Wednesday, July 30, 2014 · 9:19 p.m.
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Cave drawings from a cave on the Cumberland Plateau. (Photo: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler and Nicholas Herrmann; MGNOnline)

Ancient pictographs on cave walls around East Tennessee have been documented for several years, but a new report found that the drawings are among the oldest examples of prehistoric rock art existing in the United States.

The drawings, many of which are located close to Chattanooga, are more than 6,000 years old. Findings of a "systematic field exploration" of the caves in Tennessee are reported in this month's issue of Antiquity, an archaeology journal.

Pictographs found in caves depict humans and animals, including birds, dogs and serpents. Locations for many of the caves are secret in order to protect the drawings.  

A report published by Discovery News earlier this month includes several photos of the pictographs. Jan Simek, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee; Sarah Sherwood, assistant professor of environmental studies at University of the South; and Nicholas Herrmann, a biological anthropologist at Mississippi State University; contributed to the study.

A high-resolution laser scanning of the drawings has also been conducted by RLS Group, a Chattanooga-based land survey and high-definition scanning company.

In 2011, Slate published excerpts of an essay on Tennessee's ancient cave art from the Paris Review. The report details Simek's exploration of caves along the Cumberland Plateau, which is where the bulk of dark-zone caves in the U.S. are located. 

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