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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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    A possible depiction of Castoroides ohioensis in left profile view from the Old Route 66 Zoo portable rock art site in Missouri

    Castoroides ohioensis had a length of up to 2.5 m (8.2 ft) and an estimated weight of 60-100 kg (130-220 lbs); past estimates went up to 220 kg (485 lbs). It lived in North America during the Pleistocene epoch and went extinct at the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago.

    Ken Johnston interpreted this stone as a rodent depiction upon inspection in February 2012. It reminded me of a ground hog or a prairie dog. When searching for the best match for what this creature may be, the Giant Beaver reconstructions were a good match. Its remains were first found in an Ohio peat bog in the early 19th century.

    Photo: Ryan Somma
    Permission: Creative Commons Licensed photo by
    Source: Taken at the Minnesota Science Museum: Mississippi River Gallery, From Don's Maps

    Peter Faris of Rock Art Blog has written about this subject.


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    This cupule stone from an earlier post was found in Indiana during amateur mineral hunting and was recognized as an artifact. Ken Johnston speculated it was a mammoth form and Jan van Es of the Netherlands has now interpreted face mask elements and more visual creations on this stone.

    A suspected mammoth boulder in Germany, photo courtesy of Nelly Sloan. Please note the form similarities between the two mammoths, especially on the right side of the photos where the trunks are depicted. Archaeologist Jan van Es writes:

    "Hoi Ken. I'm more and more surprised about the finds of the States!!!  Un your website I saw this polymorph which really reminds me at the Neanderthaler of 180.000-250.000 BP

    A There are portraits shading off into one another of which most of them show the mask item.
    B The little portrait at the right gets a surplus value if rotated in the right way- caused by shadow. 

    The total picture shows an animal with a human face and under the belly is a breeding bird. (polymorph horse-lady )

    C  A brown coloured human in a kind of manganese painting.  In a little bowed position it looks like an animal (legs)

    Great find!!

    Regards Jan"


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    Jan van Es find, Beegden, The Netherlands

    For me, the fossil shell inclusion may be taken as the "breath" of the horse head (facing left) or as "whiskers" on a feline animal in another interpretation of the imagery. Scallop shell fossils seem to have been significant to some Stone Age peoples as they are seen as featured components in many artifacts such as the West Tofts, England, handaxe and two scallop shell shaped artifacts from Licking County, Ohio, seen on this blog.

    Denis Argaut find, France, on a larger sculpture of a human head to be seen soon on this blog

    Karon Schwab find, Idyllwild, California

    Side 2 of Karon Schwab find, California

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    "Bird-Venus Statue in Limestone from Day's Knob Site 33GU218," Guernsey County, Ohio


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    Human stone flaking resulting in a human head in right profile form, Bee House, Texas

    Ronda Eldridge of Bee House, Texas, found a group of suspected rock art objects in a 15 x 15 foot area on her property. A bird head figure stone and an amazing bird/rabbit/human polymorph with white pigmentation have already been featured on this blog. Thank you Ronda for sharing your finds.

    Zoomorphic form, perhaps a "rough" floating water bird. (Click photos to expand)

     An interesting form found in association with all the others (Click photos to expand)


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    Chris Smith find, San Saba County, Texas, identified as from a Paleolithic site according to Chris
    (click photos to expand and compare) 

    Ken Johnston interpreted this stone as a combination mammoth head facing right with a human facial profile figure facing left, as similarly seen in this prior posting of a Newark, Ohio, figure and another figure from the Columbia River at Washougal, WA, from Jim May in addition to others seen on this blog. This is now established as a North American portable rock art motif.

    Classic bird figures collected by Chris Smith, San Saba County, Texas


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    Example of a Stone Age sculpture with "one eye open, other eye shut" motif
    Where are the archaeologists? Or even just one? It's time to address artifacts with this motif being found from coast-to-coast in the United States and likely related to the same phenomenon documented in Europe. 

