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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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    Lyn Niday find, Bird figure on chert flake, Buckeye Lake shore, Licking County, Ohio

    The find here was made 200 feet from the find location of the Buckeye Lake sculpture hoard and its several pounds flint and crystal owl. It is just 25mm tall, a couple of mm thick, and would routinely be ignored by most archaeologists and collectors. I had to put it under a lighted 10x magnification to confirm my hunch it was a tiny intended bird figure.

    There is a world of imagery recorded in artifacts made on small scales which have not been described by academic or amateur archaeology. They are so small they cannot be detected at a glance or without very close, careful examination. Scholars and collectors need to re-imagine the existence of art on seemingly unimportant small flakes of stone.

     “You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” 
    ― Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

    In addition to a "birds eye," 6 holes have either been created or exploited along a straight line in what could be a representation of a spotted bird's wing

    Flake from side 2. The outline of the bird figure profile facing left may be seen here too with head, beak, legs, tail feathers and flight wings.


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    Shadow of dance galloping horse, Denis Argaut, France
    The rock is in the shape of a horse head and plays a galloping sound when rocked back and forth

    He has identified a total of 6 horse figures which reproduce the sounds of the galloping horse which strongly supports Argaut's observation that the stones were engineered to combine the visual image of the horse along with the sounds on what must be considered an exogram, or an external information storage device. These are the earliest known sound recordings and Denis' interpretation and playback of the sounds allow us to "listen to the Stone Age past."


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    Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, "Old Route 66 Zoo" portable rock art site, Jasper County, Missouri

    March 2013 sculpture recovered from site number 23JP1222, Missouri #OR66Z, the "Old Route 66 Zoo," may depict a human head with beetling brow, broad jaws and sloping forehead. It reminds me of an artist's depiction I saw in the news about a year ago of the "Red Deer Cave (China) Hominin" which is thought to have survived until about 15,000 years ago.

    Red Deer Cave skull and artist's reconstruction

    Additional postings on this blog regarding the Old Route 66 Zoo site in Missouri may be located using 23JP1222 or ZOO in the search box at the top of the right side panel on this screen.

    A possible bird figure is depicted on the forehead of the human-like face. It is facing left and has a "feathered" tail.

    This bird imagery is similarly seen on this limestone bird sculpture from Licking County, Ohio.


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    Nona Axsom finds, Portland, Oregon

    Nona has noticed the recurring pattern of rocks from her garden with crude faces with one eye open, one eye shut. This cultural meme originated in the Lower Paleolithic and continued for tens of thousands of years at least into the Middle Paleolithic. Evidence of it in America is seen from coast-to-coast, so it may be an indicator of a broad population of some of the earliest peoples in the Americas.

    This figure from Nona's garden digging is similar to an Ohio find from Licking County investigated and documented by Alan Day.


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    Photos Copyright Luigi Chiapparoli used with permission

    The Chiapparoli artifact above has a similar appearance to a one-eye open feline/human like head from California posted in February.

    Chiapparoli sees a similarity between his figurine (top) and the head of the The 'Lion Human' – a 32,000-year-old lion-headed human, carved from a mammoth tusk, from Hohlenstein-Stadel in Germany.

    At left, a one-eyed lion in ceramic from Dolni Věstonice, Czech Republic, dated to 26,000 years before present, compared to the figure stone identified by Mr. Chiapparoli, Piacenza, Italy

    One eye open, one eye shut or missing face mask motif from the Trebbia River valley

    An article about Chiapparoli's book

    Identification of a large (3m x 3m) rock art human head (left) with the "one eye open, one eye shut or missing" motif has been made by Chiapparoli. Here, he compares it to a menhir labeled as Neolithic from France.

     Montarsolo, Piacenza, Italy, Photo by Luigi Chiapparoli


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    Luigi Chiapparoli find, Piacenza, Italy

    I think we must consider the possibility of the head of a swan-like floating water bird being depicted on the feline figure identified by Chiapparoli featured in the last posting. A simple 180 degree rotation of the lion visage reveals the visage of a swan, made by an eye marking, a line defining a beak and the curvature of the swan neck.


