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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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    Sculpture from the Old Route 66 Zoo, site #23JP1222, near Joplin, Missouri. Find by Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber.

    Ken Johnston interpretation of feline head sculptural representation, eye and mouth

    Saber tooth tiger reconstruction has a distinct chin like the Missouri sculpture

    Stacy Dodd interpretation of another animal image facing left, "bear-like," when the animal head is rotated 90 degrees right and stood up on its neck which ends with a curved base, like a rocking horse rail. Photo at right is under flash lighting for an alternative perspective on the stone.

    Stacy Dodd interpretation of a built-in spot for placement of a finger to manipulate the stone so it rocks back and forth on its base. The finger hold is also the scruff of the feline's neck, the place a mother cat uses to grab and transport her kittens.

    Stacy Dodd short video demonstrating how the sculpture rocks back and forth with ease when using the engineered finger spot.

    Dodd's excellent interpretation brings this central North American artifact to comparison to rocking sculptures identified and recorded by Denis Argaut of France already seen on this blog. Dodd's demonstration comes very close to producing the galloping horse sound which Argaut has demonstrated on eight stone sculptures from France.

     

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    Found in Pushmataha County Oklahoma, "in the mountains" by Jessica Robertson 

    The rock is 6.5 x 10.5 and 3" thick. The symmetry of the tablet with a rooftop form, is indeed quite curious.

    Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. Side 2 may have remnants of red ocher pigment in its crevices. 

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    "Front-on view of mammoth head, with curled trunk" Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo, site #23JP1222, Missouri inventory number OR66Z. Many iconic objects from this site have been featured on this blog, including a number of mammoth sculptures.

    Stone interpreted as a mammoth head figure by Stacy Dodd

    (Left) Interpreted by Stacy Dodd as a mammoth head in left profile view. There appears to be a depiction of the fingers at the tip of the mammoth's trunk. (Right)  From Arkfeld site in Clear Brook, Virginia, a similar left profile view mammoth head figure stone seen recently on this blog.

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    Perched bird figurine facing left from The Old Route 66 Zoo, #23JP1222, near Joplin, Missouri

    Adam Arkfeld find, Arkfeld site, #44FK734, Clear Brook, Virginia, was featured earlier this month on this blog

    Missouri face on bird figure (left) and Virginia face on bird figure (right) may both reflect the intent to create bird/human combination sculptures. These could be examples of artistic representations of ideas of therianthropy


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    Bird with head turned back, "sleeping duck motif" or maybe a preening bird here. From The Old Route 66 Zoo site, #23JP1222. Find by Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber. The sculpture is worked around a hole through the stone which serves to define the bird's neck and head.

    Photo of a sleeping duck

    From Arkfeld site, Clear Brook, Virginia, seen recently on this blog.

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    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo site, Jasper County, Missouri. Stacy Dodd interpretation of an ape figure with her baby

    A number of ape-like figures have been identified at this Missouri site, enough to wonder about a connection to Western Europe portable rock art figurative representation of these animals. Or were these figures inspired by monkey species in Central or South America? Could they be attempts at human imagery which we perceive moreso as apes?

    Independent rock art researcher Ursel Benekendorff of Germany has documented a large number baboon and ape figures from her Lower Paleolithic site. Benekendorff writes, "My very own investigation  was conducted under such "curiosity" aspects, and seems in retrospect now fully in line with a paradigm change.. Natural features must have been recognised by humans and re-shaped according to own ideas, not always easy to understand. I was very surprised to have brought to light an ancient fauna for this territory, such as apes, hippo, elephant and more, not at all to be expected in the deep gravels of Schleswig-Holstein?"

    Photo Copyright James Warwick used with permission. Mother with possible stone tool in her right hand. Baby caught in this photo with one eye open, one eye closed.

    Upside down reverse side view of this same "Ape-like figure with baby in lap" takes on symbolic representation of a mammoth, mastodon, or elephant in a head-on view. This is a combination figure stone featuring signigicant animal representations.

    Proboscidean head rotated 180 degrees is a possible erect phallus figure


    Baboon head on an "Acheulean handaxe" identified by Ken Johnston earlier on this blog. The artifact is from the Paris Basin.

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    Bobcat head figure identified by Lisa Deason. Lisa has identified a significant portable rock art site and her finds seen here cover art motifs observed by so many other people. The site is on her farm in Lee County, Alabama.

    Lion head figure identified by Lisa Deason

    Face on diamond identified by Lisa Deason. The face mask also depicts the "one eye open, other eye shut or missing" motif.  The right eye is carved in bas relief and the left eye is expressed as a circle with an empty place resembling a doughnut ring. Lisa Deason interprets a possible nose decoration depiction on the face. If one looks closely, you may be able to see three or four teeth in the figure's mouth.


