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Cherokee Inscriptions Found in Alabama Cave

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Alabama Cherokee inscriptionsKNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE—Science Magazine reports that inscriptions written in Cherokee script have been discovered at the head of an underground stream in Alabama’s Manitou Cave. Made up of 85 characters based on the syllables of the Cherokee language, the syllabary used in the inscriptions was invented in the early nineteenth century by Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith. It was officially adopted by the Cherokee Nation in 1825, and was widely used to communicate in daily life and in print. Jan Simek of the University of Tennessee, along with scholars from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees, and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, as well as additional colleagues worked together to understand the cave’s inscriptions. They concluded that the text commemorated a sacred game similar to the modern game of lacrosse played on April 30, 1828. The rituals conducted before the game are thought to have been presided over by Sequoyah’s son, Richard Guess, whose name appears in an adjoining inscription. A third inscription, reading “I am your grandson,” was found written backwards on the ceiling of the cave and is thought to have been a message for Cherokee ancestors and other supernatural beings. The Cherokee were forced westward from these ancestral lands on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. For more on the Cherokee, go to “Inheritance of Tears.”

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