"This geometric approach is very powerful as it allows us to look at the palm and fingers independently," researcher Patrick Randolph-Quinney said.
Researchers built a model cave wall to test their ability to determine the sex of hand stencil artists in the lab. Photo by University of Liverpool
Attempts to determine the sex of prehistoric hand-stencil artists have turned up contradicting conclusions. Researchers in England and South Africa suggest focusing on hand size and finger length is unreliable.
To solve the problem, scientists adopted a forensics technique to yield more definitive results. Scientists believe the new analysis strategy can sex 40,000-year-old hand stencils with 90 percent accuracy.
"The problem with focussing on hand size and finger length is that two different shaped hands can have identical linear dimensions and ratios," Patrick Randolph-Quinney, a forensic anthropologist at the universities of Central Lancashire and Witwatersrand, said in a news release. "To capture shape, we applied geometric morphometrics, a technique used in forensic studies that had never been tested on hand stencils before."
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