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Possible Parietal Art Discovered on the Tibetan Plateau

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Tibetan Plateau PrintsITHACA, NEW YORK—Gizmodo reports that fossilized, individually placed handprints and footprints dated to between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago were found on the Tibetan Plateau near the Quesang Hot Spring and studied by an international team of researchers. The impressions, described by Thomas Urban of Cornell University as similar to those made by present-day children in fresh cement, are the oldest evidence yet found for the presence of hominins on the Tibetan Plateau. Based upon the size of the prints, they are thought to have been made by the feet of a seven-year-old modern human child and the hands of a 12-year-old modern human child. However, if the prints were created by another species of hominin, such as the Denisovans thought to have lived on the Tibetan Plateau at about this time, the estimated age of the artists may need to be adjusted. But can the prints be described as art? “It is the composition, which is deliberate, the fact the traces were not made by normal locomotion, and the care taken so that one trace does not overlap the next, all of which shows deliberate care,” explained Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University. For more on archaeology on the Tibetan Plateau, go to "Denisovans at Altitude," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2019.

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