Small handprints, discovered at the Wadi Sura II site in the western Egyptian desert, are not human, contrary to what scientists believed until now. It turns out that the ancient handprints may have belonged to a reptile, according to an article published in Journal of Archaeological Science.
The Wadi Sura II site was initially discovered in 2002. Archaeologists were amazed by the thousands of rock paintings made more than 8,000 years ago. The paintings depicted wild animals, human figures and headless creatures, and because of this the site is now nicknamed “Cave of the Beasts.”
Apart from the odd animal and human figures, there were hundreds of outlines of human handprints. Before the discovery of Wadi Sura II, such outlines of small hands were found on Australian rock paintings, but never before in Sahara.
According to the researchers, Wadi Sura II is one of the most important Egyptian archaeological sites when it comes to rock art. Undoubtedly, the most interesting piece of art is an outline of a small hand placed in the contour of a larger hand. Initially, researchers believed that this was a human handprint, but anthropologist Emmanuelle Honoré, from the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research decided to check if that was in fact true.
In her research, Honoré compared the small ancient handprints with images of human embryo hands in stage of development between the 37th and 41st week. Considering the fact that the hands from the “Cave of Beasts” were really small, she also added images of embryo hands between the 26th and 36th week.
The results confirmed Honoré’s doubts – the handprints from the cave were almost certainly not human.
Emmanuelle Honoré also concluded that, based on the placement of the hands and fingers, the creature’s wrists were very flexible, suggesting that the paintings have not been made with the help of wood or clay, for example.
Initially, Honoré thought that the handprints belonged to a monkey, but when this theory was disproved, her colleagues advised her to turn her attention to reptiles.
After researching this hypothesis, the anthropologist was convinced that the handprints belonged to desert lizards or small crocodiles. If this turns out to be true, then it will the first such example in the history of mankind.
“We have a modern conception that nature is something that humans are separate from. But in this huge collection of images we can detect that humans are just part of a bigger natural world. It’s very challenging for us as researchers to interpret these paintings since we have a culture that’s totally different from the one that created it,” wrote Honoré.