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January 21, 2020 - No Comments!

3D Model on the San Rafael Swell

We just updated a 3D model of a site on the San Rafael Swell in Utah. It is now optimized for VR viewing inside an Oculus or phone-based headset.

Barrier Canyon Style artwork as is shown at this site is some of the most evocative and mysterious pre-Columbian art in North America. Preserving and sharing sites like this in a responsible manner that does not endanger the artwork is what led me to create the Ancient Art Archive.

However, we can only do work like this with your support. The Archive is a 501(c)(3) not for profit. Your donations help us share and preserve humanity's oldest stories.

January 6, 2020 - No Comments!

Using 3D imaging to see rock art of the Orinoco

Cerro Pintado petroglyphs with enhanced overlay Photo by Philip Riris

In Western Venezuela, there is large scale rock art along rapids in the Orinoco river. University College of London archeologist Philip Riris used the same 3D imaging technology that we have pioneered to visualize the images.

See the whole article in Antiquity here.

Photogrammetry lets us look for petroglyphs that are otherwise impossible to see. At one of the Ancient Art Archive sites in the Southeastern US we've spent months mapping the fine level engravings on a cave ceiling. The work is difficult and painstaking but it can reveal artwork that is otherwise impossible to see (more here).

Southeastern artwork discovered with 3D imaging technology

Hats off to Riris and his team for adapting 3D technology to see otherwise invisible work.

December 28, 2019 - No Comments!

Bears Ears National Monument is 3 years old

The Procession Panel in the Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

Three years ago today President Barak Obama designated over 1.3 million acres of federal land in San Juan County Utah as the Bears Ears National Monument. The land was set aside to protect a landscape that is sacred to many of the Native American peoples who live in this part of the southwest today. The original Monument contains over 100,000 archaeological sites. Monument designation was the culmination of years of grassroots work by a coalition of Native American groups who worked together across tribal lines to preserve a landscape that is important to all of them.

In December of 2017 the Monument was slashed by presidential order. It is now 85% smaller.

Two groups are playing a leading role in restoration of the original monument boundries. Utah Dine Bikeyah did much of the original grassroots organization and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition put forth the original monument proposal. Both groups deserve need support. 

The Gallery below provides just a hint of the extradinary artwork contained in the original monument's boundries.

December 18, 2019 - No Comments!

Big News from Indonesia

There was big news from Indonesian earlier this month. A multinational team has identified the oldest known figurative paintings in the world on the island of Sulawesi. The new dates 44,000 years BP are in line -yet older- than other dates from Sulawesi and Borneo. In their paper in Nature Maxime Aubert has identified not just animals but therianthropes

“abstract beings that combine the qualities of both people and animals.”

(there is an excellent discussion of the article in Smithsonian)

Six humanoid figures with animal features surround an anoa, a small type of buffalo, in a 44,000-year-old Indonesian cave mural. (Ratno Sardi)

Therianthropes are incredibly rare in paleolithic cave art. The most famous example is the transforming bison from Chauvet made famous by Cave of Forgotten Dreams and there is a lesser-known anthropomorphic figure from Tito Bustillo in Spain.

A therianthrope figure in Tito Bustillo cave, Spain.

Aubert’s find further confirms that creativity and storytelling did not develop in Europe. Instead, it appears that they formed with us as our species developed in Africa.

It is our view at the Archive that the ability to make art is humanity’s first true innovation and that by the time our species expanded from Africa to rest of the world we had a complete artistic toolkit built into our psyche.

November 29, 2019 - No Comments!

Platinum Palladium Print

Master platinum-palladium printer and Guggenheim Grant winner Pradip Malde produced an exquisite, limited-edition print to support the Ancient Art Archive. Pradip and I chose a photograph of the Head of Sinbad rock art site on the San Rafael Swell in Central Utah for this print. The paintings are Barrier Canyon Style and thought to be between 2,000 and 4,000 years old. I shot the image this spring with Pradip’s printing in mind.

Platinum print by Pradip Malde, image by Stephen Alvarez
image size approximately 9" x 14"

April 23, 2019 - No Comments!

