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Jan Simek, professor of anthropology, underground in the 68th Unnamed Cave next to cave drawings.

In 1980, a group of recreational cavers discovered the first ancient cave art site in North America in the dark zones of caves located south of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Simek poses for a headshot in a brown blazer.

Since this discovery, archaeologists have found dozens of cave art sites in the Southeast. They have been able to learn details about when cave art first appeared in the region, when it was most frequently produced, and how it might have been used. Archaeologists have also learned a great deal by working with the living descendants of the cave art makers about what the cave art means and how important it was, and is, to Indigenous communities.

Jan Simek, professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, explained the history and importance of this form of art for The Conversation. Read the full article on The Conversation’s website.

UT is a member of The Conversation—an independent source for news articles and informed analysis written by the academic community and edited by journalists for the general public. Through our partnership, we seek to provide a better understanding of the important work of our faculty.


Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375,