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Articles on this Page
- 01/22/14--06:44: _Polyiconic mammoth ...
- 01/28/14--09:05: _Researcher Alan Day...
- 01/29/14--07:39: _Austin, Texas, bird...
- 02/02/14--07:19: _Oregon and Texas am...
- 02/03/14--07:30: _Selected point of i...
- 02/06/14--06:51: _Extraordinary Texas...
- 02/13/14--07:51: _Artist writes of be...
- 02/13/14--15:11: _Danish Neolithic pe...
- 02/14/14--07:05: _From the U.K.'s Ple...
- 02/16/14--08:45: _Papua New Guinea "p...
- 02/17/14--21:00: _Niagra Falls "Rock ...
- 02/20/14--09:22: _Bear head with nose...
- 02/25/14--01:56: _Simple flint human ...
- 02/26/14--07:48: _Site number 23JP122...
- 02/27/14--16:16: _Bird and horse head...
- 03/06/14--08:02: _Bird-human and hors...
- 03/11/14--07:05: _Possible horse figu...
- 03/11/14--10:36: _Human face masks, l...
- 03/12/14--21:00: _Luigi Chiapparoli h...
- 03/17/14--07:21: _"The Venus Britanni...
- 02/16/14--08:45: Papua New Guinea "phallic obsidian cache"
- 02/27/14--16:16: Bird and horse head optical illusion figure stone from Colorado
- 03/11/14--07:05: Possible horse figure from Missouri site
Independent portable rock art (figure stone) researcher Alan Day of Cambridge, Ohio, has confirmed human agency on stone figures at hilltop sites in Guernsey and Muskingum Counties, Ohio. Day co-authored a recent article in Ohio Archaeologist with petrologist Dr. Eric Law about a limestone-bird form.
Most all archaeologists do not have the expertise to fully evaluate conditions of human agency the way a geologist/petrologist (rock formation specialist) is able to. Archaeology should acknowledge its general limitations in this area and should begin to defer to a scientific approach to evaluating artifact status as Mr. Day has done.
However, Day's article shows Ohio Historical Society archaeologists have no interest in pursuing the subject of stones with iconic properties despite Ohio having a large number of examples reported by amateurs. They must have already determined they do not exist or they are not important to the development of archaeological knowledge in the Buckeye state. They would be wrong on both counts.
Ohio Archaeologist, published by The Archaeological Society of Ohio. Copies of Ohio Archaeologist are available from the Society. VOLUME 63 NO. 4, FALL 2013, pp. 37-38. The quote is attributed to article co-author Dr. Eric Law, professor of geology and petrology at Muskingum University, New Concord, Ohio.
The creature depicted in the Oregon and Texas stone figures is of the same idealized form which must have been a shared cultural icon, despite being found 1,600 miles apart.
Leone Battista Alberti’s opening words in his treatise De statua, written about 1430. Here the origin of sculpture is described as follows:
This passage is the earliest statement of the idea that what sets the artist apart from the layman is not his manual skill but his ability to discover images in random shapes, i.e., his visual imagination, which in turn gives rise to the desire to make these images more explicit.
Noted portable rock art investigator Jan van Es of Roermond, The Netherlands, writes:
"Particularly people of the older stone-age traditions were handling the principle: nature shows and offers the basic forms or basic shapes. They acquired these forms to fix and perpetuate their "image-language" in typological iterations." (pers. comm.)
Washington sculptor Joy Jasinek says in a recent interview:
“In my 28 years of stone sculpting, I have yet to purchase a squared stone and most likely will not. I do not come up with an idea and then sculpt it from a block. My ideas come from the natural shape and colors of each stone, whether I find a stone or purchase one from a stone vendor. Yes, there are vendors that seek quality and unusual stones from around the world for the sculpting trade. But, ouch … we pay by the pound!"
“I noticed this large, pear-shaped, granite stone half-buried in a nearby field. Looking it over, what came to mind was a BIG FAT CAT.”
Bessie Harvey, a 20th century wood carver explains the process to Barbara Olins Alpert in her book "The Creative Ice Age Brain: Cave art in the light of neuroscience"
“I don’t design my work. I don’t carve it. I just make what I see from found objects. The wood- the insects has already created what it is, and time. Time rots away a lot of wood, and inside that wood, these little people hide. I just go to them and find what I see and bring it out. I think that God is the artist in my work.”
Coschocton County, Ohio, Cactus Hill type point, dated by morphology to ca. 19,000 BP, has two indents which seem centered like a "pair of eyes" on the artifact.
Interpretation of anthropomorphic head facing left split with a horned caprid head facing right by Ken Johnston. It is as if the animal heads are joined at the nape of the neck, like in the two heads of Janus. They eyes are circled and the mouths are in red in the illustration above. The anthropomorph is depicted with its mouth wide open, perhaps as in a yell.
The head of an Alpine Ibex approximates the animal head of the animal head being depicted on this sculpture.
(Gaietto, 2012) Anthropomorphic Paleolithic Sculpture, From Homo habalis to Homo erectus and from Neanderthal Man to Modern Man (in English)
Recent news: Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk
From the Australian Museum: "A beautiful and expertly-flaked obsidian tool which formed part of a cache, rescued from a development site, offers a greater insight into the lives of ancient people that inhabited the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea (PNG).
