When a left hand has been stenciled, this implies that the artist was right-handed, and vice versa. Even though the paint was often sprayed on by mouth, one can assume that the dominant hand assisted in the operation. One also has to make the assumption that hands were stenciled palm downward—a left hand stenciled palm upward might of course look as if it were a right hand.

Could you please explain the grammar of the bolded sentence? I know 'hands' is the subject and 'were stenciled' is the verb. What does do the rest ('palm downward') of the bolded sentence do?

Also, is this a complex sentence or compound sentence?

Reference: TOEFL
Thank you in advance.

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  • See also this thread at Word Reference Language Forums. – lly Aug 10 at 16:43

One also has to make the assumption that hands were stenciled palm downward.

The bold part is not a stand-alone sentence; it is an adjectival clause qualifying assumption, the direct object of the verb make. In that clause, hands is the subject, were stenciled is the verb phrase and palm downward is the adverbial phrase. The sentence, One also...palm downward, is a complex sentence.

Mahmud may have been replying to an earlier edit but the currently bolded phrase

hands were stenciled palm downward

is a simple sentence. “Hands” is a plural noun subject; “were stenciled” is a plural indicative past passive verb; and “palm downward” is an modificative adverbial adjunct. It could be rephrased “with the palms facing downward,” “the palms having been pressed downward,” &c. “Hands were stenciled once the palms had been placed against the rock” would be a complex sentence but that’s not how it’s currently phrased.

The full sentence

One also has to make the assumption that hands were stenciled palm downward—a left hand stenciled palm upward might of course look as if it were a right hand.

is a compound-complex sentence since it is an independent clause (One... has to make...) with a dependent clause (...that hands were stenciled...) and another independent clause (...a... hand... might... look...) with another dependent clause (...as if it were...). If the original question was just asking for the first half, then Mahmud was right that it is just complex.

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