31 October 2014

29 October 2014

Bird figures on large flakes and a plaque with a human head profile crested by a mammoth head form, Doe River valley, Tennessee

Sherry Hill find, Doe River valley Tennessee

Side 2, 8cm

A cardinal-like bird figure made in retouch to the flake edges, 9cm

Sherry Hill interpreted this as a human head profile looking left in a 2011 posting on this blog. Ken Johnston interprets this as an example of a human with a mammoth form, in the shape of a mammoth's "head bump," cresting the human's forehead which has been identified here as a North American portable rock art motif. The tip of the mammoth's trunk is also the tip of the human's nose.

Here is a link to info on the Tennessee Coats-Hines Paleoindian mammoth site.

27 October 2014

A bear figure with nose raised to the air from The Old Route 66 Zoo site, #23JP1222

Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, outside Joplin, Missouri, along Old Route 66. Interpreted as a stone bear figure with nose raised to the air. One of many dozens of iconic objects from this site which are featured on this blog.

Illustration of the interpreted features of the bear figure including a hind leg expression

26 October 2014

Human images, a likely feline head and a micro biface from Boukoul, Netherlands

Jan van Es find, Acheulean human head profile, Boukoul, Netherlands

A Middle Acheulean micro biface from the Boukoul site

Stone including a human image detected by Jan van Es. Subtle alterations are made to Boukoul stones to enhance or "tease out" visually significant forms.

Close view including human image detected by Jan van Es. Please note the shape of the hair style or head dress in this image resembles the "mammoth cresting person's forehead" form seen in the posting just prior to this one. 

Jan van Es markup of the interpreted image

The sitting human image framed.


Interpreted as an animal head facing right by Jan van Es. Ken Johnston interprets this stone image as a likely feline representation.

22 October 2014

Lee County, Alabama, farm finds include a subtle human profile, a lion head with red ocher and some odd metal objects

Subtle relief plaque of human head profile looking left, 5cm, Lee County, Alabama

Lisa Deason find, north east Alabama, in a context of other iconic finds which have been featured on this blog. Here a human head looking left with possible mammoth icon cresting the person's forehead with "trunk" continuing as the person's nose. This incorporation of the mammoth form and the human face has been documented on this blog.



Lisa Deason has identifed concentrations of iconic stone objects at the family farm in north east Alabama. 6cm. This is one is interpreted by Ken Johnston as a feline head figure with bas relief eyes, a mouth including a tongue and remnants of red ocher pigment decoration still visible on the feline's muzzle.

Some odd metal pieces interpreted as tools by Lisa Deason. They did not appear to Lisa to be obviously historically created pieces like iron nails which have been found where former historic period wood structures may have existed. Persons with expertise in historical metal objects are welcome to comment on these finds.

Close up of a mini sickle-like tool. Is this a known historic period tool form to be found on an Alabama farm? Comments are welcome.

Close up of object at top, middle of group tool photo above

Outline of geometric shape in the metal also seen in some stone tool forms in eastern North America. This object is deteriorating or it has fused with another object which has obscured the shape.

A simple backed metal blade, 2.5, .75in. Are objects like this known from historic times?

Back edge

Blade edge

An intended shape or a byproduct of historic metal working?

A zoomorphic shape, 2.5, 1.5in

Metal awl with possible accommodation for a handle, 4.25, 1.5in

Illustration of possible narrowing of the metal to secure a handle

These metal objects may be historic, the dating is unknown. 2.5, 2.25in. They are interesting observations in light of the metal objects reported from the Arkfeld site in association with portable rock art.

A metal wedge-like tool

17 October 2014

Three incised portable art rocks from the Arkfeld Paleolithic site in Virginia

Rock with incised lines, Arkfeld site, #44FK732, Clear Brook, Virginia. 15cm. Interpreted by Ken Johnston as a human head representation, chin at far left, eyes looking to upper left corner of the frame. A cap or a hairstyle may be depicted.

