Saturday, September 5, 2020

I'm Studying to be an Archeologist, But This Old Forum Post is Making me Reconsider

Hello everyone, I think I have a mystery here that I was wondering if you could help me with. There’s this anthropology forum I frequent (I’m a grad student) and one day while I was looking through some old posts I found this series of posts from this one account, Arkygirl286. If you know anything about this cave or even know the girl let me know:

2017-02-28 Arkygirl286 wrote:

Hey guys, I’m posting here cause I need your help finding out some stuff related to a professor of mine. His name is Steve Hartford and I think its safe to say that he’s everyone’s favourite professor. He teaches Anthropology here in Idaho and has always poured his heart and soul into it. I’ve taken three classes with him and each one has been a blast. However, things have been strange with him lately and I need some help figuring out what’s up.

Basically, the semester started and everything seemed normal. Steve’s class didn’t have any pre-reqs so there were a lot of freshman. Normally I find freshman to be a little disruptive, just because they don’t really “get” how to act in a college class yet, you know? But this batch was actually really cool, and you could tell that they were all really into the subject matter and super curious.

So anyway, Steve was up lecturing one day and he was talking about early examples of art in the Americas. He mentioned that talking about stuff like this always reminded him of his research back in grad school. After he said that one of the freshman raised her hand and innocently asked what exactly his old research was about. That was when things got weird. Normally Steve always answers questions, he’s not shy, and he’s never been afraid to discuss his other research, but this time he just got real quiet, and you could feel the mood of the room suddenly drop. Kind of quietly he murmured, “That… that would take too much time to explain…” Then he went back to lecturing, however, it was pretty clear that his heart wasn’t in it after the question. When class ended, instead of staying and talking to students like normal, he instead quickly packed up his stuff and rushed out as fast as he could, despite the limp he has.

We didn’t have class with him the next day, but the day after he came in looking different from normal. He seemed less energetic and more reserved, and the limp that he always had seemed even worse. He cleared his throat to start the class but instead of hopping into lecture like normal, he said he was going to do something different. He explained that he was thinking about the question from the other day and realized that it was unfair of him to skip over it, and, given the nature of the topic we were learning about, it actually made a lot of sense to go over his old research.

He explained that him and his phd advisor did extensive research on a place called Blackcom cave in Utah. He said that they were interested in it due to the cave paintings inside, which were well known among local Native American tribes, but had never been properly researched. After going over the backstory of the site, Steve then showed us a bunch of the paintings they found. Most of them were pretty basic, people, hands, buffalo, all the things you would expect. Then he started talking about one he didn’t have a picture of, apparently none of the photos he took of it developed. He drew it up on the board for us all to look at and then stood back and stared at it himself.

Suddenly he went completely silent and so did the class. The drawing was of some sort of figure, with a black head and long appendages, a black sun was in the sky, and there were weird shapes beneath it. Steve just stared at the drawing for five entire minutes before he collapsed onto the ground. The whole class panicked but eventually one of the nurses from the college medical center was called and she came and helped him out of the classroom.

From what I’ve heard since Steve is alright, but due to his health he has elected to take the rest of the semester off and we’ll be getting a new prof soon. However, this is all freaking me out a bit, I need to know more. Have any of you guys heard of Blackcom cave? Or about any weird cave paintings? Maybe with some help I can figure out what’s going on with my professor.

Update: I showed a classmate of mine this post and he sent me the drawing he did of the painting in his notes (here)

2017-03-03 Arkygirl286 wrote:

Hey guys, thanks for all your help the past few days, one of you messaged me this link to a blogpost about the cave, it was really interesting to read. If any of you guys have anything else please, please, send it my way.

She included a link to an old blog, here’s the text from it

Aug. 15, 2009 Sorry about the lack of updates, I know I said I’d tell all of you about my latest spelunking adventure but, man, it was wild. Now that I have my thoughts settled let’s get into it!

The place I went to was called Thompson cave, its on Indian land in Utah, not far from SLC so it wasn’t too bad of a drive. There’s a little hamlet right by the cave, close enough you can see some of the houses when you park there. I say park, but its more like you pull of the road onto the grassy clearing. When I got out of my car, I noticed the sign in front of the cave said Blackcom cave, maybe that’s a different name for it? Idk, anyway I was just getting ready to enter the cave when I noticed something weird. I looked back at the houses in the hamlet and it almost seemed like someone from there was watching me, intensely. I shrugged it off and walked into the cave.

Pretty much from the moment I walked in I needed my flashlight on. It was crazy how dark it was. Fortunately, it was a very straight path so I never felt like I was at risk of getting lost. I was pretty deep in the cave when I noticed something cool, there were cave paintings on the walls! I looked at them and saw some buffalo and a couple handprints. I walked a bit further but saw that part of the cave collapsed. I went to turn around and nearly tripped over a rock.

I picked it up and shined my flashlight on it. It was all black and shiny. I went to put it in my pocket when suddenly it felt like my hand was burning. Like really burning. I went to put the rock down but my hand didn’t want to move, and neither did the rest of my body. It felt like my hand was melting and yet I was stuck there unable to move.

