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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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    Zoomorphic stone identified by Jeff Vincent at Mammoth Springs, Arkansas

     Right profile view of zoomorph

    Left profile view of zoomorph

    Left profile view again with illustration of Jeff Vincent interpreted a horse-like figure at the zoomorph's mouth and a possible one-eyed face mask.

    Other examples of small pebbles inserted into stone crevices as "teeth" have been seen on this blog and have been documented by Jan van Es of Roermond, The Netherlands. Having one or two pebbles in a "mouth" like this might be attributable to coincidence but a mouth full of teeth from end-to-end and in line with other suspected stone figures makes an artist's deliberate action more likely. The "horse near mouth of teeth" is an interesting depiction as horse was a significant component of the North American Paleolithic diet.

    Jeff Vincent noticed a small face icon as the "nose" of the horse, seen highlighted as the circle within the circle above. This kind of image-within-image is commonly seen in portable rock art.

    A giant flint dagger discovered by Jeff Vincent at Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, among portable rock art. Archaeology will eventually accept that portable rock art can lead to sites which produce tools which have not been accounted for in the current taxonomies.

    It seems there is a crude human facial profile incorporated into this dagger. Eye gash at top, nose protruding at far right and mouth gash at bottom. Tools which incorporate simple human imagery like facial profiles have been seen on this blog.

    A metal blade from the Arkfeld site was interpreted as having a facial profile incorporated into it which led to its interpretation as a prehistoric, and possibly Paleolithic, piece of metal work.

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    Sculpture of long-billed bird with head turned back, 10cm
    Arkfeld site at Clear Brook, Virginia, #44FK732

    Mesopotamia, Weight in the Shape of a Sleeping Duck, c. 2000 - 1500 BCE, carved limestone, length 35.2 cm — an unusually large size, private collection, Europe. The massive and highly stylized bird is shown with a plump body and flaring tail, and easily transcends its original and somewhat prosaic function. The head, on an elongated neck, is turned to rest on the back. The simplified contours combine with the tactile surface invite comparison to sculptures by Constantin Brancusi and other modern sculptors.

    Interpreted by Ken Johnston as a "duck with head turned back" limestone figure from the Arkfeld site, Clear Brook, Virginia, featured earlier on this blog. Compare this small figure to the boulder size expression of the same form at Great-Pampau, Germany, below. (click photos to open and compare)

    Image and text capture Copyright (c) Ursel Benekendorff, web site All Rights Reserved Ursel Benekendorff.

    Handy version. "Preening water birds" motif described and documented by Ursel Benekendorff from c. 500,000 BP. Image Copyright (c) Ursel Benekendorff, web site . All Rights Reserved Ursel Benekendorff.

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    Bird figure #1 with eye detail
    Ken Johnston find, Muskingum County, Ohio

    Side 2

    Side 2 and side 1

    Eye detail highlighted 

    Bird figure #2 with eye detail
    Ken Johnston find, Muskingum County, Ohio

    Side 2

    Sides 1 and 2

    Eye detail highlighted

    The two bird sculptures seen with scale.

    These two bird figures are among dozens in Vanport chert identified by this author. These observations continue to be dismissed by the Ohio professional and amateur archaeologist communities despite the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the flint working technologies and artistic creations of prehistoric Native Americans.

    World top rated flint knapper Chris Miller who resides at the Flint Ridge source of Vanport chert during Summer months has confirmed artifact status in great detail of Vanport chert iconic objects which were determined to be creations of natural chaos by a top archaeological lithics laboratory. We all should give more credibility to Chris' knowledge than to a university lab.

    It is up to Archaeology to bridge the gap between its "book smarts" and the real world experincies and observations of astute and well-intended individuals. Until it does, it remains mired in a dogma which is well past its expiration date.

