Archaeologists have announced the discovery of “ghostly” drawings in the 19th unnamed cave in the state of Alabama in the southeastern United States.
According to a report in the magazine antiquity On May 4th, the giant carvings — known as glyphs — were among the largest cave carvings in North America. Some are over 6 feet long, including one depicting a 12-foot rattlesnake and four characters in odd costumes.
The team, which includes archaeologist Jan Simek and photographers Stephen Alvarez and Alan Cressler, say they still don’t fully understand the true nature of the drawings, but they may depict spirits because ancient tribes often considered caves sacred places like pathways to them viewed the underworld.
“We know that Native Americans have certain religious beliefs over a very large area. They believe in spirit worlds even though they can’t see them,” Simek said.
The new discovery could provide a deeper understanding of the symbolic art created by indigenous tribes before they were exposed to other cultures.
In order to photograph and reproduce the high quality drawings, the team had to overcome a seemingly simple but technically challenging problem: the cave ceiling was too close to the ground while the glyphs are large.
“The images are too blurry!” Alvarez said insider. The team then had to use high-tech 3D photometry, which allows minute-shifting light values between two images taken a few centimeters apart, to draw accurate 3D models of the object.
The team says they spent a month taking more than 16,000 individual photos to get a full view of the cave’s ceiling. It was very tiring work. “I had to kneel and bend down for hours every day,” Alvarez added.
The style of the glyphs depicting the man in the unnamed Cave Number 19 in Alabama is reminiscent of carvings found in the Midwest and Western United States. They are very tall with square shoulders, hoods and elaborate costumes that look spooky. However, these drawings represent the inhabitants of the supernatural world.
Despite this, the study authors could not connect the Alabama glyphs to any recognizable characters recorded in Native American histories of the southeastern United States. “They represent a character or a group of characters that we’ve never seen before,” Simek pointed out.
Doan Duong (Corresponding insider)