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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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    Feline in Lordosis sculpture at Spout Run

    From the Spout Run archaeological site, Bluemont, Virginia.  

    The cat is in silhouette facing left here. It may be encrusted with remnants of a red ochre based pigment.

    I found the "Feline in Lordosis" sculpture within about 10 minutes at the Spout Run site. Like the nearby Arkfeld site, this place will likely produce even many more examples of portable rock art in the future. The photos here suggest a rabbit likeness to some who have viewed them. Because of the age and weathering of the artifacts and our lack of all the cultural background including visual cues of the past, exact interpretations of animals are often difficult. Based on my experience, I believe the sculpture was made based on familiarity with, and significance given to, the mating behaviors of felines.
    American house cat in feline lordosis position

    Pigmented Feline in Lordosis, side 2, facing right. The cat's posterior is depicted as raised at the left end of the figure here, ears folded down and leg forward in a display to indicate readiness to copulate. The figure is about 14cm long.

    Chris White, along with wife René, discovered the Spout Run site on their property. Here, he shows a stone bear figure he has identified. Having taken bear himself from the property, he is personally very familiar with their appearance and imagery. (photo from the Winchester Star)

    Bear and bear head figurines and a flaked anthropomorphic face mask figure identified by Chris. I think it is possible the crested dome of a mammoth head is incorporated into the forehead of the human in this "tall face" depiction at right. This "shared human forehead with mammoth" is seen in other examples on this blog. (click photos to expand)

    René and Chris White survey part of the concentric circles stone works identified at the Spout Run site. A piece of burned jasper from the site was dated at 10,470 years before present so it provides some limited contextual information supporting a Paleolithic human presence at the site location. (photo from the Winchester Star)

    Stone likeness of a mammoth identified by Chris White at Spout Run. The mammoth figure has six vertical marks on its side which could be human made. There are three on the front half of the animal and three on the back half. Other possible mammoth figures have been identified and will be featured on this blog in the future.

    Spout Run, a tributary creek of the Shenandoah River, flows through Chris and Rene's property and the stone works and portable rock art finds are located just adjacent.

    Spout Run archaeological site is about 17 miles as the crow flies from the Arkfeld farm archaeological site featured recently on this blog. The respective site owners are working together to document suspected tools and portable rock art objects and have already noticed significant similarities in lithic materials from the sites.

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    Adam Arkfeld find, identified as a mammoth sculpture, found in immediate context of other stones with mammoth imagery, Arkfeld archaeological site, #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Ken Johnston interpretation of feline head incorporated into the posterior of the mammoth. This may be seen as analogous to the lion sculpture from the Kostenki  I site in Russia pictured below but in opposite orientation with the mammoth facing left and lion facing right 

    Kostenki I lion head facing left combined with mammoth facing right

    From spiritboat, "In light of the analysis of Herva and Ikäheimo, compare the following two carved figurines, below, from the Ukrainian refuge. (They are from Kostenki 1 site in Russia, representing the Kostenki-Avdeevo Culture, an upper Palaeolithic culture that is dated between 26,000 and 12,500 years before the present.)"

    Sculpture at right is a mammoth outline depicted facing right with a lion head incorporated into its posterior like the Virginia example.

    "The figurines are a mammoth and a feline, both of sandstone with red ochre. The mammoth sculpture on the left is not elaborate in its detail.  Herva and Ikäheimo say, “Artefacts that play a marginal role in social interaction may be less elaborated than those contributing to the formation of self-image.”  This might mean the carving was for “situated” uses other than ritual ones, for example, as a children’s toy.  On the other hand, owing to the amount of detailed working, we might hazard the guess that the feline on the right is likely to have been executed as a ritual object."

    Adam Arkfeld compares this mammoth figure from his site to one from Avdeevo, Russia, seen here in Mammoths: Giants of the Ice Age by Lister and Bahn.

    Portable rock art mammoth head and trunk depiction, found by Adam Arkfeld in immediate context of the mammoth and lion head sculpture featured here.

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    Arkfeld site, #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Giant diamond-shaped plaques found by Adam Arkfeld in a context of other portable rock art objects and tools. They have no apparent tool function or wear and are strikingly beautiful. They appear to be artifacts of deliberate manufacture. They were aggregated by human activity (curation of the objects) as they were likely imbued with a cultural significance. The stone material is available and was likely quarried and shaped at the Arkfeld site.

