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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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    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo Site, 23JP1222, near Joplin, Missouri

    Ken Johnston illustration of the combined shout and rabbit forms. The rabbit is depicted as standing upright. There are two incised cuts in the stone to create a clear demarcation between the shout and rabbit sides of the sculpture. There may be some red ocher staining visible near this line.

    The two shout+rabbit figures were found about 675 miles apart near Joplin, Missouri, and near Johnson City, Tennessee

    "Shout and rabbit head" interpretation made of a Tennessee figure stone in a November 1, 2014 posting on this blog

    It is proposed here the combination of the rabbit and the shout PAC-MAN like images had a special cultural meaning to some Stone Age North Americans.

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    "Two Faces" view, Jan van Es find, Bokoul, Netherlands

    In the "two faces" view here, they share an eye in the middle but have separate noses and mouths. The left eye of one face is the right eye of the other face.

    Jan van Es writes: "One stone from the Boukoul site and his story. The stone is jasper and working in the old Acheul. 450.000-750.000 lower paleo. The stone (a polymorph) is under 3cm."

    All images above are on one stone from the Boukoul, Netherlands, site worked by Jan van Es of Roermond.

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     David Boies find, Westlake, Texas, 3cm 

    Figure of a head of a horned animal, perhaps a Big Horn Sheep, on the side opposite the human head

    Big Horn Sheep

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     Flaked profile of human head looking left, two eye divots made in the stone, Jeff Vincent find, Mammoth Spring, Arkansas. Sculpture stands upright on a flat base in these orientations.

    On side 2, a profile of a human or animal head with wide open mouth looking right, similar to the PAC-MAN form

    Bear figure

    (toy? educational? spiritual? naturalistic?)`

    I see this as a possible spiritual item where a human skull is depicted looking left on the posterior of the bear. This is faintly visible on this figure. Birds, mammoth, bison and bear in portable rock art have humans and human skulls incorporated into their bodies and facing opposite, Janus-like,. This may imply a possible culturally significant duality between human and animal domains.

    Awl like tools in the vicinity of the iconic pieces

    A possible bird head or bird head tool, Jeff Vincent finds, Mammoth Spring, Arkansas

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    "Owl in nest"
    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo Site, 23JP1222, near Joplin, Missouri

    Illustration by Ken Johnston of Stacy Dodd interpretation. The owl may be depicted here with its prey dangling from its beak which is seen in one other example already featured on this blog. (please see Buckeye Lake, Ohio, sculpture hoard flint and crystal owl, May 2012).

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    "Bison, mammoth and human polyiconic sculpture"
    Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Mr. Arkfeld found this sculpture just a few feet from the (April 3) stone interpreted as a human or human skull face mask with a mammoth cresting its forehead and with the mammoth sharing an eye with the human. This sculpture and its proximity to the first helps validate the interpretations of intention to combine human and mammoth imagery in sculpture at Arkfeld.

    These two are in addition to more than a dozen such human+mammoth sculptures from this remarkable Pleistocene site located in the back yard of The Smithsonian Institution.

    Over a year ago The Smithsonian in fact sent a representative to the Arkfled site who was not able to recognize the pebble tool industry artifacts there let alone art objects. Maybe because pebble tool industries are found in Asia and Siberia and Dr. Dennis Stanford is bent on an Atlantic crossing for "the first Americans," and bifacially knapped tools as the only evidence for it, The Smithsonian is biased against recognition of pebble tool industries. If so, this is to the detriment of advancement of archaeological knowledge in North America- and at taxpayers' expense!

    Pebble tools, including simple hammers, choppers and awls are frequently found at productive portable rock art sites and no North American archaeologists seem capable of recognizing them but their Old World counterparts are indeed able to include them in the universe of stone technologies they study.

    Isolation of the interpreted human face in the sculpture. It presents a face in right 3/4 profile perspective.

    In addition to the mammoth form cresting the human forehead, this illustration demonstrates the presence of a bison head profile facing left on the posterior of the mammoth.

    1) the "bumps" observed in nature on the bison shoulder and on the mammoth head are shared elements of the figures in this sculpture.

