First, take three minutes to read this article:

The Cave of the Hands, found in the mountains of southern Argentina, is an archeological site that has attracted attention from scholars for many years. The cave’s fame comes from the vibrant handprints found inside, some of which were created more than nine thousand years ago. While the exact reasons these handprints were created remains a mystery, there are several theories.

Firstly, the handprints in the Cave of the Hands may have served as an early form of written communication, similar to an alphabet. Handprints of different sizes may have been used to convey distinct concepts, and further meaning could have been communicated through their arrangement. In this way, the handprints might have told stories about families, climate changes or even significant events in the lives of the ancient inhabitants. 

Secondly, the handprints could have had religious significance. The act of leaving handprints on the cave walls could have been part of ceremonies connected to spiritual beliefs and the cave’s secluded location might have given it some religious significance, creating a space visited by people seeking spiritual fulfillment. Many ancient cultures integrated art into their religious or ceremonial practices, and the Cave of the Hands may have been no exception.

Lastly, the handprints may have served a practical purpose related to hunting. The cave is quite close to areas where evidence of hunting has been found, and the handprints might have been a way for the community to make a record of successful hunts or even celebrate the collective efforts of the whole group. Prehistoric people all over the world are known to have used art to make records of group activities before the development of written language.

Next, listen to the following lecture:


You have twenty minutes to answer the following question.  You can see to the article as you write your essay.  You may not listen to the lecture again.

Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they oppose specific points made in the reading passage.

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Sample Response

Here is a sample essay:

The reading and lecture are both about the Cave of the Hands, a famous archeological site in Argentina.  The article describes three possible reasons why early humans left hand prints in the cave.  The lecturer, however, believes that the author’s theories are flawed.

First, the author notes that the handprints might represent a primitive alphabet. According to the article, handprints of different sizes might have different meanings, and the arrangement of the hands could convey additional meanings.  The lecturer, on the other hand, says that this is unlikely.  He notes that the various sizes might just reflect artistic intentions and that experts haven’t found any patterns in the arrangement of the prints.  Since all alphabets contain logical patterns, it is unlikely that the handprints were used in this way.

Secondly, the author suggests that the cave might have had religious significance.  People might have left the prints during important religious ceremonies.  The lecturer casts doubt on this suggestion.  He says that no traces of religious ceremonies have been found in the cave.  If ceremonies had been held there, archeologists would have found some sculptures or pottery.

Finally, the author theorizes that the handprints are related to hunting, as the cave is located near places where early humans used to hunt.  The article notes that the handprints might be a record of successful hunts.  Prehistoric people are known to have frequently made records of this sort.  The lecturer says that while it is true that the cave is located near a former hunting ground, most early humans recorded hunting activities using pictures of actual animals.  Since such images are not found in this cave, the author’s theory is unconvincing.