Osage Nation Denied Purchase of Cave With Ancient Drawings at AuctionBreaking News
tags: archaeology, Native American history
A Missouri cave containing Native American artwork from more than 1,000 years ago was sold at auction Tuesday, disappointing leaders of the Osage Nation who hoped to buy the land to "protect and preserve our most sacred site."
A bidder agreed to pay $2.2 million from private owners for what's known as "Picture Cave," along with the 43 hilly acres that surround it near the town of Warrenton, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) west of St. Louis.
Bryan Laughlin, director of Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers, the St. Louis-based firm handling the auction, said the winning bidder declined to be named. A St. Louis family that's owned the land since 1953 has mainly used it for hunting.
The cave was the site of sacred rituals and burying of the dead. It also has more than 290 prehistoric glyphs, "making it the largest collection of indigenous people's polychrome paintings in Missouri," according to the auction website.
That's exactly why Carol Diaz-Granados opposed the sale. She and her husband, James Duncan, spent 20 years researching the cave and wrote a book about it. Duncan is a scholar in Osage oral history, and Diaz-Granados is a research associate in the anthropology department at Washington University in St. Louis.
"Auctioning off a sacred American Indian site truly sends the wrong message," Diaz-Granados said. "It's like auctioning off the Sistine Chapel."
The Osage Nation, in a statement, called the sale "truly heartbreaking."
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