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    James May find, Washougal, Washington

    The "one eye open, one eye shut or missing" motif has been reported from Europe and from coast-to-coast in the United States. In the west, it has not been reported north of the Washington state area, or from the Russian Far East or south east Asia. Until it is, it remains a possibility this motif arrived in America via a European based seafaring movement of people or memes. 


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    James May find of a portable rock art human face, Washougal, Washington

    A reconstruction of our human ancestor, Homo erectus, popularly known as "Java Man."  The portable rock art face Jim May identified in Washington state reminded me of images I have seen such as this one.


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    "Photo © A. Wouters. In Wouters, A., Franssen, C, and Kessels. A. (1981). Typologie van de artefacten van de Chopper-Choppingtool Complexen. Archaeologische Berichten 10:18-117. Stichtung Archaeologische Berichten, Elst, NL. Ede II discovered and collected M. Franssen."

    "...a tradition that spans 200,000-700,000 BP" - from the web site.

    Nadia Clark finds, Prescott, Arizona

    Nadia's is just one of several sites where amateur archaeologists identified unnatural concentrations of rhomboid forms- associated with what they have interpreted as portable rock art objects, including this author. Nadia thinks the rhomboids themselves may have had a meaning unrelated to their possible use as tools, and thus may need to be considered art objects.

    Perhaps these rhomboidal North American tools or art objects are associated with the Chopper Chopping Tool tradition of Lower Palaeolithic northern Europe. The figurative portable rock art objects found in America with the rhomboids may be associated with a Homo heidelbergensis or Homo neanderthalensis kind of human. These people had more robust and different cranial structures from our own, maybe like the depiction of the face from Washougal, Washington, seen in the posting just prior to this one.

    The American similarities like Nadia's could be explained away as a coincidence, but perhaps they are deserving of close scholarly attention. And so the art objects associated with them. Maybe concentrations of the rhomboids can help identify very old sites in the United States. They had half a million years to make it over here from Europe. They need to be investigated by the so-called archaeological scientists, even though this American artifact type did not appear in their college textbooks.


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    Rhomboid stone form with face image, identified by Karon Schwab, Anza, California, in a suspected portable rock art context introduced in a posting last month.

    Karon Schwab of Idlyllwild, California, was kind enough to send me her collection of anomalous suspected artifact finds from Idyllwild and Anza. This past weekend I discovered a distinct rhomboid form in Karon's collection and I think it is worth considering as related to stone rhomboids identified by other amateurs as seen in the posting just prior to this one. Karon identified the facial image on one of the primary sides.


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    (left) archaeologist Jan van Es bird figure, Beegden site, The Netherlands, and (right) Mark Jones find, Piney Point, Maryland.

    I note a remarkable image similarity in these two artifacts. Buzzards or vultures viewed from behind, their heads looking left, with egg icons and face icons on the birds' posteriors. 

    The face identified by Mark Jones on the artifact at right is defined at its top by two non-linear parallel lines, almost as if to indicate the front hair line. Two eyes and a mouth are under that. A very, very, faint face icon may also be present in a similar location on the Dutch artifact. 

    van Es outlines the bird and egg from the Beegdgen site and indicates the symbolic egg at the posterior of the bird, in the tail feather area, with tiny yellow speckles

    I made a quick measurement on my photo edit screen (not measurements of the artifacts directly but using the photographic images) and got the values of 4 and 6.5cm for the ovate form on the back of the Mark Jones, Piney Point, Maryland figure stone. It thus expresses measurement ratios approximating Phi, or the Golden Ratio (6.5 / 4 = 1.625). A similar analysis of the van Es bird form shows 8cm / 5cm = 1.6, also approximating Phi.

