Cave filled with Native American art was sold to an anonymous buyer

Missouri’s “Picture Cave” featuring Osage Nation art was auctioned off this week. KSDK / YouTube News

On Tuesday, Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers, a St. Louis-based auction company, sold a cave containing Native American artwork dating back more than 1,000 years to an anonymous buyer. The buyer paid $ 2.2 million for the Missouri Cave, which the auction company called “North America’s most significant rock art site.” The artwork in the cave includes nearly 300 prehistoric glyphs that indicate the meanings of words and sounds, as well as designs of mythical creatures, weapons, humans, and many other motifs. Current members of the Osage Nation, the Midwestern Native American tribe whose ancestors created rock art, are expressing devastation in response to the sale of the cave.

“Our ancestors lived in this region for 1,300 years,” the Osage Nation statement said; the tribe also said the sale was “really heartbreaking… It was our land. We have hundreds of thousands of our ancestors buried in Missouri and Illinois, including Picture Cave. It is unclear how such a clearly dedicated site became available on the auction block; the cave was sold along with the 43 acres of land surrounding it, and its future is currently uncertain.

“The auction of a sacred American Indian site really sends the wrong message,” said Carol Diaz-Granados, associate researcher at the University of Washington in St. Louis, who spent two decades making researching the cave with her husband. Associated press. “It’s like auctioning off the Sistine Chapel. You get stick figures at other rock art sites, or maybe a small feather on the top of your head, or a figure holding a weapon. But in Picture Cave you get clothing details, hairstyle details, feathers, weapons. It’s really unbelievable.

In terms of the care and exaltation of Native American art, the country still has a long way to go: just last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art hired its very first associate curator of Native American art.

Cave filled with Native American art was sold to an anonymous buyer

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