Surprising discovery of secret drawings that will change the view of scientists about cave art .. What is it?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – A team of scientists has unearthed large, unidentified drawings of Native Americans inside a cave in Alabama for more than a thousand years. It is considered to be the largest cave art found in North America to date.

These drawings were invisible until the researchers performed 3D scans to detect the works, including a 3.4-meter drawing. A detailed study has published the findings in the journal Antiquity.

This great work of art was discovered inside Cave 19, unnamed in Alabama (19th Unamed Cave), whose identity has not been revealed to protect the site from vandalism. Although the cave site was first discovered in 1998, the narrow boundaries of the cave prevented this large, mud-sized size from being seen. However, they discovered hundreds of small drawings inside the cave.

Credit: S. Alvarez, J. Simek / Antiquity Publications Ltd

Giant painted icons depict the spirits of the underworld and date back to the first millennium AD. According to the study, this art was born at a stage that preceded the communicative contact phase of Native Americans with foreign cultures.

Professor Jean F. Simic, eminent professor of science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, USA, and a team of researchers initially drew giant drawings while working on a documentation project inside the cave, in early 2017.

“We learned that the cave contained Native American clay symbols before communication and we were in the process of carrying out a documentation project with a 3D photogrammeter to assist in management and conservation,” said Simic, lead author of the study. He explained that “very large artistic drawings from inside the cave can not be seen in person due to the limited space of the area.”

The process of photogrammetry involved taking thousands of photos to create a 3D model of an object. An accurate site census was created, but it had the added benefit of revealing the secret work of art, especially since the caves had very low ceilings. During two months of fieldwork, the team took 16,000 photos.

During the 3D imaging sessions, the team photographed a wide area of ​​the ceiling beyond that of sunlight inside the cave and discovered five previously unknown drawings.

mysterious characters

Surprising discovery of secret drawings that will change the view of scientists about cave art .. What is it?
Credit: S. Alvarez, J. Simek / Antiquity Publications Ltd

Using pictorial analogy in this cave and elsewhere may change the way scholars discover and understand Native American cave art, including the intentions and meanings behind the models.

The researchers were able to virtually manipulate the cave ceiling using their own model to study the symbols drawn in detail, creating digital-like drawings based on interlocking patterns. Four of the cartoons featured characters dressed in detail like humans.

One of the “prominent human figures” is characterized by a tall body, outstretched arms and rounded shoulders. It is characterized by an intricate design on the chest, consisting of various line patterns, which are likely to indicate some kind of dress or logo, according to the researchers. When tracing the line path after drawing, they indicate a veil and another line appears to indicate the person coming out of the rock symbolically.

Another figure has a square head with stripes extending from above, a rectangular chest, and a leg. Many pictorial representations show some kind of inscription or scarf placed on the chest. One of them has a triangular head with ovals protruding from the sides, resembling an “animal head with pierced ears”, but the hands are “clearly human”.

The distinctive shape consists of several curved and twisted lines and has a bell-like snake tail, but researchers “are unaware of what it symbolizes.”

As for the fifth drawing, which is the largest, it depicts a snake with a diamond back with clear inscriptions that are similar to those of the diamond bell snake. From head to tail, the drawing is 11 feet (3.4 meters) long.

The Diamond Python is the largest snake found in America and was revered by the indigenous peoples living in the southeastern United States.

As for the inspiration for the comic characters, it remains a mystery.

“Since we have never seen anything like this before, we do not know the identity of these ancient cave art objects,” the researchers wrote in the study. “It does not embody distinctive characters in ethnographic stories documented in South East America and is not an iconologically known iconographic material,” they continued.

But what combines these drawings with spiritual themes, such as characters showing supernatural traits, in identifying with the rock art known in the region, so that characters from “previously unknown religious novels may appear, likely date to the Middle Forest period ”, which stretched between 200 BC and 600 AD.

Surprising discovery of secret drawings that will change the view of scientists about cave art .. What is it?
Credit: S. Alvarez, J. Simek / Antiquity Publications Ltd

Perhaps the most interesting aspect is how the artwork is created. Although the entrance is 32.8 feet (10 m) high and 49.2 feet (15 m) wide, the room containing the paintings has a low ceiling and rises only 1.9 feet (0.6 m) from the cave floor. This meant that anyone who created the art had to bend over or crawl around the room, and the drawings could only be seen lying on the cave floor.

To this, the researchers said: “It is so large that its creators had to draw it without having the ability to see it completely,” noting that those who drew it were inspired by their imagination, not by a free point of view. visual “.

secret codes

Surprising discovery of secret drawings that will change the view of scientists about cave art .. What is it?
Credit: S. Alvarez, J. Simek / Antiquity Publications Ltd

This work of art was created at a time when indigenous tribes were moving from food search to agriculture and construction of long-term settlements.

These tribes used their surroundings to honor their religious and spiritual beliefs, to build tumuli as paths that facilitate the ascent of spirits to the upper world, and to use caves as shrines as roads to the underworld.

“We know that Native Americans modified their landscapes to a very large extent to connect the living with the natural, supernatural worlds, with the various elements of those worlds,” the study authors noted. “The large figures depicted in Cave 19, whose name is not known, are likely to represent the spirits of the underworld, and their power and importance are expressed through their shape, size and context. They embody elements of the most landscape. broad spiritual sanctity of pre-communication with Native Americans. “

While this creation is similar to the massive outdoor rock art we find in Utah and other places in North America, it is not uncommon to find such large drawings hidden inside a cave, that is why their presence was so “unexpected”.

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