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    Red flint human head in left 3/4 profile portrait style, finished in retouch work
    Jan van Es find, Boukoul, The Netherlands

    From"The 'Boukoulian' is a microlithic industry discovered by J. Van Es in 1973; it consists of many thousand artifacts collected during 20 years of intensive field survey. The type site is Boukoul, Netherlands; subsequent sites with overlapping forms include Iegelpoel and Helden, Netherlands. Artifacts range in size from about 0.5-4 cm; 95% are less than 2 cm. A full report on the Boukoulian is given in Van Es, J. and Franssen, C.J.H. (1989). Een vroege microkern-traditie van de Peelhorst het Boukoulien. Archaeologische Berichten 19:6-25;93-133. Elst, NL. Images in this gallery highlight the site profile, tools and techniques including workbenches and egg-in-cup, and characteristic palaeoart subjects of the Boukoulian: female figurines; zoomorphs; and heads/profiles/masks."

    Archaeologist Jan van Es of Roermond identified the Boukoulian industry at the type site of Boukoul indicated by the pin point on the map

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    Human facial profile facing left along with view of side 2 flake scars in photo at right, 21.5cm
    Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia, site #44FK732

    A foot long dagger with a worked tip, 30cm

    The dagger resembles a bird in flight as if the holder has grabbed the bird by the tail

    The tip of the dagger

    Side view with scale in inches

    A stone "hand gun" knife, 11.5cm

    Possible simple human facial profile identified by Adam Arkfeld incorporated into the handle of the knife, looking left in this photo

    Side 2 with possible human facial profile looking right

    This box cutter like knife has the "One eye missing" face mask motif incorporated into the handle. Archaeology will eventually have to explain how Lower and Middle Paleolithic art motifs like this occur in North America. 12.5cm

    A Levallois-like tool identified by Adam Arkfeld as having a basal thinning flake removed, evidenced by the black triangle seen in photo at right. 4.5cm.

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    A portable petroglyph human figure identified by Adam Arkfeld, 4cm tall

    Petroglyph from Moonflower Canyon, near Moab, Utah

    The whole side of the Virginia stone which includes the human line figure, 9cm. Adam Arkfeld interprets a possible horse neck and head figure in the overall outline of the stone, looking left.

    An alternate non-figurative interpretation here could be as "branching lines," a known rock art form.

    Incised zoomorphic stone identified by Adam Arkfeld, 8cm

    It seems possible the right end of the stone was given a slope representative of a proboscidean trunk. 

    Profile view of mammoth figure on pebble facing right identified by Adam Arkfeld at Clear Brook, Virginia, site #44FK732. 5cm. The context of dozens of other mammoth-like figures at this location and the identification of an ivory carving of a horse brings an object like this into consideration as an art piece.

    Illustration of line defining body and head/trunk of mammoth, with a divot for an eye

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    Pietro Gaietto's article "The Shout of Homo Erectus"
    Image Copyright Paleolithic Art Magazine, Pietro Gaietto

    Image Copyright Paleolithic Art Magazine

    Image Copyright Paleolithic Art Magazine

    Image Copyright Paleolithic Art Magazine

    Similar iconic pattern identified by Heather Welk at Denver, Colorado

    Example at far right compares to Arkansas example pictured below

    The form and techniques used to modify this stone from Arkansas were recently compared to early human examples (Acheulean, Homo erectus) by Jan van Es of Roermond, Netherlands. It compares to the example at right in the photo above this one. 

     Three of Heather Welk's Denver, Colorado, "shouting" stones in profile together.

    "Totemistic face" interpretation, archaic Acheulean, Jan van Es find at Beegden, Netherlands

    A rock with a human face image Heather Welk identified in the context of the Denver "shout" stones. It looks like a bearded man.

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    Flint Ridge, Muskingum County, Ohio, bird sculpture find by Ken Johnston, 11cm

    Bird figure sits on a stable base, facing right here with "tail feathers" at left

    Sitting bird figure facing left

    Bird figure perched upon a small easel. The bird's head has a pointed likeness to the Northern Cardinal, Ohio's official state bird. The red color of the stone may have inspired the artist to give the sculpture a cardinal likeness.

    Northern Cardinal common to Ohio

    Side 1 and 2 of a bird figure found with the cardinal, 8cm
    (click photos to expand)

    Little bird figure with worked eye, beak and split tail feathers from same context. 5cm. Two views here of the same side.

