Discover the largest cave painting in North America, with 3D advanced technology such as snakes and spirits | National Geographic Japan version site

A life-sized human mural carved in a cave (supplementing the black line). One of the largest cave paintings in the United States found in the “19th Anonymous Cave” in Alabama. The caves are called by number to prevent grave robbers and amateur cave explorers from entering here and damaging the murals. (PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN ALVAREZ; ILLUSTRATION BY JAN SIMEK)

Deep in a dark limestone cave in Alabama, USA, the largest cave painting in North America was found. More than 1000 years ago, the spirits and life-sized creatures carved on the ceiling by relying on the light of the torch are so unclear and huge that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, but they are also one of the largest rock paintings in North America.

According to a paper published in the academic journal “Antiquity” on May 4, a technique called 3D photogrammetry was used for this discovery. Using this technology developed in the world of surveying and topographical surveys, such as revealing terrain from aerial photographs, researchers are hidden beneath the “19th Unnamed Cave” in the southeastern United States. I was looking for a mural. The location of the cave has not been revealed so that the murals will not be damaged or destroyed by grave robbers and cave exploration enthusiasts.

Jean Simek, the lead author of the paper and archaeologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee, has previously investigated the “19th Anonymous Cave.” In a first study in 1998, Simek and co-author of the paper, Alan Cressler, said that the mural-painted ceiling had spread to pre-European colonization in North America, “prehistoric art. The southernmost example. “

In this survey, we discovered more murals by using 3D models. It is a place where it has been thought that there are no huge rock paintings, and all of them cannot be seen with the naked eye. The ceiling of the cave is very low and you have to crouch or lie down to see the mural. The ancient creators who painted the murals would have taken the same attitude.

“There were thousands of carvings on the ceiling,” said photographer and co-author Stephen Alvarez.

And researchers believe that many other caves should have similar murals.

Interest in “people who were once there”

Mural paintings by fearless ancient artists slept for 1000 years before being discovered. The situation in which those murals were painted and the situation in which they were discovered were harsh.

A photo of a mural of a person who came in a ceremonial costume (left). An illustration superimposed on a photo (center). The illustration itself (right). Even if you lie down on the ground of the cave, you cannot see the whole figure that is over 180 cm tall.  (PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN ALVAREZ; ILLUSTRATION BY JAN SIMEK)

A photo of a mural of a person who came in a ceremonial costume (left). An illustration superimposed on a photo (center). The illustration itself (right). Even if you lie down on the ground of the cave, you cannot see the whole figure that is over 180 cm tall. (PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN ALVAREZ; ILLUSTRATION BY JAN SIMEK)

According to Simek, a leading cave painting artist in the southeastern United States, the “19th Anonymous Cave” is a dark and damp cave with a total length of about 5 kilometers, and the height of the passage where the mural paintings that can be seen with the naked eye are particularly concentrated. It’s about 60 centimeters.

The cave environment is “sometimes very unpleasant,” admits Simek. “I go to the cave not because I like it, but because there are discoveries there.”

Next page: Largest snake picture photo and 3D model video

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