     Arkfeld giant diamond-shaped plaque 1

     Arkfeld giant diamond-shaped plaque 2

     Arkfeld giant diamond-shaped plaque 3

    Arkfeld site diamond shaped artifact is similar to ones described earlier on this blog as illustrated below. Some of these objects have a similarity to the German-described tool artifact called Faustkeilblatt from the Micoquian tool tradition of the final Acheulean. There may be continuum of significance for the diamond form which passes through tool and art morphologies.

    Arkfeld site diamond form artifact may be both symbolic and functional

    Smaller, rougher, versions like this occur in large numbers in large numbers at Arkfeld  

    Vicki Smith finds, northern Alabama, near the Tennessee River 

    more Vicki Smith diamond artifact collection, Alabama side near the Tennessee River

    Licking County, Ohio, 18 May 2014 finds

    (Top right) The diamond-shaped stone was made on a tabular stone blank using a double-buffer technique where the stone is sandwiched in a vise and edges are broken along the line of tension. These are very common at a suspected Paleolithic site at a spring in eastern Licking County. I set out today with Lyn to find some more and there were too many to count due to recent heavy rainfall. This one is featured because it was found eroding from a hillside within several feet of the three unifacial flint tools (left side) and a utilized red ocher crayon (lower right).

    Licking County, Ohio, diamond-shaped artifact associated with a tools and art site

    Nadia Clark collection, Prescott, Arizona, found concentrated in the context of figurative portable rock art objects on her property. 

    From Photo © A. Wouters. In Wouters, A., Franssen, C, and Kessels. A. (1981). Typologie van de artefacten van de Chopper-Choppingtool Complexen. Archaeologische Berichten 10:18-117. Stichtung Archaeologische Berichten, Elst, NL. Ede II discovered and collected M. Franssen.

    "Most of the stones had no particular apparent function. They were mostly at the size to conveniently fit into a person's hand and the majority of them were diamond-shaped. Some of them were obviously created to be in the diamond shape on purpose because you would find such features as the one with the stripe down the middle at left. Sandra suggested they might be female symbols and indicating the female genitals. She also said some of the diamond shaped stones had "orifices" indicated on them."

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    Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia

    From the sample test dig at the Arkfeld site, numerous animal and human sculptures were identified. Ken Johnston interprets this as a human head sculpture possibly representing an archaic human form (more robust as opposed to gracile) in North America.

    Another palpable human head figure identified by Adam Arkfeld. These similarly iconic objects came from a 200 square foot test excavation at the site.

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    Arkfeld site abraded and incised stone

    Radial incisions flare from the rounded aspect of the abraded surface

     Approx. 8cm length

    Sample of some tools from the context of the incised stone

    In a great disservice to North American Archaeology, the Smithsonian Institution visited the Arkfeld site and dismissed the entirety as "just rocks." Without an understanding of world Paleolithic art traditions such as radial lines and iterative stroke marks, they are not able to recognize the significance of just this one object at Arkfeld. Even "the best" of North American archaeology is not able to recognize non-cryptocrystalline and crude/opportunistic tool signatures which may the best indicators of pre-Clovis peoples. 

    Art, symbol and iconography are inconceivable to those currently entrusted with United States official archaeology and the study of human origins and migrations. 

    To dismiss the Arkfeld carved gomphothere tusk horse image as "created by stream damage" ignores world precedent for similarly carved ivory objects. It is one of the most significant prehistoric art objects found in North America and it deserves scientific examination by a qualified team who won't dismiss it until it is properly studied and scrutinized.

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    Suspected mammoth figures, with very flat bases upon which they stand, from Arkfeld site, Clear Brook, Virginia. A total of eight different mammoth forms are seen in this article.

    Close up of mammoth figure #1

    A reconstruction of a mammoth with major sight lines to illustrate how pre-historic artists derived a shape they could translate into lithic material representations

    Close up of mammoth figure #2

    Mammoth figure #3 in abstracted geometric form surrounded by other shaped stones in immediate context

    Adam Arkfeld with a giant stone plaque (#4) found among the other figures here. It resembles an elephant head in the straight-on view, as if facing the front of the animal.

     Suspected mammoth head figure #5 with an eye and perhaps an ear as if it is flapped forward

    Mammoth head figure #6

    Mammoth head figure #7 as if viewing the animal head-on

    Mammoth head figure #8 already seen on this blog

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    "Baby mammoth" sculpture identified by Adam Arkfeld, Arkfeld site, #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia 

    The mammoth is seen in black with trunk directed to the right. Stone is approximately 10cm length. The overall shape of the stone may represent the head of another animal, perhaps a bear.

