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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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    Ken Johnston interpreted human head sculpture in typical left 3/4 profile

    Darrin L. Lowery find, Miles Point, Talbott County Maryland, 2006. Radio carbon dated by soil context to 21,000 BP.

    The 'anvil' in situ with associated tools. It immediately struck me as resembling a human head form typical in portable rock art. It was left with these other stone objects and covered by loess. The Smithsonian Institution has described the find as a related assemblage.

    Here is a video featuring the head in left 3/4 profile seen in the 'anvil' discovered in a Paleolithic tool context by now Dr. Lowery. You may enter the video at 22:17 and get an introduction to this find by Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institution.

    The archaeological site has since been physically destroyed by the landowner. If the Smithsonian Institution or Dr. Lowery has the anvil stone, it should be evaluated as a possibly sculpted human head likeness.

    It is also just as possible it was used as an anvil- it could have been a decorated tool incorporating iconography into a functional piece.

    Here is the anvil (sculpture) with an illustration of the interpreted human head left 3/4 profile features which could be evaluated for artificiality.

    Depending on how one focuses visual attention on features of the stone, it is possible to interpret a second face looking straight on with a frowning mouth and possible human depiction of the motif 'lion taking a bite of the head with damage or removal of the left eye and the distortion of injury to the left side of the face.'

    A piece like this may be seen as including a neutral or content facial expression and an expression of an unhappy one. This is seen in other examples on this blog.

    In this example from Flint Ridge, Ohio, two human facial profiles are worked on the same stone. This is a real bi-face!

    The first may be interpreted as a content or even smiling face and the second on the reverse side may be interpreted as frowning or grimacing. (Click photos to expand.) It is my hypothesis this motif may be depicting the human condition before and after a symbolic lion bite to the head. The lion aspect is seen more explicitly in other postings on this blog and this motif is related to two important 'Old World' palaeoart memes as described by Dr. James Harrod at

    The Miles Point, Maryland, anvil stone may have been an object imbued with symbolism which was important to its makers. The combined happy and frowning face masks have also been seen here in two sculptures from the Arkfeld Site in Clear Brook, Virginia.

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    Sculpture 'Mammoth, right profile'
    Adam Arkfeld find, The Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Side 2 is a suspected feline head right profile and perhaps another animal head (undetermined, possible canine ) in left 3/4 profile.
    Can you find the 'owl'?

    Interpreted location of the feline's eye

    Possible second animal head representation in left 3/4 profile. The feline's ears are also the ears of this second animal head.

    Ken Johnston illustrated interpretation of an owl image mixed in with the others.

    The 'ears' of the feline and the canine are also the 'ears' of the owl. It may be interpreted that the owl is sharing one ear from each of the other two animals. I highlighted the interpreted owl face features which are found on the sculpture and the contour and color of the stone should reveal the owl's 'body' in left profile. The owl's eyes are still quite distinct after more than 10,000 years.

    On side 2 within the interpreted feline head is a human head right profile with interpreted eye, nostril and mouth features.

    The motifs seen in this sculpture are consistent with other finds by made by Adam Arkfeld at his remarkable site. A polymorphic sculpture like this could have been a very important part of the religious or spiritual lives of some of the Arkfeld Site people.

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    Adam Arkfeld find, site #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia (2cm)

    Pure quartz stone from the Arkfeld Site appears to have been humanly exposed by removal of the stone around the crystal formation and has a bit of cortex or rind remaining on its surface. There is suspected iconography on this crystal's cortex.

    This is an exotic lithic material not naturally present at the Arkfeld site and was manuported to this location. Several crystals have been found among the tools and art at the Arkfeld site and indicate a Pleistocene human interest in the unique properties of this stone material.

    View of the remaining cortex, a carved face, from the top of the crystal

    Highlights on the cortex remaining on the crystal and interpretation of a simple micro human face icon carved into the cortex detected by Adam Arkfeld's close inspection and confirmed by my own examination of the stone. The face mask is a depiction in the known Old World palaeoart motif of "left eye missing." The left eye is carved all the way to the crystal to depict it as missing.

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    'Left eye missing face mask'
    Adam Arkfeld find, The Arkfeld Site, #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Illustration: some of the incised lines radiating to, or from, the right eye; a carved bridge and nose line leading to the mouth; the missing left eye; nostrils on the face.

    Close up of right eye and carved nose line. It seems this channel was chiseled out.

    Photo with lighting which exposes the incised lines radiating to, or from, around the right eye and the mouth. Note the depth and width of the nose line carving. The face mask subject is propped against another rock and sitting in a pot of soil for presentation purposes.

    The overall shape of the stone mask has been produced by human action. The white line in the illustration shows facets with free hand flaking or buffer breaks which were rounded off or ground down to the final shape. The yellow line indicates a facet with a clear straight break produced by using a buffer or a double buffer stone working technique as described earlier on this blog.