    To fail to do so demonstrates the impotence of American Anthropology to scientifically address anomalous finds of astute and good-willed amateurs. It seems to be largely still fixated on Pacific routes to America no earlier than around 15,000 YBP and ignoring finds which might suggest otherwise. As a knowledge generation system, American Anthropology is dysfunctional and in need of restructuring to allow it to operate more as a science and less as a closed group of dogma defenders.

    Archaeology routinely tells amateurs "that is not an artifact because they didn't do that." Or that "it is all natural, a geofact, and had no human involvement," often without even personally examining the object in question or having any expertise in lithics proper. Now, however, the numbers and geographic spread of an entire class of artifacts heretofore undescribed by archaeological officialdom is becoming glaringly obvious to those without archaeological training and with good intuition and common sense.  

    Anonymous find seen here possibly in situ, from northern California, noticed by an arrowhead collector in his own yard. It is also possible a person from later times found this head and face and placed it in this "facing the sky" position or that nature moved it from original place of deposition.


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    A small part of the Vincenzo Tupputi collection of thousands of stone anthropomorphs from the coast of Levante di Barletta, Italy (please click photos to expand)

    Vincenzo Tupputi writes (trans. from Italian) "Attached are photos of some of my collection collected in 22 years, flint carving, keep in mind that my collection consists of thousands of stones with the same characteristics, 98% are anthropomorphs. This is remains a private collection because as you know, what do you think of the scientific world? All material is from near the marina since it lies on the shoreline of the coast of Levante di Barletta (bt) Italy. Just to put it aware that Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts are an indisputable reality. Kind regards"

    Tupputi note: "To give you an idea of the territorial situation enter the magazine 'Geologists and Territory' released in 2007 under my boost by geologist Giovanni Alfredo that shows at a glance the fruit of my research, including lithic artifacts that can be found in the testimony of submerged sites."

    Locating similar figures at submerged sites suggests a Pleistocene age for some of this art. The lower sea levels exposing the now submerged locations occurred because so much water was tied up in the glaciation events in the world's northern latitudes.


    Grazie Vincenzo Tupputi.


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    Mammoth image in relief on portable rock art piece, utilizing natural stone contours and including selected pecking stone removal. James May find, Washougal, Washington, mouth of the Columbia River gorge, the second mammoth figure identified by Jim.

    Bas relief of a mammoth, carved from bone. Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany. Length 69 mm, height 29 mm, breadth 36 mm. Photo: Müller-Beck et al. (1987)  From Don's Maps

    Mammouth gravé de la grotte des Combarelles (Dordogne, France) personal scan from Manuel d'archéologie préhistorique, celtique et gallo-romaine, fr:Joseph Déchelette (1862-1914)

    Uno, dos,
    one, two, tres, quatro.
    Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw.
    Had two big horns and a wooly jaw.
    Wooly bully, wooly bully.
    Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully.
    -Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs, 1965


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    Ronda Eldridge's human crafted turkey head figure stone, from Bee House, Coryell County, Texas, found in the context of multiple portable rock art objects and other bird figures

    At right is a flint flake from Buckeye Lake, Ohio, described in an earlier post as an intended turkey head figure.

    Texas stone turkey head, side 2

    Highlighted by this markup, Ken Johnston has interpreted an open-mouthed human head looking to upper left, attached to the back of a bird head image looking right within the beak area of the turkey figure itself. The human head and the bird head combined with it have distinct eyes and the human appears to be laughing.

    Ken Johnston has interpreted a human face or skull image on the back of the bird head as highlighted above. It has two eyes, a nose and a smiling type mouth. "Human face on the posterior of bird head" is a known motif in portable rock art and this is the second example identified from Ronda Eldridge's site in Bee House, Texas, the first was featured in an earlier posting.

    A second larger skull with the "one eye open, one eye shut or missing" motif is also highlighted in the photo above.

