May 5, 2022

Largest Native American cave art revealed by 3D scans

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Deep in a damp cave in northern Alabama, archaeologists have made a giant discovery. On a subterranean ceiling just half a meter high, researchers have uncovered the largest cave art discovered in North America: intricate etchings of humanlike figures and a serpent, carved by Native Americans more than 1,000 years ago.

“It’s exemplary and important work,” says Carla Klehm, an archaeologist at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (UAF).

Although the U.S. Southwest is famous for petroglyphs carved into canyons and cliff faces, much of the southeast’s rock art is hidden underground in caves. “Forty years ago, no one would have thought the southeast had much cave art,” says Thomas Pluckhahn, an archaeologist at the University of South Florida who wasn’t involved with the paper. But over the past few decades, archaeologists including the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Jan Simek have shown that’s not the case.

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