    2) mammoth eye and bison eyes have been illustrated in their approximate interpreted positions to help provide visual orientation to the animals

    3) like the shared mammoth and human eyes in the April 3 posting, the mammoth's trunk is also the nose of the human in this sculpture.

    4) the bison head figure is sharing its "beard" with the "beard" of the human head figure.

    The polyiconic combination of these three beings and the depicted visual inter-relatedness of their body elements implies a special higher level meaning for the artists who sculpted them.

    A Russian archaeologist on mammoth and bison combinations in Upper Paleolithic art:


    - M.A. Kiriak, Early Art of the Northern Far East: The Stone Age (Siberia), Margarita Aleksandrovna Kirʹi͡ak, 2008

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    Flint Ridge, Ohio, finger ax find by Ken Johnston

    The ratio of the width to the length of the finger axe approximates the Golden Ratio of Phi.

    John Feliks has written on Phi in the Acheulean: "However, as demonstrated in Figures 2.1 and 2.2, phi does not end as a line. The phi “line” represents only its one-dimensional aspect. Phi was employed in the handaxe technologies of all Acheulian and Mousterian peoples as a “two-dimensional” ratio. This fact makes phi the ratio equally representing the cognition of all post-habilis early human species from ergaster and erectus through heidelbergensis and Neanderthal (its use by modern Homo sapiens is, of course, well known). Phi can also be represented in three and four dimensions including time, and if one is open to such as string theory, a great deal more dimensions useful in cognitive archaeology, as well."


    The finger axe is roughly centered on a cluster of quartz crystals which is in a prominently displayed position while the tool is in use as designed.

    Reaching for the finger axe

    The quartz crystals are prominently featured and sparkle in the sun when the tool is held as designed. It is gripped in the fingers and does not come into contact with the palm. It rests on the hand between the index and middle finger.

    The famous Mousterian West Tofts, U.K. handaxe centered on a fossil demonstrates the long tradition of centering on or featuring natural stone features in man made objects.

    Side 2. The tool wear edge is seen in the upper left in this view.

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     David Boies find, Westlake, Texas. Conchoidal fracture flake scars practically cover this side of the artifact

    At the center of the cluster of flake scars is the figure of a human face in left 3/4 profile 

    Illustration of the sculpted face detected by David Boies

    Bird emerging from egg imagery, where the human face depiction is on the breast of the bird

    Side 2 presents a single hemispheric flake scar or natural depression, interpreted as a cupule. This may also be interpreted as the wide open mouth on a human face figure with some surface anomalies serving as eyes and where the whitish band is the approximate hair line of the face.

    There is an image of a bison head perhaps "emerging" from the cupule mouth of the human.

    The right eye of the human figure is also a bird figure

    The bird may be seen as "perched" on the head of the bison

    Bird perched on the head of a bison, perhaps looking for nesting material or lunch, is a common scene in nature.

    Lascaux cave, France, scene depicting a bird-man, a bison and a bird, ca. 15,000 YBP.

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    Human head silhouette in re-touch work on a flint flake.
    David Boies find, Westlake, Texas

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    David Boies find, Westlake, Texas, in a strong portable rock art context.

    This pebble has been pecked to produce an oval mouth-like form. Stone has been removed to affect distortion to the left side of the face. I interpret a stone like this as portraying a normal right eye and with an injury to the left side of the face which is compromising the eye socket and the left eye.

    As I have speculated in the past, this may depict a lion's bite to the human head as an element of an ancient folktale or the like. This combines two of the earliest memes in Palaeoart, "predator bite to the head" and "one eye open, one eye closed." (James Harrod, I think the art suggests these two memes may be somehow related for some ancient peoples.

    The left eye stone insert

    The geologically fresh nature of the stuck pebble in the eye position with its squared edges supports human work rather than natural coincidence for the origin of this feature. The eye socket has also been expanded to accommodate this eye insert. This is seen in other examples from the Boies collection and from North America and Netherlands sites worked by Jan van Es for both eye and tooth features in the art.

    In  his book The Nature of Paleolithic Art, R. Dale Guthrie illustrates his interpretation of an engraving found on a portable stone in a French cave which depicts a lion bite to the head. This art motif may describe the source-event for the left eye missing face mask motif.