    Human skull or face on the back of the bird head appears to be smiling. This reminds me of the smiling face on the posterior of this bird figure stone found by Mark Jones, at Piney Point, Maryland.


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    Cave entry at Hurricane, West Virginia, a possible rock art site, holds open its mouth

    "hello, my name is mike holliday.  i grew up collecting flint artifacts on a farm in west virginia, and have quite an extensive collection.  about a year ago i began noticing many repeating shapes in various stones that did not appear to be indigenous to the area.  i also noticed many clay figures and shapes, polished bone, and molded clay pendants.  after i began sorting according to shape, size and type of material, i realized that the objects were made by early man.  many of them having a center dot that looks like it was placed there for symmetry.  i now have hundreds of examples, mostly of birds, fish, reptiles and animals.  the bird shapes seem to take on several forms.  i call some the goose in flight, duck on water, etc.  i have also found many human forms including woman holding a child, heads/profiles, and what i refer to as skull rocks.  the number of artifacts depicting art is mind boggling, and has convinced me that man existed long before the last ice age.  i have shared some of my finds and opinions with a local archaeologist and have been quickly dismissed.  not sure what I'm looking for here, but after looking at some of the examples on the site, i figured i should share a few of them with someone.  i have literally hundreds possibly thousands of other examples but here are a few that i had on my work computer.  i have other photos if you are interested.  for what its worth.   thank you michael holliday, hurricane wv

    P.S the last photo of my son at cave opening on my land.  notice that above looks like eyes opening mouth, and tongue coming out.  cant really see color variations, and pic doesn't do justice"

    Ken Johnston interprets a lion head in profile looking left, size 12 by 14 inches
    Michael Holliday find, Hurricane, West Virginia

    I recognized Mike's very 1st photo as a feline (lion) head figure looking left, similar to other lion head figures seen on this blog. I rotated the photo 90 degrees to the left to present this orientation, so it is actually standing on its "right side" in this photo. It has either been burnt or covered with a pitch-like substance and selected parts of the black have been removed to create visual contrast to deliver more imagery on the stone figure. I noticed some other imagery which is familiar and I think it is likely this object is an intended "feline head with deer/prey on and in jaw" figure.

    Ken Johnston interpretations of additional imagery on feline head looking left
    (click photos to expand and compare)


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    World's smallest manufactured Acheulean handaxe form

    Archaeologist Jan van Es of The Netherlands has identified what he calls "micro, micro" stoneworking utilizing micro work holes in the stone reduction technique. This tiny Acheulean handaxe symbolic form has been identified as humanly worked using these techniques. Jan van Es writes: "About the micro micro holes. This a very tiny tool for super fine work. (I make a drawing of this micro micro holes, it's a series in many standarisations). See detail. The micro holes are exactly where they have to be. There's also depth and movement in the stone. The coloured quartz stones have a structure from nature and human working (in colour also) that makes this stone to the first images in micro art before the cave art technic. It's the same technic in portable art. This technique is older than 2 million years."

    The tear drop shaped element is approximately 5mm by 4mm

    (Please click photos to expand)


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    Bill Waters of Keithville, Louisiana, find from a collection of Texas artifacts, no further provenance 

    Bill Waters illustrates the face he discovered on the lower right edge of the finger-held scraper artifact. (Click photos to expand).

    Bill Waters demonstrates the thickness of the artifact

    Side 2


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    Doris Avery find, Lairdsville, Pennsylvania, on the Susquehana River, early 1960's
    The sculpture is 34cm tall without the base

    The sculpture's associated presentation base

    Phillip Avery writes, "My mother found this face and base back in the early sixties along a creek in Lairdsville Pa. It has been in our family since then and it was always assumed to be an Indian mortar and pestle of some sort.

    I'm writing to you in hopes of finding out more about it and hope you can give me your opinion and/or direct me to someone that may know more.

