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Subjectivity in Stone Age art works such as figure stones, engravings, sculptures, effigies and curated manuports. See how images and icons have been realized in portable rock media since the dawn of humanity. Here, archaeologists and art historians are becoming aware of these forsaken artifacts. “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing." -in W. Shakespeare, As You Like It, 1599.

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    Jan van Es collection, Roermond, The Netherlands
    Bird head looking left with full human face on side of bird's head

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    This bird form is one of several found in the context of other likely sculptures in the back yard of Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, resident Jeff Vincent. The discovery of multiple bird form stones in such a small area defies probabilities of natural coincidence and points toward motivated human agency.

    Side 2 of bird form, from Jeff Vincent

    Shaped birds identified by Jeff Vincent

    Jeff Vincent collection

    This Jeff Vincent bird form was featured in an earlier posting on this blog

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    Granite bird figure
    From SDM Site, Kent County, Michigan, Dennis J. Moore collection

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    A feline, bovine and human polyiconic flint figure stone
    Nelly Sloan find, Wingst, Germany

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    Homo erectus image on an Acheulean scraper interpreted by Ken Johnston

    This Acheulean scraper I noticed in a French Paleolithic tools collection (Calvados, Normandy, West of Paris Basin, est. 550,000 to 300,000 years BP) must be considered for a possible early human facial profile in retouch work on the flint made on a "head-with-neck" shaped stone.

    As rock art scholars Robert Bednarik, John Feliks and James Harrod have demonstrated, collecting and creating rock material with meaningful visual properties was well under way by hominins hundreds of thousands of years ago. The capacity for symbol, language, ideological constructs and religion may be observed from nearly two million years ago. The concept of a "human cognitive and creative explosion" around 35,000 years ago is now fully refuted by archaeological evidence presented by these gentlemen. It is time for archaeologists, museums and collectors to re-evaluate even their oldest lithic samples for iconic properties like seen in this example.



    What may appear to be "an ordinary tool" may reveal more information to archaeologists when they consider the possibilities of artistic visual properties which have been forsaken to date.



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    Chris Schram find and interpretation as a Wood Bison figure, Westminster, Colorado

    Chris Schram has interpreted this as a worked piece of petrified wood in a representation of the body of the Wood Bison. It was found in the context of many petrified wood portable rock art objects. While researching bison, Chris came upon the Wood Bison and noticed it had a prominent vertical hump above the shoulders and a straight, sloping, back strikingly similar to the one seen on the figure stone.



    By rotating the Wood Bison image 90 degrees to right, the form may be interpreted as a bird, where the bird's beak and the bison's horn are approximately the same element on the stone (highlighted by my yellow mark up on the above photo). Thus, this may be a combination of two or more creatures on a single stone as is seen in so many other portable rock art examples on this blog.

    This famous scene from the cave at Lascaux, France, shows a man with a bird head, a speared bison with its intestines drooping to the ground and a bird on what appears to be a staff. The bird and bison pairing is likely not a coincidence and reflects a related symbol system between North America and Europe.

    If you look carefully you may be able to see the face of a human in left 3/4 profile on the back of the bird (or belly of the bison, depending on your perspective). The human depiction on the back or tail of the bird is a motif seen on this blog so this object fits (and reinforces the validity of) a defined scheme.

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    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, site #23JP1222 in Missouri.
    Possible feline-like head looking left with bird head facing right
    The Old Route 66 Zoo site, a portable rock art megasite

    Please compare to the France example below

    Acheulean or Clactonian, Mouthiers, Charente, France, photo by Pietro Gaietto
    Human with prominent jaw looking left (Gaietto) and bird facing right (Johnston)

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    Flint tool from a north Germany collection may have been intentionally worked to remove selected patches of cortex for eyes and a nose so as to affect the visage of a canine on the tool



    Side 2 of tool with possible canine decoration

    Chris Schram find, Westminster, Colorado. Petrified wood object identified as a worked stone invoking canine imagery and found in a portable rock art context including other animal figures.