    American Turkey Vulture, John James Audubon

    Very faint traces of a simple face may be present in the vulture tail area of the Beegden, The Netherlands, figure, just like the example from Maryland. (Click photos to expand and toggle back and forth.)

    When rotated 180 degrees, the Dutch bird figure even more so resembles a human thumb. This likeness may have been perceived as significant by the stone's finder and may explain why it was chosen to express the bird and egg/face imagery by slightly modifying the stone.


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    Bill Waters find, identified as an intended face representation on a scraper, from a Missouri collection. 

    The face icon is seen in the photo at left, along the right edge of the artifact. Bill earlier identified another face icon on a diminutive quasi hand axe shaped scraper from Texas. Together, they may represent small versions of the "hand axe and cleaver" pairing related to Acheulean, Mode 2 technologies, both having face icons in the known "decorated hand axe" tradition.

    American collectors should make reviews of their artifacts to see if subtle faces such as these have been incorporated into tools but so far have missed detection.


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    Licking County, Ohio, flint with human facial profile on edge looking right. The nose of the human seen in the translucence of the material may also be interpreted as the tip of the mammoth's trunk.

    Side 2 also depicts a human face, looking left. Depictions of two faces, in retouch flint work, on opposite sides of the same edge cannot be attributable to chaos, especially not in the context of a larger, analogous sculpture found at the same site, as seen just below. (click photos to expand)

    Please compare side 2 to this artifact from the same site which was the subject of an earlier posting where I determined it was a human facial profile with a mammoth head form incorporated into the forehead of the human, where they are represented by the same visual "dome."

                 The 2 sides of the artifact, face-to-face

    The only flint objects found in this disturbed soil surface survey are these two, the white one on the bottom being a tool with no detected iconography, and the possible Georgiatite (tektite) green glass human facial profile looking left as seen in earlier posting

    Some of the geometric forms which caught my eye at the site.

    Aside from examples like the basalt columns at "Giant's Causeway" in Northern Ireland, hexagon shaped rocks seem to be quite rare in nature. Objects like this appear to have been made using a buffer technique to trim away to this desired end-shape. I made a posting about a hexagon from West Virginia, also associated with portable rock art finds.

    These are two more bivalve shell shaped plaquettes from the site to be added to two others described in earlier postings here.

    Sides 1 and 2 of an artifact from the site

    (above) Side 1 and side 2 of a lithic form familiar to this site.

    This is a Micoquian “Faustkeilblatt” (7 cm long) with a broken tip, made of quartzite from a field near the classic Middle Paleolithic site of Lenderscheid near Kassel / Germany, found in 1982.


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    Bird sculpture found by Ken Johnston near Buckeye Lake, Licking Township, Licking County, Ohio

    This bird was found within 100 yards of another bird sculpture which was manufactured the same basic way and seen in an earlier posting here. In the case of the other bird, nature did most or all of the preparation of the core with a potential bird figure, but the sculpture was separated from the core in the same way, resulting in a sharp edge around the entire perimeter of the ventral side of the artifact. 

    This is a side view of the bird sculpture. It was attached to the core along the red line. The angled sides in green are the part that was prepared by the artist before the final bird sculpture was removed from the core.

    This is the ventral surface that was separated from the core (the red line in illustration.) The entire perimeter edge is "sharp" because it was removed from a prepared core, just like is seen in prepared core tool manufacture.

    This bird sculpture was also found at the same location as a bird head figure I posted last month, seen here.

    On the flat, dorsal, side of the bird sculpture is another possible zoomorphic representation. It reminded me of the Shortnose Gar, a fish present in the Ohio River tributary system where the bird sculptures were found. This fish is unique in that it has a gas bladder to assist with flotation: a fish that floats in water like a bird floats in the sky. A gar nose at the tip of the bird's tail may be seen as another example of a motif described as "the breath of life emerging from the bird."


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    Petrified wood artifact found by 29 year collector Chris Schram in Westminster, Colorado, near Big Dry Creek. It changes from horse head to human head as the figure stone is rotated.

