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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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    Dutch archaeologist Jan van Es markup of a face mask on a Licking County, Ohio, mammoth sculpture depicting the animal looking backward toward its vulva (click photos to expand and compare)

    van Es writes, "Very interesting sculptures are the animal looking back or behind. They are looking to the open vulva for birth. Also the hunter or shaman from Lascaux. Rebirth with a bird item, bird head or mouth and a bird staff. Also the man has a erection.  Your mammoth sculpture has this item looking back to the vulva. Female animal of course:)

    Recently I have from the Beegden, Netherlands, site this quartz sculpture, also an animal looking back." (click photos to expand and compare)

    From the cave art at Lascaux, France, Jan van Es has made a mark up of the bison's line of sight to its behind, the theme also seen in the Ohio and the Netherlands portable rock art sculptures.

    The Beegdan, Netherlands, quartz sculpture in turned position depicts a bird and egg, also symbol of fertility. I have more sculptures in this theme. It's a typological item in the old paleo."

    Bird, eggs and a sparkling feature in a stone nest


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    Keith Stamper's find of human head profile sculpture facing left, St. Peters, Missouri

    A tool Keith found at the site in association with the human head sculpture, seen at left, is distinctly of Levallois technique typology.

    Missouri human head profile sculpture, looking left

    Ronda Eldridge flaked head profile looking right from Bee House, Texas, featured in an earlier posting. The Missouri and Texas sculptures are of similar morphology, with oval head and large nose, perhaps related to the same cultural tradition.

    Rick Doninger of south west Indiana has identified Levallois technology in all reduction phases as an active industry. Iconographic art objects have also been identified by Rick as seen earlier on this blog.


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  • 06/06/13--21:00: Bison flint sculpture
  • Ken Johnston find, interpretation as "Bison flint sculpture", Licking County, Ohio

    This is interpreted as a polyiconic sculpture combining probable lion head and bison forms. The viewer may turn the figure stone 180 degrees to present the visage of each animal. Above is the "bison view." The bison is depicted looking backward to it's posterior.

    The bison sculpture turned 180 degrees. The cartoonish animal head is depicted facing right with its exaggerated nose turned up in the air.

    This animal head is quite ambiguous. My interpretation of a lion's head is based on a pattern of other probable sculpted lion heads found in the same locale and documented by others who study palaeoart. However, some aspects of this head seem to portray "bear," especially the upturned nose which is topped by a layer of quartz crystals. Also, the mouth is more bear-like than the feline-like mouths seen in the other sculptures.

    Depiction of probable lion head in right profile exploits a ring-shaped crystal inclusion as the animal's eye (please click photo to expand view)
    Material is Vanport chert, Flint Ridge, Glenford, Licking County, Ohio.

    The arrows illustrate the depicted gaze of the flint bison toward its rear (click photos to expand)

    Cave art from Lascaux, France, with Jan van Es markup of an arrow indicating the bison's rearward gaze

    Side 2 of the sculpture shown with scale shows how crystal inclusions may have been important in the selection of sculpture media. The bottom edge in this photo is a heavy duty sharp edge which may have served a purpose as a tool.

    Archaeologist Jan van Es of The Netherlands interprets two fish forms in the sculpture. The first is seen in the overall outline of the "lion's head" where the lion's mouth at right becomes the tail fin of the fish. A second smaller fish, a mirror image of the stone's outline, is seen highlighted in blue.


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    Note the indent serving as the lion's eye and the attention to removing the stone's cortex, or rind, to define the ear in the upper right of the sculpture. Mr. Belart describes all the human actions on this flint to demonstrate the artist's intent to create a symbolic piece.

    Stone work on the object establishes it as an artifact

    Side 2 view presents a possible depiction in profile form of a wisent where its head is at left, and its rear legs are "off the ground" in this photo's orientation. The bison-like form is a simple reversal of the lion head form but this kind of double meaning is seen throughout palaeoart and is possible here.

    Here is the first lion head of several which I have identified from Ohio. I made markups to orient the viewer to the lion image. This lion head weighs 12 lbs. and stands upright on a flat base. (Click photos to expand and compare).