    Chris Schram compares this photo to the stone above it

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    Jeff Vincent found bird sculpture, April 4, 2014, Mammoth Spring, Arkansas

    More stone birds from Jeff Vincent's back yard, April 4 finds

    Illustration of a Paleolithic stone bird figure from M.A. Kiriyak, Early Art of the Northern Far East (Siberia)

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    Horse teeth "in the right place" identified by Dodd are a giveaway to the animal being depicted here




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  • 04/11/14--05:43: Eyes and mouth make faces
  • Pebble with face. Jeff Vincent find, Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, in the context of other portable rock art objects

    Macario Solis find, Yakima County, Washington

    Numerous iconic artifacts identified by Mr. Solis from a 50 acre area. He writes "This rock appears to be a small hammer. On the stone, you can see a sun. Within the sun, you can see two eyes and a mouth. On top of the sun, you can see an image of a little girl."

    Eye and mouth elements arranged within a pattern trigger primal human facial recognition capacities



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    Adam Arkfeld find, near Clear Brook, Virginia, registered site #44FK732
    photo from Pleistocene Coalition News, March-April, 2014, issue (link pending activation soon)

    Landowner and amateur archaeologist Adam Arkfeld with assistance of Jack Hranicky, RPA (Register of Professional Archaeologists), recently reported on this possible engraved stone among many suspected art objects from the Arkfeld farm site in Pleistocene Coalition News. The art objects described from the site include a suspected baby mammoth figure and a gomphothere tusk with what appears to be a carved horse's head as well as many other horse-like objects.

    Without consideration of the possible engraved lines interpreted by Mr. Arkfeld, the overall outline shape of this stone is here interpreted as representing the profile head of a feline joined with the profile head of a bird. The joining of animals in this manner has been described by Paleolithic art author Pietro Gaietto. The feline is facing left and bird is facing right. A markup I made on the photo here illustrates how the two creatures are joined at the back of their heads.

    From site #23JP1222 in Missouri in a posting April 5, 2014 on this blog, also interpreted as a feline head looking left joined with a bird head looking right. The Arkfeld site #44FK732 find may be seen as analogous to the site #23JP1222 find.

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    Texas flint with facial profile on upper right edge identified by Bill Waters

    ca. 500,000 to 100,000 B.P. Dunbridge, U.K., handaxe with human face profile on edge interpreted by Ken Johnston to compare to Texas example above it.

    Eye, two nostrils and (smiling?) mouth worked into this same Texas flint (side 2) as a human head left profile, interpretation by Bill Waters, Bill Waters collection

    At some point in time, North American Archaeology will have to explain and account for the existence of Lower and Middle Paleolithic "Old World" art forms being found here.

    This human facial profile on the edge of this Texas handaxe from the Bill Waters collection was featured in an earlier posting on this blog. This is a known expression of the Acheulean tradition in Western Europe and has been documented by several serious amateurs there and by early art scholar James Harrod, Ph.D. at OriginsNet.org

    Master flint knapper and figure stone investigator Bob Doyle of Maine created this flint with a human facial profile on it as an experiment in "replicative archaeology." Bob uses the word "carve" to describe his work on the face details. 

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    Micro-art feline face

    Isolated image from the pebble of a one eye open, other eye shut or missing feline face (with tongue out) interpreted by Ken Johnston. The right eye is a small cluster of quartz crystals and the left eye contains some empty space, affecting the known one eye open art motif. Figure stone find by Dennis Boggs at Irrigon, Oregon.

    Dennis Boggs find, Irrigon, Oregon

    Here I interpret a human head with one eye open, other eye shut or missing representation on the same pebble. There are two nostril holes worked on this face to add the symbolic breath of life to the figure. There may a recognition or representation of the two hemispheres of the human brain on this figure.