In October 2010 Dr Robin Torrence a Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Museum Reseach Institute was contacted by the General Manager at Barema oil palm plantation on New Britain Island. The company was in the process of bulldozing the side of a hill to make a house terrace. In the process they had uncovered a group of finely worked obsidian (volcanic glass) tools. A workman had recognized the obsidian as something belonging to the time of his ancestors and rescued a large tool before it could be crushed by the bulldozer."
Torrence, R., Kelloway, S. and White, P. 2013. Stemmed tools, social interaction, and voyaging in early-mid Holocene Papua New Guinea. The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 8: 278-310.
Sebastapol Chanuhacha collection, Bangkok, Thailand
Sebastapol is a self-described rock hound and writes: "I bought this "Rock of Skull" (so-called by the former collector, because of its actual-human-skull size and three- hole characteristic) from 70-year-old American Archaeological Professor who has kept it in his collection for over 40 years. This masterpiece of nature, he said, was collected somewhere near the bank of river around Niagara Fall by the local Indians long time ago. So, I believe, this rock has particular meaning to the Indians."
To me, it looks like a possible prehistoric serendipitous find which was chipped and trimmed to realize a more idealized face mask. Found objects like this deserve a close look to determine if they have been modified in the past. This piece seems a good candidate for an example of a "one eye open, other eye shut or missing" mask sculpture in the Lower-to-middle Paleolithic European motif, with distortion to the left side of the face as is seen in most other examples.
If the original archaeologist who collected this piece was aware of the common utilization of found natural forms as starting forms for art, and that this mask fits an already known and described motif, then he might have been able to contribute some more information about the context of this object or subject it to full petrology assessment of artificiality.
Identified as stone sculpture, male head by J. E. Musch. Rijckholt, NL. Middle Palaeolithic. Photo © Phototeam SAB. Musch, J. E. (1990b). Continuation picture book: Stone sculptures Pliocene-Neolithicum. Archaeologische Berichten 20:85-107. Elst, NL. Page 100.
Chris Schram find, Westminster, Colorado
This is the second figure stone identified by Chris which has revealed horse imagery as a part of polyiconic "optical illusion" where two icons exist simultaneously but vary depending on how one focuses visual attention on them.
In this perspective, the bird's beak may be seen as the chin of a human "skull face," just as seen in two other figure stones presented on this blog.
These three figure stones are from Hemet, California, Westminster, Colorado and Zanesville, Ohio, implying a broad area of geographic coverage by the cultures which practiced these art traditions.
The Ohio sculpture is made on a sandstone panel while the Colorado example in the prior posting was made on jasper. Even though they appear to be unrelated objects based on their outward appearance, they are related compositions, demonstrating what may be considered a North American artistic convention where the back of bird (wing) is composed of a horse head facing opposite the bird.
Site number 23JP1222, "The Old Route 66 Zoo," a figurative art megasite producing many dozens of iconic figures as seen on this blog.
H. Valentie writes: "Hello
I appreciate your site I often viewed. I found this stone on the island of Oleron, lower paleo. On this same stone faces two heads. Stone is 1.9kg, 18.4 cm long, 11.5 cm wide, 6.7 cm deep
The Vincenzo Tupputi collection from the east coast of Italy includes many examples of "masquettes" on pebbles like this one identified by H. Valentie.
Pebble masquettes are also found in North America as seen in this example identified as a worked pebble face from the Mahoning River valley, Canfield, Ohio, by Allen V. Deibel. Both the Ohio and France masquettes have an exaggerated, cartoonish looking, nose.
Compare Henri Valenti's identification of a lion head figure to the lion head sculpture identified by Charles Belart at Wimeraux, France.
Carved into the limestone, bear and lion were found on the same site at the edge of sea shore
Mr Henri Valentie"
I think it is likely this discovery made by L. Chiapparoli was a mimetolith, or a rock feature that looked like something "real" to someone in Paleolithic prehistory. The lion atop prey and lion atop mammoth and lion overlooking birds and eggs were visages of idealized imagery which were part of the visual cultures of some Paleolithic peoples. This natural feature resembling a feline on the top of a mammoth head may have been enough to prompt some shaping or further modification or treatment of this feature as symbolically meaningful. It will require study to see if any traces of human work can be found in the details.
Mr. Chiapparoli's site has other examples of iconic outcrops which are likely examples of rock art sculpture.
It seems possible the natural stone outcrops in the area may have significated it as a special place on the landscape and it may help explain the large numbers of portable rock art objects found at the foundations of the fixed landscape art. Perhaps these were locations for ceremonial activities as Chiapparoli has hypothesized.
"There are people: Greg Reeder, Jan van Es, Jimmy Groen, Ken Johnston, Alan Day and Don Hitchcock who are actively involved in the study of Paleolithic art. However, there are few others if any who understand the full intricacies that British Lower Palaeolithic combination art from as far back as 400,000 years ago involves..." - J.D. Shaman