    To me the nose and eyes look like possible fire starting holes but then there is the mouth and the odd hole at the top. The interesting thing to me is that all edges of the stone are natural, not carved. For some reason it appears that whoever made this did not want to compromise the integrity of the stone. They actually carved the base stand to fit the natural contours of the face stone, not an easy task. That makes me think this may have had some sort of religious or magical it an idol of some sort or symbol of something? I suspect this may be much older and may not be an Indian artifact at all.

    They did a superb job smoothing and leveling the bottom of the base and even added some very straight decorative grooves on the one side. She found the face first, then found the base about 10 to 15 feet farther down the steam. I too was amazed she found both parts. We always hunted arrowheads in the area and the small valley where this was found was inhabited by Indians for a very long time. This face however isn't anything like any other Indian artifact I've ever found. If you put it up, it was found in the early sixties in Lairdsville, PA along the Susquehanna river by Doris Avery. I'm her youngest son Phillip Avery and can be reached at if anyone has any more information regarding it."

    A Licking County, Ohio, hand held tool with bit at top has an overall shape similar to the teardrop form of the Acheulean Handaxe. This form reminds me of the Susquehana River find. If it were a functional tool, it would be a mega-fauna style bone crusher, raised by both hands with the pointed bit end down. It has a thumb indent, or partial groove, seen of the left edge with a corresponding "bump" on the opposite side to split the fingers.

    A side-by-side comparison of the two artifacts, Susquehana River, Pennsylvania, at left, Buckeye Lake, Ohio, at right


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    Karon Schwab find, Anza, California

    Quartzite has been worked to selectively reveal a darker underlying layer which now resembles facial features, including eyebrows. A female figurine from The Netherlands was made using a similar technique.

    Side 2 with scale

    A face on a pebble, possibly with the "one eye open, other eye shut or missing" motif. Karon indepently identified this motif on pebbles at suspected cultural sites in the Idyylwild and Anza, California, areas.

     A possible fish head figure, perhaps representing a Salmonoid

    Salmon head

    A fossilized bone tool found by Karon. The broad end has been worn at an angle associated with the optimal grip of the bone. If it were green when used by humans, perhaps it could be used to date the peoples associated with these tools and this palpable visual imagery in stone.

    Amateur archaeologist Karon Schwab tool finds, Anza, California

    Anza, California, spearpoint

    Anza spearpoint side 2 with scale


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    Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, portable carvings are in typical Paleolithic rock art patterns which have been thought to originate in altered mind states, reflecting visual patterns generated and interpreted in the brain's visual cortex (click photos to expand)

    Amateur archaeologist's likely entoptic finds, South Carolina, 3 engraved plaquettes

    Rebecca Partridge writes of these kinds of patterns: "Entopic (sic) Phenomena and The Origins of Art

    I begin my discussion of abstraction and mysticism at the beginning, with the first appearance of abstract forms. These appeared in cave paintings largely situated around Western Europe created during the upper Palaeolithic between 45,000 and 20,000 years ago. The period between the middle and upper Palaeolithic has been called The Transition, as humans relatively quickly developed distinctive cultures involving ritual and the creation of art. There are no concrete explanations as to the motivations and meanings of Palaeolithic art, however it is generally agreed amongst archaeologists that the evidence point to creation during altered states of consciousness. These states occur through various means, hallucinogenic drugs, sensory deprivation, mind control techniques such as repetitive sound or movement, through dreams, psychological and physical illnesses. These early artists may have ingested drugs or it could have been a sensory reaction to the darkness in the cave, either way the forms that they painted have since been found to be common to many altered states. In his book, The Mind in the Cave’, David Lewis Williams outlines three stages of visual hallucinations, which he applies to the production of cave painting;

    ‘ In the first and ‘lightest’ stage people may experience geometric precepts that include dots, grids, zig zags, nested coronary curves, and meandering lines. Because these precepts are ‘wired’ into the human nervous system, all people, no matter what their cultural background, have the potential to experience them.

