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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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    Stone bird sculpture, Sam Minot find, Bucksport, Maine 
    "hey, saw your blog and some of the photos of portable rock art and wanted to share some really good ones that we have found over the years here in Maine . One here is just like the little finch (i call it) that you have a photo of. I have one here too that (i think) is of the Great Auk, a flightless seabird that was killed off by early Europeans. and we have many (dozens and dozens) of profiles and faces,,,, we are artists ourselves, so we have become privy to the wonderful stone art in the artifacts we find everywhere here ! ~ sam minot, Bucksport, Me."  

    Silhouette of the stone bird sculpture

    'Great Auk'

    The only known historical image of a Great Auk made with the live animal as the subject. Wikipedia.

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    '3/4 left profile of human head with smile'
    Lower Palaeolithic -  UK scraper. c.350,000+ BP.

    A Clactonian /Acheulean discoidal pebble scraper. Produced on a cortex backed section of a large river pebble. Two sections on the dorsal face have been flaked towards a distal point. Ventral face with a clear bulb of percussion and one third of the circumference displays some wonderful, shallow flaking. Silver and orange ancient patina on exposed flint. Size 7cm x 7cm. Acquired by Ken Johnston from an old collection.
     Facial profile with arrow illustrating the figure's 'line of vision'

    Significant cortex or weathered rind remains on the cobble on the other side

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    'Flying foot' interpreted by Adam Arkfeld
    The Arkfeld Site, #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia

    The side view of the 'foot' has a distinct bird-in-flight-like form. It also resembles the NASA Space Shuttles in profile view. Based on this and vidence of toes on the foot worked to relative anatomical accuracy led Arkfeld to this astute interpretation.

    Arkfeld notes the 'flying foot' motif is seen in case of the Greek god Hermes

    View of the top of the foot shows five toes resting on a surface of a band of white quartzite. (click photos to expand) 

    Closer view of top of foot

    Toes illustrated

    View of front of the foot

    Close up view of the toes on the front of the foot

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    'Lion head left profile sculpture with perforation as eye'
    Adam Arkfeld find, Site #44FK731

    This large sculpture weighs several hundred pounds. It is made in a typical artistic template or scheme which is seen in other North American cat head sculptures and which must have been culturally facilitated. This template is seen on boulder-size pieces like this to smaller 2-5cm examples. Eye, nose, mouth, chin, ear and jaw line are depicted here.

    Cat eye

    There is a 'human face mask' carved in relief in the lower right corner of the cat head.

    Human face mask illustrated

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    'Smiling left portrait with cheeky jaw'

    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, near Joplin, Missouri, 7cm

    Illustration of interpreted eye and mouth features

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    'Pair of mammoth stone figures in right profile view'
    Jason Lamont finds from his portable rock art site at Hardin County, Tennessee

    'Human head figure facing left'

    'Cobble with breaks made to affect a human head likeness'

    Natural forces are typically moving rock material toward roundness in shape. When a stone like this 'cube' is found in a suspected stone artifact context, it should be regarded as a human product, maybe a tool and maybe even a geometric novelty for the maker.

    This stone has a human face on it, expressed in bas relief. There are two eyes, a bridge and nose and a donut-shaped mouth.

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    Arkfeld Site, #44FK731, Clear Brook, Virginia (10cm)

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    Wade Holmes find, western Montana

            Hi Ken,
    As I mentioned before, I have found many 100's of stones that are peculiar, and look like they represent many different animals. I was not aware of this sort of rock art until I began searching for stones similar to what I have found on the internet. The first style I recognized was the sleeping bird stones, then the non-sleeping birds.
    After that I began noticing that many of the stones seemed to represent elephants.
    After viewing all of the stones you have on your site I am fairly certain that I have found a large cache of these stones. Many stones are naturally shaped, but they are found with many other stones that show signs of being worked by someone, so I believe they still represent something.

    Having seen good photographs of Wade's finds, I agree that he has found a concentration of 'portable rock art' similar to that described by many other careful observers. His description of the 'sleeping bird' motif is an indicator he has detected a Paleolithic rock art site. I will be featuring some of Wade's artifacts in the coming weeks.

    Based on its find context and other examples for reference it is my contention that most if not all of the facial elements (eyes, nose, mouth, teeth) on the pebble featured here are the result of human marking rock art behaviors which have not been described by North American archaeologists.

    A competent and thorough petrological examination of examples like this can confirm human workmanship and so easily establish what must become a major new line of rock art inquiry for archaeological science.

