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Meditation on a Hand

Posted on | November 28, 2017 | Comments Off on Meditation on a Hand

A few weeks ago in France I looked at a 30,000 year-old outline of a human hand, not unlike the ones that children in school draw today. This hand had been carefully placed on the side of a cave we call Pech Merle in the Lot Valley. Then someone blew red ocher through a hollow bone to airbrush one of the earliest deceptions of a human.

Pech_Merle_mainSomething caused these early humans to wander deep in caves, paint pictures of animals, and then pause to give recognition to themselves. Was it worship as some have suggested? Our guide Magen O’Farrell cautioned us that it is impossible for contemporary humans to know the minds of the people we call Cro-Magnons.

Still, hands carry part of our story. Recently, I took a picture of my hand and wondered at the age spots, the bumps from arthritis, the places where bones had been broken or bent, and the little spots that might turn to cancer.

And because we carry an urge to communicate our story to others, sometimes excessively (see Facebook), we can look back perhaps 1,200 generations before a Christ and feel kinship with someone else who pictured her hand. Because the language of the artists is unknown to us, all we can do is wonder and be captured by a sense of awe and connectedness.

Unanswered questions linger. The world was cold then, how did you keep warm? Were you happy? Did you have kids? Am I one of them?


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Charles Taylor Kerchner is an Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. My daily musings appear in the blog. The archives of my EdWeek blog are available via link under the 'On California' head. Some of my photography can be seen by clicking on 'Gallery.' And numerous links to academic work and other research and commentary can be found by clicking on 'Projects.'


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