Davis Nolan Underground: Dunbar Cave

Davis Nolan Underground

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Dunbar Cave is part of Dunbar Cave State Park, owned and operated by the State of Tennessee.

The Jazz Project performing in the mouth of the cave this summer

In modern times, the cave’s entrance has been a concert venue, from the days that Roy Acuff owned the cave and played there with his Smoky Mountain Boys, to the Big Band Era, to the summer concerts occasionally held there now.

But like many caves in the area, man’s influence can be found dating back to prehistoric times.

Park Ranger Adam Neblett explained, “This cave has a long and storied history going back about 10,000 years to the end of the last ice age”.

“The entrance to this cave, the rock shelter had been used as a campsite by what we call Paleo-Indians, the first Americans, roughly about 10,000 years ago”.

“Eventually, a group of native peoples that we refer to as the Mississippian Culture viewed this cave as a very sacred place and drew some of their religious symbols on the wall”.

Religious symbols drawn by Native Americans from the Mississippian Era

Neblett described the drawings, “What we are looking at is a cross within a circle, which is a classic symbol from the Mississippian Period. There’s a rayed circle outside. The second symbol, similar but slightly different. There’s also a cross inside of a circle. This cross is turning. It’s what we call a World Cross. It’s a cross in motion”.

“By coming into a cave they believed that they were leaving their world behind and entering into a spiritual realm. These symbols we believe have something to do with that journey, with their religion and their views on the universe”.

Carbon dating shows these symbols from the Mississippian Native American Culture were drawn some 700 years ago.

But besides human history, there are also some great limestone calcite formations in the cave that took tens of thousands of years to form:

The Hornet’s Nest
The Wooly Mammoth
Solomon’s Pool
The “Rock-o-dile”

If you would like to learn more and/or visit Dunbar State Park and take a tour of the cave, go to their website.

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