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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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    'Mammoth right profile with human face depiction on its posterior'
    Adam Arkfeld find, The Arkfeld Site, #44FK732
    Clear Brook, Virginia

    One of many mammoth sculptures from this site. This one could be depicting a mastodon based on the head and body shape. Adam describes the sculpture as smoothed by extensive handling and ocher stained. He detected a human face likeness on what would be the posterior of the mammoth. The mammoth body is seen in right profile with the human face in the lower left corner.

    'Human face on mammoth posterior'


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    'Zooanthropomorphic face with animal-like left ear'
    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo, Site #23JP1222

    Note the light tan 'eyes' and the reddish 'nose' on the face like figure which is looking to the upper left corner.

    Another anthropomorphic 'face mask' from the OR66Z Site, Jasper County, Missouri (Missouri local archaeological inventory number).

    An examination of these stone sculptures can confirm Stone Age modification.

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    'Turkey vulture head with a human face profile incorporated the back of its neck'
    Ken Johnston find, Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio

    Side 2 of a likely turkey vulture head depiction. The material is Vanport chert.

    Human face right profile on the back of the vulture head.

    Close up of human face right profile

    The face has received flint work attention which cannot be accounted for in an endeavor to make a tool. This stone seems wholly unsuitable as tool stone. It has been deliberately shaped, it resembles a bird head on two sides and has a human face likeness when they have already been associated with the backs of bird figures on this blog here and also here.  It was found in the same general location as several other flint bird head figures.

    I have also described human facial profiles worked on flint edges. This is an example in the Flint Ridge material with a profile on each side of the stone.

    It should be noted that Jacques Boucher de Crèvecœur de Perthes specifically described bird heads as among the iconic materials he found alongside tools in the Somme valley of France.

    Turned upside-down the turkey vulture head resembles a sitting bird

    The flint compared with a turkey vulture head

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    'Korea hand axe with crude human face profile looking right'

    Korean example of hand axe with a face profile in its mid right edge bridges the geographic gap between European and American examples as recently featured on this blog.
    The Paleolithic Age, which can be regarded as the first cultural stage of humankind, began with the manufacture of tools and the use fire. It is estimated that the Korean Peninsula came to be inhabited by humans from the mid-Pleistocene, approximately 780,000~130,000 years age. These paleolithic communities consisted of hunters and gathers who maintained a mobile lifestyle. They established camps in caves or alongside rivers and made various tools.

     Illustration highlighting the human head and face in right 3/4 profile perspective.

    This new example from far east Asia implies a culturally mediated figurative art motif incorporated into hand axe tools by Homo erectus or other archaic humans spanning Africa, Europe, Asia and possibly into North America. This is counter to the popular belief such humans were not capable of figurative art.

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    Adam Robinson find, Stark County, Ohio

    Adam writes: "My elevation is almost 1300ft and the surrounding area is 850-900. I live on a plateau called top of the world. I don't think my land was glaciated, I think it caught a lot of runoff and deposits but never carved. There's fossil sea life still in the ground only an inch below the soil. Everything I have matches Acheulean and Mousterian artifacts. Very strange."

    Ken Johnston illustration of Adam's interpretation along with possibility of the human head mixed with an animal head facing to the right. Faint traces of the human's mouth and an incised eye are highlighted.

    "Many human faces in Paleolithic art look a little like those of large mammals, with an elongated nose or muzzle. These are my drawings to illustrate the character or flavor of this gradient"
    (c) Copyright R. Dale Guthrie, "The Nature of Paleolithic Art," 2005, page 92


    A couple of bird figures identified by Adam

    'Sitting bird figure'

    A worked flint from the site with possible human face profiles on two sides. The arrow illustrates the 'eyesight line'. The photo at right has a possible face in left 3/4 profile on the left edge.

     A battered and broken anvil stone reconstructed by Adam Robinson

    The artifact at upper left is limestone made on a prepared core using Levallois-like technology.

    Stone tools identified by Adam Robinson

    American handaxe identified by Adam as similar to some Acheulean handaxes

    A worked quartzite flake and a worked piece of red ocher from the site. Red ocher was often used in the Stone Age as a pigment for use in decoration, ritual and body paint.

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    'Limestone plaquette, human head facing left'
    Adam Arkfeld find, Site #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia

    In addition to the head and neck profile in the overall shape the sculpture, there are two additional 'heads' depicted on top. This sculpture has three 'noses'. The 'eye' on the face circled in the upper right is trace evidence of pigmentation. The eye is obscured on the 'shadow face' with the nose highlighted in white.

    'Face on rhomboid' a known portable rock art motif




    'A smiling figure stone' with two nostrils in its facial detail. Maybe the figure is depicted as 'winking.' Perhaps a figure like this was a child's novelty or toy, a kind of Paleolithic 'Casper the Friendly Ghost' character. Adam Arkfeld describes it as having a purple hue which may be pigment residue.

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    Clayton Elliott finds, St. Joseph, Missouri, Buchanan County

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    'Animal figure facing left'
     Adam Arkfeld find, Site #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Because of the large number of animal sculptures found at this site it is not unreasonable to make a zoomorphic interpretation of a stone with very subtle features like this one. While the 'body' of the animal is an abstraction as a rhomboid, the 'head' is very detailed with ear, eye, mouth and a prominent nose. It seems likely to be a depiction of a bear.

    A couple of years ago I made a posting about some giant diamond-shaped plaques found at the site by Adam Arkfeld. If one 'cuts off the bear's head' as suggested by illustration above, the (more or less) rhomboid may be observed.

    An object such as this may be incorporating a combination of figurative and geometric elements which were significant to its maker.

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    'Human head sculpture by means of large flake removal'
    Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Please note what may a crude animal face depiction on the right side edge of the first photo. The creature's nose is a dark spot at the furthest tip on the right side. This is similar to other finds from western Europe and north west Africa. This suggests a connection of the North American Arkfeld Site to 'Old World' Acheulean or Mousterian in the Acheulean Tradition (MTA) art and tool complexes. (click photos to expand).

    'Heavy duty rhomboid burins'
    Arkfeld Site tool finds, May 2016


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    Henri Valentie finds, Island of Oleron, France

    "Hello, I present these portraits whose dimensions are 22/18/15, 25/13/16, 17/14/7. These stones come from the same site on the island of Oleron.

    On the first one can distinguish a face looking skyward. The third has a funny side.

    On this site there are more than stone figures with lower paleo tools.

    Was it a place of worship (the sea with large tidal coefficient)? Still passionate about your site, friendship, Henri"

    I think it is possible the middle stone has a depiction of a right profile of a horse head and neck, with an 'eye spot,' across the human's forehead. This France find could have a motif affinity with the Virginia sculpture featured in the posting just prior to this one.

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    Ken Johnston find, Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio

    Animal 1 is interpreted as a 'horse' where the crystals serve as the horse's mane. The arrows illustrate the interpreted 'sight lines' of the horse and human head profile figures.

    Detail of the human head 1 in left profile at the base of horse head figure.

    Side 2. Stone measures 6,3.5cm

    Side 2 interpreted 'feline' head with human head as its 'neck.' The arrows illustrate the interpreted 'sight lines' of the creatures.

    Side 2 human head left profile detail. It has a deliberate removal in the place for an 'eye' and the back of the head is beveled to round it off.

    View of the interpreted feline head with illustration showing approximate locations of eyes and mouth on the figure.

    Feline head in another perspective 

    View from TOP. The 'feline' is on the ground crystals side and the horse is on the side with the crystals untouched. The crystals seem to have been removed from the view of the feline's head but retained to serve as the 'mane' of the horse figure.

    When the horse head figure is rotated 90 degrees left a bird figure with faint eyes and resembling an owl may be seen. The human is seen as looking skyward to the left at the bottom of the stone in this perspective.

    Bird number 2 becomes visible when the feline head is rotated 180 degrees. It has a long beak and hunched back like a vulture's.

    In summary,

    The piece is an artifact with evidence of focused human retouch action all over it.

    It was found in strong context of other figurative pieces seen on this blog which incorporate natural quartz crystal formations in the stone.

    It has no apparent use wear as a tool and no tool attributes I can detect.

    It has quartz crystals attached to the flint which would have made the raw material attractive for an object designed for visual properties.

    There are two zoomorphic forms on opposite sides of the stone. The animals share 'mouths' along a bi-facial edge on the sculpture.

    There are two anthropomorphic head forms on opposite sides of the stone. Like the animals, the humans share 'mouths' along a bi-facial edge on the sculpture.

    The piece includes the known Paleolithic art motif of combining the heads of humans and animals- and does so twice.

    In a third visage of the stone in a vertical position is a likely intended long-beaked bird figure.

    In a fourth visage of the stone of the opposite side in a vertical position is a second bird figure.

    This makes a total of six creatures represented on this one extraordinary flint figure stone. The artist's pairing of a feline with a horse could be a recognition of their predator-prey relationship or even an appreciation for the feline's work at delivering horse kills to scavenge.

    Perhaps horses were desired for felines so felines would be less likely to predate on humans. We can only speculate with futility on the specifics but we can indeed recognize what must have been visual patterns of meaning in portable rock art from the past.



    An African Cheetah and a Przewalski's wild Asian horse lounging at The Wilds conservation preserve in south east Ohio may be as close to the 'lion/horse drama' of the Ice Age which we can observe in North America today. Ken Johnston photos, on safari, Cumberland, Ohio, May 7, 2016.

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    From the Dennis Boggs collection of tools, art and exotic imported stone material at Irrigon, Oregon.

    Interpretation by Ken Johnston, curator of the Boggs collection. Because of the glacial lake Missoula flooding in the area, a maximum age of about 13,000 years may be assumed for this material. The duck figure sits on a designed tripod base. There is a manufactured 'eye' and 'split tail feathers'. Numerous figures in this motif have been featured on this blog.

    The stone's cortex, or rind, visible here has not been worked. The more white area above it has been worked to remove stone.


    Sleeping duck figure's translucence under differing natural sunlight conditions

    This find by Bob Doyle of Maine was identified as a worked sleeping duck figure. Bob is a master flint knapper and stone tool technology replicator.

    This shows how this art motif may be found from coast-to-coast in the United States, perhaps in a related cultural tradition.

    This is the scene is nature which Stone Age humans committed to the permanence of stone.


    Two tools found by Dennis Boggs in association with art and exotic stone material at Irrigon, Oregon.


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    Acheulean handaxe from Mauratania, in north west Africa

    The pattern of human face profiles on the mid-right edges of some Acheulean handaxes argues for them being "More Like a Beatles' Tune Than a Bird's Song," to invoke the analogies from a recent paper on the subject.

    To some people of the past, handaxes were more than just functional items. These faces are simple and very old but the observable pattern of their presence on many handaxes indicates a broad geo-temporal world art tradition.

    The incorporation of human facial profiles seems to be a strong indicator of a culturally-mediated behavior in handaxe manufacture rather than a largely neurologically based one. 


    Illustration of the interpreted human face profile. The pattern I have observed has the faces in this same position or just a bit higher. It is unlikely the behavior to 'animate' the handaxes in this way was hardwired in the brain (like a bird's song) and it must have had a symbolic significance to the presumed Homo erectus, Homo ergaster or Homo heidelbergensis makers of these items.

    With scale.

    There may a second human face profile above the lower one which has a smiling face looking to the upper right. The mouths of the two interpreted human face profiles are illustrated in red color.



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    Morris County, Kansas, pipestone, Stauffer-Allison collection, 32cm

    Interpreted by Ken Johnston as a possible mammoth head figure including a trunk with a depiction of two "digitiform processes," finger-like appendages known to be be a part of mammoth anatomy.

    Illustration from National Geographic magazine. Modern elephant, top, woolly mammoth, bottom. The mammoth trunk fingers are seen in illustration above the number 1. Plotnikov et al., 2015.

    "For example, the end of Yuka’s trunk had two finger-like projections that were longer than those of modern elephants. These “digitiform processes” are thought to have afforded mammoths a finer grip on the grasses they grazed on as they trundled over the frigid steppe."

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    'Bird figure'
    Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia

    This is one of many bird figures from the Arkfeld site. This bird figure went from the ground to this blog feature in the matter of a few hours.



    Side 2, Adam Arkfeld "flips the bird to the Archaeology establishment"

    Handaxe, 20cm, found in direct association with the bird


    Thinness with an edge on the Virginia handaxe

    Archaeological Society of Virginia, September 2015 newsletter, From the Office of the State Archaeologist, Michael B. Barber, Ph.D., editorial on the Arkfeld site. 

    (click photos to expand view of editorial)


    Dr. Barber has done the citizens of Virginia a disservice by accusing an observant, well-intended, landowner and a long-time professional archaeologist as perpetuating a "hoax." Really, Dr. Barber? For shame.

    In fact, hundreds of tool and art artifacts have been recovered from this site, #44FK0731, and are available for public inspection at any time. Many have been seen on this blog with great interest and respect from a world-wide audience.

    Maybe someday Dr. Barber can come to learn why this smear job is no better than the pseudoarchaeology he claims to police and why apologies and an official correction are due to Messrs. Arkfeld and Hranicky and the people of Virginia.

    I interpret the bird figure in this posting to be a 'crow.'

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    'Bird sculpture'
    Wendy Lutz find, Camden County, Missouri

    'Standing bear head and neck'

    The bear is in profile facing right with its defined nose to the air, a motif seen in other bear representations. Its mouth has an anthropomorphic quality of a slight 'smile.'

    Photo collages courtesy of Wendy Lutz. Click to expand slideshow.








    Wendy Lutz's Missouri tools found in general association with the iconic material.

    A conclusion I've made based on all the reports I have received is that the people who made this kind of art and tool complex must have come down through the middle of North America, east of the Rocky Mountains, and settled in a very favorable environment in what is now known as Missouri.

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    'Human head left profile flint sculpture'

    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo, site #23JP1222 near Joplin, Missouri, at Jasper County. One of hundreds of iconic finds from this 5 acre locus along the Old Route 66.

    This piece may also be expressing the motif of "mammoth cresting human forehead." Other examples may be seen where the mammoth's 'trunk' develops into the human's 'nose' as may be the case here.

    This is an exceptionally beautiful piece of stone incorporating many of the colors found in the flint from this site. It has been carefully sculpted into a human likeness. Note the recessive chin and prominent nose of the representation.

    Here, the Missouri example of "mammoth head cresting human forehead" back-end shaping is compared to a Licking County, Ohio, example of a sculpture in the same motif featured earlier on this blog. The straight lines and angle of their meeting at the back ends suggests they may have been commonly affixed to something, like wooden staffs or posts.

    The Missouri flint material seen here is so very similar to the colorful Flint Ridge, Ohio, (Vanport formation) stone which is close to my home and subject of many postings on this blog.

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    'Large iconic handaxe on a giant unifacial flake"
    Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia

    This is a very interesting tool specimen with what I interpret to be iconic properties, largely because of the 'feline' sense I get when I look at this side of the artifact under these lighting conditions and can see the possible human mofification tot he handaxe to feature the an iconic image. It compares favorably to other crude cat representations I have come across over the years. The two incised lines terminating at their meeting at a position approximating the bridge of the feline nose is a visual trigger to us that this is indeed a cat and it has been given a required element of life, a nose.

    I interpret a feline face representation "nested" within the frame of the handaxe. Two eyes have been worked. There are two incised lines which terminate at their end points to form a ^ or carat shape in the approximate area of the bridge of the lion's nose. A feline-like muzzle has been created with a notch on the stone in the center bottom.


    Side 2 of this large unifacial piece

    Sri Lankan and Romanian examples. These figure stones from Eurasia have been featured earlier on this blog and demonstrate the artistic convention of incising two lines to create a V or ^ shaped nose to disambiguate or animate face icons.

    Arkfeld Site close up photo of incised "nose indicator" symbol

    I propose The Arkfeld Site example displaying the same artistic nose marking convention links it to Eurasian peoples through a symbol-making cultural tradition.

    I wrote in the posting last year "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."

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    'Bird-chopper with human face profile at tail'
    Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia

    The bird-form chopper was found directly with the handaxe also interpreted with ambiguous zoomorphic attributes featured in the prior posting.

    Arkfeld Site bird chopper with human face profile at tail circled

    A Flint Ridge, Ohio, bird-form chopper tool featured in an earlier posting on this blog. It is a reverse image of the same tool and art motif seen in the Arkfeld Site bird-chopper example.

    Flint Ridge, Ohio, bird chopper with human face profile at tail circled

    Virginia and Ohio bird-form choppers seen side by side. They are reverse mirror examples of the same tool and art motif. Human facial profiles on the birds' tails are illustrated in circles. It should be noted that both of these items are made in stone material with unusual 'sparkling' visual properties reflecting light.

    Close-up of Arkfeld site bird chopper

    Adam Arkfeld interpretation of another bird figure serving as the larger bird's wing. It looks like it could be a floating water bird like a goose. The human face is at the gooses's tail and the larger bird's tail at the same time with human's eye circled at right in the illustration here. I concur with Adam's interpretation and I think the goose in this position could be interpreted as 'drinking water.'

    Close up of the right side human facial profile on the two birds' tails along with an illustration of the interpreted eye and mouth locations. Click photos to expand and toggle.

    Manufactured tools, including some Mousterian-looking Levallois prepared core technology points (arrows indicate them) recovered all together by Adam Arkfeld in Virginia one day this week.

    North American Virginia Levallois point

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    'Mammoth and human combination sculpture'
    Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Mammoth body profile facing left. Illustration of the 'mammoth eye' and the human facial elements which have been carved into the back of the mammoth. The sculpture stands upright in correct orientation on a flat base.

    This motif of "mammoth with human face at posterior" has been identified in several sculptures from this site and described from other sites in postings on this blog. The Arkfeld Site has produced more mammoth stone sculpture material than any other site in the world but continues to be ignored by North American archaeologists who must not appreciate the significance of the art and tool finds.

    Levallois-like tool from Virginia's Arkfeld Site

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