Professor who found oldest U.S. cave art says there's more

Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:27pm EDT
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By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Jan Simek, leader of the team that discovered the oldest known cave art in the United States, says he is far from finished.

The 60-year-old science professor at the University of Tennessee still plans to belly crawl through caves or climb atop bluffs in the hope of finding more art in his cave-rich state.

The Simek team's discovery of 6,000-year-old art in the Cumberland Plateau, a division of the Appalachian Mountains extending from southern West Virginia to northern Alabama, is featured in this month's issue of Antiquity, the archeological journal published by Britain's Durham University.

"Yes, we have cave art that is 6,000 years old," Simek said. "But we don't want to say it is the oldest rock art (in the United States)."

Simek told Reuters there might be ancient rock art in 400 or 500 of the 9,000 caves recorded in the limestone and sandstone bedrock of Tennessee.

His team has explored about 1,000 of them so far. "We are in the early stages of this, to be honest," he said.

Cave locations are kept secret because of concerns that looters could damage any archeological treasures that may be inside.

By global standards, 6,000-year-old cave art is still relatively youthful. Experts say the famous Paleolithic paintings in Lascaux, France, are as old as 20,000 years; other drawings found in Australia and southern Africa are believed to be older still.   Continued...

A 6,000 year-old pictograph showing what could be a human hunting is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the University of Tennessee, taken in a cave located in Tennessee. REUTERS/University of Tennessee/Handout via Reuters