Archaeologists in Alabama have uncovered the longest-known painting created by early Native Americans, a new study shows. Indigenous Americans crafted this 1,000-year-old record-breaking image — of a 10-foot-long (3-meter) rattlesnake — along with other paintings made from mud on the walls and ceiling of a cave that likely depict spirits from the underworld, the researchers said.
The cave has hundreds of cave paintings and is considered the richest site for Native American cave art in the American Southeast, the researchers said. To study his historical art, the team turned to photogrammetry, a technique that involves taking hundreds of digital images to create a 3D virtual model. Using this method, the researchers discovered five previously unknown giant cave paintings, so-called glyphs.
“This methodology allows us to create a virtual model of space that we can manipulate,” the study’s first author Jan Simek, a distinguished professor in the University of Tennessee’s Department of Anthropology, told Live Science. “In this particular case, the ceiling of the cave is very close to the floor. So your field of view is limited by your proximity to the ceiling. We never saw those very large images because we couldn’t get back far enough to see them.”
After we created the virtual model, “we could look at it from a larger perspective,” he said. “It allows us to see things in a way that we personally can’t see.”
The record-breaking glyph bears a diamond pattern, indicating it may represent a diamond-backed rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), a creature held sacred by the indigenous peoples of the American Southeast, the researchers said. These peoples built large mounds of earth that were used for a variety of purposes, including as per rituals Smithsonian Magazineand to be closer to the spirits of the upper world, while caves were viewed as the opposite – pathways to the underworld.
“These are special because we haven’t had any large figures from this area before,” Simek said, “and that changes our perspective on what might be in these caves.” For example, there are similarly sized rock carvings, those of indigenous peoples were made in the west United States, although these glyphs are not found in caves, he said. “It brings the cave art of the Southeast into the discussion of other monumental imagery that we see in different parts of North America,” Simek noted.
This cave was first discovered in 1998 and remains unnamed, nicknamed the “19th unnamed cave” to protect the discoveries. According to a 1999 study published in the Journal, the cave contains over 5 kilometers of underground passages, with most of the paintings discovered in one large chamber Southeast Archaeology. Through the continued application of photogrammetry techniques to the 19th unnamed cave and others, the team hopes to further increase understanding of Indigenous American art.
The study will be published online Wednesday (May 4) in the journal antiquity.
Originally published on Live Science.
Largest known cave art images in US by Indigenous Americans discovered in Alabama Source link Largest known cave art images in US by Indigenous Americans discovered in Alabama