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    Elmpt, Germany, finds from the collection of Jan van Es, (52, 28mm)

    This artifact is from a geologic context suggesting a date >500,000 years old. This figure seems to have a combination of feline and human qualities. Objects like this may have been hand held props, like puppets, used in dramatic presentations and storytelling.

    Manuported, aggregated or lightly worked iconic objects attributed to early humans from the Elmpt, Germany, gravel pit archaeological site worked by Jan van Es. Note that these figures are smaller than 2cm.

    Nature delivers stones which were recognized in the past to resemble other things and collected and curated in the human cultural sphere. Unusual concentrations of visually significant or exotic lithic materials must be considered as possible trace evidence of Stone Age human activity.

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    Alan Day find, Day's Knob, Guernsey County, Ohio

    "Here are two nice new limestone Figure Stone finds from my site in Ohio, same provenience, roughly 25 cm below the current terrain surface.  In the larger piece, note the incorporation of both utility and imagery that is common at this site." - Alan Day

    Alan Day demonstrates the utilitarian aspect of the figure. Day says rock art researcher Mrs. Ursel Benekendorff of Hamburg, Germany, has suggested this pointed end of the sculpture may have been used to plant it in the ground at varying locations.

    Ken Johnston interpretation of a bird head mixed in with the female figure

    The female figure may also incorporate bird imagery. The bottom of the woman's legs may be seen as the beak of a goose-like flying water bird. There is a circular bas relief "eye" in a more or less anatomically correct position for such a bird figure.

    Canada Goose head while in flight

    Figure stone number two recently recovered at Day's Knob.

    While it may initially appear amorphous, when taken in context with other limestone figures from the site it presents a familiar iconography. Day has confirmed human agency on a number of figures from his site by consulting with a geologic petrologist.

    Day's Knob archaeological site location of recent finds

    (left) This tiny female figurine comes from 6500 BP. It is found on the Po plain in Northern Italy and measures 6 cm. Thanks to the tapered lower body the figurine can easily be inserted into the ground. The Lady wears a fertility girdle and a red chain. She has short arms and a small head with long hair or a veil. Source: Venus is geen Vamp, Annine van der Meer. Ohio female figure is at right.

    (left two panels) The 'Woman with Goitre' from Grimaldi Italy was found between 3 and 4.2 m deep in a layer which is probably the Epigravettian. A radiocarbon date of 14,110+/-150 BP. From Don's Maps. Photo: Randall White, Source: White (2002), Day's Knob, Ohio, USA, artifact at right.

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    Arkfeld site find on May 23 is a knife where, according to Adam Arkfeld, the blade and handle profile may also represent a bearded and capped right human facial profile, looking wizard-like.

    Arkfeld Site stone knife

    Same side, flipped upside-down

    Ken Johnston illustration of the anthropomorphic features described by Adam Arkfeld.

    Bird at left recovered in the May 23 dig compares favorably to another Arkfeld site stone bird figure seen at right and featured in an earlier posting on this blog.

    This stone may have been collected prehistorically and curated by Arkfeld site people for its simple zoomorphic appearance. It resembles bird forms commonly seen in portable rock art. A petrology examination could be done to check the possibility of a human-made cement being used to fuse three stacked stones together.

    Three similar stone forms identified by Adam Arkfeld. These objects resemble mammoth heads and trunks in left profile. With a large number of mammoth figures from this site patterns like this should be considered as possible iterations of the same iconic form.

    These three are also possible tool forms without any iconic intent. They all present a pointed working bit and may be considered burins, perhaps used to score bone to access marrow meats. If they were also intended to be mammoth-iconic, the tip of the mammoth's trunk also serves as the working bit of the tool.

    Arkfeld Site Menhir (possible standing stone)

    Anthropomorphic head boulder with possible human modification to expand eye openings and create a nose channel and a mouth. Perhaps an example of the Paleolithic art motif of "left eye missing with distortion to left side of the face"

    A "chain gang" of archaeologists surveys a terrace at The Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia, on May 23, 2015

    (Hoh! Ah!)

