In a remote area of rural eastern Missouri, some 50 miles from Saint Louis, where prairies begin to entwine with the Ozark plateau, a mystical plat of land conceals a well-known subterranean world known simply as Picture Cave. On Sept. 14, 2021, Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers of St. Louis, Missouri will offer this invaluable piece of history on behalf of its private owners, three generations of a local Missouri family. The caves’ breathtaking iconography rests on land with a natural spring, rolling hills, and wonderful views that only accentuate the magnitude of one of America’s greatest archaeological finds. All 43 encompassing acres of real estate are included in the auction of Picture Cave, which is estimated to sell for $1,000,000-$3,000,000 USD.
The current owners have owned and primarily used the land for hunting since 1953. It is of utmost importance to them that any new owners will continuously protect and preserve the caves as they have for decades. Since the discovery of the paintings, it has been determined by scholars that Picture Cave houses the greatest assemblage of American Indian polychrome paintings ever found in America, and the two-cave system, which had once been an extremely important ritual site for early Mississippian culture, is still vital for the ecosystem as home to one of the densest populations of the endangered Indiana gray bat.
What sets Picture Cave apart from others is that the dark zone is festooned with the most comprehensive collection of pictographs with significance comparable to that of major ancient cities, Cahokia and Chaco Canyon. Scholarly research regarding the meaning of the paintings has concluded that the images were created from approximately 900-1100 CE. The documentation is richly captured in the illustrated book, Picture Cave: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Mississippian Cosmos by the University of Texas Press (2015).
Several field experts, archeologists, Native American tribe members, and artists comprised the Picture Cave Interdisciplinary Project to accomplish a wonderful resource guide to understanding the Cave. These experts include Patty Jo Watson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, and Dr. Jan Simek from University of Tennessee, who is continually researching Picture Cave including the geochemical analyses of prehistoric pigment, AMS radio-carbon dating, and spatial order of iconography. Since the research began in 1990, several selfless individuals, Osage members, the landowners, as well as institutional grants and foundational funding, have made it possible to link documented facts with artistic interpretation.
For more information on Picture Cave and the September 14th auction, visit selkirkauctions.com, or call 314.696.9041 to speak with Selkirk executive director, Bryan Laughlin, or auctioneer & realtor, Amelia Jeffers. Picture Cave is offered subject to prior sale. Prospective Bidders may submit a pre-auction offer with contracts to be brokered by Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty, St. Louis.