Cherokee Syllabary found in an Alabama Cave

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Cherokee syllabary in Manitou Cave near Fort Payne Alabama. The writing says "We are leaders of the ball team 1829 their month of April." Alan Cressler and Marion O. Smith discovered the writing.

Ancient Art Archive board member Jan Simek has published an article in Antiquity detailing Cherokee syllabary found in Manitou Cave, Alabama. The Cherokee were the only Native American group to develop an indigenous written language. Some of the first examples of the writing were found in Manitou cave by Alan Cressler and Marion O. Smith.

Sequoya's Son, Richard Guest's name along with Cherokee Syllabary in Manitou Cave, Fort Payne Alabama

Historic graffiti has long been known in Manatou and it was during a visit to the cave to look for historically significant signatures that Cressler and Smith first noticed what they thought could be Cherokee writing.

Lead author on the paper Beau Carol from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation quickly confirmed the writing's authenticity. The writing is associated with the time of Cherokee eviction from the Southeast at the beginning of the Trail of Tears.

Download a pdf of the Antiquity article here.

The Ancient Art Archive has been working to 3D model Manitou cave to both digitally preserve the writing and make it accessible. In some instances, the writing is in very hard to reach places or in one case backward as if it were written from inside the rock.

3D modeling is the ideal method to present the writing. Please help us continue this work with a donation.

March 5, 2019 - No Comments!

Good News for the San Rafael Swell

Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel on the San Rafael Swell

Those of you who have been following the Ancient Art Archive's work are familiar with our efforts to document Barrier Canyon Style (BCS) artworks. BCS is one of North America's most enigmatic and evocative styles. It is known, primarily from the San Rafael Swell of Central Utah.

In general conservation news has been bad in Utah for the past few years. Both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monuments were significantly reduced. However, last month a mammoth public lands bill passed both the House and Senate that will increase protections on many National Lands.

Among many other things the bill adds 660,000 acres of wilderness designation to Emery County Utah, home of much of the San Rafael Swell. You can read more here.

The Rochester Rock Art Panel in Emery County Utah
The Rochester Rock Art Panel in Emery County Utah

July 7, 2018 - No Comments!

New Ancient Art discovered in the Southern US

Stephen Alvarez works in one of the Unnamed Caves. Photo by Alan Cressler

The Ancient Art Archive has been very busy in the Southeast with the Unnamed Caves Initiative. The initiate brings to light significant Southern ceremonial cave art so that the deep art history of the region can be appreciated.

We have completed the initial documentation of what is one of the most significant art caves in the United States. Unnamed Cave 19 is located in the heart of the Southeast. Hundreds of feet of the cave’s ceiling are covered with faded but purposefully drawn 1,500-year-old figures.

The images are all but impossible to see standing in the cave but using high-tech 3D imaging we have brought art that was unknown back to life. The scale of the artwork is difficult to comprehend. There are life-sized anthropomorphic figures, full-sized bears, and birds, a 25-foot-long snake. It is truly a world class location.

Line drawings of figures identified on the ceiling of Unnamed Cave 19

The video below is a fly-through of the 3D model that the Archive has built. Line drawings of the art are superimposed on the ceiling to better visualize their position. This is a very preliminary video. There are thousands of engravings on the ceiling.

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September 26, 2017 - No Comments!

SCCi Grant

The Ancient Art Archive is happy to announce that we have received a grant from the Southeastern Cave Conservancy to work in one of their cave preserves.

The Archive will work closely with the Cherokee Historic Preservation office to build detailed 3-dimensional models of a Cherokee Syllabary site in the southeast.

Our hope is that the material will serve as the basis for educational and archival material that can be useful to both the Cherokee and landowner.

July 7, 2017 - No Comments!

Ancient Art Archive on Instagram!

The Ancient Art Archive launched and Instagram account! Humanity's newest social media platform seemed like the perfect place to Explore the Humanity's oldest stories. In the feed, we post images and videos from the Archive and also pictures from the field.

It is a great addition to our Facebook page. The stories we are recording on rock and cave walls around the planet are Humanity's first social media. These new platforms bring our first stories to a new audience.

Read more