It’s a three-meter-long rattlesnake. What is it? It is the longest cave painting in the USA. The unprecedented image is more than 1,000 years old.
Researchers from the University of Tennessee found it. It happened in a cave located in Alabama, southern USA. Both the ceiling and the walls of the cave had these images that were made by mud. Archaeologists believe that the image represents spirits of the underworld. In the cave there are hundreds of cave paintings.
The team of scientists used photogrammetry. What is it? It is a technique that consists of taking hundreds of digital images to build a virtual 3D model. This is how they detected five previously unknown giant cave paintings, known as glyphs.
“This methodology allows us to create a virtual model of the space that we can manipulate. Here the ceiling of the cave is very close to the ground. Therefore, your field of view is limited by its proximity to the ceiling. We never saw these images, we couldn’t go far enough back to see them,” said the study’s first author, Jan Simek.
The glyph that holds the record for being the longest painting-at three meters-has a diamond pattern. It would represent a diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). It is a creature considered sacred by the indigenous peoples of the southeastern United States.
For these native peoples, caves were considered routes to the underworld. “So far, we haven’t had any big figures from this area. And that changes our perspective on what might be in these caves,” Simek said.
The longest cave painting in the U.S. is one of many in the western United States. Many glyphs are not found in caves.
The team hopes to continue the study with photogrammetry technique. They will reveal what else the cave hides from 5 kilometers of subway passages with most of the paintings discovered in a large chamber.