Cueva de las Manos is a cave or a series of caves located in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, 163 km (101 mi) south of the town of Perito Moreno. It is famous (and gets its name) for the paintings of hands. The art in the cave dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago.
Several waves of people occupied the cave, and early artwork has been carbon-dated to ca. 9300 BP. The age of the paintings was calculated from the remains of bone-made pipes used for spraying the paint on the wall blocked by the hand. The site was last inhabited around 700 CE, possibly by ancestors of the Tehuelche people.
The cave lies in the valley of the Pinturas River, in an isolated spot in the Patagonian landscape. It is most easily reached by a gravel road (RP 41), which leaves Ruta 40 3 km north of Bajo Caracoles and runs 46 km northeast to the south side of the Pinturas Canyon.
The north side of the canyon can also be reached by rough, but shorter, roads from Ruta 40. A 3 km path connects the two sides of the canyon, but there is no road link. The main cave measures 24 m (79 ft) in depth, with an entrance 15 m (49 ft) wide, and it is initially 10 m (33 ft) high. The ground inside the cave has an upward slope; inside the cave the height is reduced to no more than 2 m (7 ft).
The images of hands are often negative painted, that is, stencilled. Most of the hands are left hands, which suggests that painters held the spraying pipe with their dexterous hand.
Studies and Preservation:
Carlos J. Gradin has studied the cave. Cueva de las Manos has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1999.