New Article by Fernández Navarro, V., Godinho, R. M., García Martínez, D., & Garate Maidagan, D., in Scientific Reports.

Hand stencils are a remarkable graphic expression in Prehistoric rock art, dating back to 42 ka BP. Although these stencils provide direct impressions of the artists’ hands, the characterization of their biological profile (i.e., biological sex and age) is very challenging. Previous studies have attempted this analysis with traditional morphometrics (TM), whereas little research has been undertaken using Geometric Morphometrics (GM), a method widely used in other disciplines but only tentatively employed in rock art studies. However, the large variation in relative finger position in archaeological hands poses the question of whether these representations can be examined through GM, or, in contrast, if this creates an unmanageable error in the results. To address this issue, a 2D hand scans sample of 70 living individuals (F = 35; M = 35) has been collected in three standardized positions (n = 210) and digitized with 32 2D conventional landmarks. Results show that the intra-individual distance (mean Procrustes distance between Pos. 1–2 = 0.132; 2–3 = 0.191; 1–3 = 0.292) is larger than the inter-individual distance (mean in 1 = 0.122; 2 = 0.142; 3 = 0.165). Finally, it has been demonstrated that the relative finger positions, as well as the inclusion of all hand parts in the analysis, have an overshadowing effect on other variables potentially involved in the morphometric variability of the hand, such as biological sex.

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