Stephen Alvarez

Journalist, artist, photographer for National Geographic Magazine. Most recently founder of the Ancient Art Archive

758 posts 238,157 followers 231 following

Pho is good for the soul. Finding good eats on a road trip through Virgina.


Throw back Thursday to an incredible expedition to the Sultanate of Oman
This cave room, Majlis al Jinn on the South Western Selma Plateu is huge. The entrance drop is over 120 meters and in August it gets a remarkable shaft of sunlight streaming across its entire length. #oman #explore


Work commute. Packing gear out of an unnamed cave. I've spent much of the winter making a 3d model of artwork on the ceiling of a cave for @ancientartarchive. It's a spectacular place and I wrapped up shooting today. I will miss working in this beautiful valley. @frontrunneroutfitters @rcioffroad



Emerging from the underground into a bright beautiful day is like being reborn. #cave #alabama


A number of years ago I had the privilege of working with Dirk Hoffman and Alistair Pike as they pushed the boundaries of science to discover that humans had made paintings in caves far earlier than was understood. This week I am floored but not surprised to find that they have again rolled back the dates for creativity. In a paper published this week in Science Hoffman and Pike announce their findings from caves in Spain that the oldest paintings in the world are 65,000 years old. That is 25,000 years older that was previously believed and comes from a time well before modern humans reached Europe. That is amazing! Another species made art. Not before us -the first evidence of paint production is more than 100,000 years ago from Southern Africa and is definitively Human- but at the same time as us.

@ancientartarchive #neanderthal


Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is known for its fabulous statues. But it is also a wonderfully beautiful landscape. The island is so isolated. Just a spec in the vast Pacific Ocean. Looking South, you really get the feeling that there isn't anything between you and Antartica. #easterisland #rapanui



Hand prints on BLM land in Southern Utah. If one symbol could sum up all of humanity it might be the negative handprint. I've seen them across the world, on 6 of 7 continents. They may well be the first form of indivudual human expression. They are so unique and individual that I think of them as the original selfie.


@salvarezphoto working in an the Cherokee Syllabary chamber of an unnamed cave in the Southeast. Photo by @alancressler
The Cherokee were the only Native American group to have a written language. It was developed by Sequoyah in the early 1800s. In the years immediately after adoption 80% of the Cherokee population became literate. That is a literacy rate that the US has barely beaten today. Some of the first examples of Syllabary are preserved inside caves in the Cherokee homeland along what is now the I-59 corridor on the Georgia-Alabama state lines. The Ancient Art Archive @ancientartarchive has been working with the SCCi to build a 3D model of this particular chamber. Our hope is that the model will serve as the basis for a VR experience that will let disparate members of the Cherokee Nations virtually visit this place and see the words that their ancestors wrote on this cave wall. The cave has been heavily visited in the past and modern graffiti covers the earlier Cherokee writing. After building the 3D model the Ancient Art Archive will digitally remove the modern graffiti to restore the chamber to how the Cherokee left it in the early 1800s. The cave is owned and administered by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy. With the help of the Cherokee Nation they have gated this chamber to protect the writing. The SCCi has also given the Ancient Art Archive an initial grant to begin the modeling. @scci_caves


Clearing storm #hyperlapse after an afternoon run. Such a dramatic sky as a cold front blows through, the skies clear and the temperature drops. #timelapse



An afternoon hike and ice climb in the Lyngen Alps near Tromso Norway. Days are short but spectacular this far north. Tromso has the distinction of being the northern most city in the world. It is also surrounded by fantastic scenery. #norway #winter


At 586 feet deep Fantastic Pit is the deepest freefall shaft in the lower 48 United States. It augers through Pigeon Mountain like a railway tunnel turned on end. I was reminded of this photo recently while at an @ancientartarchive presentation given on a friends farm at the foot of Pigeon Mountain. Thank you to the Cofers for hosting us and to all who came to hear about what the @ancientartarchive is doing to explore and preserve humanity's first stories. #cave #georgia #explore