Suddenly a voice called out, “Are you okay?” I looked up and saw an Indian man who grabbed me by the arm. As soon as he grabbed me the rock fell out of my hand and I was able to move. He helped me out to the caves entrance and then looked me over. He gestured at my hand and I looked down to see a thin, bleeding, cut.

“Obsidian’s sharp,” he told me, “You have to be careful when you pick it up,”

“That’s what happened,” I said, then I explained to him that I picked up the rock and must have been so surprised that I cut myself that my imagination ran wild and it felt like I couldn’t move. The Indian man just looked really uncomfortable and told me that I shouldn’t come around to this cave again, that it was sacred land not to be touched.

I apologized for trespassing and thanked the man for his help. I went home that night and tried to wrap my head around what happened. I guess the thing that’s been really bothering me, and the reason why I haven’t posted about it yet is that, despite the fact that I’m not a hemophiliac or anything, it took three days for that cut to stop bleeding.

2017-03-05 Arkygirl286 wrote: Great news guys! After I posted that blog post someone was able to message me a journal article dealing with the cave. It looks like it was written by my prof’s advisor! It’s a great read so I don’t know if it breaks any of the rules but here’s a link to it:

So, this article is pretty long and kinda dry, as you might expect, so rather then post all of it I cut it down to the most important parts.

Lost Indigenous Art and Curse Mythology, Examining the Mystery of Thompson/Blackcom Cave

Dr. Stanley Anderson

Many Native American societies have been lost to the sands of time. Most vanish without much of a trace, save for mentions in the local folklore of nearby tribes. A curious exception to this rule is the Malakitic tribe in what is now Utah. Seemingly a once thriving society they were steadily dwindled by old world disease until only a few remaining members were left to greet Indigenous tribes fleeing American expansion in the 19th century. From oral stories from these tribes we can gather that the Malakitic were extremely isolationist and refused to interact with the other tribes, leading to a death by extinction as opposed to assimilation. We also know that their society largely revolved around a cave through which all their religious practices were associated with.

…Named Thompson cave by Mormon settlers locals in the surrounding area have always referred to it as Blackcom cave. The name derives from the term comme the one lasting legacy of the Malakitic language. The term refers to the obsidian blades that litter the cave. Seemingly these blades served a religious function for the tribe.

…Local contemporary native tribes refuse to go near the cave, simultaneously describing the land as “sacred’ and “cursed” in the same breath, the seeming contradiction unable to be resolved giving the tribes are extremely closed off about the subject.

…The first white explorers of the cave noted numerous detailed cave paintings. Many of these paintings were standard fare, though it was noted that they seemed to get more detailed the deeper one went into the cave. However, many of these same explorers curiously stated that they had no desire to explore the caves depths and cautioned others from exploring the caves at all.

…Me and one of my graduate students set out to fully map out the cave paintings within. While the local Indigenous groups told us not to enter, they ultimately agreed to give us permission. Once inside we found paintings of various typical things, such as buffalo and hand prints. As the old reports stated the deeper we got into the cave the more realistic the images became, showing an exceptional artistry for the time period. The deeper we got into the cave the more I felt a sense of unease, perhaps I was simply unnerved by the explorers’ accounts. My grad student, Steve, was willing to go deeper in then me.

…Our expedition was cut short when the cave began to collapse. Steve rushed out but one of his legs was caught and broken in the rubble.

…He would only describe it to me after we had left Utah but what he told me was remarkable. The image seemed to depict some sort of figure, perhaps a Malakitic god standing beneath a black sun, while figures were positioned below him. Without further knowledge of Malakitic iconography it is hard to determine what the figures were, I interpreted them to be worshippers prostrating whereas Steve seems to be convinced that they are, in fact, corpses.

2017-03-14 Arkygirl286 wrote:

Hey guys, sorry for the gap between posts. As some of you guys suggested after the last post, I brought all the information together and emailed my professor. It took him a long time to reply but when he did he asked for us to meet up to discuss my findings.

When I saw him I almost gasped as he looked really unwell, like he hadn’t ate or slept in days. He commended me on my research and said that I was probably the best student he ever had, which I have to admit, was pretty flattering. He also told me that ever since the lecture he gave he couldn’t stop thinking about that cave painting. Deep down he knew that he had to see it again, that he had to go back to that cave again. When I told him that I wanted to see it too he was taken aback but quickly became enthusiastic. There’s a long weekend coming up and he told me that by then he should be in better health and that the two of us could go together.

Now I know some of you might think its weird, but I’m actually really excited right now. I’ve been fascinated with this cave and what might be inside it for nearly a month, its all I’ve been thinking about. And getting to see it with my favourite prof? Oh man, this is gonna be so cool!

So, I guess this is it for the moment, as soon as I get back from the trip I’ll let you guys know how it went, wish me luck!


Last online: 2017-03-14

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