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    Flint Ridge, Ohio, bird figure with beak to the sky to accept food
    Ken Johnston find, Licking County, Ohio

    Same stone, owl or other raptor looking left

    Raptor looking left

    Raptor with 'crystal bird' in its beak

     Crystal bird figure at the raptor's beak

    Flint Ridge, Ohio, bird figure stone find by Ken Johnston

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    Ken Johnston find, Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio

    Prepared core Levallois-like point is centered on two natural crystal pipes through the flint and was likely hung as a pendant. Lithics scholar Blane Ensor has described a Levallois-like industry in the Southeastern United States.

    The top two of the three holes in the flint are crystal lined pipes which penetrate the rock.

    The top hole has use wear in the places one would expect to see wear created by suspension of the point on a cord. It may have been worn as a piece of jewelry.

    Ventral surface of the prepared core point. This surface has been retouched to open access to the crystal lined pipes which run through the stone and to smooth sharp edges on the proximal end of the point.

    Flint Ridge, Ohio, Levallois-like point

    Animation of Levallois point core preparation and removal from the core

    The famous Middle Paleolithic West Tofts, U.K., handaxe attributed to Neanderthals was centered on a scallop shell inclusion in the flint in a somewhat similar manner of the centering of the crystal pipes in the Licking County, Ohio, example.

    Many Ohio coarse stone tool types are overlooked by collectors and archaeologists. This limestone piece may have been created using a prepared core technique and then was smoothed out by heavy handling. Here, pointed and spatula ends provide two tools in one. Wear on the stone indicates both ends were used.

    Another example of a recurring form at some portable rock art sites. I described them in the 2012 illustration above.

    Resting spot to facilitate the thumb in an optimal grip on the tool.

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    Recently discovered owl sculpture with two other birds depicted on its face as featured earlier this month.

    In prior years on this blog I identified two Ohio spear point artifacts which are possibly from the "pre-Clovis era" (before about 13,500 years ago) and which may indicate attempts to make the points symbolic icons of the owl.

    Illustration of interpreted owl eye and beak features on the Licking County, Ohio, owl sculpture and a close up of the 'hooked owl beak with two nostrils'

    Recently I discovered and identified a second flint and quartz crystal owl sculpture from Licking County, Ohio, which has a beak depiction on the bird which is strikingly similar to what I suspected was a beak depiction on one of the owl-iconic spear points. This post introduces this comparison.

    Coschocton County spear point made of Coschocton flint found by Dr. Robert Curry near Wakatomika Creek on his farm near Dresden, Ohio, and acquired by Ken Johnston. Described as a "Cactus Hill" type after study by Dr. James Adovasio of Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute. It is likely pre-Clovis and has two similar and symmetrical divots in the flint in the anatomically correct position for 'owl eyes.'Featured earlier on this blog.

    Licking County, Ohio, broken spear point base typed by me as "pre-Clovis" because of the basal concavity, large flake removal and its thinness. It resembles some Spanish Solutrean bases I have seen. The base is centered on what I have interpreted as a 'beak' on the face of the owl form.

    The beak may be a natural imperfection in the flint or it may have been etched into the flint. The feature seems to demonstrate starts and stops as would be seen with human carving. There is another 'beak' on the opposite side of this piece which was featured earlier on this blog. This side seems to depict a hooked beak.

    Spear point 'owl beak' compared to sculpture 'owl beak.' Their similar shape and execution on the flint leads me to conclude this could be an artistic convention to create the owl beak anatomical feature which may likely be found on other owl-iconic artifacts in my local area and perhaps beyond.

    I think the new find supports my earlier hypothesis that Clovis points are "owl-symbolic" where the fluted channel came to represent the more explicit 'eyes' and 'beaks' which may have been made on pre-Clovis spear points. The removal of the channel flake may have been a quicker way to produce the owl without having to take so much time for more time involved eye and beak details.

    Even if the flute channel is not related to the owl symbolism the basal tangs on Clovis points remain as symbolic of the ears of an owl. This may have been done to bring the magic power of the owls' hunting prowess, evidenced by night vision and silent flight capabilities, to the human hunt.

    Dr. Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter has described the relatively fast emerging and short life of Clovis tool kits as a possible cult-like response to the need for an urgent change in established life-ways. One may speculate that the reduction of available megafauna at the terminal Pleisistocene may have triggered the need for a more focused and fully expressed ritualistic symbol-driven hunting system.

    If large animal protein, bone and ivory were less available as scavenged items, hunting and the use of spear points may have emerged to continue to maintain elements of the big animal culture. Maybe the 'owl' icon was seen as a way to improve their odds.
    According to the BBC series "Planet Earth", elephant night vision is "not much better than our own." This puts elephants at a notable disadvantage when there are hungry predators around, as demonstrated in the series, when a pride of around 30 lions takes down a medium-sized elephant which has difficulty seeing them once it gets separated from its herd.
    Two Paleolithic spear points from Benton County, Tennessee, Ernest Sims Collection.

