April 2014 Meeting

Monday, April 14, 2014
6:00 - 7:30 pm

Pellissippi State Technical Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville
J.L Goins Administration Building, Cafeteria Annex


The Sky Above, The Mud Below:
Prehistoric Rock and Cave Art in Tennessee

Dr. Jan F. Simek
President Emeritus
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee


Systematic field exploration on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee has located a wealth of new prehistoric rock art- some deep in caves, some in the open air. These have a different repertoire and use of color, and a different distribution on the landscape- the open sites up high and the caves down low. The landscape has been reorganized on cosmological terms by the pre-Columbian societies.

Biographical Sketch

An anthropologist with an M.A. and Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Binghamton, Dr. Jan Simek has been at the University of Tennessee since 1984.

Throughout his career, he has focused on ancient human use of caves for habitation, exploration, and religion. Since 1976, he has worked in southern France studying the relationships between Neanderthals and Modern Homo sapiens. For 18 years, he co-directed extensive excavations in the Grotte XVI, a cave with four meters of stratified deposits spanning 100,000 years of human occupation. In 1995, Dr. Simek became interested in prehistoric cave use in Tennessee and the South, and since then he has documented more than 50 prehistoric cave art sites in the region, representing the first cave art tradition ever discovered in North America. His research has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Ministry of Culture of France, the National Geographic Society, and the Leakey Foundation.

At the University of Tennessee, Dr. Simek has served as Head of the Anthropology Department, Interim Director of the School of Art, Interim Dean of the College of Architecture and Design, and Interim Chancellor of the Knoxville campus. From 2009-2011, he served as the 24th President of the University of Tennessee, and was named President Emeritus by the Board of Trustees when he stepped down from that position. In 2001, Dr. Simek was named Distinguished Professor of Science in the UTK College of Arts and Sciences. The author of more than 100 scholarly publications, Dr. Simek was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012.


Page updated May 26, 2018