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Ancient Cave Drawings Discovered in Wisconsin

Aired November 24, 2000 - 1:29 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: An amateur archaeologist has made a rare and important find in a cave in southwestern Wisconsin. The drawings inside the cave offer a view into a world lost long ago.

Rob Olson from CNN affiliate KMSP has the story from LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB OLSON, KMSP REPORTER (voice-over): Watch a movie with Jim Gallager and don't expect to see a lot of Hollywood stars, unless they happen to be helping out an archaeological expedition.

JIM GALLAGER, ARCHAEOLOGIST: So here's all the entrance to the cave.

OLSON: Jim is the executive director of the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center in LaCrosse.

GALLAGER: If you have carvings on a wall, they get preserved, but drawings: almost never.

OLSON: And his newest tape is of one of the most significant and fragile archaeological discoveries ever made in Wisconsin: a farm cave filled with perfectly preserved charcoal drawings dating back 1,100 years.

GALLAGER: I think only that there are probably only about 100 that have been found in Wisconsin so far. And we have more than 100 in this one cave alone.

DANIEL ARNOLD, SPELUNKER: The cave goes in about 300 feet. So then you go down a little narrow crawlway on your hands and knees.

OLSON: Daniel Arnold is the weekend spelunker who found the drawings, which researchers think were left behind by Native American spiritual leaders. But because the cave was more of hot spot for teenage partiers, and the pictures look so fresh, even Daniel had doubts about his discovery.

ARNOLD: It looked like to me some stoned hippy had sat in here with a cave art book and drank some beer on a hot day and did a bunch of drawings. They looked too good. OLSON (on camera): Daniel first reported his find to the archaeologists backs in 1993. But they get two to three tips like that every week. One in 10 pan out. And with limited time and money, it was 1998 before they were able to check it out.

GALLAGER: So the toe would have gone here. And the heel would be here.

OLSON (voice-over): When they did, they discovered this 500- year-old moccasin in bits of birch-barked torches littering the floor. And after two years of studying and documenting and building the steel gate to keep it all protected, they're finally talking about it. And Daniel Arnold finally gets his credit.

ARNOLD: Everyone always hopes to find the gem. And this was it.

OLSON: In LaCrosse, Rob Olson, 9 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Love those stories.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know. Maybe I've got too much of this election business on my mind, but didn't some of those drawings look like people counting dimpled chads?

ALLEN: They were explainers about whether they did count those chads back then. That would help us today, wouldn't it?

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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