This morning's Blue Moon Eclipse.
Lunar eclipses are relatively common but since this was the first one of the year it seemed worth it to wake at 4am and wait in the cold. The sky did not disappoint! #bluemoon #eclipse



The start of this morning's blue moon eclipse. It was cold and a little cloudy but we were able to watch this morning as our shadow spread across the moon's face. #moon #eclipse @thephotosociety @natgeocreative #superbluebloodmoon


179 human like figures span the length of the Procession Panel, San Juan County Utah.
I've gotten word that @natgeo has awarded a grant to help me continue this work. I'm honored. Even though I have published over a dozen feature stories in NGM this is my first grant. I can't wait to get into the field. #bearsears #maya #redshift3d


Countdown to the Blue moon Eclipse. We are nowhere near the path of totality but still I'll be up the morning of the 31st. We should get a partial eclipse before the moon slides beneath the horizon just at sunrise. #moon



Last week at the end of our bad cold snap I ran some photogrammetry tests in a cave in Alabama. The huge ice fang hanging in the entrance was an unexpected bonus. #redshift #maya #notadrone


@williamalbertallard Paris arrived yesterday. So beautiful. Thank you Bill for putting this together and for your years of friendship and inspiration. #paris #book @thephotosociety @natgeocreative


Snow comes to the south. #winter #snow #slowmotion



On my way home from an inspirational week at the National Geographic photo seminar. Thank you @natgeo @thephotosociety and all my colleagues who shared their work and their passion this week. #washingtondc


The milky way spreads out across the night sky over the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa. The Drakensburg range makes up the eastern part of the great escarpment of the central African Plateau. Its a fabulous place.There is nothing like an African night sky to remind me of how big the world is. #za #southafrica #night #stars


The first dawn of 2018. 5 degrees and a flurry of snow, cold and beautiful dawn here on the Cumberland Plateau. I'm wishing everyone a very happy New Year. #2018 #dawn #hyperlapse @samsungmobileusa


Esfahan , Iran
Thinking of all my friends in Iran this New Year's eve. Hoping for a safe 2018 for you all.


The Christmas tree in my town is a giant holly tree. On foggy nights it glows. #christmastree


Driving into yesterday's worksite on assignment for @ancientartarchive I got a little too close to the gopro. You do get a nice view of th #rcimetalworks skids just before water covers the camera! #4runner


Jim Hewett near the bottom of Close to the Edge. After enlarging the constriction at 255 meters the 3 of us pushed the cave downward to 430 meters deep. Jim and I were waiting for Neeld to check the final lead and confirm we could go no deeper when I shot this portrait. We then began the arduous job of de-rigging our ropes and hauling them to the surface. #explore #cave #canada


Neeld Messler makes his way through a constriction at the bottom of the 255 meter deep entrance shaft. This is the crack we widened to allow us to barely squeeze through. I remember it taking almost 45 minutes to squeeze and shimmy down this head sized slot. On my first trip through a rock came tumbling down the passage while I was wedged inside. I couldn't move my head and could only watch it fall straight toward me. The rock broke the bridge of my nose but we still pushed the cave downward. #explore #britishcolumbia


Close to the Edge, Canada a Facebook post this morning reminded me of one of my first expeditions. Close to the Edge is a huge pit in the Canadian Rockies. Remote, cold, dangerous, it's entrance shaft is 255 meters deep. I was part of a 3 man crew that enlarged a blockage at the bottom of the cave and pushed downward to -430 meters. I remember riding south after the trip, crunching survey data in the back of a greyhound bus and calling friends from a payphone in Wyoming to announce we had explored what was the the second deepest cave in Canada. #throwbackthursday #britishcolumbia #explore


An eland Painted in the Gamepass Shelter. The San people of southern African had a rich and long painting tradition that extends into historic times. I shot this image even before I began the @ancientartarchive


Tonight's Super Moon.


A clearing storm on Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau. #timelapse