    Site owner Adam Arkfeld examines a freshly rinsed stone

    Arkfeld site lead archaeologist Jack Hranicky examines lithic materials on his workbench.

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    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, Jasper County, Missouri

    Ken Johnston interpretation of a mammoth facing left with a crude human face depicted on its posterior. The mammoth has an eye divot in more or less anatomically correct position for such a depiction and may also have a tusk depicted. The sculpture stands upright in correct orientation. This is now a well-described North American portable rock art motif with other examples from the The Old Route 66 Zoo Site already seen on this blog.

    Mammoth form with eye with rough human face depicted on its back end

    This Old Route 66 Zoo Site sculpture found this Spring depicts a human head looking left and a lion head facing right

    Cut out image of the human face depicted opposite the lion head figure. Two short incised lines terminate at their intersection to form a "V-shape" nose on the human face.

    Lion head right profile

    Combined human and feline heads looking in opposite directions, Janus-like

    These two sculptures from this site use the same artistic convention of a human head combined with an animal, facing in opposite directions. This is a convention well documented on this blog. The human head combined with animal head is one of the primary stone sculpture types of Paleolithic times according to author Pietro Gaietto.

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    Flint bird figure, Ken Johnston find, Flint Ridge, Muskingum County, Ohio 
     Side two of flint bird figure looks to be in the known motif of a water bird with its head turned back as if sleeping seen in multiple examples on this blog 

    This flint bird figure shown with other bird figures found at the same location which have already been featured on this blog. The material is Vanport formation chert, Nethers variety, Muskingum County, Ohio.

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    Mammoth-cupule stone identified by Adam Arkfeld, Site #44FK732

    The mammoth form cupule stone also depicts a human facial profile facing right. The "bump" on the mammoth head serves as the forehead of the human and the mammoth's trunk is also the human's nose.

    Drawing Copyright (c) 2015 Bradley Lepper, Ohio History Connection.  Lepper has traced a European cave art depiction of a figure with both human and mammoth qualities. This same fundamental combination is seen in this Arkfeld sculpture example. 

    The presence of a cupule in the center of the stone is compelling evidence this is a portable rock art creation. Three mammoth form cupule stones have been identified in Ohio but the Arkfeld example is the first seen elsewhere.

    Perry County, Ohio, cupule stone with depiction of a mammoth in left profile with "head bump" depicted at top

    Fairfield County, Ohio, a plow-abraded stone at left has its main cupule preserved as well as two smaller cups on its poles. A mammoth form for this rock may be preserved as well as seen by the possible head bump feature.

    (Pike County, Ohio find) I propose this is an abstract form of a mammoth body in left profile. The dimensions and proportions of the lines approximate the main form of the body of this animal. The cupule is located at the center of the mammoth.

    The Arkfeld Site mammoth-human cupule is so remarkable because of the combination of the two art motifs: cupule and mammoth-human. In a posting last month I described another remarkable piece from Texas with a cupule, bison and bird combination.

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    Flint fish figure with "eye" on a point found by Texas Rancher near Austin

    PAC-MAN like zooanthropomorphic stone identified by Texas Rancher

    Texas Rancher writes: "This is my favorite one so far. There's a buffalo with his head pointing right. I also think there might be a bear facing the other way but I'm not certain. I believe the indention made on the buffalo's face is not an eye rather a horn - if you zoom in and look closely - it's in the shape of a horn (more of a tear drop shape rather than a round circle.)" 

    "What makes it such a cool piece is how the cortex was left on to show the buffalo's fur. The cortex is spot on with how a real buffalo's fur looks. Especially how the yellow fur goes all the way down to their front leg then kinda turns to a differently color and then the hair stops just like on my rock and then their ass is completely bald. " Photo comparison by Texas Rancher.

    "The photo of the smooth opposite side of the rock really shows the bear." -Texas Rancher.

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    "The Arkfeld Raptor"
    Adam Arkfled find, Clear Brook, Virginia, Site #44FK732

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    Petrified wood raptor sculpture
    Chris Schram find, Westminster, Colorado

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    Two standing bird sculptures, Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia. Note the wing depictions on the backs of both birds.

    At the ends are the two sculptures featured in the second posting prior to this one. In the middle are the featured sculptures.

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