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6,000 Year-Old Rock Art Discovered in Tennessee


According to a new report published in the journal Antiquity, the oldest collection of prehistoric rock and cave art has been discovered in Alabama, providing new insights into ancient Native American societies 6,000 years ago. 

A global phenomenon, rock art is found in many different regions of the world, having been produced in many different contexts throughout human history, although the majority of rock art that has been ethnographically recorded has been produced as a part of ritual.

Some of the art discovered in Tennessee was composed of shallow lines made with a fine pointed tool depicting everyday events such as hunting, while others represented their spiritual and mythological beliefs which would have been passed on via word of mouth. The rock art preserves what would have otherwise been lost to history.

“Human images are often shown in activities suggesting heroic or ceremonial action, flying, transforming into animal shapes or reaching through the rock surface” explained Co-Author Nick Herrmann of Mississippi State University.

The authors believe that the art was used as way of mapping “their conceptual universe onto the natural world in which they lived” and often contains representations in three dimensions – upper (celestial in nature), middle (plants and animals) and lower (darkness, death and danger).  For example, scorpions with their painful stings, appear to have been part of the Native American vision of the “lower world” and were therefore found deep in the caves and not in the upper “celestial” area.  

Scholars continue to examine the art in attempt to unravel more information about how our ancient ancestors lived and what they believed in.

Featured image: Rock art found in Alabama. Credit: Alan Cressler / Flickr

By April Holloway



angieblackmon's picture

i'm super interested to know what part of TN this was found in. I'm currently in Nashville and my hubby and I would love to do some exploring! :) We went on a nice little 4 mile hike this weekend and suspect some of the areas we were in were mounds or some sort...i suppose they could possibly be left over from the civil war, but some were long snake like mounds...pretty cool.

love, light and blessings


aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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