    As of now the "Clovis spear points as owl-symbolic" hypothesis may be weak but by posting my observations here maybe someone in the future who has made similar observations will have a reference.

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    Luigi Chiapparoli find, Piacenza, Italy

    Luigi Chiapparoli illustration of a face and a hand worked into the rough stone. "In this stone I see a musician" he commented.

    Close up of the carved face looking left with a circle around another face I saw on the primary figure's forehead.

    There may be a few other faces depicted on this stone.

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    "Horse bust'
    Luigi Chiapparoli scultura trovati da Piacenza, Italia

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    'Human head in left 3/4 profile on a flint'
    David Boies find, Westlake, Texas

    Isolated human face worked in the flint while retaining and exploiting the stone's cortex as hair and eyes background. This human portrayal has hair, a forehead, two eyes, a nose, lips, chin, cheeks and ear with ear lobe.

    Note the flint work to create a full set of lips on the face portrayal. Just to the right of the lips in the photo are two roughly parallel incised lines in the flint. These are remnants of the scores etched into the flint by the artist to set up the fracture lines in the stone for the two lips.

    David Boies has identified many similar portable rock art pieces in the Austin area and some have been featured on this blog.

    When the stone with the face figure is rotated 180 degrees it has a shape close to some stylized mammoth icons in portable rock art. Human and mammoth icons are sometimes combined as is likely the case here.

    Illustration of mammoth bust in left profile which may have been more clear many thousands of years ago.

    The human's 'ear lobe' is the 'eye' of the mammoth and the 'lips' of the human are the 'ear' of the mammoth.

    Perhaps the human is symbolically talking to or calling to the mammoth in this piece.

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    Chris Blumenstock find, Valley Forge, Tennessee
    Thought you might like to see these rocks from the Doe River Valley of Carter County Tennessee. I was searching and trying to find out more about them when I found your site. You had several objects from Sherry Hill in Rittertown which is a couple miles upriver from me, here in Valley Forge. The stuff I find is similar. I interpret many of these as being turtle heads. I have humans, bears, birds etc. but more "shouting turtle heads" than anything. There must have been many people living in this valley over the years based on the stuff they left behind...  I think some of them were for entertainment, like stone age TV. I've had a lot of time to study these, been finding them for years. Some of them are remarkable feats of workmanship. -Chris Blumenstock

    Human head in left 3/4 profile on a pebble identified by Chris. The face details have faded over thousands of years but are still detectable to careful observers like Chris. Nose, mouth, chin, eye, eyebrow and hairline may have been elements of this human portrayal.

    The "knife", upper left in the flint photo, looks like a snapping turtle head profile on the right edge and a hominid face profile on the left edge. -Chris

    Chris identified this as a possible human-bird combination but I can identify this piece as demonstrating a Paleolithic stone sculpture motif of a combination of a human head profile looking left split with an animal (bovine, likely a woodland musk ox) head in right profile. This 'joining of heads' motif is seen in many examples on this blog and has been described by Paleolithic sculpture researcher Pietro Gaietto of Italy.

    Human head facing left, animal head facing right

    Ken Johnston illustration of the human head facing left and the animal head facing right. The animal's eye and mouth area are highlighted. This is consistent with Chris's observation about a knife in a photo above: The "knife", upper left in the flint photo, looks like a snapping turtle head profile on the right edge and a hominid face profile on the left edge.

    Frame illustrating a Doe River Valley pattern of notched pebbles described by Chris as 'shouting turtle heads.' These forms have also been identified by some other amateur archaeologists in North American portable rock art contexts.

    Map showing the Valley Forge, Tennessee find location

     Valley Forge, Tennessee, photo by Chris Blumenstock

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    Jan van Es find, Boukoul, Netherlands (3.8 cm width)

    "The image is the underside of a stone core, but there are more images on this core. The Middle Acheul= 180.000-250.000 BP. All the images come from the same stone core." -Jan van Es


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    'Animal head (undertermined, perhaps wolf, bear or mountain lion) (3 cm)
    Chris Blumenstock finds, Valley Forge, Tennessee

    The eye and mouth of the animal head are areas where careful scientific examination is likely to confirm artifact status of this stone. The ear area may have also been humanly modified.

    Stone with removal to sharpen the right edge seen here. This hand axe has an affinity with 'Old World' cordiform Acheulean hand axes.

    'Phi in the Acheulian' by John Feliks shows how the one million year tradition of Acheulean hand axes implies the expression of the Golden Ratio driven by a human aesthetic which dates to the dawn of humanity and up to our present time. (My units for the calculation were derived by measuring the image as displayed on my computer screen in centimeters. This does not reflect the actual size of the artifact.)