    This geometric shaped artifact (11cm) is a common occurrence at Flint Ridge, Ohio. It resembles some later Acheulean handaxe forms from Europe. This same form is also seen locally to Flint Ridge, Ohio, in limestone examples.

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    Anthropomorphic "stem figures" found by Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber at The Old Rout 66 Zoo site, near Joplin, Missouri, #23JP1222. 

    Dodd has speculated they may have been used as puppets in story telling or child play. All four figures are in profile looking right in this photo.

    Another anthropomorphic stem figure stone identified by Dodd and a close up of the facial detail, faint, but sill present. This figure is looking straight on.

    The black lines in this photo indicate the interpreted "line of eye sight" of the figures. The one at right has a smaller face looking left on its back. In the middle is a small figure of a human bust with a pointed chin and looking right. Please note the figure at left has a groove to accomodate a thumb in order to improve the grip on and the

    Anthropomorphic stemmed figures identified by Adam Arkfeld at the Arkfeld site, Clear Brook, Virginia, #44FK732. The two at left seem to invoke the female form.

    Anthropomorphic stemmed figures identified by Adam Arkfeld

    Arkfeld site, Virginia, anthropomorphic stem figure at left (photo reversed for more direct compare) and one of the figures identified from The Old Route 66 Zoo site in Missouri. I propose these two figures are examples of the same culturally mediated anthropomorphic stone figure tradition representing the same idealized form or character.

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    "The Guardian of the Cave at Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand"

    Anthropomorphic stone found by rock collector Thath Chanuhacha of Bankok may also have been recognized and modified in prehistory. The find location at a cave entry, the anthropomorphic imagery detected by Thath and the possibility of an elephant head and trunk combined into the head of the human make this piece and the cave where it was found worth closer examination for art attributes.

    When the stone is rotated 90 degrees right, a possible figure of an elephant head and trunk may be seen in profile facing right.

    Thath writes: "This is a jadeite cobble found in Ura river, Burma over a hundred years ago.  It is in natural shape and was hand polished by a Burmese tribe who live around the bank of the river.  It came to an American collector in the 1970s and finally I bought it from him in 2000."

      A mimetolith collected by Thath.

    Another mimetolith collected by Thath at Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

    The cartoon above addresses a significant idea in the archaeology of portable rock art. Today's finders and interpreters often have intuitive or common-sense based "feelings" and "sensibilities" about the iconic rocks they identify. This kind of "bond of spontaneous recognition" should not be so quickly dismissed as may be implied by the comedy of the cartoon.

    There are several kinds of reasons humans may have an innate sense, in fact a biological and genetically encoded imperative, for recognition of rocks which have been gathered or modified by other humans. Examples include:

    1) identification of other contemporaneous humans (threats or potential mates) in or near the same geographic space

    2) identification of nearby suitable tool stone resources

    3) identification of stone tools which are immediately available for reuse or repurpose

    4) identification of areas which may good for exploitation of local resources (site habitation, paths of animal migration, seasonal plant foodstuffs, etc.)

    5) in the case of examples of culturally originated visual forms, detection of specific information which may encoded in art objects as stone "exograms," or external information storage devices like books or CD ROMs. (R.G. Bednarik)

    These intuitive observations which are experienced broadly by non-formally educated persons seem to be intellectually killed by the field of Archaeology because of its institutionalized and protected knowledge which has become seriously faulty. It is mostly all etic, or involving analysis of cultural phenomena from the perspective of one who does not participate in the culture being studied (R.G. Bednarik).

    The biases of the discipline of Archaeology cannot prevail over the observations of astute laypersons in the long run, with more free association of images and ideas on the internet as opposed to the closed publication systems in anthropology and their thorough inability to process anomalous artifacts and information.

    There is no other academic pursuit than archaeology which has had so many of its major twists and turns and developments and advancements assisted by amateur observers. Despite this, there is still an institutionalized disposition against the portable rock art concept. Without any changes and given enough time, the mast of the current archaeology discipline will grabbed away from it by those with more functional and open systems of knowledge generation.

