Miriam Kramer, Staff Writer
Date: 27 June 2013 Time: 02:04 PM ET

This image is found on prehistoric, religious artifacts as well.
The image drawn in this black charcoal pictograph found in a Tennessee cave is also found on prehistoric, religious artifacts.
CREDIT: Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications LTD.

Some of the oldest art in the United States maps humanity’s place in the cosmos, as aligned with an ancient religion.

A team of scientists has uncovered a series of engravings and drawings strategically placed in open air and within caves by prehistoric groups of Native American settlers that depict their cosmological understanding of the world around them.

“The subject matter of this artwork, what they were drawing pictures of, we knew all along was mythological, cosmological,” Jan Simek, an archaeologist at the University of Tennessee said. “They draw pictures of bird men that are important characters in their origin stories and in their hero legends, and so we knew it was a religious thing and because of that, we knew that it potentially referred to this multitiered universe that was the foundation of their cosmology.” [See Photos of the Drawings and Engravings]

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