    Lisa Deason writes "To my knowledge, there are no documented discoveries of this art form in Alabama. There is not a registered site in this city not even a historic site; there are however, some in nearby Phenix City, Opelika and Auburn.

    The President of the Alabama Archaeological Society in Auburn came to look at our land after I found the first point and a few flakes and she said it could possibly have been a camp. She told me to call her if I found anything else and so of course I did, but she never came nor called me back. That was in 2010 and I never pursued...not even after finding all the art pieces. So needless to say, it's just been my destiny to find them, care for them and enjoy their beauty.

    I exhausted all efforts to find information on the internet as I couldn't find anything other than Days Knob. When I read of the struggles and challenges they faced with archaeologists acknowledging their finds as true artifacts, I decided to give up on ever learning more or connecting with someone with knowledge. I only began my research again after hearing all about pre-Clovis research. It was then that I thought that since I can't find others who have found what I have found, maybe it's because it's undiscovered elsewhere since it took this long to find it here.

    I typed in portable rock art last week and there was your blog. So that's where I'm at and I am so excited to be able to share it with others and be able to discover and learn more myself along the way. Thank you for doing what you do. :-)"

    Thank you Lisa for sharing your very important finds. Alan Day at Day's Knob has since had success in establishing probable artificiality of figurative stones in a number of cases with the assistance of a doctorate level Petrologist, specialist in the composition and formation of rocks.

    Lisa Deason finds include tools along with figurative pieces.





    In the same way we can perceive both a rabbit and a duck head in the famous optical illusion, the Lisa Deason sleeping duck here may also be seen as a rabbit with ears folded down (sleeping rabbit). It is polyiconic and is both in the visual illusion. Prehistoric artists exploited ambiguity like this to affect deeper or additional meanings in their art.

    Alabama lion head (left) compared to Flint Ridge, Ohio, object identified as a lion head in an earlier posting. These two objects are probably mediated by the same visual cultural tradition.

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    Jan van Es, Roermond, The Netherlands, writes for Archaeology of Portable Rock Art:

    "The question if stone-age men -besides their technical tool-kit filled with types and traditions- also recorded their own identity, always has been (and still is) my motive to examine every artifact very accurately. Cave-paintings, some worked ivory, bone and horn sculptures, portraits etc. mostly have been estimated at not older than 30.000 BP and coupled with modern mankind. 

    But all those hundreds of thousands of years before seem to be a great empty gap, while the established archaeologists worldwide and repeatedly were and still are exposing stone-age tools -already known and accepted by the public- with even the most fantastic names. In 1971 at last I thought to have found some confirmation with the find of a neolithic leaf-point: frontal (ventral) I saw a male portrait (with pointed cap) and at the backside (dorsal) a bearded man. 

    I wondered: were these images worked out deliberately? Were they caused by accident? Perhaps the creator didn't see it at all? Anyway this piece has been the instigator to the intensification of my research, concerning this phenomenon. I wanted to find out whether this was of frequent occurrence or this artifact would turn out to be an isolated case. 

    In course of time my collection increased rapidly and it was very astonishing to find out that this phenomenon turned up more often. The more surprised I was because of the fact that the professionals never mentioned anything like it. They keep on showing their tools in similar typologies as if it is a merely technical matter. All the same I recognized ever-recurring themes of portraits and animal images in several tools (called "pseudo tools" by the profs), which made me wonder what to call such stones: "tools", "sculptures" or even a combination of these? 

    As I put it to several profs, I was called a "pseudo"-collector, fantast (cloud-watcher). Later on several amateurs, still wanting the verification of professionals (and still working with the standards of those profs), turned their backs upon this matter. To me the opinion of the profs had not that great importance to chuck up! No! On the contrary, it was all the more reason to go against it and to look for supporters and like-mindeds and to find them (which I did). While enlarging my collection I noticed that the older the tools and sculptures, the clearer the images. 

    Through the years I discovered that in particular blade-sculptures which, by their abstract and symmetrical forms, were more difficult to interpret than the Early Paleolithic pieces. Particularly people of the older stone-age traditions were handling the principle: nature shows and offers the basic forms or basic shapes. They acquired these forms to fix and perpetuate their "image-language" in typological iterations. Take for instance a round shaped stone. By making little alterations from time to time one finally ends with a square or another shape. The phases (or stages) in between were utilized to develop other sculptures, thus the working process was in stages from zero all the way to a complete and total form. 

