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.
"Hello, This human illustration shows a man screaming or a dead man (mouth open). If you turn the piece an animal head is observed. Dimensions : 7 / 5.5 / 4 cm. Piece collected on the island of Oléron on a Lower Paleolithic site. Cordially, Henri"
Animal head looking right interpreted by Henri Valentie
Ken Johnston illustration of the animal head. The right eye is distinctly incised as two lines which terminate at their meeting point. I think this is a depiction of a feline head with an 'open mouth.'
Ken Johnston illustration of a general distortion to the left side of the sculpted face mask on this figure stone which is affected by the harsh "gash" treatment of the left eye and a "gash" removal of part of the face under the eye (in the circle above). This kind of face mask with 'missing left eye' and distortion to the left side of the face in seen in many examples by finders in Europe and North America on this blog.
Paleolithic art author Guthrie illustrates an engraving from a rock at the site at Gourdan, France, which is a variation of the "lion bite to the head" memes found at Isle de Oleron by Mr. Valentie here and seen in the Ohio example of the ball-in-socket interlocking human and lion heads which stand upright together. Image from page 175, The Nature of Paleolithic Art, R. Dale Guthrie.
Squared-off stone plaquette has child-like soft human facial profile worked on its lower right edge. The top and bottom edges as seen here appear to have been manufactured using a "bend-break" technique where the stone is snapped to break it into a smaller size.
Site owner Adam Arkfeld has identified so many worked iconic stones like this in a relatively small area that in most cases the possibility of paradolic interpretations has been significantly reduced if not eliminated. After all, context in archaeology is paramount.
Arkfeld Site from the air at Clear Brook in northern Virginia. The West Virginia "sawtooth" is just a mile east of the site.
'Mammoth facing head left and wolf head facing right'
Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia
The sculpture combines imagery of the mammoth and the wolf in one sophisticated view. There are clear intentional removals to create the mammoth's curved trunk definition. There is a nice divot still remaining on the sculpture in an artistically correct place for a 'wolf eye.' The sculpture has a perfectly flat base which presents it in correct orientation.
In addition to mammoths often being paired with human faces on their posteriors, there are other motif examples like this one where animals like felines or bison are present. This is the first canine and mammoth combination I have seen. This is one of several dozens of mammoth sculptures from the Arkfeld Site.
Prepared core lithic reduction technology was used to create this Levallois-like point at Arkfeld Site. It is a nice pyramid form.
This is the surface that was detached from the core
Three standing bird sculptures from Arkfeld Site this week adds to growing flying flock from this rock art mega-site. These were found in close association and dozens of other bird figures and sculptures have been found in the small area of the several acre site and presented on this blog.
Two-sided bird sculpture with simple wings details in relief on both sides.
This sculpture is engineered to balance on its base while presenting the long, extended neck of the bird away from the body. It looks like it would tip forward but it does not, almost in an optical illusion or demonstration of the artist's skill. Perhaps a bird at water's edge preparing to take a bite of something? Click photos to expand.
Adam Arkfeld notes tail feathering serrations in this classic portable rock art bird figure. These artifacts may have both iconic and tool attributes.
Two remarkably similar animal head figure stones with mouths agape. The Old Route 66 Zoo Site, #23JP1222. Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber finds near Joplin, Missouri.
Animal head figure stone with mouth agape
Two stones of similar material found in close proximity which look like animal heads, of similar size and left profile orientation, have open 'mouths' and which have 'eye' divots in the right positions (all together a shared motif) can inform us with confidence that Stone Age human agency with culturally-mediated artistic motivation was involved here.
These seem to be possible 'turtle head' representations to me.
Messrs. Dodd and Weber have detected hundreds of iconic stones like this at their mega portable rock art site which one would think should be of great interest to a real Archaeological Science.
Henri Vanentie finds in a Lower Paleolithic art and tool context, France
"Here are two cats lying on the ground found on the island of Oléron
14/10 / 4.5cm t 14/10 / 2.5cm"
The cats interpreted by Mr. Valentie have slight modifications to disambiguate the pieces enough to create a 'feline likeness' for the Stone Age artist. The figure seen at left here may have two flakes removed to indicate two 'front paws.'
