WARRENTON, Mo. – Picture Cave, a 43-acre piece of land that was once used as a sacred communication space for indigenous peoples over one thousand years ago, will be auctioned off in Warrenton.
The land is the site of over 290 prehistoric polychrome paintings inside of a two-cave system. It is the largest collection of paintings from indigenous people in Missouri. Scholars even say the significance of the land rivals that of Cahokia Mounds in Illinois.
“It was a collective commune of a very significant space and there is only speculation on the number of indigenous peoples that used the space for many many many different reasons, mostly communication,” Selkirk Auctions Executive Director Bryan Laughlin said.
The land has been owned by a prominent St. Louis family since 1953. They have primarily used it for hunting.
“They live nearby, they’re Missourians. They want to see the property maintained and the land conserved and the cave particularly protected and conserved which has been a big conversation throughout these auction preparations,” realtor and auctioneer Amelia Jeffers said.
Not only are the prehistoric paintings important to preserve, but a rare indigenous colony of Indiana Bats lives on the property.
“We’re looking for the next steward that will take as careful handling of the property,” Laughlin said.
Jeffers said the next responsible owner of the land could come in a number of ways.
“It’s possible that a private buyer can also buy it and donate it back. You know there are conservation easements that can be donated. The cave itself could be separated from the hunting land and donated. SO there’s any number of options that are going to turn out. We can’t predict who is going to be the buyer, but all signs point to it going to the next quality steward,” Jeffers said.
The property has been valued between $1 million and $3 million.
The paintings have been dated to approximately 900-1100 CE.
“These glyphs predate a lot of the tribes we’re familiar with today,” Jeffers said.
More information about the cave, the land, and its history can be found in a book written by historians entitled, “Picture Cave: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Mississippian Cosmos.” Patty Jo Watson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, and Dr. Jan Simek from the University of Tennessee made significant contributions to the book.
The sale will be brokered through Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty St. Louis. Selkirk Auctioneers is running the September 14th auction in partnership with realtor and auctioneer Amelia Jeffers. Bidders must register ahead of time and be pre-approved. Pre-auction offers are being accepted.