Ancient art uncovered in dark, dangerous zones of southeastern US caves. Take a look

Some of the most dangerous caves are located miles below the surface of the Earth.
Jan Simek, an archaeologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee Knoxville told McClatchy News that you are in an alien place. It's very different from the world we live in. It is a dangerous world. Your perceptions may be different. Your experiences may be different.

Simek refers to dark underground areas that aren't affected by external light.

Simek stated that they have already explored more than 100 cave sites, most of which are in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. They also visited several in Virginia, West Virginia and Georgia as well as one in Florida.

Simek says that new caves are still being discovered, including four from earlier this year.

Simek stated that the Appalachian Plateau, which runs from New York to Alabama, has thousands of caves. It also contains the longest cave in the world, Mammoth in Kentucky.

Flowing Stone Cave (Credit to Alan Cressler).

Simek explained to McClatchy News that the Appalachian caves were very important for Native Americans. These caves were sacred to them just as they did other areas of the landscape.

Caves contain a variety of Native American art forms.

Simek says that some of the cave art from ancient times include:

Mud glyphs are drawings made into mud surfaces.

Petroglyphs are drawings that have been embedded in limestone cave walls.

Pictographs are paintings that are made from charcoal-based pigments.

Petroglyphs of ceremonial weaponry and a birdman figure (Credit to Alan Cressler).

Mud Glyph from an owl, 1250 AD, Mud Glyph Cave in Tennessee (Credit to Alan Cressler).

Main passage of the first unnamed cave in Tennessee is filled with mud glyphs (Credit: Alan Cressler).

Petroglyphs of ceremonial weaponry and a birdman figure (Credit to Alan Cressler).

Although the oldest caves that have art inside are nearly 6,500 years old, they are very rare. Simek stated in a University of Tennessee Knoxville press release that the sites can be found between the Kentucky-Tennessee state lines.

Simek stated in a news release that researchers have discovered that cave art is closely related to historical tribes that occupied Southeast during the European invasion.

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According to the news release, inscriptions from the Cherokee syllabary found on cave walls in Alabama (and Tennessee) were discovered in the mid-19th century.

According to the news release, Sequoyah, a Cherokee scholar, created the writing system and it became the main means of expression.

Simek stated in the news release that historians, Cherokee archaeologists and language experts frequently consult with him to translate cave writings.

Bryers Cave, Georgia (Credit to Alan Cressler).

Cave finds reveal remains dating back to 3,000 years ago

According to the news release, Native Americans made art in the Southeast from the time they were able to create it until the Trail of Tears in 1830s.

Some died from dangerous cave conditions.

Simek explained to McClatchy News that Native American remains dating back to 3,000 years ago were discovered in Mammoth in Kentucky and Salt Cave in Kentucky.

Simek stated that you must have your food and light sources with you if you go into the dark to create artwork. This was no easy task. There are still many things that could go wrong today.

Simek said that since 1980, when the first cave in the dark zone was discovered south-west of Knoxville, Simek has been working with his team to study and discover more ancient art and explore caves whenever they can.

Simek stated in a university news release that four caves were actually discovered in the first half 2021.

Simek explained to McClatchy News that following the footsteps of Native Americans into these places and feeling the nature, or the experience, can bring people closer. It's almost like you can feel their spirit.

Bryers Cave, Georgia (Credit to Alan Cressler).

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