    The several hundred well intended and intelligent individuals who have contacted me over the years regarding visually significant objects found in concentrated areas have been treated by professional archaeologists as "misguided" or "cloud watchers" or "pareidoliacs" in every case. This kind of patrolling of ideas is seen in cults, not in academic disciplines. Archaeology may defer to the hard sciences when it is desperate but in no way yet adopts the Scientific Method for its own core functions and operations. 

    "Some patterns and features in stone tools and art are easily detectable by laypersons but they are eschewed by archaeologists because they are not already in the books and papers they have read. It seems that simple and that dysfunctional. It is as if they know all there is to know and of course that is never the case." -Ken Johnston

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    A sprinting feline sculpture, 35cm, from the Arkfeld site, #44FK732

    Bear sculpture from Arkfeld, 10cm

    Adam Arkfeld identified tools in the context of the figurative finds

     Front and back of tools found in the art context

    Arkfeld may be a good site to learn what non chert tools may look like in North American Paleolithic assemblages.

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    Rock with incised lines, Arkfeld site, #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia. 15cm. Interpreted by Ken Johnston as a human head representation, chin at far left, eyes looking to upper left corner of the frame. A cap or a hairstyle may be depicted.

    Close up of the incised lines near the "neck" of the human head figure

    Side two also interpreted as a human head representation, chin at far right, as if the human is looking to the upper right corner of the frame.

    Possible human or animal head figure with incised lines, 10cm

    Illustration highlighting the incised lines

    Interpreted by Adam Arkfeld as a leaping human figure, 6cm

     Illustration highlighting the incised lines. Close-up of cutout image of faint traces of a human face.

    Arkfeld site blade tools found in the art context

    Arkfeld site awls

    Arkfeld site burins

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    Subtle relief plaque of human head profile looking left, 5cm, Lee County, Alabama

    Lisa Deason find, north east Alabama, in a context of other iconic finds which have been featured on this blog. Here a human head looking left with possible mammoth icon cresting the person's forehead with "trunk" continuing as the person's nose. This incorporation of the mammoth form and the human face has been documented on this blog.

    Lisa Deason has identifed concentrations of iconic stone objects at the family farm in north east Alabama. 6cm. This is one is interpreted by Ken Johnston as a feline head figure with bas relief eyes, a mouth including a tongue and remnants of red ocher pigment decoration still visible on the feline's muzzle.

    Some odd metal pieces interpreted as tools by Lisa Deason. They did not appear to Lisa to be obviously historically created pieces like iron nails which have been found where former historic period wood structures may have existed. Persons with expertise in historical metal objects are welcome to comment on these finds.

    Close up of a mini sickle-like tool. Is this a known historic period tool form to be found on an Alabama farm? Comments are welcome.

    Close up of object at top, middle of group tool photo above

    Outline of geometric shape in the metal also seen in some stone tool forms in eastern North America. This object is deteriorating or it has fused with another object which has obscured the shape.

    A simple backed metal blade, 2.5, .75in. Are objects like this known from historic times?

    Back edge

    Blade edge

    An intended shape or a byproduct of historic metal working?

    A zoomorphic shape, 2.5, 1.5in

    Metal awl with possible accommodation for a handle, 4.25, 1.5in

    Illustration of possible narrowing of the metal to secure a handle

    These metal objects may be historic, the dating is unknown. 2.5, 2.25in. They are interesting observations in light of the metal objects reported from the Arkfeld site in association with portable rock art.

    A metal wedge-like tool

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    Jan van Es find, Acheulean human head profile, Boukoul, Netherlands

    A Middle Acheulean micro biface from the Boukoul site

    Stone including a human image detected by Jan van Es. Subtle alterations are made to Boukoul stones to enhance or "tease out" visually significant forms.

    Close view including human image detected by Jan van Es. Please note the shape of the hair style or head dress in this image resembles the "mammoth cresting person's forehead" form seen in the posting just prior to this one. 

    Jan van Es markup of the interpreted image

    The sitting human image framed.

    Interpreted as an animal head facing right by Jan van Es. Ken Johnston interprets this stone image as a likely feline representation.

