In Paleolithic cave art, alongside the bison, aurochs, deer, and horses, a recurring motif is the outline of a human hand. It’s easy to imagine the shamanic significance of animal shapes to a society of hunters, and how animal paintings might have figured in religious rituals, eerily spanning the dimly lit chamber in a flicker of torchlight. But then imagine the ancient artist, before the tribe has gathered, putting aside his charcoal crayon or horsehair brush, chewing lumps of an ochre-rich clay, and spitting it in bursts through a narrow reed, to create a fine mist of color capturing the silhouette of his hand against the wall. Was it a kind of signature? Among the figurative art, these ghostly handprints endure, anonymous yet unmistakably personal traces left behind in a cave that might have been used by generation after generation, for tens or even hundreds...

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