    The first stage may include forms which fall into the following categories, grid patterns; lattices, honeycombs, chessboards, and circular forms; cobwebs, tunnels and funnels. These patterns appear in vivid colours, expanding contracting and overlaying, often there is a bright light in the centre of the visual field. He identifies these forms as ‘entopic (sic) phenomena’ images produced both within the eye and in the visual cortex. These images are in the ‘minds eye’, seen with the eyes closed or open projected onto the surrounding space."

    Please see this earlier posting about a grid I discovered in Seneca Caverns in Ohio, pictured just below. There is an underground river in this cave and it may have been a location where altered mind states were pursued. The absolute darkness of the cave may have assisted with this. There is a very strong similarity between the Seneca Cavern, Ohio, grids and aspects of the Daufuskie Island, South Carolina grids. I suggest they were made in the same tradition.

    Seneca Cavern, Ohio

    Daufuskie Island, South Carolina


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    About 37,000 years ago, occupants of a rock shelter at Abri Castanet in southwestern France etched the above figure into the shelter’s stone ceiling. The circular form is a furrow in the stone. The rod is in relief.

     Miller Cave petroglyphs in Missouri were similar to "Europe's oldest cave art." Thankfully they were documented by these photos before they were eventually destroyed by vandals.

    Similar images to the ones seen on the France and Missouri petroglyphs are also made on portable rock art pieces (R. Dale Guthrie, 2006) and should be given close scrutiny at possible archaeological sites in the United States. Missouri amateur archaeologists Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber have reported figurative portable rock art forms in Jasper County which seem linked to traditions also seen in the "old world," so cave art examples in Missouri similar to old world examples are particularly interesting to those of us interested in North American portable rock art as well.

    A combination of the "Clovis first" detour/fiasco, the bias in favor of European art and the myth of a "human creative explosion" in that part of the world, have both unfortunately distorted mainstream approaches to Pleistocene cave and portable art inquiry in North America.

    In my cursory search without access to all the proper academic journal sources, I can find no earlier association of the Miller Cave iconography with a widely published example about a year old from France. Why aren't the Americans studying American cave art in a world context? Or why aren't the French studying American cave art? Is it possible the Americans and the Europeans are operating in such isolated academic silos they are not capable of making connections which seem so obvious to laypersons? Is it that an "American Aurignacian" occurrence is regarded as impossible by a supposed science? I think so.

    A human skull from Miller Cave, Missouri
    Gerard Fowke, site archaeologist 1918-1919
    Miller Cave, Pulaski County Missouri

    Reference: White, Randall, Romain Mensan, Raphaëlle Bourrillon, Catherine Cretin, Thomas F. G. Higham, Amy E. Clark, Matthew L. Sisk, Elise Tartar, Philippe Gardère, Paul Goldberg, Jacques Pelegrin, Hélène Valladas, Nadine Tisnérat-Laborde, Jacques de Sanoit, Dominique Chambellan, and Laurent Chiotti. 2012. “Context and dating of Aurignacian vulvar representations from Abri Castanet, France.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 2012 May 29; 109(22): 8450-5.


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    Dennis Boggs find, Columbia River valley foothills, Irrigon, Oregon 

    Collector Dennis Boggs recognizes certain stone material as "exotic" to his locale and in unnatural concentrations and flags it for closer inspection for evidence of human modification. In this fossilized egg, pareidolia may have led someone in prehistory to perceive a face as we can today and modify it slightly to animate it with a concave mouth. Rare lithics found in archaeological contexts demand close scrutiny for manuport or artifact status and possible visual properties. Over time, patterns may be ruled out or confirmed. While we will of course not know with certainty if this example was recognized or modified in the Stone Age, it may be instructive because perhaps something similar will be identified in an archaeological context in the future.

    The egg appears to have broken under directly applied physical pressure.The back side of the egg was likely face up when it was crushed because all the pieces are very small compared to the "face" side, which may have been cushioned by mud or earth accounting for larger pieces.

