Hand and footprints lack a “utilitarian explanation,” researchers say:
An international collaboration has identified what may be the oldest work of art, a sequence of hand and footprints discovered on the Tibetan Plateau. The prints date back to the middle of the Pleistocene era, between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago – three to four times older than the famed cave paintings in Indonesia, France and Spain…
“The question is: What does this mean? How do we interpret these prints? They’re clearly not accidentally placed,” said Urban, a co-author of the paper, “Earliest Parietal Art: Hominin Hand and Foot Traces from the Middle Pleistocene of Tibet,” published Sept. 10 in Science Bulletin.
“There’s not a utilitarian explanation for these. So what are they?” Urban said. “My angle was, can we think of these as an artistic behavior, a creative behavior, something distinctly human. The interesting side of this is that it’s so early.”David Nutt, “Hand and footprint art dates to mid-Ice Age” at Cornell Chronicle (September 14, 2021) The paper is closed access.
Researchers would not be asking if it is art if it were not so old (between 169,000 and 226,000). The underlying assumption seems to be that humans did not think imaginatively in those days. The evidence seems to contradict the evolutionary assumption.