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    United Kingdom, private collection, Lower Paleolithic

    Anthropomorphic flint nodule with similar stylized 'nose' representation

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    Henri Valenti find, Island of Oleron, France

    Hello from the island of Oleron. Bust of a man of 6/4 cm in flint found on the island. His headdress and beard are well seen in the imagery of prehistoric man.
    Best regards

    Two human face visages, one looking straight on and a profile as if looking to the right. Note the shared 'eye' element in the two figures.

    "View of profile of the bust and limestone mask naturally pierced but undergoes some retouches. On can be observed the absence of the left eye. 6cm / 4cm"

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    Human head statue
    Arkfeld Site

    Based on other examples on this blog human head renderings which are often quite lite on details sometimes have what appear to manufactured 'nostrils' of the nose as seen in this example recovered by Adam Arkfeld at his site. They seem to be an important detail which I have proposed may be adding a 'symbolic breath of life' and animation to the stone.

    View of the sculpture from the opposite side. Note the vein of quartz crystals which probably helped inspire the selection of the raw material here by the sculptor. Other examples of sculptures appear to have an unnatural 'lean' to one side, like this one appears leaning back, to the left.

    This is a depiction of the head of a human which was more robust than anatomically modern humans are today. Many examples of sculptures exist with prominent brow ridges and other robust facial features and suggest strongly they were manufactured by a Paleolithic people.

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    'Owl sculpture'
    Wade Holmes finds and collection, Western Montana

    This is classic, simple Paleolithic owl sculpture made with a minimal amount of work but invoking the essential imagery for recognition. The context of all the other figurative art from this site supports the interpretation of an intentionally sculpted owl on this obviously worked cobble.

    Summer Solstice sunset view from the Wade Homes portable rock art site

    'Feline bust in profile facing right'

    'Feline face looking straight on'

    Feline depicted with 'one eye open, other closed or missing.' Ken Johnston illustration of carved elliptical right eye and left eye made by a straight incised line.

    Wade Holmes interpretation of a worked stone resembling the head of a mammoth as if being viewed straight on. Wade's drawing provides a visual context for his interpretation. There are indeed two 'eyes' on this figure. Ken Johnston illustration of possible hand-hold on this object. Some figures like this may have been held in the hand like toys, or puppets or story-telling props. 

    A couple of mammoths with interpretations by Wade Holmes

    'Mammoth facing right with prominent tusk representation'

    Eye, tusk and trunk line illustrated by Ken Johnston

    At left is a 'sleeping water bird' sculpture and at right a 'mammoth' sculpture.  The water bird has a beautifully curved neck, its head tucked into its back feathers and has a tail and wing details. The mammoth, which is in profile facing left, may also be interpreted as a lion head facing right, where the mammoth and lion share the same 'ear' and the dark spot toward the top-middle edge is the lion's eye. Many examples of this 'mammoth/lion facing away from each other' motif have been described on this blog and it will eventually prove to be one of the great sculpture types of Paleolithic North America.

     An animal-like figure with evidence of human-directed bashing and marking

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    'Owl figure'
    Timothy Banninger find, Kansas

    There is a small face realized on the owl's face below its left eye. This face figure is worked to expose the two stone inclusions as 'eyes' with added retouch to make a nose and mouth. 

    I contend this is the face of a bird at the eye and beak of the owl. It has a fully expressed body of a bird in profile. This is a motif developed in other examples on this blog.

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     Adam Arkfeld finds, site #44FK731, Clear Brook, Virginia

    The Arkfeld site produces limestone and basalt art pieces in great numbers and a has also produced a smaller number of quartzite pieces. This was a significant week for quartz finds as Adam began working on a new locale at his archaeology site.

    'Water bird in flight'
    (wing on the down stroke)

    'Sitting bird'

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    Adam Arkfeld find, site #44FK731, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Note how the right eye is expressed as convex, or in bas releif, while the left eye is a large, concave excavation. This differentiates the conditions of the two eyes.

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    'Right eye open, left eye missing' is a known Paleolithic rock art motif

    Willie Woodson surface find on his property. This was found in Woodbridge VA in the lake ridge area of the county Prince William. Crude stone tools indicate an area Willie hopes to excavate on a controlled grid in the Spring. Willie identified the motif before contacting me.

    Detailed carving work to express the right eye in its socket. The left eye is a simple removal of a chip of stone to create a slight indentation. About 50% of the surface of this face has been carved by the artist. There is a gash which appears to serve as a chin cleft on the face.

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    Animal head and bird stone sculptures both in right profile view
    Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia

    Carved human face in profilelooking left

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