Archives for February 2018

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.