Hand Prints: Symbol of Humanity

A close look at the very first 'selfies'

Negative Handprints Fish Canyon (200/1300) by Stephen AlvarezAncient Art Archive

If there is a single symbol for humanity, it is the pictograph of the human handprint. 

Group of Handprints (0/1300) by Stephen AlvarezAncient Art Archive

From the Paleolithic to modern times the images persist in our visual vocabulary. They may well be the very first artistic expression. 

Negative Handprints Fish Canyon, Stephen Alvarez, 200/1300, From the collection of: Ancient Art Archive
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Group of Handprints, Stephen Alvarez, 0/1300, From the collection of: Ancient Art Archive
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Handprint petroglyph, Stephen Alvarez, 900/1400, From the collection of: Ancient Art Archive
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Hand images were created in a variety of ways. The handprint on the left is a pictograph (painted image) created using the hand as a stencil, then blowing paint or powder on top through a reed. The middle handprint is a pictograph created by painting the hand then pressing it on the rock. The image on the right is a petroglyph (etched image) created by pecking on the rock, likely using two stones: one as a chisel and one as a hammerstone.

Negative and positive hand prints (200/1300) by Stephen AlvarezAncient Art Archive

If you think about it, handprints are the original ‘selfie’ -- the very first way that people recorded their passage. That urge to leave a visual mark that says, “I was here,” is uniquely human.

Panel of Hands in El Castillo Cave, Spain (-40000/-30000) by Stephen AlvarezAncient Art Archive

While the handprint is a symbol of all humanity, each person's print is different, leaving us with a personal connection to the individual who left it. Even a 36,000 year old handprint like this one in El Castillo, Spain, creates that sense of connection. 

Thousands of Handprints (-9000/-5000) by Gregory CrouchAncient Art Archive

Handprints can be found on all 6 continents and across all ages of human creativity. 
Some images are old and well defined, like these at Cueva de los Manos in Argentina.

Handprint Cave Belize (1200/1250) by Stephen AlvarezAncient Art Archive

Others, like these Maya handprints in Actun Uayazba, Belize, are more recent, but less defined. 

Anasazi hand print (200/1300) by Stephen AlvarezAncient Art Archive

How can you see such a personal representation and not feel connected to the long line of humanity? 
Handprints are truly timeless, the universal symbol of our species.

Handprint petroglyph (900/1400) by Stephen AlvarezAncient Art Archive

Bye!

Credits: Story

Stephen Alvarez
Gregory Crouch

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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