A recent advance in 3D imaging techniques helped spark the biggest ever discovery of North American cave art.
“Three of the previously unseen images were human-like beings dressed in regal garments, drawn from cross-stitched patterns. One figure seems to be wearing a sash, while another holds out a hand. Among these anthropomorphic etchings were two enigmatic glyphs. One depicts a complex figure with twisting and curving lines. The researchers think it may represent a serpent. The other figure has a rounded top that tapers into a torso with a tail. It has six parallel lines at its head and diamond patterns that resemble the body of the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, an animal endemic to the American southeast and sacred to indigenous people. In this image, the glyph adjoins a natural fissure in the ceiling, suggesting that this serpent is emerging from the rock.
Measuring about 11 feet from head to tail, this figure is the largest in the cave. In fact, it is the largest cave art ever discovered in North America. Though some rock art figures approach its size, such as the Barrier Canyon Style images of Utah or the ancient murals in Baja California, researchers had not suspected that such large images existed underground in the American southeast.
Regalia, rattlesnakes, and symbolic emergence from stone are themes shared with other ancient art in the region. However, the mysterious figures are not recognizable from recorded stories. They probably depict characters from unknown religious narratives in the Middle Woodland, adding to our understanding of Native American history and culture.”