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Discovering ancient cave art using 3D photogrammetry: pre-contact Native American mud glyphs from 19th Unnamed Cave, Alabama

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 May 2022

Jan F. Simek*
Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, USA
Stephen Alvarez
Ancient Art Archive, Sewanee, USA
Alan Cressler
Independent Researcher, Atlanta, USA
*Author for correspondence ✉


Since 1979, when the first cave art was documented in North America, dozens of other examples have come to light. Among these, 19th Unnamed Cave in Alabama contains hundreds of pre-contact Native American mud glyph drawings. In 2017, 3D modelling of the glyphs was initiated, ultimately enabling digital manipulation of the chamber space and revealing images that could not be perceived prior to modelling. Most surprisingly, the cave's ceiling features very large anthropomorphic glyphs that are not apparent in situ due to the tight confines of the cave. We argue that photogrammetry offers untapped potential for not simply the documentation but also the discovery of a variety of archaeological phenomena.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd.

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