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January 27, 2020 - No Comments!

January 2020 Newsletter

We are now two years old! So far, we’ve been working relatively quietly.  Developing technology.  Generating images.  Building relationships.  Testing ideas. 
Here is what we've been up to.  This quarterly newsletter will catch you up on our:

  • 3D modeling work for the Chickasaw Nation
  • Scouting and documenting rock art sites in the Western United States
  • The Launch of our vision for the Mural of America!

Thanks for being part of the Archive’s work.  To show our gratitude, everyone who receives this newsletter is automatically entered into a quarterly drawing to receive a signed 8.5 x 11” print.  Here’s this quarter’s shot:

King's Crown petroglyphs above Ferron, Utah part of our Mural of America project

Although only one person will win the drawing, there is a way you can guarantee you’ll get your hands on the print.  If you click here and donate $100 (or more!) to support the Archive’s work, we will send you the print as our thank you.  
Stephen Alvarez
Founder, Ancient Art Archive

Chickasaw Nation | Documenting Sacred Sites

Long prior to European Contact, the Chickasaw people established their homeland in an area that included parts of today’s Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  Under the U.S. federal government’s Indian Removal policy, the Chickasaw Nation was forced on the Trail of Tears to south-central Oklahoma in the 1830s.  Although the Nation has created new opportunities in its new homeland, origin stories passed down through the generations still refer to formative events that occurred in the Southeast. To reestablish their connection with their former homeland and protect ancestral sacred places, the Nation has been purchasing lands containing important sites in Alabama and Mississippi.  Even so, tribal members are still physically dislocated from these cultural assets, and most, including elders, have not been able to visit the sites in person. 

The Chickasaw Homeland in the Southern United States. For a description of the homeland from the Chickasaw Press go here.

n 2019, the Chickasaw Nation contracted with the University of Tennessee and the Ancient Art Archive to help address this challenge, hiring us to document, analyze, and model a sacred rock art site in their traditional homeland.  Working for the Chickasaw was an honor and allowed us to develop and refine documentation and 3D modeling techniques that enable people to virtually experience the sites in truly remarkable detail.  It also helped provide the Archive with a blueprint for how to work with descendant communities in other areas of the country – not just in consultation, but in cooperation and collaboration as well.

Using VR technology, we could provide the Nation with intellectual access and an incredibly realistic way to visit these places.  Because the Chickasaw Nation owns the site and purchased the rights to the images, we can’t share any specific photographs or video or the location of the site at this time, but we can share what it was like to present the story to the Chickasaws in their Oklahoma home.

Watching resource managers, elders, young people, artists, and other tribal members virtually experience the art related to their origin stories was a powerful experience.  Through technology, they got to see how the stories are written on the landscape in their ancient homeland.  As they watched, their faces lit up with dreams and ideas, and their animated conversations afterward reflected a renewed sense of connection to their past and to their community. We thank Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby for working to preserve and protect precious cultural resources even in the now far-distant traditional homeland so that Chickasaws can maintain the connection with their cultural heritage. 

This episode of Chickasaw TV shows a program that brings Chickasaw youth to the homeland for an extended exploration. The connection and emotions of that visit are palpable. We can help empower that connection through virtual reality modeling

National Geographic | Artwork in Western National Monuments

Pahranagat style anthropomorphic figure in the Basin and Range National Monument
Read more

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

Sign up for the Ancient Art Archive Newsletter here. You might also win a signed print.

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 of 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 Manitou 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 Carroll 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.

Go to the Manitou Cave of Alabama site HERE to find out what you can do to help preserve the important history inside the cave

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.

Please JOIN the Ancient Art Archive

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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.