A secret buyer paid $2.2m for a cavern of ancient Native American artwork at an auction on Tuesday, outranking a tribe that wanted to preserve the “sacred site”.
The American Indian tribe Osage Nation, whose ancestral domain included much of Oklahoma, said in a statement that the sale was “truly heartbreaking.”
“Our ancestors lived in this area for 1,300 years,” the statement said. “This was our land. We have thousands of our ancestors buried throughout Missouri and Illinois, including Picture Cave. “
The bidder, who sought anonymity, purchased Picture Cave, a 43-acre mountain property near the town of Warrenton, Missouri, said Brian Laughlin, director of Selkirk Auctions and Appraisers.
Carol Diaz-Granados and her husband James Duncan, who spent 20 years researching the cave and writing a book about it, also opposed the auction.
“The auction of a sacred American Indian site really sends the wrong message,” said Ms. Diaz-Granados, a research associate at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like auctioning off the Sistine Chapel.”
The caves were used primarily for hunting by a St. Louis family who had owned the land since 1953.
The caves in Missouri contain the largest collection of polychrome paintings of indigenous peoples with more than 290 prehistoric glyphs, or hieroglyphic symbols, used to represent sounds or meanings. According to the auction website, the cave was the site of sacred rituals and burials.
The cave also contained images of people, animals, birds and mythological creatures.
Ms Diaz-Granados said burnt vegetable material was used to make the picture. “You find stick figures in other rock art sites, or maybe a small feather on the top of the head, or a figure holding a weapon,” she said. “But in Picture Cave, you get the actual clothing details, the headdress details, the wings, the weapons. It’s really wonderful.”
Pigment samples from the artwork were found to be at least 1,000 years old by analytical chemists from Texas A&M.
But the cave has an even older history, according to Mr Laughlin, in the 1700s, when European explorers visited the site. The walls of the cave reportedly bear the names of the captains and crew members of the ships.
Although concerns were being expressed over the preservation and protection of the site, Mr Laughlin said he believed the cave would be respected as before as his firm examined buyers.
He also cited local laws. According to Missouri Revised Statutes 194.410, any person or entity that “intentionally disturbs, destroys, sabotages, or damages any marked or unmarked human burial site is a Class D felony.” Is.” The law also makes it a felony to profit from cultural items obtained from the site.
He said the site was difficult to reach, which would further help in protecting the cave. “You can’t take a vehicle and just drive up to the cave,” said Mr. Laughlin. “You really have to trek through the woods to higher ground and go through a 3-foot-by-3-foot opening that is secured to the Missouri Historical Society with a steel bar.”
However, Ms Diaz-Granados is still hoping that the new owner will donate the cave to the Osage Nation. “That’s their cave,” she said. “This is their holy temple, and it must be returned to them.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Native American