Counting the Children: The Role of Children in the Production of Finger Flutings in Four Upper Palaeolithic Caves

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Oxford Journal of Archaeology

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Children and young adults are believed to have represented up to 40 per cent of Upper Palaeolithic populations, yet little is known of their engagement in deep caves besides evidence of their hand and footprints. In this study we examine finger flutings, lines drawn with fingers in soft surfaces, in 12 Franco-Cantabrian Upper Palaeolithic caves to look for forensic evidence of unique individuals. We find evidence of children as finger fluters in four caves (El Castillo, Las Chimeneas, Rouffignac and Gargas). We discuss the types, locations and frequency of their flutings, as well as the relationship between their flutings and those made by non-children in the same caves and chambers. The small number of participants calls into question past theories of children's engagement in ritual and initiation in these particular caves.