This week, one of the finest examples of prehistoric American art returns to Wilson County.
The sandstone sculpture, nicknamed “Sandy,” dates back to the Mississipean era, the last great age of Native American development before the arrival of European explorers. Sandy’s face is lined with wrinkles, and his mouth is open as though he were speaking. He leans forward, hands clutching both knees.
The figure was discovered in 1939 by a tenant farmer just outside of Lebanon, at what is now the Sellars Farm State Archaeological Area. Since then, it’s drawn praise as a particularly skillful example of stone-age workmanship, and was recently chosen to represent its era on a US postal stamp.
Sandy is a prize holding of the University of Tennessee’s McClung Museum. Director Jeff Chapman says the expressive figure helps people establish a human connection with the past. As to the original purpose of Sandy and a cruder female figure, known as “Mrs. Sandy,” Chapman says experts can only guess.
“We think that the most probable explanation is that these may have been ancestor figures, perhaps representing in the abstract the founders of the lineage, some designation of that way, because we do see in other cultures where ancestor figures are used, and we find these elsewhere in the Southeast, and that’s our best explanation.”
Sandy and Mrs. Sandy will be on display at the Wilson County Courthouse tomorrow through Thursday. The exhibit is free and open to the public.