Cave Paintings Dating to 6000 Years Ago Depict Otherworldly Beings and a Permeable, Layered Cosmological Map
Christina Sarich, Staff Writer
Recent findings by archaeologists stretching from Tennessee to the Mississippi, from the Kentucky line down to Alabama, have unearthed over 44 open air rock face paintings and 50 cave paintings ranging in age from 500 to 6000 years old using carbon dating and specialized equipment like laser-scanners. The paintings pre-date the Southwestern American Indians and artfully depict their understanding of the Universe. Some archaeologists believe these paintings were drawn to reveal a cosmological puzzle.
Professor Jan Simek, who led the archaeological teams that studied these paintings, says, “The cosmological divisions of the universe were mapped onto the physical landscape using the relief of the Cumberland Plateau as a topographic canvas.”
Scattered across the Cumberland Plateau, a portion of the Appalachian Mountains, are drawings created by pre-historic people depicting possible shamanic journeys into other realms. One 14th century cave painting found in Tennessee, for example, illustrates a standing bird with arms and hands grasping ceremonial weapons with blades and axes coming from its face.
Other beings are depicted with less aggressive postures. “The art sites, predominantly found in caves, feature otherworldly characters, supernatural serpents and dogs that accompanied dead humans on the path of souls,” the archaeologists tell us. The images of the ‘lower world’ are also principally painted in black, a color associated with death. Many of these images may correspond to Tibetan depictions of the afterlife, called bardo. Death is not seen as a final destination by this culture, but an important opportunity for spiritual development.
The lower world was depicted by darkness and peril and was associated with death, transformation and renewal. The inclusion of creatures such as birds and fish that could cross the three layers represents the belief that the boundaries between the worlds were indeed permeable.
In the drawings of the ‘upper world’, there were detailed celestial bodies and forces responsible for weather depicted as mythic characters, which influenced the human experience. Many of the upper world images are drawn in red, which is associated with life.
The world in between the darker, death realms and the upper world were primarily animals, plants and people primarily of secular character, with the absence of mythical creatures or odd animal/human mixes.
Overall, the paintings depict a rich understanding of a multi-layered universe with experiences of the hero, the savior, the shaman, and the evolving soul.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.
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