    Side view of fossilized egg

    Dennis Boggs obsidian tool, Columbia River valley. Mode I Oldowan tool forms like this are plentiful but not accounted for by American archaeologists.

    Obsidian hydration dating on this fracture might be possible.

    Dennis Boggs find, Columbia River valley, Irrigon, Oregon. Levallois point, American style. I have identified Middle-Paleolithic portable rock art motifs in Dennis' collection. Most of the tools found near or with the art are cutters, choppers, scrapers and pounders. A point like this is rare.


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    Ken Johnston find, Licking County, Ohio

    I interpret this as a combination bird head and tool form, with a nostril in the anatomically correct position on the beak to "animate the stone with the breath of life." These kinds of artifacts likely express some portion of the spiritual lives of their makers and are ready to provide archaeologists a rare view into the beliefs of the cultures who made them. Every stone and rock and flake in archaeological contexts needs to be considered for visual properties or we are doing a profound disservice to our human heritage. In my opinion, every archaeological site ever worked has been compromised, even destroyed, if visual properties of the site lithics were not considered.

    Side 2 of combination bird head and tool with scale

    The tool aspect of this artifact is seen when it is held in the left hand. The two photos demonstrate the designed "thumb pad" to optimally hold the tool while presenting a working edge. The tip of the beak is a serviceable pick or perforator. (click photos to expand and compare)

     A view of the sharp edge of the tool, a possible scraper or cutter


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    Buzzy Boles find, mammoth with bison head profile looking right,
    Laurens County, South Carolina

    Buzzy Boles of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, writes, "This is a very interesting statue. It is 5" at the base and 3 1/2" high. It seems very old. I found it in a small creek bed below the plateau where I have found most of my collection. Again, the photography leaves a lot to be desired. I am researching a microscope digital camera and hope to have one soon. I think this rock depicts a mammoth as it has a distinctive eye, ear complete with hole and a trunk. It also has the head shape. It shows numerous signs of human modification and has many micro carvings and several faces. I would like to have your opinion on it. It also shows signs of wear from use as a tool of some kind."

    Markups by Ken Johnston to illustrate interpreted imagery in the stonework:
    top, human face; left, lion face; right, bison head looking right
    (click photos to expand)

    As Buzzy Boles noticed, the overall shape of this stone in this view presents a mammoth profile form facing left. There are a number of possible human facial images and I marked one up in the mammoth head area (top). Paleolithic figurative art very frequently has combinations of several images nested into the artifacts. When I saw the compelling mammoth form I began to look for other creatures and noticed a bison head profile image looking right. The mammoth/bison combination is known from the European archaeology to have been significant to Paleolithic peoples. The right side of the stone appears to have been heat treated to darken the surface, then selected stone was removed to reveal the lighter stone and create the nose/muzzle area of the bison head. There is a concavity serving as the bison eye.

    I also interpret a feline face image (likely North American lion being depicted) in the lower left of the sculpture here, looking at us straight on.  On this one side of the sculpture, we have 4 creatures so we consider this a polymorphic sculpture.

    Here is a paper by E. Malotki and H. Wallace which includes a mammoth and bison rock art combination in Utah.

    Don Hitchcock writes "Whether one subscribes to the orthodox ‘Clovis first’ paradigm (i.e. that the earliest entrants into the New World arrived from Siberia and became the Clovis culture about 13 500 years ago), or to the now generally accepted notion that there were multiple waves of immigrants prior to Clovis, it is surprising that pictorial evidence for the co-existence of pre-Clovis people and Ice Age megamammals has not to date come to light. As is well known, the presumed ancestors of the immigrants to the Americas from the Old World had a rich tradition of image making, including rock art."

    The evidence is now coming to light but it is not the pictoral rock art expected by archaeologists. It is in subtle figurative portable rock art objects such as this amazing find by Buzzy Boles.

    Bison head looking right, found by Buzzy Boles in Laurens County, S.C.


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