O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri cave containing Native American artwork dating back more than 1,000 years was sold at auction Tuesday. This disappointed leaders of Osage Nation, who hoped to acquire the land to protect and preserve their most sacred site.
Private owners paid $2.2 million for the “Picture Cave” and 43 acres surrounding it, which is located 60 miles (97 km) west of St. Louis.
Bryan Laughlin of Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers (a St. Louis-based company handling the auction), said that the winning bidder declined the offer to be named. The land has been owned by a St. Louis family since 1953. They have mainly used it to hunt.
The cave was used to perform sacred rituals or bury the dead. According to the auction site, the cave also includes more than 290 hieroglyphic symbols (or sounds or meanings) that were used by prehistoric glyphs.
Carol Diaz-Granados was opposed to the sale because of this. James Duncan, her husband spent 20 years researching the cave, and she wrote a book about it. Duncan is a scholar of Osage oral histories, while Diaz-Granados works as a research associate in Washington University’s Anthropology department.
Diaz-Granados stated that auctioning off sacred American Indian sites sends the wrong message. It’s like selling the Sistine Chapel.
In a statement, the Osage Nation called the sale “truly sad.”
The statement stated that “our ancestors lived here for 1300 years.” “This was our land. We have thousands of our ancestors buried all over Missouri and Illinois, including Picture Cave.
This cave contains drawings of animals, mythical creatures, and people. Diaz-Granados claimed that many methods were used in creating the art. Drawings were made from charred botanical material. One depiction of a mythical creature was created by the artist using charred botanical material.
Diaz-Granados claimed that the Missouri cave is unique among other sites with ancient drawings due to its intricate details.
She said that other sites have stick figures, one feather on the head or a weapon-wielding figure. Picture Cave gives you actual clothing details, headdress details and feathers as well as weapons. It’s amazing.
The drawings are at least 1,000 years old. Texas A&M analytical chemists used pigment samples many years ago.
Laughlin also said that the cave has a different history. European explorers made a visit to the cave in the 1700s. They wrote names and the names of crew members and the name of the captain on the walls. It is also home to Indiana gray bats, which are protected year round.
Laughlin stated that there are many reasons to believe that the cave will be protected and respected. Selkirk has vetted potential buyers, he stated.
The law is also important.
Missouri Revised Statute 194.410 provides that anyone or entity who “knowingly disturbs or destroys, vandalizes or damages a marked human burial site or its unmarked counterparts commits a class-D felony.” It is also a crime to profit from cultural objects obtained from the site, according to the statute.
Finally, the location.
It is not possible to drive up to the cave in a car. Laughlin stated that you have to trek through the woods to reach higher ground and then enter through a 3-foot by 3-foot opening.
Diaz-Granados hopes that the new owner will give it to the Osage Nation.
She stated, “That’s the cave of their people.” “That’s their sacred shrine. It should be returned to them.”