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    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, outside Joplin, Missouri, along Old Route 66. Interpreted as a stone bear figure with nose raised to the air. One of many dozens of iconic objects from this site which are featured on this blog.

    Illustration of the interpreted features of the bear figure including a hind leg expression

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    Sherry Hill find, Doe River valley Tennessee

    Side 2, 8cm

    A cardinal-like bird figure made in retouch to the flake edges, 9cm

    Sherry Hill interpreted this as a human head profile looking left in a 2011 posting on this blog. Ken Johnston interprets this as an example of a human with a mammoth form, in the shape of a mammoth's "head bump," cresting the human's forehead which has been identified here as a North American portable rock art motif. The tip of the mammoth's trunk is also the tip of the human's nose.

    Here is a link to info on the Tennessee Coats-Hines Paleoindian mammoth site.

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    Pebble mask with manufactured mouth, Arkfeld site, #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia, 2.5cm

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  • 11/01/14--09:41: Shout and rabbit
  • Rabbit neck and head looking left with ears folded back and combined with the "Shout" motif
    Sherry Hill find, Doe River valley, far east Tennessee, 7cm

    This figure stone was identified by Sherry as a quasi-anthropomorphic piece due the mouth-like notch on its end which results in a simple PAC-MAN like human head form. It stands upright in this position. Another similar find by Sherry was featured earlier on this blog and has been compared to finds from other sites. A recent posting also covered finds similar to Sherry's from Denver, Colorado.

    I discovered a rabbit head and neck profile looking left while rotating the stone inspecting for areas of human modification. I think this stone is a combination of the "Shout" motif and a hare or rabbit. This may be interpreted as a combination of predator and prey symbolism. A "Shout" flint stone from the Pleistocene (proto-) Thames River valley, U.K., was also interpreted as combining a possible prey animal and may be seen as comparable to Sherry's find.

    Side 2

    "Shout and rabbit"

    Interpretations of the eye, nose and mouth of the rabbit image and the area of the stone which has been sculpted.

    PAC-MAN and another "Shout" motif worked stone identified by Sherry Hill in the same context, 12cm, seen in a 2011 posting

    Side 2 of the Tennessee figure stone illustrating an eye feature composed of a circular shape in a similar position to the PAC-MAN eye.

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     David Boies find, near Austin, Texas, 6cm

    This pebble was selected by the artist because of the suitable "mammoth left profile shape" at the top, reminiscent of the mammoths' prominent head bump. It has a worked face mask in the lower half with a pecked circle serving as a wide open mouth. The mammoth head bump at top left of the stone has been given a carved eye in correct anatomical position. The top of the human's head may be seen as being topped or crested by the mammoth profile.

    An expanded right eye and mouth with quartz crystal features makes this pebble mask

    Chert pebble with worked eyes and nose to compliment a natural mouth feature in the cortex of the stone

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    Worked slag glass, Lisa Deason find, Lee County, Alabama

    As far as I can determine, there is no precedent for any historical people making micro tools like this out of glass slag.

    At left is a plaque identified by Lisa Deason as a human left profile featured in a recent post. I interpreted the plaque as incorporating the form of a mammoth profile, as if the mammoth is cresting the person's head. At right is a piece from Licking County, Ohio, which was interpreted in an earlier posting as a human left facial profile also crested by the mammoth head form. Perhaps not a coincidence, worked glass slag has been found in the context of both of these art pieces.

    This piece of green glass slag was confirmed as being intentionally broken off of another piece by Ohioan Chris Miller, a world ranked top flint knapper. It too is human made glass which has been further modified. Ken Johnston interpreted this piece in an earlier posting as a human head profile looking left, with a mark made in correct position to serve as the person's eye.

    The anomalous slag and metal objects from Alabama, Ohio and the Arkfeld site in Virginia, found in the context of portable rock art raise questions about the possibility of bloomery technology in North America associated with Pleistocene art forms.

    Lisa Deason has identified slag, a by-product of metal and glass production, on her family farm despite no known historical record of smelting at that location.

    Bloomery technology may have been an element of the cultural traditions responsible for production of some portable rock art.

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