A data Missouri cave containing Native American artwork from over 1,000 years ago was auctioned on Tuesday, Disappointing Osage Nation leaders who hoped to buy the land to "protect and preserve our most sacred site.
A bidder agreed to pay $ 2.2 million dollars to private owners for what is called the "Picture Cave", as well as the 43 rolling hectares that surround itnt near the town of Warrenton, approximately 60 miles (97 km) west of St Louis.
Bryan Laughlin, director of Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers, the St. Louis-based company that manages the auction, said the successful bidder declined to be named. A family from St Louis who have owned the land since 1953 has used it mainly for hunting.
The cave was the site of sacred rituals and burial of dead. It also contains more than 290 prehistoric glyphs, or hieroglyphic symbols used to represent sounds or meanings, "making it the largest collection of full color paintings of the indigenous peoples of Missouri, " according to the auction website. .
Carol Diaz-Granados opposed the sale. She and her husband, James Duncan, spent 20 years researching the cave and wrote abook about it. Duncan is an Osage Oral History Specialist and Diaz-Granados is Associate Researcher in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington in St. Louis.
" A sacred American's auction Indian site really sends the wrong message, "said Diaz-Granados. "It's like auctioning off the Sistine Chapel.
The Osage Nation, in a statement, called the sale "really heartbreaking " ".
" Our ancestors lived in this region for 1,300 years ", the statement reads. "This was our land. We have hundreds of thousands of our ancestors buried in Missouri and Illinois, including Picture Cave.
The cave features drawings of people, animals, birds and mythical creatures. Diaz-Granados stated that
Diaz-Granados said the intricate details set the Missouri cave apart from other sites with old drawings.
"You get stick figures in other rock art sites, or maybe a small one. feather on top of the head, or a figurine holding a weapon, ”she says. "But in Picture Cave you get real clothing details, headdress details, feathers, weapons. It 's really amazing.
Years ago, analytical chemists at Texas A&M used pigment samples to determine that the designs were at least 1,000 years old.
The cave has also another story, Laughlin said. European explorers traveled in the 1700s and wrote the name of the ship's captainand the names of some of the crew on the walls. It is also the permanent habitat of the endangered Indiana gray bats.
Laughlin said there are had many reasons to believe that the cave would remain both protected and respected. On the one hand, he said, Selkirk has vetted potential buyers, and then there's the law.
Revised Missouri Law 194.410 states that any person or entity who "disturbs, destroys, knowingly vandalizes, or damages a marked or unmarked human burial site is committing a class D crime. The statute also makes it a crime to profit from cultural objects obtained at the site.
Finally, there is the location.
"You cannot take a vehicle and just drive to the cave. You actually have to walk through the woods to higher ground and go through an opening of threethree feet which is secured by the Missouri Historical Society with steel bars, "said Laughlin.
Diaz-Granados remains hopeful that the new owner will donate it to the Osage Nation.
"This is their cave," she said. "This is their holy shrine, and it should be theirs.