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    Quartz bird figure from Hemet, California, collection of Karon Schwab (click photo to expand)

    Side 2

    Side 1 with scale

    There is a ledge and a pad which fits the thumb in a secure grip of the bird figure which presents the beak as a possible tool bit 

    Right profile, note inclusion exposed as the bird's eye and the stone work to sculpt the beak

    Bird head with detail-worked bird's eye in left profile. Note the faint incised mouth line on the beak as well as a nostril. (click photo to expand)

    View from on top of the bird, showing some black inclusions in the stone


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    Hemet, California, bird figure identified by Karon Schwab and featured in the last posting. 

    I have interpreted a smiling one eye open, one eye shut or missing skull, where the beak of the bird is also interpreted as the chin of the skull. The human's left eye is also the eye of the bird.

    I made a mark up to define the left side of the smiling, one-eyed human skull artfully combined into a bird figure stone

    I propose the Hemet, California, bird figure is made in the same tradition as the one from Zanesville, Ohio, demonstrating a heretofore undescribed Stone Age art continuity across 2000 miles of North America.


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    Dennis Boggs find, Irrigon, Oregon, interpreted as a one eye missing micro mask by Ken Johnston (3.5cm diameter)

    This flint bulb "One eye missing" motif micro mask is paired with a probable feline depiction on side 2, implying a "lion bite to the head" is what distorts the human's left face and eye on the mask. This same connection is implied as earlier described in the compound flint sculpture of a lion and human head from the "Buckeye Lake, Ohio, flint sculpture hoard." These are Lower Paleolithic "old world" art motifs which are now seen in North America. 

    Side 2 is a probable feline head depiction looking right. Notice the retouch work to the bulb flake. (click photos to expand view)

    Side 2 illuminated from behind while in darkness, a possible "lithophane" which may have been recognized by the maker. Holding a translucent stone object such as this up to a small hole inside a typical hide dwelling during the day would produce the same affect for a prehistoric artist (Matt Gatton, Paleo-camera Theory).

    Here is the mask rotated 180 degrees to illustrate the human modification to this flake

    One eye missing mask illuminated as a lithophane

    White (eyes and nose) and red (mouth) markups on the key modification points the artist used to affect the mask imagery interpreted by Ken Johnston. (Click photos to expand view and toggle between photos for comparison).

    Artifact pictured with scale


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    Sherry Hill find, Doe River valley, Carter County, Tennessee

    This once fully natural pebble was recognized to have a strong resemblance to a bird by someone in Stone Age prehistory. Mimetoliths are naturally occurring rocks which resemble other objects known to the viewer. A psychological phenomenon described by Bustamante, et al. as the "PAH triad" may be responsible for stimulating the desire of someone to make modifications to the stone, transforming it into an artifact in the strict sense. This stone has been modified to add an eye, which disambiguates the bird form enough to make it a "real, living bird." This animation, a kind of rectification of serendipitous finds, is seen on many postings on this blog and may be thought of as a defining characteristic of this forsaken art modality. 

    Stone was chipped away on the under belly of the bird, the symbolic source of eggs, to create a sharp tool edge, as is seen in this earlier example in flint from Licking County, Ohio, where the bird's belly is also a sharp edge. For the maker of this artifact the power to slice, to cut into something, is regarded as strong as the force of life itself and analogous to the power of the symbolic cosmic egg as represented by a bird's belly.

    Amateur archaeologist Sherry Hill also identified an exquisite bird figure worked around a gemstone like eye inclusion which was featured in an earlier posting on this blog.

    Side 2 with tool edge visible along the bottom of the bird

    Stone removal along the belly and tail of the bird created a sharp edge suitable for use as a tool 

    The "bird/tool" as it is optimally held for use (click photos to expand)

    Carter County, Tennessee

    Licking County, Ohio


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    Licking County, Ohio, find and interpretation by Ken Johnston as a "duck head" figure stone

    Close up of a "running horse's head" in micro stonework on the top of the duck head icon

    Horse's head attached to neck connotes forward movement. The horse has a "flowing mane of crystals." (Click photos to expand slideshow) 

    Side 2 with scale. I interpret this as a flying bird/human combination form with the human head in the upper left, worked onto the reverse side of the duck bill.

    When the duck head is rotated 180 degrees, it stands fully upright on a base and presents a possible fish image.

    A view showing the crystals on the bill and top of the duck head

    A functional large blade on the artifact is suitable for use as a tool

    The blade as optimally held for use

    The tool component of this piece evidences use-wear


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    Ken Johnston find, Flint Ridge, Ohio, was recognized and collected for its zooanthropomorphic visual properties.