    "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

    Orthodox Archaeology continues to overlook, ignore or deny the existence of Paleolithic figurative portable rock art in North America. Here, the art of the "mammoth-steppe biome" peoples of Europe and Asia as described by R. Dale Guthrie may be seen extending across Beringia to Colorado, USA. This possibility may be supported by the paper "The Mammoth Steppe Hypothesis: The Mid Wisconsin (OIS 3) Peopling of the Americas" by Steven R. Holen and Kathleen Holen to be presented later this year in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    This polymorphic figure stone features images of the human/horse therianthropy described by Guthrie as originating in the psyche of the large mammal hunter, who "becomes his prey" in mind, spirit and movement, in order to be more effective. Change from horse to human through this transformational process is seen as the figure stone is viewed in left, center and right perspectives below.

    View from left perspective: a simply beautiful horse head and neck figure

    Chris Schram's figure stone in "center on view" with close up of a R. Dale Guthrie "center view" drawing which has been reversed here for a more direct comparison.

    View from right side perspective is a human head figure. Gazing back leftward across the artifact from here, the observer sees the human head transform into the horse head.

    Quite remarkably, this figure stone thus exemplifies Guthrie's "horse to human" art gradient by presenting horse imagery as one looks at it from the left and as one's viewing perspective moves toward the right, the imagery becomes more anthropomorphic.

    Chris Schram interprets this sculpting work to expose the darker material along the back of the figure as representative of flowing hair, like a mane.


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    Licking County, Ohio, sculpture find interpreted by Ken Johnston as, alternately, depending on one's visual attention, a lion head looking right and a one-eyed lion face looking straight-on

    Flint and quartz crystals have been ground away around the natural crystal-lined tunnel which serves as the lions' eye. The eye may have been somewhat hidden before this action was undertaken by the artist. This same lithic removal activity was undertaken around the eyes and beak of the flint and crystal owl which was the subject of an earlier posting.

    This is the bottom side of the artifact, a ventral flake surface

    Optical illusion: in addition to the lion head looking right, there is a depiction of a one-eyed lion, a Paleolithic art motif described earlier on this blog. The one-eyed lion is looking at the viewer straight on. It is as if the lion looking right has turned its head toward the viewer and revealed itself as having only one eye. I have made a mark up of the photo adding a black oval as the lion's missing left eye in order to orient one to this second face. The nose, cheeks, mouth and chin area of this lion's face have been worked to clarify the desired end form of the artist. (click photos to expand and compare).

    When mimetoliths inspire artistic activity, the large amounts of surface area which remain untouched, or are only lightly touched, often makes it difficult to notice or detect artifactuality.

    One of my purposes for this blog is to elevate mimetoliths, or rocks that look like things, to equal status of artifacts when they are found in archaeological contexts. Also, statistically large numbers of mimetoliths in a concentrated area may also be used to identify archaeological sites.

    The judgment to pick up and transport a stone object, or manuport, to one's location constitutes an action which we may conclude bestows the object with a kind of artifact status even though the object itself has not been modified. Its location and context has been modified to bring it into the human activity sphere. That is the business of Archaeology.

    Bustamante et al. may explain why these judgments to collect, and often modify, mimetoliths were made by prehistoric peoples. Below they lay out the definitions for the "PAH triad" which they address in their paper "Search for meanings: from pleistocene art to the worship of the mountains in early China. Methodological tools for Mimesis.

    "-Pareidolia (psychological phenomenon): involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Psychological phenomenon related to the Rorschach test.

    -Apophenia (psychological phenomenon): that describe the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined by Klaus Conrad (1958).

    -Hierophany (psychological phenomenon): the perception of a manifestation of the sacred.

    -PAH Triad (psychological phenomenona): Pareidolia-Apophenia-Hierophany working simultaneously, is changeable among diverse individuals. The PAH triad is part of the unconscious mechanisms inherent to every human being, present in the primary stages of the early development of the human conscience." - Bustamante, et al., 2011.

