Ancient Cosmological Beliefs Analyzed through Cave Drawings

August 24, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. cosmos [KOZ-muh s, -mohs] (n.) – an orderly universe
Example: A scientist believes that studying the cosmos can improve humans’ understanding of the universe.
2. mythological [mith-uh-LOJ-i-kuh l] (adj.) – referring to a myth or an idea or story that is imaginary
Example: The archeologist studied the mythological beliefs of the tribe in order to understand its culture better.

3. depict [dih-PIKT] (v.) – to represent or show using a picture or sculpture
Example: The painting depicts an ancient man hunting a wild boar.

4. sketch [skech] (n.) – a rough or hasty drawing that shows the main features of an object
Example: The primitive man could only describe what he saw through sketches.

5. elevation [el-uh-VEY-shuh n] (n.) – the height of the ground or of a place
Example: Studies show that ancient people lived in higher elevations that wild animals could not reach.


Read the text below.

A group of scientists has recently discovered drawings representing the ancient Native Americans’ view of the cosmos.

The research team, headed by Jan Simek, studied a total of 44 open air locations and 50 cave sites. According to the team, most of the drawings from the sites are dating back from the 11th to the 17th centuries. However, these drawings seem to depict the multi-layered universe that was perceived from as early as 6,000 years ago.

Pictures of bird men, heroes, and monsters portrayed the mythological and religious beliefs about the existence of a multi-layered universe that governed our cosmos.

The scientists observed similarities among the drawings in the open-air spots and inside the caves. Drawings in high elevations exposed to the sun are "upper world" sketches, which featured weather influences, heavenly bodies, and characters that affect humans. These sketches were colored in red—believed to be the color of life.

Drawings of the "lower world" on the other hand are in black. They featured death and darkness and were found inside the darker parts of the caves.

Lastly, drawings of the "middle world" represented the real daily life of the ancient humans. These drawings were found in both open-air areas and inside the caves but mostly in the middle elevations of the plateau [pla-TOH].

These discoveries are helpful to modern scientists since the study contributes to the common human idea that different levels in life exist.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Why do you think ancient humans draw and carve images on walls? Please explain your answer.
·         How do you think these drawings and carvings can help people understand the ancient way of life?

Discussion B

·         What is the importance of learning ancient civilization or culture in today’s life? Please explain your answer.
·         Do you think historical artifacts should be taken care of or preserved? Why or why not?


August 24, 2013