North America's largest cave drawings discovered in Alabama
The drawings are over 2,000 years old and are of high importance to Native Americans in the Southeast.
According to a study by Jan Simek, Stephen Alvarez, and Alan Cressler, the largest cave drawings in North America have been discovered in Alabama, as per Antiquities, an archaeology journal.
Five large figures were discovered: Three anthropomorphs, or human-like figures, in addition to one swirling, enigmatic figure and a snake, which is thought to be most likely a diamondback rattlesnake that was of great importance to the indigenous peoples in the Southeast at the time.
The smallest among the figures is about 1.2m, whereas the largest figure, the snake, is about 3m long - the largest cave drawing in North America.
However, it is unknown what the discovered figures mean to the Native inhabitants, who were living in the area - Middle Woodland - some 2,000 years ago. Many would've been able to discover, guide, and decipher the drawings if the natives weren't killed off by White settlers.
The scholars, in the article, said, “They are not recognisable characters from ethnographically recorded Southeast Native American stories, nor from archaeologically known iconographic materials."
“They do, however, share certain themes with other known regional rock art, such as anthropomorphs wearing regalia, rattlesnakes and symbolic emergence from rock. Thus, they probably depict characters from previously unknown religious narratives.”
Native Americans of the American Southeast, as written by the researchers, perceived caves as portals into the underworld - the figures, perhaps, could be representations of spirits.
The discovery was made thanks to 3D photogrammetry, which is a technique where content is extracted in 3D rendering from a photograph. The technique was never used to find unseen drawings; however, researchers believe that the use of this technology can unlock more discoveries.
The cave was discovered in 1998, and it has very low ceilings - to view the drawings in the cave, one has to lie down.
The figures, invisible to the naked eye, appeared just when the ceiling was mapped out.
“They are so large that the makers had to create the images without being able to see them in their entirety,” the scholars wrote.
“Thus, the makers worked from their imaginations, rather than from an unimpeded visual perspective.”