    One-eyed human and feline figures have been described from Eurasia as well as North America on this blog. Jan van Es of Roermond, The Netherlands, taught me what to look for in Paleolithic micro pebble art and this North American figure is similar to those van Es has shared from Lower and Middle Paleolithic archaeological sites he is familiar with from northern Europe.

    The typical context for Mr. Boggs' finds include worked pebbles like at left and center, as well as suspected manuported exotic stones like at right. A number of stones appear worked to access quartz crystal inclusions and will be featured in a future posting here.

    Left is the figure stone featured in this article. Right is another Dennis Boggs human head figure stone featured earlier on this blog. One may see the similarity in the stone working technique/technology used in the manufacture of the eye elements on both figures.

    Feline figure as the stone fits most comfortably in the hand, as if the cat is reclining on outstretched front legs. The "front legs" feature is very smoothed as if worn by rubbing and accomodates the thumb perfectly when held like this.

    Feline face looking out from the "cave" created by the human hand when it is held as a "rubbing stone."

    African lion with tongue out like feline on the figure stone (left eye illustrated as missing)

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    Arkfeld farm site, #44FK732, fossil gomphothere tusk with horse carving
    length 38cm, diameter 7cm at large end, weight 2.4kg
    Photos by Adam Arkfeld, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Adam Arkfeld writes, "This tusk was recovered in a wet clay bed formed by runoff from limestone bedrock. The ivory has been completely mineralized. It appears that the horse was carved when the tusk was still "green." The level of carving detail would not be possible on limestone."


    Close up of horse head and neck, including incised lines

    Adam Arkfeld notes the Virginia carved horse head has a stylistic similarity to this horse head petroglyph image from Chauvet cave, France

    These Magdalenian period carved ivory and bone figures from Europe depict bridled horses. The Virginia example may be depicting the same, including a bridle rein extending along its "neck."

    The carved horse head on a gomphothere tusk is featured in the current issue of Pleistocene Coalition News along with other site information by Adam Arkfeld and Jack Hranicky, R.P.A

    I propose the incised lines illustrated by the white marks on the gomphothere tusk may represent a simple bridle and rein on the horse figure. Pleistocene human control of the horse is suspected in Eurasia but not in North America. With this interpretation of this find, it may be worth considering this possibility here.


    Horse head carved on ivory, Hohle Fels, Germany, ca. 30,000 years BP. (image flipped for a more direct comparison to the Arkfeld site example)

    Tip of a mammoth tusk carved as two reindeer depicted one behind the other; 13,000 years old approximately; Montastruc, France, © The Trustees of the British Museum

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     "Bird in flight" coarse stone figure identified by Jeff Vincent, Mammoth Springs, Arkansas

    Hohle Fels (Hollow Rock), Germany archaeological site carved mammoth ivory "bird in flight" figure, ca. 33,000 to 31,000 BP. (Image has been flipped for a more direct comparison to the birds from Arkansas and Ohio)

    "Bird in flight" flint figure, made of Vanport chert, Flint Ridge, Ohio, identified by Ken Johnston in an earlier posting on this blog

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    Jeff Vincent find, Mammoth Springs, Arkansas

    This is a sleeping duck sculpture in this art motif already described on this blog. Found in a context of dozens of bird figures and sculptures in Jeff's locale, including as seen in the prior posting. The sleeping duck sculpture is photographed sitting on a large rock here. The duck has an eye and there is work to depict the feathering structure as seen on a real duck below. (click photo to expand)

     Sleeping duck

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    Ken Johnston find, Flint Ridge, Ohio, identified as a bear head figure worked around a quartz crystal inclusion and worked to manufacture a back lighted translucent "eye"

    Vanport chert bear head figure, Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio

    Bear head figure translucence demonstrated by my desk lamp.

    There appears to be a defined-by-the-artist hexagon shaped area around the eye opening with stone removal to allow light passage through the stone.

    The translucent "eye of the bear" in sunlight. The natural crystal-lined cavity penetrates the stone to a depth of 2cm.