    During all those years of research I noticed that, besides all forms nature offers in rocks, trees, fruit, animals etc., the egg-shaped rocks were considered as the most ideal kind. The big cosmic egg, the germinal force and origin of life, seems to have been a very important notion and turns out to be a main line in the images. The reproductions of sculptures can be "read" in all ways nature offers, like the shine of fire, twilight, fog, vivid sunlight, moistness et cetera. 

    Using these techniques of "looking" one discovers a shadow language. By turning and overturning the sculptures with this technique (using the above mentioned elements) one can "read" a story. A story in which actually the profs ought to have deepened. Anyway, taking effort to reflect upon this matter wouldn't be bad." Jan van Es. (Transl. J.Huber)

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    Jeff Vincent find, Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, is a second example of a bird in flight sculpture he has identified among dozens of art objects

    A human face image is incorporated into the Arkansas bird's tail feathers as also seen in this example from Maryland featured earlier on this blog.

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    "Bird in flight" stone figure identified by Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber, from The Old Route 66 Zoo site, 23JP1222, near Joplin, Missouri. 

    Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, finds by Jeff Vincent featured already on this blog. The bird at left has a smiling human face on its tail. Other bird figures on this blog have smiling humans integrated into the head or tail.

    There is a faint trace of a human face on the bird's tail feathers like in examples seen in the posting yesterday, July 8. Like other depictions in portable rock art, and particularly from The Old Route 66 Zoo site, there appear to be teeth in the human's mouth.

     Faint trace of a second smiling human face image on the bird's tail.

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    From site #23JP1222, Jasper County, Missouri, lion head profile looking left with faint trace of lion face looking straight-on

    Mark ups made on photos to illustrate interpreted lion forms

    Flint Ridge, Ohio, interpreted as a lion head profile looking right with a lion face looking straight on. This was a one-eyed lion depiction and the missing eye is added to this photo to allow better interpretation of the lion face elements.

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    Henri Valentie find, Île d'Oléron, France. In this perspective on the stone, we may interpret a primate-like face, including nostrils, looking straight-on.

    Hello there,
    I present to you one of my latest discoveries still on the island of Oleron. Initially I apprised this stone for a tool then I saw a human face but also a beautiful profile of a head. It is lower paleo, quartz, 1.6kg, width 8.8 cm, 10.2 cm deep. Always fascinated by your site.
    Cordially to you,
    Henri Valentie

    Another view of the stone presents a face mask in the "one eye open, other eye closed or missing" motif

    In this third view of the same stone, we may see a human face and head profile looking left and a gorilla-like head in left 3/4 profile


    (left) Artifact from Germany as seen at originsnet.org for motif comparison to France example, Photographer © Walther Matthes. Matthes, W. (1969). Eiszeitkunst im Nordseeraum. Otterndorf, Gr: Niederelbe-Verlag; (1964/1965). Bild 62.

    (left) Artifact from Nona Axsom, Portland, Oregon for motif comparison to France example

    Up close of third facial image, facing left, on the same stone. 

    In this same up close view seen in the illustration at right, the ambiguity of the stone allows the interpretation of a gorilla-like face looking straight-on, including nostrils.

    Those nostrils may become the eyes on a third face in this perspective, sharing the same chin element as the other two faces. This little face seems to have some feline qualities. The cat may interpreted with ears and as having its tongue slightly visible in its mouth.

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    Dennis Boggs find, near Irrigon, Oregon, Columbia River Valley

    The drawing below is not of this artifact, but of another very similar one identified by Russian archaeologist M.A. Kiriyak. The entire Dennis Boggs collection of more than one hundred iconic objects is interpreted and curated by Ken Johnston, with one thousand additional specimens pending examination and study.

    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.

    Side-by-side comparison of Oregon figure stone (left) and drawing of a Siberian figure stone (right)

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    Lion head profile looking left, found by David Boies, near Austin, Texas

    (Left) A possible lion head sculpture from the Arkfeld site, Clear Brook, Virginia, faces the Austin, Texas, figure. Even though they are facing opposite directions, these two lion heads are made on somewhat the same visual template, likely being a culturally-guided tradition. The Texas figure at right has a prominent chin at the 16.5cm mark.

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    This Pipe Creek, Ohio, chert vein plate was featured in a recent article in Ohio Archaeologist. I noticed it resembles chert lion head sculptures I have identified from Flint Ridge, Ohio 

    This chert vein plate was likely harvested and shaped for its likeness to a feline head facing right in a cultural tradition which was first noticed at Flint Ridge, Ohio. The top and bottom edges of the figure are the top and bottom natural surfaces of the chert vein and the right and left edges were harvested or trimmed in order to frame the basic facial elements in a plausible lion head shape.