    It seems possible objects such as this were also recognized in prehistory and enhanced to disambiguate the images as this one appears to have been. Please click the photo to expand and open a slide show. Note the nose and mouth of the creature looking left as they have a human-like quality. The nose is "animated" with nostrils.

    I made markups on the original photo to illustrate the eye sight lines of the human-like facial profile and the possible Harlan's Musk Ox profile. What I suspect is a depiction of the curved musk ox horn is illustrated with the white outline which traces a feature in the flint.

    This is an image of a Harlan's Musk Ox skull and horns. The fossilized horn core of a Harlan's Musk Ox was found at Hebron, Ohio, about 10 miles from Flint Ridge, during road construction 15 or so years ago. It is on display at the Ohio History Center in Columbus. The horns would appear to "curl back" as seen in the flint artifact when the animal is viewed is different positions.

    Close up of creature on left: This head in left profile may be a depiction of human combined with animal traits, or therianthropy.

    "This long muzzle imagery is recurrent in Paleolithic art"
    -R. Dale Guthrie

    From The Nature of Paleolithic Art by R. Dale Guthrie, page 92. Compare this illustration of a human with an animal like muzzle or snout to the the flint artifact above it.

    R. Dale Guthrie's "animal to human gradient" of faces seen in Paleolithic art.

    Close up of the suspected right profile of the head of an Ice Age Harlan's Musk Ox.

    Side 2 of the artifact with scale.


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    "Detail little bird," Beegden site, The Netherlands, quartz stone sculpture, Middle Acheulean, identification and photos by Jan van Es

    van Es interprets skull-egg icons with the bird figure

    Pam Douglass find, Jacksontown, Ohio, interpreted by Ken Johnston as a depiction of an egg in bird's nest. The egg is also a micro-carving of a skull, demonstrating this iconography appears in the new world as well as in the European Acheulean.

    The egg-skull looking right, seen on a cm grid for scale.

    Close up of the egg-skull micro carving from Pam Douglass' find just south of Flint Ridge, Ohio, which was featured in an earlier posting on this blog.


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    Desscribed by Professor Clive Finlayson as a flake indicating human activity at Vanguard Cave, Gibraltar 

    Ken Johnston identifies the stone flake here as a possible recognized or intentionally manufactured figurative representation of a proboscidean (from proboscidea, Order of elephants). The elephant representation is in profile facing right, with its head turned slightly toward the viewer and its large ear visible as a raised area of flint between the "head" and "body."

    This piece may be a good indicator of the presence of more iconographic flints to be found by the archaeologists at the caves of Gibraltar. 

    Photograph is from Clive Finlayson's June 21 blog posting here.


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    Muskingum County, Ohio, flint and quartz crystal bird figure stone, found at a new site on Flint Ridge about 5 miles from the find location of this somewhat similar flint and quartz crystal bird figure stone featured in an earlier posting.

    Another freak of mother nature "Crystal-breasted flint finch" or products of the human aesthetic sense?

    Side 2 view of same artifact

    Side 3 view of artifact with scale

    Ohio Adena culture pipestone pipe is about 2000 years old

    Due to an academic bias, a true Déformation professionnelle, in favor of "Indian mound art," with a genesis in the raiders of early North American archaeology sites of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a highly distorted view of what most Native American portable rock art is like has been reported by Archaeology. 

    For example, the official 'state artifact' of Ohio has come to be an Adena culture pipestone tobacco pipe which is quite singular. There is nothing wrong with this except archaeologists and the public are not aware of the fuller range of typical lithic arts produced by the prehistoric peoples of Ohio. Objects like the Ohio Adena Pipe get the attention while what are more common nature-based portable rock art figures have been completely forsaken. Unfortunately, a public expecting prehistoric artifacts typical of those most frequently presented is not likely to ever recognize or report more likely objects as 'art.' 

    The bird figures like the one in this posting, for example, did not make it in to the early artifact taxonomies which were developed and it seems Archaeology has come to believe the universe of all stone artifact taxonomies in North America is known and essentially closed. Else, it would be open to true scientific examination of anomalous finds.


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    Aleli Kelton find in landscape gravels delivered from a quarry at Chowchilla, California. 

