Traveling Trunks: Masters of the Past
The Prehistoric Cultures of the American Southeast
The Tennessee Valley Art Association provides six traveling trunks containing curricula and authentic reproductions relating to the prehistoric culture of northwest Alabama to 4th grade educators in the region’s public and private schools. The purpose of the trunks is to provide historically correct resource materials to enrich the study of Native American history at the elementary school level. A training session for using the contents of the trunks is included. The trunks are inspired by the Museum’s permanent exhibit of the Martin Petroglyph.
What do these images mean?
Many centuries ago an artist knelt beneath a bluff shelter, took tools in hand and began to carve images into the rocks. The artist decided to carve images of a snake slithering amid a trail of footprints. The meaning of these meticulous carvings may forever be a mystery. Still they may tell us much about the artist, his experience and ourselves.
Were these petroglyphs intended to represent some method of communication among the prehistoric people living in the area? Were they intended to record a particular event or to give warning to others of the dangers of the forest? Was their significance spiritual in nature or merely “art for art’s sake”? Whatever the intent, this work was created by the hand of one with whom we have much in common. The artist lived, worked and worshipped here in what we now call Colbert County, Alabama.
All artists create in order to express some aspect of their experience and to share their experience of the culture in which they create. Though the exact meaning of these images may be lost in time, the artist has left us a precious link between his work and ours.
Porcupine quill embroidery samples
Woven bag reproduction