    Angie Bean pencil sketch  "The Baby Mammoth"

    Ken Johnston interprets two human face mask figures incorporated into the posterior of the mammoth, in line with a motif well described by archaeologist Jan van Es, of Roermond, The Netherlands. Regarding another sculpture seen on this blog, van Es writes "In many sculptures of animals (bear, elephant, bison, etc..) is a portrait by the legs visible. Here I see a man's face by the hind legs."

    The mask circled on the left is in the "one eye open, other eye shut or missing" motif where the mammoth's rear leg may be seen as "blacking out" the left eye of the mask as if wearing an eye patch or the like.

    The mask circled on the right is a smaller relatively "happy face" nested between the mammoth's front and rear legs as this piece presents a Stone Age version of the popularized masks of tragedy and comedy. Perhaps this captures the broad range of human emotion associated with these magnificent animals.

    Another mammoth portable rock art form along with Angie Bean's pencil sketch of it.

    close up of Arkfeld "Baby Mammoth"

    "Lyuba" the world's best preserved baby mammoth, photo by BBC News

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     Horse head figure, Arkfeld site, #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia 

    Side 2 of horse head figure, 15cm length

    Large horse head sculpture

    Life-size horse head sculpture weighing about 45kg (100 lbs.) greets visitors to the Arkfeld home

    Horse head figure, 6cm length

    Two sides of a horse head figure identified by Mr. Arkfeld (click photos to expand)

    Common sense tells landowners and astute observers when repeated iconic patterns can no longer be attributed to natural coincidence. Mr. Arkfeld was born and raised on his property, so he is intimately familiar with the appearance of the natural stones and rocks there. His observation of anomalous material eroding from a stream bank is what led to his discovery of "The Arkfeld site." Those who are educated archaeologists seem uniquely dis-qualified to consider the existence of such iconic stone materials from the past.

    Ken Johnston illustration of a feline head profile facing left combined with the horse head figure while it faces right. Despite thousands of years in the earth, faint traces of the feline head, including a worked eye feature, should be verifiable by careful scientific examination. The patination on this object suggests it may have been used as a "rubbing stone."

    Ken Johnston illustration of faint remnants of a second feline face viewed straight on with an open mouth in what is the smoothed and patinated part of the stone.

    Close up of two feline images still visible on the stone after close examination

    Suspected cultural stone debris from the Arkfeld site

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    Bird figure, Arkfeld site, #44FK734, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Russian Siberia Paleolithic bird figure from Early Art of the Northern Far East: The Stone Age, M.A. Kiriyak, 

    Bird shapes identified by Adam Arkfeld

    Bird form given an "eye"

    Flying water bird form

    Bird given eye and beak detail

    "Sleeping duck," or duck with its head turned toward its back

    Human head representation incorporated into this duck figure. It may depict the "one eye open, other eye shut or missing" face mask motif.

    The mouth of the human may be interpreted here as being wide open. The duck/human combination is a portable rock art motif in North America already described on this blog.

    This human head sculpture described already on this blog becomes a sleeping duck figure when rotated 90 degrees to the right.

    Arkfeld site sleeping duck sculpture

    photo of a sleeping duck for comparison

    Precedent for duck/human combinations: Flint Ridge, Ohio, Vanport chert duck head figure identified by Ken Johnston was featured earlier on this blog. It was found in the context of other bird and bird head figures. The reverse side depicts a human head profile facing left with its mouth wide open.

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    This 18cm in length zoomorphic shaped stone identified by Adam Arkfeld is interpreted by Ken Johnston as a sculpture of the head of a Ground Sloth

    Reconstruction model of a ground sloth.

    Artifact from North Texas interpreted as a ground sloth head figure by Ken Johnston featured earlier on this blog. From the collection of Bill Waters. 

    The earliest evidence of people in Ohio is associated with a ground sloth as seen in this video with Brian Redmond, The Cleveland Museum of Natural History

    Ken Johnston interpretation of a human face mask incorporated into the back of the ground sloth head. The rounded aspect of the two eyes and the nose features are based on crinoid stem or similar fossil inclusions in the limestone. The faint but present mouth is illustrated in red. This back end of this stone (left edge) including the right eye of the human mask may have been handled in prehistory as if rubbing or touching it, while the left eye feature appears less weathered.

    Click photos to expand and toggle to compare illustration versus the unmarked photo.