    A stone like this could be all natural, or, for example, someone in prehistory might have found it and decided to "animate it" by adding two nostril representation divots under "the nose." Only close scientific examination of objects such as this found in supportive contexts can rule human artificiality in or out. At this time, Archaeology sees no importance in determining if these kinds of objects were ever worked by humans.

    Bird and human therianthropy (click photos to expand)

    A possible depiction of a bird/human therianthropomorph. The bird form here has been given a human- like head with an 'eye' which is visible in the stonework. The human and bird combined forms were first identified in the United States by Alan Day at site 33GU218 in Ohio and they were probably significant in the spiritual lives of their prehistoric collectors and makers.

    Close up of human head profile looking right with 'hair, eye, nose, mouth, chin and neck' elements

    The view of this rock in the upper left quadrant may be an artistic depiction of a bird form with a human-like head looking right. 

    Aleli Kelton's intuitive identification of possible tools in addition to iconographic items may support prehistoric human use of the gravels delivered to her home near Yosemite. These smaller items are from a quarry at Madera. This may be a core from which stone flakes were derived and it may also have been a core tool itself.

    This stone exhibits evidence of human flake removal. It may be another example of Mode I Oldowan technology, which is not recognized by archaeologists in the United States. The form looking like a letter "P" may have been intentionally incised on this tool.

    I identify this object as a possible "lithic workbench" which was used as a supportive anvil type stone for working or breaking other stones or bone or wood while leveraged against its platforms, such as the two tools seen in the photo above this one.

    Thank you Aleli for your photos and observations.


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    "These forms of shadows are born of an experimental and personal research on the stone, motivated by a single desire: They reveal in the shadows the smart creative layout...

    These forms that you will see are the result of a methodical and painstaking investigation, who is over fifteen years driven by the unshakable conviction that makes me say that the man of the Stone Age have mastered the material not only in size but also in its balance, its rotation, its sounds, its contours and shadows ...' 

    -Denis Argaut, formes d' ombres


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    Aachen, Germany, ca. 8,000 to 7,000. years BP, Jimmy Groen collection

    Hello Ken,

    An object from my collection,that maybe is worthwhile to bring to your attention.
    The object is- to my opinion- a bird looking beside. It measures 5 cm high and 4,5 cm wide and has been adapted by humans. To see the blows I add a close up image of the head (top view) . The other images are left view, right view and another close up, emphasizing the eye and the beak.
    The object has been found not far from the German town of Aachen, at a tool production site from the Late Neolithic/ Early Neolithic period, ca 6000 - 5000 BC.
    At this site, several adapted objects were found.
    Maybe this object is worth to write about?

    My regards,

    "Découvrir au jour d' hui les réponses aux questions que nous posons demain sur l'histoire d'hier"

    L. J Groen
    Friesland NEDERLAND


    Arbannig: prehistorie Zuid-Limburg e.o.

    Yn Gaasterlân: prehistorie en historie in  Gaasterland, Friesland


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    Illustration of an Ohio slate gorget, ca. 5,000 to 3,000 years before present

    In Ohio Archaeologist, Volume 63, No. 2, Spring 2013, published by the Archaeological Society of Ohio, Elaine Holzapfel and Robert N. Converse introduce a newly found Glacial Kame period gorget from a glacial kettle depression in Darke County, Ohio. There is an engineer's analysis presented by William C. Light and the photo above is of an illustration of engravings on the gorget surface made by Mr. Light.

    Siberia, illustration by M. A. Kiriyak

    Expanded view of William C. Light's illustration including the legend of features he identifies on the Darke County Ohio gorget.

    Russian artifact at left compared to Ohio artifact at right

    I think most significantly, Mr. Light's engineering report describes the Ohio gorget as having three apparent sections to the engraving. Mr. Light is an engineer with no archaeological background so his observation may be taken as independent of influence from the work of others regarding like engravings. M.A. Kiriyak also comments regarding three apparent sections on the Siberia, Russia, artifact and thinks it may be related to the universally reported experience of passing three stages in the transcendence to altered mind states as might be experienced in deep meditative or shamanistic activities. She notes similar patterns have been seen ethnographically on the cloaks worn by Siberian shamans.

    These patterns are seen entoptically between the visual cortex of the brain and the eyelid. They are known to cognitive archaeology scholars as Turing instabilities.

    Here is a recent article describing research into Turing instabilities engraved patterns on artifacts.

