February 26, 2018 - No Comments!

Unnamed Caves

 

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

February has been a very busy month for the Ancient Art Archive. In addition to modeling a Cherokee Syllabary cave, we have been hard at work on the Unnamed Caves project. The Unnamed Caves refers to board member Jan Simek's 30 years of work documenting the rock and cave art of the Southern Cumberland Plateau. When he started the work cave art was unknown in the region. Today he has over 100 sites. They are called the Unnamed Caves not because they lack names but to protect the sites by keeping them anonymous.

With a grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation, we have begun working in one of the most complex unnamed caves. This site has over 100 meters of finely traced mud glyphs on the ceiling. Most of them are so faint as to be almost invisible to the naked eye. However, using a 3D modeling technique called photogrammetry we can make these difficult to see drawings visible. The technique is the very definition of painstaking. We shoot thousands of high resolution, overlapping images of the cave then use computer software to triangulate each pixel is three-dimensional space. We are six thousand images into the project with another six thousand to go.

So far the results have been spectacular. In proof of concept modeling, we have already uncovered images that are unknown in Southeastern iconography. The drawings come from the middle woodland period (200 BCE-500 CE). This is a time that we don't know a lot about in the Southern Cumberland Plateau. This cave may represent the most complete set of iconography from that era.

Please join the Ancient Art Archive and help support our work exploring and preserving humanity's oldest stories.

 

February 13, 2018 - No Comments!

Cherokee Syllabary

The Cherokee were the only Native American group to have a written language. It was developed by Sequoyah in the early 1800s. In the years immediately after adoption, 80% of the Cherokee population became literate. That is a literacy rate that the US has barely beaten today. Some of the first examples of Syllabary are preserved inside caves in the Cherokee homeland along what is now the I-59 corridor on the Georgia-Alabama state lines. The Ancient Art Archive has been working with the SCCi to build a 3D model of this particular chamber. The hope is that the model will serve as the basis for a VR experience that will let disparate members of the Cherokee Nations virtually visit this place and see the words that their ancestors wrote on this cave wall. The cave has been heavily visited in the past and modern graffiti covers the earlier Cherokee writing.

photo by Alan Cressler
Stephen Alvarez shoots in the Cherokee Syllabary section of an unnamed Southeastern Cave

After building the 3D model the Ancient Art Archive will digitally remove the modern graffiti to virtually restore the chamber to how the Cherokee left it in the early 1800s. The cave is owned and administered by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy. With the help of the Cherokee Nation, they have gated this chamber to protect the writing.

The SCCi has given the Ancient Art Archive an initial grant to begin the modeling. However, we are looking for funds to do the VR buildout and digital cleaning. Please JOIN the Ancient Art Archive and help with our mission to explore and preserve humanity's stories as they are told on rock and cave walls across the planet.

February 7, 2018 - No Comments!

Procession Panel, San Juan County Utah

Last Spring the Ancient Art Archive spent a couple weeks in Utah recording sites in the new Bears Ears National Monument. Here is an updated version of one of the panels we visited. The Procession panel has 179 human-like figures that seem to be centered around a circle. It is an incredible piece of artwork.

 

December 12, 2017 - No Comments!

The Dogs of Saudi Arabia first images of domesticated dogs

A rock art panel from Saudi Arabia may well be the oldest record of domesticated dogs. Maria Guagnin has been working on engravings in the Shuwaymis Hills of northwestern Saudi Arabia. She has cataloged over 1400 images from the region including what may be dogs on a leash. This article in Science lays out her work.

Rock art is notoriously hard to date, but if her dates are accurate these engravings are likely 8,000 - 9,000 years old. That edges out Iranian depictions of mans best friend by 1,000 years.

 

October 31, 2017 - No Comments!

We’ve been building a cave

October has been a busy month for the Ancient Art Archive!

We've been working largely behind the scenes on technology and capacity building. We are closing in on the ability to provide immersive, 3D environments. To that end, we built a cave. Or at least part of a virtual one. The model below has the actual sounds recorded from the cave.

The model itself is built with 1200 individual images and represents about 900 feet of passage inside the cave.

We will soon begin working on a site in Georgia with Cherokee Syllabary writing inside. Part of the audio in that cave will be the spoken words.

Stay Tuned!

October 11, 2017 - No Comments!

Deep Time Explained

Time is one of the hardest concepts to wrap your head around. People have been on the earth for about 300,000 years. For almost all of that time, we've been hunter-gatherers. But how long has the Earth been here?

NPR's Skunk Bear does a great job of helping us visualize Earth's history and our place in it.

The video is below and the original post is here.

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.

September 2, 2017 - No Comments!

Limited Edition Chauvet Portfolio to support the Ancient Art Archive

I have selected 12 images for a portfolio of prints to help support the Ancient Art Archive. Each image is limited to 12 prints each. Once they are sold there will be no more. The images are approximately 21" x 33" on 2 x 4-foot paper.

Go here to see all the images and purchase.

I'll be showing six of these prints in Oxford next month as part of a lecture at the
Saïd Oxford Business School on September 13. The talk is free but registration is required. Go here for details.

-Stephen Alvarez

August 14, 2017 - No Comments!

September 12 talk in London

LISTEN TO HUMANITY'S OLDEST STORIES

Countless tales are hidden in our ancestors' oldest caves. National Geographic Explorer & Photographer Stephen Alvarez is hosting a one-day talk and photo exhibit, and would like you to join him on a journey back in time to our ancestor’s prehistoric lives.

"A Private Audience & Photo Exhibition by Stephen Alvarez"

Date: 12th Sept 2017, 6.30pm

Venue: Zuleika Gallery 3rd Floor, 6 Mason’s Yard, St James’s, London SW1Y 6BU

Tickets: here, proceeds benefit the Ancient Art Archive.