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A Mississippian Period Ritual Cave in Tennessee

Charles H. Faulkner, Bill Deane and Howard H. Earnest, Jr.
American Antiquity
Vol. 49, No. 2 (Apr., 1984), pp. 350-361
DOI: 10.2307/280023
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/280023
Page Count: 12
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A Mississippian Period Ritual Cave in Tennessee
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Abstract

Trailed and incised drawings on the mud-covered walls of an East Tennessee cave have been identified as the artwork of Mississippian Indians who visited this sanctuary about 800 years ago. These unique drawings, called "mud glyphs" because of their similarity to certain petroglyphs found in the southeastern United States, include abstract designs, symbols, zoomorphic forms and anthropomorphic figures. Symbols such as the forked eye and the "bird-man" anthropomorphic representation correlate with six radiocarbon dates on torch charcoal that range between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries A.D. The occurrence of thousands of superimposed elements on the walls indicates that Mud Glyph cave was a Mississippian period sanctuary and further suggests that certain southeastern caves during this period were used for ritual activities rather than for mining as they were during earlier Woodland and Archaic times.

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