L. Jimmy Groen find, Netherlands
Lower Paleolithic stone figure interpreted by Ken Johnston as a feline outstretched on the ground was featured earlier on this blog and has a strong similarity with the France cat figures Mr. Valentie has identified
"At a site at the plateau in the Belgian Kempen, where some drain channels were made, I find many pebble tool artifacts. Some of the artifacts were found in situ, in a reworked early- Saalian horizon, which means they were made before the Saalian period, most probably before 300.000 BP. This is also, because I found small tools, like micro choppers. Tomorrow I go to France to see the French archaeologist H. Beaudouin, and I will show him tools and debitage waste- to discuss them. In this pebble tool assemblage I found this remarkable object, I believe everybody has the same imagination about it: like a 'phallus symbol"- another form of iconicity?
Mammoth model for comparison of silhouette to the Ohio sculpture
This mammoth (blue M) was found 300 yards from the find location of the Buckeye Lake Paleolithic flint sculpture hoard I found on my property (gold star) which fueled my initial interest in the archaeology of portable rock art. The hoard included one mammoth sculpture of the eight in the group.
Mammoth trunk at left, posterior at right. A simple human face has been incorporated into what would be the mammoth's 'left haunch.'
Area highlighted in blue has been worked by stone pecking.
Human face on mammoth's posterior
Buckeye Lake, Ohio, mammoth sculpture on a boulder
A glacial terminus swamp, 'Buffalo Swamp' to historical native Americans, an Ohio & Erie canal feeder lake, then 'Buckeye Lake' State Park. A now gone amusement park is seen here in the 1960's. The approximate find location of this Ohio mammoth sculpture may be seen in the upper left of this photo.
A possible abstract standing in profile female figurine from Arkfeld Site
Some ivory and bone female figures from the Magdalenian period in Germany (15,000 to 11,500 years before present) seen below have stylized shapes similar to the shape of the Arkfeld site artifact which is suggestive of a female form.
Hook-billed bird head (like an eagle) with stone removal to make the beak identified by Adrian. Bird heads and bird figures are commonly found at these kinds of archaeology sites.
Bird forms and quasi bird forms from the site
Three animal head sculptures identified by Adrian Ellis who has an MFA degree in sculpture from UCLA and has studied stone sculpture. The top two look like felines and the bottom one is more vague but likely feline too. They all have worked 'eyes.'
Illustration of the worked eye areas on the three animal head sculptures
A Levallois-like point from this central Virginia site
A geometric point
Worked and then worn through use rhomboid shapes identified by Adrian
A simple Oldowan Mode I Lithics cobble tool from Virginia with two breaks to create a sharp edge. These simple cultural materials with such light modification are too often overlooked in American Archaeology.
A worked stone survey from the site. There is a noticeable lack of flint among the artifacts at the site. This may indicate a preference for non-flint materials because flint is often tied to the landscape in very specific places. It may indicate a people not very familiar with the flint tool stone resources in the area who have to make do with what they have at hand. It may indicate a people with Asian tool making traditions which favored coarse stone materials because flint and chert materials are relatively scarce there.
"I also want to share with you how poorly I've been treated by the archaeological community... Still cannot believe that I have been told these are only river rocks, if you have half a brain, you can see they are tools." -Adrian Ellis, Virginia
Central Virginia location of these featured artifacts found and identified by Adrian.
The field of Archaeology continues to squander opportunities to identify new patterns of lithics behavior on the landscape by its inability or unwillingness to take some very astute and observant non-professionals like Adrian Ellis seriously.
'Possible bird with head turned back in three levels of relief'
Adam Arkfeld find, Clear Brook, Virginia
This Arkfeld Site example of the 'bird with head turned back' motif was featured earlier on this blog. The new find is more ambiguous, almost 'cubist' in its angular abstraction. These two bird forms are both made on a lithic reduction template which created three levels of relief on the stone to express the head, body and neck of the birds. The similarity of the iconography and the manufacturing technique support the new find being an intended bird sculpture in the same tradition as the earlier example.
