On Tuesday, St. Louis-based auction firm Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers has sold a cave with Native American artworks dating back 1,000 years. anonymous recipient. The buyer paid $2.2 million for the Missouri cave, owned by the auction firm. heralded as “The most important rock art site in North America.” The artwork in the cave includes nearly 300 prehistoric glyphs showing the meanings of words and sounds, as well as illustrations of mythical creatures, weapons, humans, and many other designs. Present-day members of the Osage Nation, a Midwestern Indian tribe whose ancestors created the cave art, express devastation in response to the cave’s sale.
Osage Nation, “Our ancestors lived in this region for 1300 years” said the explanation; The tribe also said the sale was “really heartbreaking…. This was our land. Hundreds of thousands of our ancestors are buried in Missouri and Illinois, including the Painting Cave.” It’s unclear how the clearly blessed site came to exist on the auction block; the Cave, along with the 43 acres surrounding it, was sold and its future is currently uncertain.
“It really sends the wrong message to auction off a sacred American Indian site,” says Carol Diaz-Granados, a research fellow at the University of Washington in St. Louis, who spent two decades researching the cave with her husband. told Associated press. “It’s like auctioning off the Sistine Chapel. Other rock art sites have stick figures, perhaps a small feather above the head, or a figure holding a weapon. But in Picture Cave you get real outfit details, headgear details, feathers, weapons. It is truly incredible.”
The country has a long way to go in caring for and honoring Native American art: just last year, Metropolitan Museum of Art Hired the first Associate Curator of Native American Art.