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    Standing sculpture identified by Adam Arkfeld, Clear Brook, Virginia

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    A limestone bar pendant from the Arkfeld site, Clear Brook, Virginia
    interpretation by Adam Arkfeld

    scale in inches

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     Proboscidean (family of elephants) figure, Adam Arkfeld, Clear Brook, Virginia


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    Mammoth head figure intrepretation by Adam Arkfeld, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Mammoth head portable rock art form compared to contemporary art wood carving is added to others found in close proximity by Adam Arkfeld, Clear Brook, Virginia

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    Adam Arkfeld identified an animal head figure here, perhaps a canine

    Side 2 of animal head figure

    Credit: Anthropos Museum, Brno, the Czech Republic, courtesy of Mietje Germonpre

    A fragment of a large bone, probably from a mammoth, Pat Shipman reports, was placed in this dog's mouth shortly after death. This finding suggests the animal was according special mortuary treatment, perhaps acknowledging its role in mammoth hunting. The fossil comes from the site of Predmosti, in the Czech republic, and is about 27,000 years B.P. old. This object is one of three canid skulls from Predmosti that were identified as dogs based on analysis of their morphology.

    "Among many northern indigenous peoples, it was believed that the head contains the spirit or soul," Germonpré explained"Some of these peoples made a hole in the braincase of the killed animal so that the spirit might be released." The mammoth bone in the dog's mouth could signify "that the dog was 'fed' to accompany the soul of the dead (animal) on its journey."

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    Arkfeld site, #44FK734, Clear Brook Virginia

    Interpreted by Ken Johnston as a possible lion head figure based on stonework details on the mouth/muzzle/chin area. The elongated and somewhat boxy head is seen in Atrox. There is also stonework on the nose and eye areas.

    Reconstruction of the North American lion, Panthera leo atrox

    Reverse side of animal head

    Adam Arkfeld has identified a number of horse head sculptures from the site and sees this animal head as being horse-like. "The mane detail carved onto the left side leads me in horse direction as well as flaring nostrils."

    A smaller possible feline head

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     Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia, 20cm tall

    Ken Johnston interpretation of a simple face image nested in the profile sculpture. This person is portrayed as having a protruding chin with a cleft.

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    From the Spout Run archaeological site, Bluemont, Virginia. 

    An illustration of an Upper Paleolithic "cobble mask" from Siberia, Russia
    Bol'shoi El'gakhchan I site, from Early Art of the Northern Far East by M.A. Kiriyak
    Note the image of a swan-like water bird with its head facing left just under the nose of the human depiction

    Ken Johnston find at the Spout Run archaeological site owned by Rene and Chris White. I suggest both of the eyes on this piece have been humanly worked. The right eye is well defined and discrete, while the left eye is represented as a large empty space. This may be an example of the "one eye open, other eye shut or missing" Middle Paleolithic art motif.

    Among natural stones an object like this stands out. The anthropomorphic nature of the face is more prominent when compared to the "natural background" of the find location. When viewed as a photograph out of context, the human feeling aspect of the object is more difficult to appreciate.

    Ken Johnston interpretation of possible bird figure integrated into the face mask. It seems to have posture and shape of a member of the Corvid family. Click photos to expand and compare

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    Chris White find, Spout Run archaeological site, Bluemont, Virginia, was recognized for its zoomorphic properties

    Ken Johnston interpretation of human head left profile figuration, split with an animal head right profile. The split of the two creatures illustrated here is also a balance point for the stone. Only very slightly nudging the human's nose upward will cause the figure to tip and the animal's mouth to rest on the surface, as if taking a drink. Lightly touching the nose from the top causes the animal to lift its head back up. To experiment with the delicateness of the balance which has been engineered into this figure, I blew a strong puff of air onto the animal's head and it caused it to move into the "drinking position." 

    Spout Run flows through Chris and Rene White's property, Bluemont, Virginia

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    Face on diamond-shaped rock, identified by DeAnna Jerore at the Spout Run site, Bluemont, Virginia

    Close up of the face worked into the Spout Run site "face on diamond." It appears the face was given two nostrils, perhaps a symbolic breath-of-life to recognize or affect animation of the stone.

    Jeff Vincent find, Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, found in context of many portable rock art pieces, seen in an earlier posting on this blog

    Karon Schwab find, Hemet, California, identified as a weathered worked face on a diamond-shaped stone, found in context of other portable rock art objects, seen earlier on this blog.

    Diamond-shaped plaque from the Arkfeld site, about 15 miles from the Spout Run site. It seems possible there is a rough facial configuration on this stone.

    Ken Johnston interpretation of possible human face visage on the Arkfeld site diamond stone example. I cut a circle around the interpreted face.

    Lower Paleolithic find by Jan van Es, Roermond, The Netherlands. "One eye open, other eye shut or missing" motif on a roughly diamond-shaped stone.

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