    "The non-ordinary visual experiences were often characterised by similar kinds of abstract geometric patterns, which he classified into four categories of form constants: (1) gratings, lattices, fretworks, filigrees, honeycombs, and checkerboards; (2) cobwebs; (3) tunnels and funnels, alleys, cones, vessels; and (4) spirals."

    The Archaeological Society of Ohio (ASO) quarterly journal edited by Robert N. Converse, Ohio Archaeologist, is available from the Society and also as a benefit of annual membership in the ASO which is just $30.00. Monthly meetings are available at local ASO chapters throughout the State of Ohio.


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    Ursel writes at her web site: The piece has a long cortical layer, which was included to represent a face image in a "spread-out wings". The figure turns his back to the viewer. The "shape" of this sculpture here offers a "backside view", presenting on an old cortex (wing) a facial impression.

    A slight turn to the right makes it appear the bird's head silhouette. / A slight turn to the right shows the birds head in contour.

    Parts of the back view of this type of bird are without cortex formation. Recording can be below the head appear as turned. Parts of the bird shows the cortex removed and turned slightly further, the images seem head to look over the shoulder?

    A profile face with eye and nose hint shows up, looking to the right. Bottom photo shows the bird at full rotation now squatting from the front as in the upright pose. Another face, now in profile looking to the right appears to the viewer. The photo below shows the sculpture now turned presenting its front part. The birds seems to sit or has a resting position.

    "Resting position" of the bird with one wing spread. Sitting bird with a wing

    The images here are Copyright Ursel Benekendorff and may not copied or reproduced in any way. The photos and captions are by Ursel Benekendorff and used here with permission for purposes of linking to her web site, This web site has over 2000 photographs of sculptures and figures representing the largest collection of iconographic artifacts available for viewing on the internet.

    German figure at left, ca. 475,000 BP, and Dutch figure featured two posts ago, ca. 7,000 BP. This comparison demonstrates the sense of art of our genus was in full swing for Homo erectus and/or Homo heidelbergensis and persists to more recent times.


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    Ken Johnston find, Buckeye Lake, Ohio, interpreted as a vulvar representation in 2 pigments on a pebble

    This pebble has an oval in yellow pigment (yellow ocher?) with a red marking (red ocher?) inside the oval. The yellow and red pigmentation was striking in the field of otherwise drab stones which appeared to be related to a former cultural site, like an encampment. It was found within a few feet of another rock seemingly depicting two male erections and soon to be seen on this blog. This kind of motif is also demonstrated by R. Dale Guthrie as recurrent throughout palaeoart and as being representative of female genetalia based on it being found in context of female body representations.

     R. Dale Guthrie illustration of vulvar representations, page 174, The Nature of Paleolithic Art

    A non-portable rock art panel from Pedra Furada, Brasil. Human activity there has been dated to ca. 60,000 to 50,000 years before present.

    From Pedra Furida sites, Brazil. An icon Ken Johnston interpreted as a vulvar representation similar to the one at Abri Castanet, France, is seen highlighted in the black box. I highlight other vulvar representations with black arrows. These vulvar representation with arrows are ovate and triangular,

    Pedra Furada rock art engraving image extracted from photo above

    Abri Castanet, France, engraving, understood to be Europe's oldest known cave art

    It seems Europe, North America and South America have examples of this similar iconography which represents female genetalia. This implies a connectedness of the peoples or art traditions which includes three continents and maybe more.


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    Wall of collected stones and a rendition of "The Scream" are contemporary art works recognizing the propensity of the mind to see faces with the most basic visual information

    Alabama: About 14 miles as the crow flies from The Factory, adjacent to the Natchez Trace Parkway, you can find the home of Shoals native Tom Hendrix and the site of the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, a larger-than-life memorial that he has been building for over 30 years.

    Tom Hendrix sitting with his memorial wall

    The famous Makapansgat, South Africa, pebble found by archaeologist Raymond Dart in an Australopithecus africanus cave site, c. 2.5-3.0 MYA and determined by Robert Bednarik to likely be a collected and manuported natural stone recognized for its face-like features almost three million years ago.

    "Some things never change"

    Tira Vanichtheeranont of Thailand has incorporated a found stone featured earlier on this blog into a multimedia sculpture, stone on painted background on a wood panel

    Image courtesy Tira Vanichtheeranont


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