25 July 2015

North American Ice Age landscape sculpture: possible mammoth-feline combination rock art on a stone outcrop in Virginia may have European analogs

Possible Virginia Pleistocene landscape sculpture on a natural rock outcrop

Anonymous sent this photo of a rock outcrop in Virginia which may have been modified to further resemble a mammoth profile facing right. The mammoth's eye and the lines in the rock defining the trunk look to be areas which could be checked for human agency and inspected for dating by rock art experts.

Mammoth head and trunk

My own interpretation of this sculpted outcrop detects a faint feline face profile looking left on the posterior of the mammoth with remnants of an oval shaped eye and a two-nostril nose. The shape of the cat's head and a possible triangle-shaped fang tooth suggests it may represent a scimitar cat. This could be a recognition of the predator-prey relationship of these two animals.

Interpreted combination of feline and mammoth heads

At its peak the rock is about 20 feet (6m) off the ground. The Shenandoah and Appalachian Mountain ranges present endless opportunities for early American peoples to seek shelter and to reflect their lives in the permanence of the stone outcrop material around them.

With a strong bias in favor of petroglyphs over sculpture, archaeology seems to have completely missed rock art in the American southeast which was made by exploiting natural stone features like is done in portable rock art. This sculptural landscape rock art is also covered by this blog because it further develops the context for the portable materials and is related to it with differences only in scale.

Landscape sculpture find by Luigi Chiapparoli at Piacenza, Italy, interpreted here as a depiction of feline sitting atop a mammoth with the dome of the mammoth's head.

This rock outcrop on Sicily, Italy, is among others there which have iconic properties. A human form has been recognized in the right side of this rock. Maybe it should also be considered as a candidate for a rock art depiction of a mammoth or similar creature.

This one may also be considered a mammoth combination with a feline form where the cat shares the ear with the mammoth and is facing us with outstretched paws like a sphinx. The cat's head is turned and it is looking at the lower left of the frame, perhaps looking at the 'mammoth' moving across the landscape.

21 July 2015

Mammoth, human and feline figures from the Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

Limestone mammoth or mastodon figure
Jeremy Lowcock find, Vermont
"I found these in the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont.  I was hunting for serpentine to make some hand made cabochon and I started noticing that some looked like faces and animals.  It blew my mind what I was finding and for a while I thought it was just my imagination but I have found some crazy stones. Do you have any idea what this is all about?  I have found what looks like an elephant or mastodon and I gotta say I am really dumbfounded. Any insight would be appreciated, this is keeping me up nights." - Jeremy
The Vermont location of Jeremy's surface survey finds suggests the people who made or collected this art were living along the retreating Laurentide ice sheet at the end of the last glacial maximum after around 13,500 years ago and presumably before the ca. 10,000 years ago extinction of the mammoths or mastodons depicted in the stone figures.

Mammoth likeness identified by Jeremy Lowcock

Standing mammoth likeness, side hole serves as 'eye,' hole in top of head may have had some purpose.

Vermont simple face 1

Vermont simple face 2

Vermont simple face 3


This gemstone serpentinite rock has a natural pattern which may have been noticed as a human face likeness in the Stone Age and collected with the other iconic stones found in the area

Detail of natural human face-like pattern which may have been noticed in prehistory, prompting collection and transport of the stone. Its high level of polish may indicate it was curated for some time.

Sculpture of 'Crouching feline, ready to pounce from above'

The highest visual point on the stone is the peak of the feline's arched back. There may be a depiction of the cat's left front paw. There also appears to be a nicely carved 'tail.'

'Crouching feline figure on a rock' faces viewers directly. The feline looks ready to pounce from above. This is a single stone where the crack delineates the animal from the rock it is 'standing on'. (Click photos to expand and toggle between marked and unmarked photos.)

Close up of the animal's face detail. The bifurcated chin helps tell us this is a feline.

Crude tools and a flake core identified by Jeremy Lowcock, Northeast Kingdom, Vermont, in the portable rock art context. The relationship of these kinds of tools to the art is suspected but must be confirmed by future archaeology work at multiple sites.

Willoughby Notch and Mt. Pisgah, Vermont

It seems the earliest Americans may have been using simple flake and bend-break tools to serve their needs. Similar simple points have been identified at the deepest levels of the Topper Site, Allendale County, South Carolina, with a 50,000 years BP date proposed.

16 July 2015

Running horse with simple face on its chest and a flying bird figure from Mammoth Spring, Arkansas

Jeff Vincent new find, Mammoth Spring, Fulton County, Arkansas

Interpreted as a deer by Jeff but I think it is possibly a running horse depiction with its mane in swept-back position.

The 'eye' of the animal is a perforation through the stone with close tolerance with the edge. (Click on photo to expand view). Jeff notes a simple face depiction on the animal's chest.

Simple human face depiction on the animal's chest

'Bird in flight with eye, wing in up-stroke position' is a recent find by Jeff Vincent. It appears to show a raptor looking down at the ground. Jeff has identified many portable rock art pieces at Mammoth Spring as featured on this blog for several years.

Another classic flying bird figure from Mammoth Spring identified by Jeff and featured earlier on this blog.

