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Weekend Spelunker Discovers Indian Cave Drawings 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 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 La Crosse, Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

JIM GALLAGHER, DIRECTOR, MISSISSIPPI VALLEY ARCHAEOLOGY CENTER: Here's all the entrance to the cave.

OLSON: Jim's the executive director of the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center in LaCross.

GALLAGHER: We have carvings on the wall. They get preserved, but drawings almost never.

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

GALLAGHER: I think 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, CAVE DISCOVERER: The cave goes down 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 drawing which researchers think were left behind by Native American spiritual leaders. But because the cave is more of a hot spot for teenage partyers and the pictures looked so fresh, even Daniel had doubts about his discovery.

ARNOLD: It looked to me like some stoned hippie 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 back 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.

GALLAGHER: The toe would have gone here and the heel back here.

OLSON (voice-over): When they did, they discovered this 500- year-old moccasin and bits of birch bark torches littering the floor. And after two years of studying and documenting and building a 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 La Crosse, Rob Olson, 9 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: I 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.

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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