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    'Two stone heads'

    Andy Draine finds, Washington, photo received courtesy of Jan van Es. Finding one might imply a natural coincidence. Finding two of similar size and the same lithic material implies the potential for identification of a localized pattern.

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     From an old U.K. collection. Size 11cm x 4cm

    "An elongated Levallois core. Numerous alternating Levallois removals along length of core, creating a single continuous edge. Some signs of use along one lateral edge, so may have been used as a scraper at the end of its use as a core."

    Photo by Finlayson Nature Photography. "Alpine Choughs feature regularly in Neanderthal sites, where they are the most frequent corvid."

    The bird likeness here would not have been lost on our Neanderthal cousins and was likely a fully intended outcome of the stone work. 

    Opposite side is not worked but also has a bird shape with beak protrusion

    Two Ohio flint bird form tools featured earlier on this blog

    I have identified a number of flint bird forms, some used as tools, at Flint Ridge in east central Ohio. Is it possible there is a relationship between the 'Old 'World' and 'New World' flint working traditions?

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    'Two faces looking opposite directions'
    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, Jasper County, Missouri

    Illustration of the defined features of eyes, mouths and chins of the two faces. Found in a context of many similarly ambiguous zoonthropomorphic figures at The Old Route 66 Zoo Site #23JP1222. Dodd hypothesizes some could have been used as puppet-like props for storytelling.

    A statue representing Janus Bifrons in the Vatican Museums

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    Natural History Museum of Utah portable rock art objects illustrate mainstream archaeology's tendency to look for petroglyphs and bypass the entire category of sculpture

    Portable rock art, ca. AD 455
    Painted stone
    Archaic; Cowboy Cave, Utah
    U of U Expedition 1975
    42WN420 FS51500.1

    Portable rock art, date unknown
    Incised stone
    Archaic; Hogup Cave, Utah
    U of U Expedition 1968
    42BO36 FS611.16

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    'Flying water bird (goose)'
    Adam Arkfeld find, near Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia

    The head of the goose is at left, tail at right, and it is depicted as touching the ground or water as if in take-off or landing formation. Adam Arkfeld notes a mammoth head and likeness when this photo is rotated 45 degrees left.

    'Goose' with scale in feet

    'Raptor' interpreted by Adam Arkfeld on the opposite side of the goose view

    The flying water bird appears prominently in portable rock art. Their high fat content makes them a nutritious food item for human foragers.

    I was reminded of the predator-prey relationship between raptors and water birds by my next door neighbor who witnessed an American Bald Eagle take a Canada Goose on the lake shore near our homes this summer. There was a significant fight involved. It is possible this avian mega sculpture features the pairing of these two bird types in recognition of this relationship.

     'Flying goose sculpture' from south east Asia. Tira Vanichtheeranont collection, Bangkok, Thailand.

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    'Human face looking left'
    From the site at Grand Pressigny, France, private collection
    Photos by Henri Valentie

    Side 2

    Quasi-anthropomorphic face in right 3/4 profile. This face seems to present a prominent chin including a dimple. The one at top seems to be depicting a recessive chin on the person. I think the 'chin types' of recessive and prominent are a primary subject matter in this sculpture. Sculptures like this may be depicting the coexistence of two human types (neanderthaloid and sapienoid) with very different facial features.

    Neanderthal and sapiens skulls for chin comparison

    Side 3

    Another view the stone presents a human-like figure standing and looking to the left. Photos submitted thanks to Henri Valentie.

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    Laura Ionescu find, mountains of Transylvania, Romania

    Laura's find presented here is a single find outside of any known archaeological context. A stone like this is often very difficult to assess as a potential human artifact.

    In this case, we are presented with an important clue which makes this isolated find a likely object of human attention in the Stone Age. There are two equal length incised lines which terminate at a point to create an upside-down "V" shape and it is placed in an anatomically correct position for a nose on the human face likeness on the stone. There also appears to be another incised line serving as a 'dimple' on the person's chin.

    Illustration of the 'nose' on the Transylvania human head figure stone

    Kavinda Dharmisiri's zoomorphic and anthropomorphic yellow sapphire stone, Colombo, Sri Lanka, featured in an earlier posting on this blog. The nose on the Sri Lanka figure is also made of two equal length incised lines terminating at a common point.

    The find locations for the Romanian and Sri Lankan figure stones are about 4,200 miles apart. This may indicate a broad area of cultural influence which played a role in how humans marked stones to recognize or complete their human head likeness.

    I have suspected the common artificial application of nose and nostril details on many figure stones seen on this blog may have been a way for Stone Age peoples to add a symbolic 'breath of life' to the rocks.

    Romania and Sri Lanka figure stones with similar expression of human noses

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