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Join The Explorers Club on Monday, November 14th to learn about Ancient Native American Cave Art of the Southeast.
No one thinks of North America when they think about ancient cave art. But in 1979, a group of avocational cavers entered a narrow, wet stream passage south of Knoxville, Tennessee. They had to navigate a slippery pathway into the cave’s “dark zone” (beyond the reach of external light). On the walls around them, they began to see lines and figures traced into remnant mud banks laid down long ago when the stream flowed at this higher level.
The first ancient cave art site in North America had been rediscovered. After the “Mud Glyph Cave” discovery, systematic cave surveys were initiated. Today, 92 dark zone cave art sites have since been recorded in the American Southeast. With such a large sample of sites, researchers have been able to learn details about when southeastern cave art first appeared, when it was most frequently produced, and what it might have been used for. Researchers have also come to know more about variation in cave art production. Recently, new technologies have been employed to document these sites, leading to exciting discoveries of cave art produced in complex and sophisticated ways by the Native American makers of this tradition.
This will be an in-person lecture at Explorers Club Headquarters, and we are opening a number of tickets to guests.
In-person tickets are $15 for Members, and $30 for the General Public.
Check-in will begin at 6:00 pm, with a beer and wine reception from 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Jan Simek, Ph.D
An archaeologist with a Ph.D. in 1984 from the State University of New York at Binghamton, Dr. Jan Simek retired after 38 years at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2022.
Throughout his career, he has focused on ancient human use of caves for habitation, exploration, and religion. Since 1976, he has worked in southern France studying the relationships between Neanderthals and Modern Homo sapiens. He has excavated several deeply stratified Paleolithic cave sites in France as part of a thirty-year collaborative relationship between the University of Tennessee and the University of Bordeaux. In 1995, Dr. Simek became interested in prehistoric cave use in Tennessee and the South, and since then he has documented more than 90 prehistoric cave art sites in the region, representing the first cave art tradition ever discovered in North America. His research has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Ministry of Culture of France, the National Geographic Society, the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Leakey Foundation. Simek has published five books and more than 110 articles in journals and edited collections. In 2016, he was awarded The Chairman’s Award for Achievement in Historic Preservation from the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and in 2013 he received the inaugural Patty Jo Watson Award from the Southeast Archaeology Conference for the best publication on Southeastern prehistory. He won the Watson Award for a second time in 2020. Simek was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2013.
At the University of Tennessee, Dr. Simek is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Science in the Department of Anthropology. He has held a variety of administrative positions, including Head of Anthropology twice, Director of the School of Art, Interim Dean of the College of Architecture and Design, Chancellor’s Chief of Staff, and Interim Chancellor of the Knoxville campus from 2007-2008. From 2009-2011, he served as the 24th President of the University of Tennessee and was named President Emeritus by the Board of Trustees when he stepped down from that position. Dr. Simek was the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Macebearer for 2013, the highest faculty honor given by the University.
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