Native American cave art identified in Alabama

Glyphs including a serpent amd anthropomorphic figures wearing regalia were revealed using photogrammetry.

Photogrammetry has helped archaeologists in the United States to identify large-scale pre-contact Native American cave art at a site where low ceilings and tight spaces hinder visibility.

IMAGE: A Cressler / Antiquity Publications Ltd.

As researchers Jan F Simek, Stephen Alvarez, and Alan Cressler write in Antiquity (https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2022.24), 19th Unnamed Cave, Alabama, has been known to contain cave art since 1998, but digital imagery has led to the discovery of bigger glyphs incised into the sediment coatings on its ceiling.

With photogrammetry, many photographs are taken that then allow researchers to build a digital 3D model.

Using their model of the cave, the researchers could digitally ‘lower’ the cave view to get a wider view of the ceiling, revealing larger glyphs, including a serpent (possibly a diamondback rattlesnake, sacred to South-east Indigenous people) over 3.3m-long and anthropomorphic figures wearing regalia. Even their makers would not have been able to see the images in their entirety.