TN cave, rock art offers prehistoric perspectives

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There are more than 100 caves and rock sites in Tennessee that reveal forms of prehistoric art, and University of Tennessee archaeologist Jan Simek says he plans to find many others.

TN cave, rock art offers prehistoric perspectives
Archaeologist Jan Simek examines cave art found in Marion County, Tenn.
[Credit: Alan Cressler/The Tennessean]

“There is a lot more out there to discover,” Simek said after presenting his team’s recent findings at the 2014 Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology meeting at Ellington Agricultural Center.

Simek, a distinguished professor of science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and a team of archaeologists in recent years have made several new cave and rock art discoveries in the Cumberland Plateau, the Smoky Mountains and the river valley in East Tennessee. Some pictographs are underground and others in the open air, many dating back 6,000 years.

Simek presented illustrations of geometric shapes, crosses and circular structures with lines projecting from them made with liquid paint, as well as geometrical tracings found on cave walls.

The rock art is religious iconography and portrays how people may have viewed the universe within three layers: the upper world; the middle world, where humans live; and the lower world, he said. Paintings that illustrated the upper world are painted high above the ground on bluffs, for example.

With each discovery, Simek said, archaeologists are better able to determine where other drawings may exist and to help discover and preserve those sites.

“These are cultural heritage treasures that belong to all of us,” he said. “They are something to document, to save, to protect.”

Author: Jamie McGee | Source: The Tennessean [January 26, 2014]

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