Discovering the wonders of ancient cave art

Photo by Stephen Alvarez (Stephen Alvarez)

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Stephen Alvarez, a National Geographic photographer and founder of the Ancient Art Archive, has spent years documenting ancient rock art around the world. He recently spent months photographing the images in one cave in the Cumberland Plateau with 2,000-year old engravings — and then created a 3-D model of the art. With images stretching over a quarter acre on the cave ceiling, it’s one of the largest expanses of rock art in North America. This is one of the "unnamed caves" in the Cumberland Plateau — so-called to conceal the location and protect the fragile art.

Stephen Alvarez recently took Steve Paulson on a 10-mile hike to see this cave, where they talked about the primal role of art in human history — and the people who once lived there.