A Mesopotamian stone "duck weight' used in measurement is in the same natural motif as the two sculptures from The Arkfeld Site.
Water bird with head turned back and tail feathering at far right
Luigi Chiapparoli finds, da Piacenza, Italy
(Left) A flaked bird figure with eye divot and bill tucked into its back feathers and alternately interpreted as a bird with beak pointed right. (Right) a duck figure with its head turned back. This art motif is described as early as the Lower Paleolithic ca. 500,000 BP by Mrs. Ursel Benekendorff of Germany who has called it the "preening water bird." I have referred to it as the "sleeping duck" motif as well.
There are commonalities with some Italian and North American finds like this which suggest a trans-Atlantic cultural connection in the Stone Age. See the prior posting of similar birds from Virginia's Arkfeld Site.
Luigi Chiapparoli is a recognized independent rock art investigator working in the da Piacenza locale. Numerous stone figures have been identified by Lug and featured on this blog.
Patrick Wilson and family finds, The Stone Wall Site
Rockport, Hot Spring county, Arkansas. Near the Ouachita River, a Mississippi River tributary.
'Mammoth body and human head facing left'
This is a 'mammoth and human' combination sculpture exhibiting two motifs already described on this blog. First, this view may be seen as a human head and face looking left, with a mammoth form cresting its forehead and where the mammoth 'trunk' and the human's 'nose' are the same element in the stone. It is like the mammoth's 'head bump' and its arched back and posterior are the human's 'hairdo.'
Blue line illustrating mammoth form combined with the human head with their 'eyes' circled. The mammoth shares it's 'trunk' with the human's 'nose' which is seen in many other examples. The human's eye has been created using a Paleolithic rock art convention of jamming a manufactured square pebble into a crevice of a stone to define and give depth to an 'eye,' or to add 'teeth' to a 'mouth' etc.
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 (mammoth and human sharing forehead) is seen in this Rockport, Arkansas, sculpture example.
The second significant common motif exhibited by this sculpture may be seen when the sculpture is reversed. A human head looking left may be seen here, where the human's face is also the 'posterior' of the mammoth figure.
Mammoth in profile facing left with rear legs defined
A human-like image faintly visible on this stone looks like a human bust with shoulder and arm in left 3/4 profile. The human's 'head' is in the upper right part of the stone. I placed the interpreted human face in a box. Images like this may be many thousands of years old and sometimes they look like hauntingly faded photographs on stone.
Close up of human face image which was made by an artist selectively altering the rock's surface to create eyes, nose and mouth
Human face in retouch work looking left on a large flint
'Sleeping duck stone figure with head turned onto its back'
Illustration of duck's 'bill' and worked fully circular 'eye' in a Paleolithic art convention and in correct anatomical placement.
A sleeping duck in nature
A sitting anthropomorphic figure (troll-like) looking right with arm raised to its mouth area.
Bird head with eye
Bottom of underside of the bird head (by the floor here) has a human head with worked eyes, nose and mouth. Pietro Gaietto of Italy has described this motif in Paleolithic sculptural art there and it is seen in other United States examples.
Assorted finds from the site by Patrick Wilson and family, Rockport, Arkansas, indicate the presence of Stone Age humans curating and concentrating stones which resemble humans.
Novaculite outcrops throughout the area have attracted humans for millennia. Photo by Patrick Wilson. Patrick's grandpa first noticed an abundance of worked and iconic stones on his property many years ago.
Arkansas novaculite translucent banded knife blade found by Patrick Wilson
Denis with some photographs of portable rock art in December 2008.
'The galloping horse head'
The sound of portable rock art: Argaut has identified several horse figures which make a galloping sound when "rocked" or manipulated by an artist. These stones have been engineered to create the life-like sounds of a galloping horse. These are extraordinary observations by Mr. Argaut.