    A reconstructed interpretation of the North American lion head

    Black lines highlight the interpreted eye and nose, and a red line marks the mouth, of a lion head profile facing right 

    Flint Ridge, Ohio, lion head sculpture facing right featured earlier on this blog.

    Flint Ridge, Ohio, lion head sculpture facing left featured earlier on this blog.

    Flint Ridge, Ohio, sculpted lion head found in a group of seven other sculptures featured in postings in the month of May, 2012.

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    Keith Stamper find, St. Peters, Missouri, identified as a sculpted human head figure 

    The Keith Stamper sculpted head at top has strong stylistic similarity to this sculpted human head by Homo erectus from the Lower Paleolithic Acheulean tradition featured by Pietro Gaietto on the cover of his book.

    (left) View 2 of the Keith Stamper Missouri sculpture find, (right) a profile view showing "nose" protrusion

    Two human heads with facial profiles facing left (click photos to expand)

    A sample of the dozens of anthropomorphic forms identified by Keith Stamper at St. Peters, Missouri

    Levallois-like flake tool identified among sculptures by Keith Stamper

    Thick blade tool found among sculptures by Keith Stamper

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    David Boies iconic finds at Austin, Texas, illustrate how human disturbance of natural quartz crystal fractal patterns through grinding and chipping may allow scientific confirmation of artificiality of suspected artifacts such as these

    Mr. Boies has identified dozens of portable rock art objects in a concentrated area near Austin, Texas.



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    Sahuarita, Arizona, find by James, identified as a human head sculpture

    James writes, "I have been hunting arrowheads and various artifacts for about 8 years and one day out I found a carving and couldn't wait to get home and share what I found. I posted pics on the site I joined and then every one said I was crazy, it was just a rock. But the art/tool was really as plain as the nose on your face, so I started looking for research and here I am still wanting to share. I have found more arrowheads just by following the art that is laying on the ground. I need a community that knows what is really going on. Not just another sharp rock site- there is a lot more going on than people realize. And I would like to share these images from Sahuarita, AZ . Thanks, love the site. James"




    Ken Johnston detected the visage of a one-eyed feline incorporated into the backside of the human head sculpture identified by James. This helps "seal the deal" on the authenticity of this art piece. The human head form and the one-eyed feline form are consistent with other portable rock art representations as seen on this blog.

    The missing eye is represented by a gash, where the seeing eye has more stone detail.

    "Most people who care much about art find that of the work that moves them most the greater part is what scholars call "Primitive" ...In primitive art you will find no accurate representation; you will find only significant form. Yet no other art moves us so profoundly." -Clive Bell, 1914; quoted after Cahn and Meskin 2007: 266.

    Sculpture from Italy on the cover of Pietro Gaietto's book compared to Arizona example

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    Human head sculpture, find by David Boies, near Austin, Texas. There may be red ocher staining on the lower part of this artifact.

    Ken Johnston illustration marking the full mammoth in profile facing left which is depicted as "cresting" the human's head.

    Licking County, Ohio, human face left profile sculpture interpreted as also incorporating a mammoth icon (trunk and head bump) cresting its head. Found in context of other human/mammoth art pieces. Featured in an earlier posting.

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    David Boies artifact find, near Austin, Texas

    This figure evidences stone removal on the "right eye, the nose" and the "mouth" made to affect the final desired image of a chert pebble face mask expressing the pervasive portable rock art motif of "One eye open, other eye shut or missing." 

    This motif dates to the Acheulean and may also be seen in Middle-Paleolithic European assemblages, according to art and religion scholar James Harrod, Ph.D., at OriginsNet.

    View 2 of this worked pebble with scale in inches.

    The face looking at us straight-on has the left profile of another face occupying its left side. The two faces share the same stone feature as a "nostril." 

    I am inspired by the rock art scholarship of Barbara Olins Alpert who has made superb comparisons of Pleistocene art forms and historic to modern arts. The kind of facial image ambiguity seen in the Texas figure stone is also exploited by artist Pablo Picasso of our time.

    “There Is Nothing New Under The Sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:4-11

    Author Barbara Olins Alpert describes a simplistic face made by addition of three painted black lines added to a naturally-suggestive form in a cave at Vilhouueur (Charente, France) seen pictured here and dated to ca. 25,000 years before present. See her illustration below.


    David Boies Austin, Texas finds, side by side and compared to France cave rock art painting.

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