3D Laser Scanning Services Lead To Discovery Of Largest Native American Cave Art On Record

Uncovering History

While using 3D laser scanning services technology and modeling, archaeologists discovered the art while mapping an unnamed cave in Alabama.

Although the cave itself was first discovered in 1998, it was kept confidential and hidden from the public for years to protect a Native American cave art site known to be one of the riches in North America.

While exploring the cave, archaeologists utilized 3D scanning technology to help with mapping and the conservation and management of the cave site. Recent advancements in 3D scanning services and the abilities of the scanning equipment have provided researchers with a wealth of data far beyond photographs. 

How The Archaeologists Used The 3D Laser Scanning Services

The 3D scanners create a 3-dimensional model that scientists and researchers can continue to conduct numerous analyses and discoveries. For example, by adjusting the light settings of the model, the slight indention of previously unknown anthropomorphic glyphs was revealed, where the visible colors have long since faded. 

Within the network of glyphs that were discovered, researchers uncovered what at one time was a 3-meter-long drawing of a Diamondback Rattlesnake. Since this is the largest rattlesnake in the Americas and a sacred animal of the area’s indigenous people, the discovery with the help of a 3D laser scan showed how important this particular cave must have been to the Native Americans in the area.

Along with using 3D scanners, the research team was also able to determine the site was over 1,000 years old and was first visited sometime during the first millennium AD. This time period was during a pivotal transition time for the indigenous peoples of the area, as a forager and nomadic lifestyles were replaced by farming and long-term settlements. 

3D scanning employed during archaeology research has confirmed theories that these groups of Native Americans spent considerable time and effort modifying the landscape around them and incorporating their spiritual guidance and beliefs. In addition, 3D scanning has helped researchers with discoveries in other regions. 

In other areas in the southeastern region, large mounds were built as symbols of the ascent of spirits to an upper world, while caves, also sacred spaces, were the opposite and pathways to the underworld. In both sites, the glyphs and drawings uncovered by 3D scanners help researchers confirm theories that have long been simply hypotheses. 

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