures and average of 2.4 inches (6.2 cm.) long, she said." (Geggel)

This meant that the adult human hand prints were overlaid with unidentified small hand prints.  "At first, Honore thought the tiny hands belonged to a small monkey. But none of the thousands of monkey hand pictures she researched looked like those o the wall at Wadi Sura II. Then, when she was doing research at a crocodile farm in Zambia, she realized that the prints belonged to a reptile.
The front feet of the desert monitor lizard (Varanus) had the closest match to the paintings, she found. A baby crocodile (Crocodylus) was another possibility. However, crocodiles likely didn't live in the desert at that time, so a person would have needed to transport one over from the Nile or another watery region, Honore said." (Geggel)

"Other prehistoric cultures used animals as stencils for their rock art. For example, the Aboriginal people used emu foot stencils in the Carnarvon Gorge and Tent Shelter in Australia, and choike/nandu (birds in the genus Rhea) stencils are in the rock art at La Cueva de las Manos in Argentina." Honore is now working on a study to try to figure out some possible reasons for the monitor lizard hand prints.(Geggel)

For this full article see Laura Geggel referenced below. She also reported that the findings were published in the April 2016 issue of the Journal of Archaelogical Science: Reports.

NOTE: The images illustrating this article were obtained from the internet as the result of a search for Wadi Sura II public domain. If any of these images were, in fact, not public domain I apologize for their use.


Geggel, Laura,
2016   Nonhuman Hands Found in Prehistoric Rock Art, October, 2016, LiveScience,

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