News / Science & Technology

    Professor Who Found Oldest US Cave Art Says There's More

    • This 1,200 AD drawing, found on an open bluff in Alabama, depicts an anthropomorphic figure and two circles. Drawings found in the open air were almost always painted red. (Photo: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity
    • This image of cave art from an open bluff in North Alabama depicts a human figure, possibly the shaman/artist himself, 1,200 AD. (Photo credit: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
    • An unknown symbol similar to those appearing in early religious drawings is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the University of Tennessee, taken in Dunbar Cave in Clarksville, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
    • A 6,000-year-old charcoal pictograph showing what could be a human hunting is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the University of Tennessee, taken in a cave located in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications LTD.)
    • Charcoal pictographs of scorpions found in Georgia, probably late prehistoric period. (Photo credit: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
    • The owl seen here was carved in mud by the native ancient peoples of Tennessee. Some Native American peoples in the southeastern United States associated mud with the origin of the world. (Photo Credit: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications LTD.)
    • A bird-like figure holding weapons is seen in a 14th century pictograph in an undated handout photo provided by the University of Tennessee, taken in Devilstep Hollow Cave, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
    • A black charcoal drawing from approximately 1,200 AD shows a quadruped with bird talons, in a Tennessee cave. (Photo credit: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
    • This image is part of the most extensive collection of prehistoric cave art found in the United States. It appears to be flying turkeys, approximately 900 AD, found in a Tennessee cave. (Photo Credit: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications LTD.)
    • Scientists use laser scanners to capture images of Tennessee cave art in a non-destructive manner.(Photo Credit: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications LTD.)
    Oldest Known US Cave Art Discovered in Cumberland Plateau
    Reuters
    Jan Simek, leader of the team that discovered the oldest known cave art in the United States, says he is far from finished.
     
    The 60-year-old science professor at the University of Tennessee still plans to belly crawl through caves or climb atop bluffs in the hope of finding more art in his cave-rich state.
     
    The Simek team's discovery of 6,000-year-old art in the Cumberland Plateau, a division of the Appalachian Mountains extending from southern West Virginia to northern Alabama, is featured in the June issue of Antiquity, the archeological journal published by Britain's Durham University.
     
    “Yes, we have cave art that is 6,000 years old,” Simek said. “But we don't want to say it is the oldest rock art [in the United States].”
     
    Simek said there might be ancient rock art in 400 or 500 of the 9,000 caves recorded in the limestone and sandstone bedrock of Tennessee.
     
    His team has explored about 1,000 of them so far. “We are in the early stages of this, to be honest,” he said.
     
    Cave locations are kept secret because of concerns that looters could damage any archeological treasures that may be inside.
     
    By global standards, 6,000-year-old cave art is still relatively youthful. Experts say the famous Paleolithic paintings in Lascaux, France, are as old as 20,000 years; other drawings found in Australia and southern Africa are believed to be older still.
     
    Nonetheless, archeologists and Native Americans are excited about the discoveries by Simek and his team: Alan Cressler of the U.S. Geological Survey; Nicholas P. Hermann of Mississippi State University and Sarah C. Sherwood of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
     
    Albert Bender, a Cherokee and board adviser for the Nashville-based Native American Indian Association of Tennessee, said the discovery “shows the sophistication of Native American society in the South going back thousands and thousands of years.”
     
    Michael Moore, director and state archeologist in Tennessee's Division of Archeology, described the team's find as “extremely exciting and extremely significant” for “the different insights into prehistoric culture.”
     
    Religious Connection
     
    Simek said his team's main focus was on the connection of the art to religion. Some of the drawings show humans hunting or engaging in magical activities like flying; others depict more mythological or spiritual images such as serpents and circles.
     
    “We know ... that these folks had recognized multiple layers of reality, and humans only occupied one of the layers in the middle,” he said. “But they interacted with and were influenced by a celestial world, an upper world that had certain creatures and spirits associated with it and an underworld that had other spirits associated with it.”
     
    Simek said this multi-tiered religious view was represented by the figures on bluffs, those in the open air, and those beneath the ground in the Cumberland Plateau.
     
    He compares the spiritual view of the artists with other religions, including Christianity.
     
    “Christ was taken to the top of the mountain, crucified, taken down, put in a cave and from there was reborn,” he said. “Those are the vertical levels of our spiritual world.”
     
    To him, the artwork and the sheer physical demands required for the painters and carvers to reach so high on the bluffs as well as so far below ground to depict their spiritual hopes and fears are proof that a sophisticated society predated people who currently call Tennessee home.
     
    “This stuff is thoughtful, insightful, profound, sacred,” said Simek, who fortunately is neither claustrophobic nor afraid of the dark. “These people have taught me a great deal about the power of the human mind.”
     
    Then he stopped and added: “It's a lot of fun.”

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora