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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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    Heavy duty pointed tool from Arkfeld Site, #44FK731
    Clear Brook, Virginia

    Adam Arkfeld noticed a simple human face likeness on the back of the tool which is composed of ground features of eyes, nose and mouth.

    The distal tip of this tool may have been broken during use

    Arkfeld Site burins

    Eyes, nose, mouth and chin with an incised cleft

    Human face profile looking right with possible bird head form looking left

    Human head and neck right facial profile figure

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    'Human head and neck sculpture made by means of large flake removal'
    Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia, #44FK731

    Another Arkfeld Site 'human head sculpture made by means of large flake removal' and an 'animated point' in an Acheulean sensu lato tradition replicate finds from Arkfeld featured on 4 May. This posting and the one on 4 May support each other in developing hypotheses of patterns of art behaviors at The Arkfeld Site. Finds by Adam Arkfeld.

    Just like the large face head sculpture featured on 4 May, I interpret and illustrate a horse head figure across the forehead of the human on this sculpture too.

    Here, I have turned the human head 90 degrees left and focused in on the interpreted horse head representation. This and the 4 May post show human face sculptures combined with horse heads in the same motif. Click on photos to expand and toggle.

    A pointed tool with a human face likeness incorporated into its lower right edge as seen in a lithic industry Mode II (Acheulean) tradition featured in many postings on this blog. This has also been described from four sites in The United States.

    The non-iconic edge of the tool is sharp

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    Five human head sculptures and some tools from Arkfeld Site, #44FK731, Clear Brook, Virginia









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    Arkfeld Site incised parallel and grid or ladder-like lines lines on a limestone plaque are similar to a 'cave art hashtag' attributed to Neanderthals at Gibraltar

    'Neanderthal art' from Gibraltar

    Several years back I found two carved grids deep in an Ohio cavern. The cavern could have been sealed the duration of the Holocene until two boys were hunting rabbits in the 19th century and discovered an entry.

    Some of the entry ways are still packed with glacial mud/slurry visible from inside the cave. It has remained gated off and owned by the same family. They say no artifacts have ever been found there. There is easy to access chert, even a "Chert Room," which was was never mined. So the Ohio carved grids could possibly be pre-Wisconsinin glaciation in age.

    The Ohio grids overlook a view onto a flowing underground river. Carved grids from Koonalda cave, Australia, also have an underground river.

    Then a couple years ago Clive Finlayson's team at Gibraltar's Gorham cave reported a grid similar to the Ohio cave ones I found and attributed it to Neanderthals because it dated to just before the supposed arrival time of "anatomically modern humans" in Europe. The Ohio and Gibraltar grids are both on flat stone "tables" which rise from the cave floors.

    This Virginia incised stone exhibits a grid in the same art motif as the Ohio and Gibraltar cave examples. It is an example of 'portable rock art' with a culturally facilitated meaning to its maker.

    Illustration of 'Neanderthal cave art hashtag' found by Clive Finlayson's team at Gorham's Cave, Gibralter, with Arkfeld site example.

     Side 1 and side 2 of a giant point from Arkfeld site

    Another incised stone from Arkfeld Site, #44FK731 at Clear Brook, Virginia.

    The lines can only be made with the precision seen here by utilization of a straight edge to guide the incising stone. The undulating line seems to have some free-hand features but could also have been made by a "slipping straight-edge" technique where the straight edge is shifted during the carving. This carving, or the process to make it, probably had a significant meaning to its maker.

    Arkfeld Site engraved stone rotated. Adam Arkfeld compares his find to some of the earliest known art from Africa.

    "Prehistoric Engravings with Crosshatch Patterns
    Home to some of the earliest known prehistoric art in all of Africa, the archeological site known as Blombos Cave is located in a limestone cliff, some 100 metres from the sea on the coast of South Africa, about 180 miles east of Cape Town. It is famous for its prehistoric rock engravings, dating back to the Mousterian period of the Middle Paleolithic era (70,000 BCE), which puts it among the oldest Stone Age art ever discovered. (See Oldest Stone Age Art: Top 100 Works.) The find consisted of two pieces of ochre rock incised with geometric abstract signs, and a series of beads made from Nassarius kraussianus shells."
    In light of the expert-confirmed Levallois-like prepared core tool artifacts being recovered at Arkfeld, the engraved stones here should be of interest to archaeology scholars. They may signal a Homo neanderthalensis presence in North America. If not, modern humans were in America with a lithic industry Mode 3 art and tool package.

    Archaeology's attempts to ignore, marginalize or cover up the Arkfeld Site show it remains unscientific, agenda-driven and incapable of processing information about "Old World style" art and tool finds in North America. Witness a self-described "hick farmer from Virginia" who has you beat.

    Arkfeld Site aerial view from 2,300 feet. The elevation drop from the main house to the cabin and creek is 100 feet. The slope is artifact-bearing. The cabin is available to archaeologists who wish to survey or investigate the site. Click photo to expand.

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    'Stone face mask puppet'
    Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Perhaps an Ice Age child held this mask to her face and pretended to be the pointy-chinned character. Independent figure stone researcher Jan van Es of The Netherlands has noted the probable symbolic significance of the pairing of the triangle and circle as seen in the stone work to create the two eyes here.

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    'Subtle face likeness on artifact or core'
    Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia

    The face likeness detected by Adam Arkfeld on this artifact is no accident. It is a fully intentional artistic representation as seen here on several artifacts from a single South African assemblage (and many other 'Old World' handaxes). Click photos to expand and toggle views.

    Example of 'South African core artifact in human face effigy form'

    Several of the artifacts from this single assemblage may have subtle face figures included 

    'Another artifact in face effigy form' from the South African collection

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    'Stone phallus figure'
    Arkfeld Site, #44FK731, Clear Brook, Virginia. 18cm

    'The Erfoud manuport' Lutz Fiedler find
    Unmodified cuttle fish fossil from a Late Acheulean context in Morocco, 4cm
    Near Eastern - North African Acheulian Figurine Symbolizing Traditon / d)erfoudmpt, manuport, Site A-84-2, Erfoud, Morocco, Late Acheulian

    The "Kempen stone phallus" from Belgium is the oldest known icon of the male organs and perhaps even artificially modified. Find by L. Jimmy Groen

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    'Bird sculpture with glistening eye' 14cm
    Ken Johnston find, Flint Ridge, Muskingum County, Ohio

    Bird sculpture side 2

    Location of the 'glistening eye' on the bird sculpture

    The glistening eye is made of a application of a shiny material, like a clear resin, with small bits of sparkling quartz crystals mixed into and adhering with the clear coat. The eye looks as if it is always wet.

    The 'eye' location is the exact and only place on this stone that has this shiny and sparkling quality which appears to be the artist's enhancement of the bird to create a more 'life-like' eye. I have never seen flint with the properties on the 'bird's eye' here before but I will be looking in the locus of this find for other similar examples.

    Other bird figures from Flint Ridge are seen where the artist exploited natural crystal formations as 'eye' features on the birds. It may be this artist had a nice bird figure but without a more desired 'crystal eye.' So a synthetic eye was made by the clear varnish material mixed with some quartz crystal pieces from elsewhere.

    Careful examination of art pieces like this can provide information about the material culture of the people who made them. X-ray florescence (XRF) testing might be able to detect the chemical composition of the clear varnish substance.

    Two additional bird figures found at the same place and day at Flint Ridge. These are among many bird figures found in concentrations at Flint Ridge Ohio which have been featured on this blog.

    Levallois-like prepared core technology

    The striking platform is highlighted by the red arrow.
    Here is an analog to the Ohio flake tool from Azokh Cave (Nagorno Karabagh, Lesser Caucasus). "The lithic artefacts presented here were recovered from Units V, III and II during the 2002 –2009 excavation seasons. The available chronological data indicates an age between 293 – 100 Ka for these units." The image here was selected from page 44 of the paper.

    The photo of side 2 here shows the striking platform at the very top and the bulb of percussion flowing from it. The material here is oolitic chert from the Vanport formation at Flint Ridge.  4.5cm.

    Aerial view of Flint Ridge in Licking County, Ohio. The sun is reflected in flint quarry pits which are flooded with spring snow melt water. They dot more than 2,000 acres of land. Flint Ridge Road runs along the bottom of the photo.

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    The oldest directly dated artifact in America

    Discovered By Ken Stanton, Amateur Geo Archaeologist at Phoenix, AZ, and professionally date tested and artifact assessed.

    Uranium series dating of the carbonate accumulation on a worked surface yielded dates ca. 38,000 to 40,000 years before present.

    The oldest directly dated artifact in America at Phoenix, Arizona, has a human face image with eyes worked in typical portable rock at fashion. It is in the upper left quadrant of the top photo.

    When the stone is rotated 90 degrees to the right, I interpret a possible animal head representation in left profile view.

    Illustration of the interpreted animal head

    On another artifact from the Ken Stanton site is a representation of a simple human face with a rabbit head image looking to the upper left from the human's forehead. An alternate and equally valid interpretation is of a standing rabbit figure with a human face on its side.

    These are polymorphic figures a typical portable rock art motif seen in many postings on this blog. They are of similar execution to achieve the images on the same kind of stone material, probably desired for its solid white color and light-reflective properties.

    The presence of two artifacts from the same in-situ site, with similar modifications and with typical iconic properties, supports the hypothesis that these are intentional art works. Being with the oldest directly dated artifact in America makes them the oldest dated American art and among the 10 or 20 oldest dated artworks in the world.

    In 2012 Ken Stanton, an amateur geo-archaeologist, identified suspected stone tools exposed in a suspected Pleistocene cemented breccia or debris flow at Phoenix, Arizona. (The two reddish items look like a bird figure and an elongated human head figure with two eyes, a nose and an open mouth.)

    Ken Stanton finds at Phoenix, Arizona, in this context.

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    Acheulean-like handaxe from Arkfeld site has faint traces of a human face representation within its 'frame.' Clear Brook, Virginia. 13cm

    The mouth here in particular has been been worked with quite a bit of deliberate focus. It is an incision or groove in the rock which would have taken repeated grinding to create. There may have been a large stone removal to create the 'cheek' before the mouth was added. Click photos to expand.

    Other finds at Arkfeld Site are similar like this one and this one featured in the past month. They all have simple icons on worked tools.

    Here is some speculation about possible icon status of the cone shaped grooves highlighted in this illustration. The hat is an Aboriginal Australian ceremonial dance hat.

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    Dan Fox surface find, Western Kansas

    When I first saw this sculpture I was struck by an unusual combination of attributes.

    It seems to take general shape from the natural form of the rock and the face is not as symmetrical as typical human face effigies seen in the North American Woodland Period and thereafter (<3,000 years before present (YBP)). This natural rock form base and the asymmetry are suggestive of sculptures suspected of being from the Paleolithic Period in North America >9,000 YBP.

    The sculpture also seems to exhibit a coarse stone working sequence involving 1) pecking, 2) grinding and 3) polishing which is often associated with the North American Archaic Period and thereafter <9,000 YBP.

    I have only rarely encountered this combination of attributes and it leads me to speculate this sculpture is from the Archaic Period and more likely the Early Archaic than the later.

    Here, I illustrate a diminutive left eye and a harsh lower right portion of the head. This could be an artistic convention of creating visual distance as if we are looking at a right 3/4 profile head. It could also be an example of the "one eye open, one eye closed with distortion to the left side of the face' as seen in many examples on this blog.

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    'Mammoth icon facing left with human face profile on its posterior facing right'
    Ken Johnston find at Whetstone Park, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio

    Side 2 of the flint also exhibits the North American Paleolithic art motif of a mammoth form with a human face form on its rear. This motif has been described in many examples on this blog from a life-size carved mammoth on a rock outcrop in Virginia to smaller pieces like this one at 4cm. I have described it from Licking County, Ohio, about 40 miles east of the location of this find. The typical mammoth head dome and the trunk curvature are captured in views on both sides. 

    Here the human is facing left, mammoth facing right, the opposite of the direction of side one. So, the human face profile here has mammoth head dome and trunk line on the other side, and mammoth facing right has a human on its other side. There is some worked human eye detail on this side. This is a flint art object made of exotic chert material originating about 150 miles distance near Carter Caves, Kentucky (more below). I do not think it was a tool.

    Both sides with illustrations of the interpreted two human facial profiles and the two mammoth profiles on this one flint.


    Here, I illustrate subtle but very intentional representations of two additional creatures on this flint. They are in line with other figure stones described on this blog. On one side is a 'horse head' sandwiched between the human and the mammoth trunk with an eye divot in the flint made at the correct spot. The other side has a 'feline face' with two eyes, a nose bridge and a distinct feline mouth. The combination of two humans, two mammoths, a horse and a feline make this an extraordinary polymorphic art work with likely great symbolic significance to its maker.

    This is a small mammoth representation to the right of the feline face which was made by a precise removal to create a 'trunk' and a divot to create the 'eye' of the little mammoth. Click photos to expand and toggle. If one looks at it on the photo marked 'feline face' it has flaring ears like an elephant charging (a lion). This is a an animal behavioral activity captured by a human in the permanence of stone.

    A aerial view of Whetstone Park in Franklin County, Columbus, Ohio. The Olentangy River is seen on the left (Olentangy R.->Scioto R. ->Ohio R.). The fields to the right of the river are the east flood plain. To the right of the 'red dot' is a rise of 40 feet. The slope to this rise was eroding these artifacts. The main Columbus north-south drag, High Street, may be seen at the upper right corner. The site was fully glaciated in the Wisconsinan and it is thought to have reached its final maximum at 18,000 years ago and then started its retreat north.

    The mammoth/human combination flint is made of stone material called Carter Cave Chert. The route on the map goes across the Ohio River and follows the Scioto River to Columbus and then up the Olentangy River to the Clintonville neighborhood's Whetstone Park. The chert material is considered "exotic" because of the distance from its find location to its source. Carter Cave material is rarely found north of Columbus.

    Columbus, Ohio Levallois-like artifact. The core preparation evidenced here has been described as "preferential unidirectional-convergent."

    Lyn's daughter Brennah and I have been picking up rocks and artifacts for the last 8 of her 13 years. A few weeks back I showed her what Levallois-like prepared core technology artifacts look like and told her to be on the look out for them. Within a couple of minutes of me saying we were on top of artifacts while on our walk at Whetstone's Park Of Roses yesterday she produced this possible example and several other crude coarse stone artifacts.

    Mostly coarse stone tools. Artifacts identified on a family Sunday walk. The one at lower left is a simple broken pebble, either a core to generate another tool or tools or a desired end product itself- a rounded stone with a sharp edge. The mammoth/human combination flint is pictured at lower right. I thought it was likely a tool until I got home and took a closer at it. Now, I think it is portable rock art.

    All of these items were found eroding from a slope in 5 minutes time in about a 9 square meter space. Thanks Brennah!

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    'Mother holding child'
    Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia, site #44FK731

    Ken Johnston illustration of the Adam Arkfeld interpretation of the detail of this figure. The 'baby' may be seen inside the blue circle. Arms, hair and mouth are also illustrated. Click photo to expand and toggle to compare the photo with the illustrated photo.



    A cut-out photo of the 'baby' within the 'frame' carved in bas relief

    'Mother and child' worked stone figure
    Jan van Es find, The Netherlands, Lower Paleolithic

    Adam Arkfeld noted a similarity of his find to one he had seen on this blog. The person in the figure here is truncated at the waist just like in the Virginia, USA, example. I contacted Jan van Es and he replied as follows. Translated from Dutch:

    "Indeed, it comes from the same family. Sometimes it has a slightly different view as the polymorph but he certainly belongs to. I call it family sculptures, because of this series are at least 20 singular types but they make a link with each other .

    Nice find it, it gives so nice that it was a universal thought!

    I often look at your site, there are beautiful sculptures, it is amazing that the professionals do not get beyond tools and their technical aspect . I send some material to you by mail after this . Have a top summer and a relaxed time .

    Regards Jan"

    Another Jan van Es find worked stone figure from a Lower Paleolithic art and tool context in The Netherlands.

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    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, Jasper County, Missouri

    The Old Route 66 Zoo has produced several hundred iconic pieces within a few acres of land along the Old Route 66, including these examples from a February posting.

    Some of the main stone removals and incised lines illustrated

    A close up of the head of the zoomorph. Stacy Dodd processed his photo using the DStretch rock art photo plug-in to ImageJ to help provide another perspective on the stone. I think Stacy was the first person to apply this software tool to portable rock art a few years back.

    To me, this piece looks like a combination of human, bison and mammoth attributes into a fantastic creature.

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    A 'Lion head left profile bust' sculpture from The Old Route 66 Zoo
    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, near Joplin, Missouri, site #23JP1222

    Illustration of the interpreted feline head features


    Another 'lion head' sculpture from The Old Route 66 Zoo site featured earlier on this blog.

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    Human profile sculpture with prominent brow ridge
    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, Jasper County, Missouri
    The Old Route 66 Zoo, Site #23JP1222

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    'Human face sculpture with prominent brow ridge'
    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo, Jasper County, Missouri. Site #23JP1222

    The facial expression and the life-like detail of the 'lips' indicate this sculpture's maker had a combination of artistic talent and highly developed stone working skill.

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    Thath Chanuhacha collection, Bangkok, Thailand

    Thath is a rock and mineral collector and I have featured a couple of his iconic finds on this blog. This stone was collected by his father and recently found in a box of his affects. It has no specific find location or archaeological context. However, I think a careful scientific examination of this pebble figure would confirm it has been humanly modified in the past.

    In the above photo there are three incised lines across the 'left forehead,' two lines radiating from the outside corner of the 'right eye,' and another line serving as a 'mouth.' 

    This is a view of the stone turned a bit to the left. The left 'eye' area may have excavated and shows evidence of being ground to relative smoothness compared to the natural rind of the stone. The nose area may have been expanded and the mouth appears to have been made by exacting a chip from the stone.

    When the stone is rotated again a very plausible feline head may be seen. What was the human's nose in the photo above this one becomes the feline's nose in this perspective. This sharing of body elements like this is seen many, many times in portable rock art featured on this blog. The feline's 'mouth' may have been created by removal a wedge-shaped piece from the lower left of the stone.

    Here, faint traces of a human 'skull-mask' may be seen incorporated into the 'muzzle' area of the feline head. Two eyes and a nose may be seen and they have been worked in a similar technical fashion. The human skull shares its 'mouth' with the 'mouth' of the feline. The cat's 'nose' is like a hole on the top of the skull-head. This may be symbolic of a feline bite to the head.

    When the feline head view is rotated 180 degrees a simple human face likeness is found. The area around the 'eyes' appears to have been ground down to expand them or better define them. A natural crack in the stone has been exploited as a 'mouth' by removal of a chip under the eyes. Please note the figure stands on a flat base with this orientation.

    Even though there no meaningful known context for this find, the presence of apparent workmanship to finalize several iconic images on one stone supports a hypothesis that this is a figure-stone. Further, it may exhibit a known motif of a 'human face with left eye missing associated with a feline' and I think implying a feline bite to the head in what is likely an expression of a deeply rooted-in-time folk tale or the like. This piece could be an important find as it would show this motif in south east Asia like a few other examples.

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    From Abri de la Madeleine, France, Magdalenian, 17,000 to 12,000 years before present

    Photos by and courtesy of Don Hitchcock who has an excellent web site featuring the art from la Madeleine and many other "Old World" archaeology sites. If you are unable to see the reindeer carving here, a higher resolution photo is available at Don's web site.

    This stone has a detailed etching of a reindeer on it and I have recognized its overall shape is very likely symbolic and represents a mammoth body in left profile with a human face profile on its posterior. This motif is seen in many North American examples featured on this blog like this one and this one from Virginia's Arkfeld Site. This places this art motif on two continents.

    The method of stonework is different from that used to create the reindeer but faint traces of it still remain. The 'head bump' of the mammoth may be seen along with curvature of its 'trunk' on the left side.

    On the right side, the human face profile has etching and stone removal to define facial features and what appears to be a nicely ground 'eye.'

    Illustration of Ken Johnston interpretation of the human face profile on the posterior of the mammoth. Click photos to expand and toggle between the illustrated and non-illustrated photos.

    Source: Original, Le Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, 2014

    Illustration of the carving 'Male reindeer bellowing during the rutting season' which I propose was made on a mammoth and human combination art plaque.

    Here, I processed the photo digitally with the Image-J rock art plug in D-stretch and one of the files generated made the reindeer carving more visible on the plaque. Thanks to the plug-in creator Jon Harman for making this tool available to amateurs for free.

    Within the overall frame of the mammoth and human profile, another mammoth has been created by this artist. This mammoth has a trunk line etched into the stone and its head follows the head of the larger mammoth. The mammoth 'eye' element on the stone is also the optimal 'kill point' for a spear to penetrate the reindeer. 

    The mammoth and human combination silhouette may be interpreted as "special framing" for the image of the reindeer in this case.

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  • 07/29/16--20:05: Nose
  • 'Nose'
    Collection of Jan van Es, The Netherlands


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