Carvings From Cherokee Script’s Dawn By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD New York Times June 22, 2009
Characters in a Kentucky cave that may be the earliest examples of the script.(Photo:Fred Coy and Andras Nagy)
The illiterate Cherokee known as Sequoyah watched in awe as white settlers made marks on paper, convinced that these “talking leaves” were the source of white power and success. This inspired the consuming ambition of his life: to create a Cherokee written language.
An archaeologist and explorer of caves has now found what he thinks are the earliest known examples of the Sequoyah syllabary. The characters are cut into the wall of a cave in southeastern Kentucky, a place sacred to the Cherokee as the traditional burial site of a revered chief. The archaeologist, Kenneth B. Tankersley of the University of Cincinnati, said in an interview recently that this was “one of the most fascinating and important finds in my career,” yielding likely insights into “the genius of Sequoyah."