13 July 2015

Announcing a new portable rock art site discovered in South West Missouri

Typical bird figure in the hand
Found by David Smith, Barry County, Missouri

"I found these and many many more on my 100 acre property in southwest Missouri. These were just a few pics I had on my phone. My property is located where two creeks and hollows come together and my house is on a mound above a spring." --David Smith

Same bird figure standing upright on its flat base
"But Boucher de Perthes... ...also secured his position as a paid-up member of the lunatic fringe. Alongside his perceptive observations of stratigraphy and artefacts in the gravel pits of Abbeville and Amiens he also illustrated many stone sculptures. His claims for heads of birds and humans in natural lumps of gravel undoubtedly delayed the full acceptance of his scientific observations."  Professor Clive Gamble, University of Southampton
Open note to Professor Gamble: We can now see mainstream archaeology as the real lunatic fringe for never having scientifically pursued the topic of figure stones despite over 165 years of amateurs' calls for it starting with Jacques Boucher de Perthes.

Countless world archaeology sites have been missed or destroyed by academicians and professionals because there was no consideration or accounting of iconic stone sculpture material like this that would have contained substantially more cultural information about the past than technological tool sets.

Because it is fundamentally dysfunctional as a science, Archaeology is not able to 'walk out on limbs' like most other sciences which welcome novel hypotheses. In the case of portable rock art, they prefer to cut the limb off at the trunk based on long-standing dogma rather than pursue what could be a major new branch of archaeological inquiry.

Statue of a bust perhaps depicted with tall hairdo, wrapping or hat. Also, sometimes secondary creatures are represented on top or at the forehead of human heads in portable rock art. The statue stands upright on its flat base in this position. 

A biface from the site with possible spokeshave element on right edge

2 mammoth or mastodon heads in bas relief, both with 'eyes' in correct positions in similar stone material from David Smith at Barry County, Missouri.

A Missouri simple stone face like those identified at Arkfeld Site in Virginia and at Fontmaure, France, just recently featured on this blog.

More stone faces found by David Smith, Barry County, Missouri

08 July 2015

Human head looking left on a cobble from the Arkfeld Site may also have a laughing face depiction on its side with a smaller more serious face next to it

Human head sculpture looking left. Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia (16cm)

The human head has features such as eyes, nose, mouth and ear.



There may a representation of a cartoon-like face with a big smile or laugh on the side of the human head depiction. This kind of smiling mouth appears in other portable rock art pieces.

Allesandra, Italy

"Fig. 4.22) Lithic sculpture. It represents a human head without the neck. Strong stylistic deformation in ironic sense, deduced from the large nose.

Size: Height cm. 12.

Place of origin: Tortona, Alessandria, Italy.

Material culture: Mousterian, but perhaps previous.

It comes from an ancient alluvium of the Scrivia Torrent; it is damaged, as there are no more external traces of working. But the traces are present in the recess that constitute the orbitale zone and the mouth. The human type seems an archaic Homo sapiens, but it does not have chin, and the forehead is little. The style lengthens the head vertically.

Collection Museum of the Origins of Man."

Human head in Paleolithic sculpture, Pietro Gaietto, Museum of the Origins of Man


Highlighted by the upper right circle in the illustration above there is a small face mask form next to the laughing face mask depicting a more serious expression. Could this be similar to our own concepts of the masks of comedy and tragedy? Or could it be a symbolic expression of 'youth' and 'old age'?

This is the second sculpture from the Arkfeld Site which incorporates two highly emotive face masks into a larger representation.


07 July 2015

'Jefferson's giant ground sloth right profile view' from The Old Route 66 Zoo Site, Jasper County, Missouri

'Jefferson's giant ground sloth right profile view'
Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo Site, #23JP1222



Initially suggestive of a standing bear, I recognize this zoomorphic stone as "slothy" and then consider the tail-like projection on the sculpture as a likely depiction of this animal's very substantial tail which it used for balance and support while stripping trees of foliage. A couple of other sloth sculptures have been featured on this blog. The sitting/standing upright posture is more normal for a sloth than a bear.

In the context of the scores of sculptures from the Old Route 66 Zoo Site near Joplin, Missouri, some depicting Ice Age animals, this stone may be reasonably interpreted as a manufactured or recognized giant ground sloth representation.



Dr. Brian Redmond, curator of archaeology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, was lead author on research published in the Feb. 22, 2012 online issue of the journal World Archaeology. Redmond and researchers analyzed 10 animal bones found in 1998 in the collections of the Firelands Historical Society Museum in Norwalk, Ohio. The bones were from a Jefferson's Ground Sloth. This large plant-eating animal became extinct at the end of the Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. Here, Redmond discusses the research.

05 July 2015

Lower Paleolithic owl sculptures from North Western Europe

Beegden, Netherlands, find by Jan van Es

A knowledgeable interpreter offered commentary on this sculpture: "Both bird and excellent designed 'forest elephant facing L with big floppy ears' and 'baby elephant or mammoth facing left in center of the forest elephant'.

This figure has both human and owl facial qualities and could be interpreted as a 'bird man'

Beegden, Netherlands, Jan van Es

Great Pampau, Germany, find by Ursel Benekendorff
Photo Copyright (c) Ursel Benekendorff, All Rights Reserved.

Photo Copyright (c) Ursel Benekendorff, All Rights Reserved

Beegden, Netherlands, distance from Great Pampau, Germany is 400km

The find locations of the stone owl sculptures identified in Lower Paleolithic contexts in the Netherlands and Germany by two of the most prolific researchers and interpreters of Pleistocene portable rock art art in the world, Mrs. Ursel Benekendorff and Mr. Jan van Es.
"Most people who care much about art find that of the work that moves them most the greater part is what scholars call "Primitive" ...In primitive art you will find no accurate representation; you will find only significant form. Yet no other art moves us so profoundly." -Clive Bell, 1914; quoted after Cahn and Meskin 2007: 266.