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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June 24, 2018 - No Comments!

A nearly 1 million year old hominid fossil in Europe

A recent study of a hominid tooth found in the Atapuerca Mountains of Spain has confirmed through direct dating that the fossilized remains are nearly 1 million years old. The dating estimate is between 750,000 and 950,000 years before present. It is consistent with sediment deposits at the site but represents the first direct date from a hominid that old.

The ESR dating and challenges are explained in Phys.org here.

The Atapuerca Mountains have continued to yield very interesting clues about the first hominid inhabitants of Europe. While this new discovery confirms previous associated dates it is exciting in that it opens up the possibility that there will be other direct dates from Hominid fossils both in and out of Europe.

 

March 26, 2018 - No Comments!

The story of human evolution is written in ochre

Mixing ochre paint under a tree in Omungunda Namibia.

"Smeared on shells, piled in graves, stamped and stenciled on cave walls from South Africa to Australia, Germany to Peru, ochre has been a part of the human story since our very start — and perhaps even earlier.

For decades, researchers believed the iron-rich rocks used as pigment at prehistoric sites had symbolic value. But as archaeologists turn up evidence of functional uses for the material, they’re realizing early humans’ relationship with ochre is more complex."

read more in Discover Magazine here

March 24, 2018 - No Comments!

New light on human evolution

New light on human evolution

Groundbreaking research puts human evolution in a new perspective as significant archaeological findings reveals sign of modern human behavior 300 000 years ago.

"This discovery suggests that the earliest African Homo sapiens populations were already cognitively, socially and technologically complex", says Francesco d’Errico. He is a professor at UiB and Principal Investigator at the Centre for Early Sapiens Behavior (SapienCE). He is also part of the international team behind the remarkable findings in Kenya, and one of the co-authors of the article that has been published in Science, covering these discoveries.

Sophisticated early life

It is not every day that investigators stumble over findings that can change the understanding of human history, but these particular discoveries may be just one of these great moments. Francesco d’Errico is not denying the fact that these discoveries are significant.

Continue Reading on UIB.NO

March 1, 2018 - No Comments!

Oldest Paintings in the World now over 65,000 years old

Gallery C of La Pasiega cave in Monte Castillo.

The big news this week in Anthropology is that a species besides humans seems to have painted. Dirk Hoffman and Allistair Pike have published an article in the journal Science that dates the paintings to well over 65,000 years ago. That is 25,000 years older than previously dated art from Spain and Indonesia.

65,000 years ago the only known species that could have made the paintings are Neanderthals. The dates come from three caves widely separated in Spain. This is a stunning development in the world of art history. Hoffman and Pike explain their results in the video below.

You can reach the Science article here.

In this video from National Geographic shot in 2014 Allistair Pike discusses his belief that Neanderthals could have made art.

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!