    Side 2. There is deliberate work to expose the translucence on this side of the stone.

    Side 2. Yellow line defines area which transmits light to the back of the stone. Black area has been excavated to depth of 7mm in order to get to the desired translucence. Circle-in-circle is end of eye cavity 2cm deep from other side. This stone figure may be considered a "lithophane," a term I coined to describe portable rock art designed to exploit translucent stone features.

    Bear head figure at left with scale, (right) a large blade from several meters away, typical of tool artifacts in large numbers at Flint Ridge.






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    Anonymous mushroom hunter's Springtime find in Pike County, Ohio, is a "cupule stone" where the outline of the stone is an abstracted geometric representation of a mammoth facing left and a simple zoomorphic face profile is depicted on the mammoth's posterior facing in the opposite direction

    Simply geometry of the silhouette of the mammoth reconstruction seen here may also be seen in the abstracted shape of the Pike County, Ohio, cupule stone

    Manufacture of cupules has been ethnographically documented in Australia as a component of "increase rituals." If the North American cupule is related to the Australian tradition, this kind of sculpture may be seen as meaning something like "more mammoth please." If these hemispheric cupules are a result of antler billet tool dressing as Scot Stoneking has hypothesized, it may reflect the sacredness of the preparation of meta tools- or tools to make other tools, for a mammoth kill, starting with the billet.

    Two cupule stones from the Buckeye Lake area, Licking County, Ohio (left), and Perry County, Ohio (right), have been featured earlier on this blog as examples of mammoth iconography. The Pike County cupule stone featured here is especially like the example seen at above right in its representation of the mammoth silhouette. 

    A subtle facial profile of a possible feline looking right is highlighted by the markings on this photo. White is eye mark, black is nose mark and red is the mouth of the feline. These features are made by light modification to the stone by chipping and grinding but they are there in accordance with other described examples.

    The presence of a zoomorphic face in this posterior of the mammoth position, even though crude and faint, helps confirm this known element of mammoth depiction motifs as seen in other portable rock art pieces. You may use this illustration to help identify this interpreted face on the unmarked photo at (top). The feline presence here on the mammoth posterior may reflect its position as a "helper" in creating access to mammoth as a food resource in the form of carrion.

    Scot Stoneking of Massilon, Ohio, has written a book on the cupstone and has replicated through experimentation how many of them were likely created. An article he wrote on the subject was published in Ohio Archaeologist and is also available in .pdf format for download.


    Adams County, Ohio, cupule stone exhibiting the mammoth profile form. This object has a flat base on which the sculpture would stand in the mammoth profile position. The base is visible in the lower right quadrant of the photo and is like the base which enables the Buckeye Lake, Perry County, mammoth cupule stone to stand upright.

    There is archaeological precedence for cupules on zoomorphic forms.  "Altar from house No. 45, Lepenski Vir Ib, Serbia, carved in the likeness of a fish, possibly a carp."-Don's Maps  Maybe this stone expresses the idea "More fish please."

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    Chris Schram collection, Westminster Colorado, interpreted as a mammoth figure

    This artifact has about 10 "tally marks" or parallel groove markings across its side. The stroke marks may indicate more meaning given to this object than its possible function as a scraper tool or the like.  The stroke marks are comparable to the marks seen on the mammoth tusk carving of two reindeer at bottom. The marks help confirm the interpretation of a mammoth figure here.

    Chris found this piece in the context of many other animal and people figures featured on this blog. It invokes the proboscidean form seen in some Siberian art pieces.



    The lead reindeer in this two animal carving on a mammoth tusk has about 10 stroke marks visible across its back. 13,000 years old approximately; Montastruc, France, © The Trustees of the British Museum

    This carved reindeer sculpture and the Colorado mammoth figure may be exhibiting a symbolic marking scheme which was made in a broad tradition which spanned from North America into Western Europe.

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