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A Dark Pathway: Precontact Native American Mud Glyphs from1st Unnamed Cave, Tennessee by Jan F. Simek

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Wow!  A book on a topic I didn’t even know existed – ancient art in caves created by native peoples of what is now the Southern U.S. This art is found in what is known as the dark zone of caves, their deepest, darkest part. Tennessee has over 10,000 dark zone caves; Kentucky about half that, and Alabama almost as much as Kentucky. Since 1980 when art was discovered in a Tennessee cave almost 100 caves have been found with mud glyphs – drawings on cave surfaces that have plastic clay surfaces. The East Tennessee cave that this book centers on was first explored in 1994. The Foreword is by Russell Townsend, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation who has worked for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for decades. It clarifies that native peoples do have input into the work and conclusions of academic anthropologists. I do have a quarrel with the title of this book, because it did not make what the book is about.  I think it should use the word, “art,” and not use the word, “dark,” because the art is anything but dark. The author, Jan F. Simek, is a professor in the UT Department of Anthropology and has written several books.

Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2022. 195 pages with a Foreword by Russell Townsend, chapters by Sarah C. Sherwood and with Todd M. Ablman, an Appendix by Marion O. Smith, an Index, References Cited, figures, tables, charts, illustrations, photos, and nearly one hundred maps. An 8.25 X 10.5 hardback with a pictorial cover.