    Of importance in the taphonomic logic process, the archaeological interpreter and his audience are also subject to the PAH triad. The portable rock art interpreter is subject to criticism by his audience as "fanciful," while his audience seems to ignore the universally important role of such "fanciful" observations by our equally human predecessors.

    Side 2 and bottom of artifact seen with scale

    This is the second flint and quartz crystal lion's head sculpture from Licking County, Ohio, featured on this blog, and one of several large portable rock art lion heads.

    Reconstruction of Panthera leo atrox, the extinct Pleistocene North American Lion, with a relatively elongated head like the lion depicted in the Licking County, Ohio, sculpture.


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    Flint bird figure made of Vanport chert, Licking County, Ohio is one of several dozen identified by amateur archaeologist and blogger Ken Johnston.

    "Patterson (1983) warns that subjective discussion should be avoided and observes that even natural damage can be described in explicit terms. He places value on recognising the patterns that characterise artefactuality including frequency:

    'Even if nature can produce lithic objects resembling simple man-made items, nature is not likely to do this often. Therefore, the frequency of occurrence at a given location of specimens with similar morphologies is important in demonstrating probable manufacturing patterns. Production of numerous lithic specimens with consistent morphology is certainly not a habit of nature.'" 

    Side 2 view


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    Licking County, Ohio, bird figure stone

    1) this object is an undisputable artifact
    2) this object has a consensus (generally agreeable) likeness to a bird
    3) this object combines skilled flint working with skilled artistic interpretation of the bird form
    4) this object was found in the local context of pre-historic stone tools
    5) this object was found in the local context of other flint bird likenesses

    One may conclude this object is a figure stone.

    "Common sense tells us that the primitive people who made haches and tools were able to make figures... ...As to the Symbols and Figures, although I have gathered of these some types which may be seen at my house to-day, numbering about fifty analogous shapes on which the human work is evident, I have converted very few people, and of the number, not one Englishman. Why-they say to me-are you the only one who finds Figure Stones ? Have they never been found anywhere else than at Abbeville ?-and-mention one collection besides your own in which they have been seen ...To-day, Sir, your examples will be questioned, I do not say that I shall have gained my cause, but Truth will have made one more step, and will strike forcibly by coming from two sides."

        - From a lettter from Jacques Boucher de Perthes to Victor Chatel, Oct 20th, 1866

    Side 2 with scale. The bird figure has a serviceable and/or symbolic graver tool feature as the bird's beak. 

    The thickness of the bird seen from above as it stands on its edge


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    A crystal-eyed mammoth sculpture, facing right in this view

    This sculpted chert boulder was found near other zoomorphic flints along the shore of the former glacial terminus swamp now known as Buckeye Lake, Ohio. The largest creature on the landscape was captured in simple, slightly disambiguated, figurative portable rock art sculpture forms being identified by several amateur archaeologists in the United States and seen on this blog. This sculpture invokes two "visages of the mammoth," one from each side. 

    Close up of crystal inclusion serving as the mammoth's eye. The material the sculpture is made of is oolitic chert from Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio.

    Side 2 view of sculpted chert mammoth in profile now looking left. The trunk of the mammoth is the left edge of the stone here. The sloping posterior of the mammoth profile is on the right, with its butt being the right vertical edge. The sculpture stands upright in this orientation on a perfectly flat base.

    BBC artist's rendering of a frontal view of a mammoth

    The fixed outcrop source of the stone material is about 10 miles from where the sculpture was found.


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    Buzzy Boles find, Laurens County, South Carolina

    Note from Buzzy: "Possible large feline face (15cm wide and 18 cm long) found in the same creek bed and close to the large black mammoth sculpture. One eye open, one eye closed."

    Several large feline head sculptures have been identified on this blog and Buzzy's find is consistent with them and found in the context of other probable portable rock art sculptures, including this mammoth/Harlan's musk ox combination sculpture in subtle relief.


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