The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership faculty member explains the finger flutings she studied in France.

Leslie VanGelder

Now in her 10th year as a faculty member in The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, Dr. Leslie Van Gelder is passionate about helping students pursue their interests through research. Here, she describes what drives her own research and how she shares her experiences with her students.

HOW DID YOUR RESEARCH IN FRANCE START? My late husband, Kevin, also studied archaeology and had worked in a cave in Australia in the 1970s where he became fascinated by lines people had drawn with their hands. These lines are called finger flutings and became a passion of mine. In 2001, we were granted permission to work in Rouffignac Cave in the Dordogne region of France. After 10 years, I’ve completed our study there.

WHO WERE THE INDIVIDUALS IN THE CAVES YOU’VE STUDIED? Although we’ll never be 100% sure, we think we’ve been able to identify eight individuals clearly and at least three were children. I think the presence of children in the creation of cave art captures our imaginations. Much of our work has suggested there might be more complex and multilayered use of the caves than previously thought. Children don’t tend to leave behind a lot of tools, so being able to see what they created or drew on the walls of a cave helps us see them more clearly.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ANSWER THROUGH YOUR RESEARCH? I’d like to know more about the people who made the finger flutings. For a long time, they’ve lain in abstraction because we couldn’t differentiate individuals. I like unraveling those lines and finding the 5-year-old girl who liked to be held up or the boy who is on a woman’s hip, drawing with his right hand while she draws with her left. Each panel has a story to tell that is both very old and also completely new to us.

WHAT IS THE KEY TO GOOD RESEARCH? To ask questions that can be answered and not to ask questions to which you already know the answer. It’s also essential to have good colleagues, a willingness to read the literature in your field, and always to be open to new interpretations. Stay humble to your subject and appreciative of what you’re researching and you’ll be more open to letting it guide you.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO YOU TO PUBLISH AND PRESENT YOUR WORK? I feel an enormous sense of responsibility to share what I learn with both my academic community and the broader public. I encourage all of my students to present and to publish. Perhaps because I’m active in the scholarly community, I want to make sure my students are having those kinds of experiences, too.

Man sitting at latop
Whether looking for information on programs, admissions, or financial aid, we're here to help.
Whether looking for information on programs, admissions, or financial aid, we're here to help.
Talk to your personal enrollment specialist for more information today. Please use our International Form if you live outside of the U.S.
Talk to your personal enrollment specialist for more information today. Please use our Domestic Form if you live in the U.S.
*Required Field
Academic Interests
Required
Required
Are you or your spouse an active or retired U.S. military service member?
Contact Information
Required
Required
Invalid email address
Please provide a valid phone number
Required
Please provide a valid zipcode
Required
Additional Information
Required
Get Started

By submitting this form, I agree to receive emails, text messages, telephone calls, and prerecorded messages from or on behalf of Walden University and its affiliates as listed in the Privacy Policy regarding furthering my education. I understand that such calls, emails, and messages may be sent using automated technology. You may opt out at any time. Please view our Privacy Policy or Contact Us for more details.

Required

By checking this box, I agree to receive emails, text messages, telephone calls, and prerecorded messages from or on behalf of Walden University and its affiliates as listed in the Privacy Policy regarding furthering my education. I understand that such calls, emails, and messages may be sent using automated technology. You may opt out at any time. Please view our Privacy Policy or Contact Us for more details.