Cave paintings divulge prehistoric timeline
- Mayan-style art - Mississipppi A Missouri cave wall
Cave paintings divulge prehistoric timelineBy MICHAEL GIBNEY
COLUMBIA | The story begins, as many do, with curiosity.
About 20 years ago, two men exploring a place known as Picture Cave found paintings on the rock walls and sent hand-drawn reproductions to archaeologists Jim Duncan and Carol Diaz-Granados.
As it turned out, the nature and location of the drawings contradicted widely held beliefs about Mississippian culture.
The figures on the walls of the cave in east-central Missouri now provide crucial details of the prehistoric timeline of the region. According to archaeological records, the Mississippian Period saw the creation of some of the first large towns and city centers north of Mexico. The conventional belief has been that this period started around 1,050 A.D., but the drawings in Picture Cave indicate the period began earlier and in a different location.
The husband-and-wife team of Duncan and Diaz-Granados has investigated the drawings for years.
The rock paintings at Picture Cave depict cultural beliefs of more than a thousand years ago, and possibly represent the earliest account of the Mississippian Period...
Although he said the cave is in eastern Missouri near the Missouri River, he would not give details of its location...
To Duncan, the paintings showed evidence of American Indians of many tribes converging for religious purposes in what is now Missouri.
Duncan thinks the significance of the drawings might be on par with the Cahokia Mounds, a U.N. World Heritage Site in Illinois that has been studied for centuries in an effort to understand American Indian culture.
Duncan is convinced the drawings in Picture Cave were made by the same people who constructed the Cahokia site.
Linking these two areas could reveal much about the period and its people, he said.
A specialist hired by Duncan and Diaz-Granados analyzed tiny amounts of organic matter in the paint and dated them to 975 to 1,025 A.D. One drawing was dated to 800 A.D.
These images, which are very sophisticated and very complex in representing supernatural beings, turned out to be older than the Cahokia Mounds, Duncan said.
Bill Iseminger, assistant site manager of Cahokia Mounds, said the artwork at Picture Cave could push back a little earlier the continuity of prehistory in the region.