Oldest art found at Pictograph Cave State Park is over 2,000 years old
The oldest art found at Pictograph Cave State Park is over 2,000 years old and is thought to have been created by prehistoric hunters camping at the site.
Located only five miles from Billings, Pictograph Cave State Park may seem small at only 23 acres, but it is full of history.
With its abundant wildlife and vegetation, the fertile Yellowstone River Valley just north of the park provided an ideal campsite for travelers. Inside the three caves at the park, you can find pictographs over 2,100 years old from some of Montana's first inhabitants.
When and how these inhabitants arrived is still a mystery and the pictographs they left behind are still subject to great debate.
Due to its archeological significance, Pictograph Cave State Park was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964. Thousands of years ago, prehistoric hunters who camped in the Pictograph Cave left behind artifacts and over 100 pictographs.
The three main caves in the park – Pictograph, Middle and Ghost – were created from the Eagle sandstone cliff by water and wind erosion. The deepest of the caves, Pictograph Cave, is 160 feet wide and 45 feet deep. In 1936, the first artifacts and paintings were discovered in the caves. The following year, the site became one of the first archeologic excavation sites in Montana.
Roughly 30,000 artifacts were excavated from the site including stone tools, weapons, paintings, and instruments. These artifacts helped researchers understand which native people used the caves and when. The different colors used in the pictographs also allowed researchers to identify when people inhabited the region and gave an inside look into their lifestyles. In addition to tools and animal bones, the excavations also turned up jewelry, pendants, bracelets, and more.
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