It all started when a Cambridge archaeologist looked at a cave drawing in the French caverns at Rouffignac and thought "my 3 year old could do this." Turns out she was right.
Cambridge researchers recently analyzed 13,000-year old drawings on the walls of the Cave of a Hundred Mammoths, made by someone running their finger along the soft, clay walls. This technique is known as 'finger fluting.' Through measuring the width and profile of the finger marks, researchers could determine the age and gender of the prehistoric artists.
"We have found marks by children aged between three and seven years old -- and we have been able to identify four individual children by matching up their marks," reported Cambridge archaeologist Jess Cooney. There were very few adult fingerprints to be found, suggesting this particular cave was a prehistoric playpen of sorts. Some of the marks were, however, on an unreachably high ceiling, suggesting the children were drawing while on adults' shoulders. Cooney also noted that "The flutings and fingers are very controlled, which is highly unusual for a child of that age, and suggests it was being taught."
The exact purpose of the finger fluting is unknown; some liken it to graffiti, others doodling or even a part of an ancient initiation ritual. Whatever the cause of the drawings may be, the real discovery is the engagement and creativity evident in children and adults so many years ago and at such a young age. As Cooney says: "It's important to realize that children played a major role in the development of not only art, but what it means to be human."