Close up of the incised lines near the "neck" of the human head figure

Side two also interpreted as a human head representation, chin at far right, as if the human is looking to the upper right corner of the frame.

Possible human or animal head figure with incised lines, 10cm

Illustration highlighting the incised lines

Interpreted by Adam Arkfeld as a leaping human figure, 6cm

 Illustration highlighting the incised lines. Close-up of cutout image of faint traces of a human face.

Arkfeld site blade tools found in the art context

Arkfeld site awls

Arkfeld site burins

14 October 2014

A sprinting feline sculpture and a bear sculpture from the Arkfeld Paleolithic site, Clear Brook, Virginia

A sprinting feline sculpture, 35cm, from the Arkfeld site, #44FK732

Bear sculpture from Arkfeld, 10cm

Adam Arkfeld identified tools in the context of the figurative finds

 Front and back of tools found in the art context

Arkfeld may be a good site to learn what non chert tools may look like in North American Paleolithic assemblages.

11 October 2014

Today's rock collectors may occasionally encounter iconic rocks which have also been noticed in the past as mimetoliths and some may be worth examining for evidence of modification by human agency

Thath Chanuhacha collection, Bankok, Thailand

This rock is interpreted as the "Guardian of the Cave at Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand" by finder Thath Chanuhacha. Human facial profile facing left. Long and bound hair was common in antiquity in south east Asia.

This anthropomorphic stone found by rock collector Thath Chanuhacha of Bankok may also have been recognized and modified in prehistory. The find location at a cave entry, the anthropomorphic imagery detected by Thath and the possibility of an elephant head and trunk combined into the head of the human make this piece and the cave where it was found worth closer examination for art attributes or significance.

When the stone is rotated 90 degrees right, a possible figure of an elephant head and trunk may be seen in profile facing right. A "human on posterior of proboscidean" motif has been documented in North America on this blog.

Thath writes: "This is a jadeite cobble found in Ura river, Burma over a hundred years ago.  It is in natural shape and was hand polished by a Burmese tribe who live around the bank of the river.  It came to an American collector in the 1970s and finally I bought it from him in 2000."

  A mimetolith collected by Thath interpreted as a funny face with eyes, nose and tongue in mouth.

Another mimetolith collected by Thath at Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

"I don't know what this is, but I do feel an immediate bond with it"

The cartoon inadvertently addresses a significant idea in the archaeology of portable rock art. Today's finders and interpreters often have intuitive or common-sense based "feelings" and "sensibilities" about the iconic rocks they identify. This kind of "bond of spontaneous recognition" should not be so quickly dismissed as may be implied by the comedy of the cartoon.

There are several kinds of reasons humans may have an innate sense, in fact a biological and genetically encoded imperative, for recognition of rocks which have been gathered or modified by other humans. Examples include:

1) identification of other contemporaneous humans (threats or potential mates) in or near the same geographic space

2) identification of nearby suitable tool stone resources

3) identification of stone tools which are immediately available for reuse or repurpose

4) identification of areas which may good for exploitation of local resources (site habitation, paths of animal migration, seasonal plant foodstuffs, etc.)

5) in the case of examples of culturally originated visual forms, detection of specific information which may encoded in art objects as stone "exograms," or external information storage devices like today's post-it notes

These perceptions and assignment of significance to objects are assisted by our cognitive faculties of pareidolia, apophenia and hierphony.

These intuitive observations which are experienced broadly by non-formally trained persons seem to be intellectually killed by the field of archaeology because of its institutionalized and protected knowledge which has become faulty in a case of déformation professionnelle. The knowledge is mostly all etic (R. G. Bednarik, link on right sidebar) or involving analysis of external cultural phenomena from one's own cultural perspective rather than from a more neutral or empathetic position.

The biases of the discipline of Archaeology cannot prevail over the observations of astute laypersons in the long run, with more free association of images and ideas on the internet as opposed to the closed publication systems in anthropology and their thorough inability to process anomalous artifacts and information.

There is no other academic pursuit than archaeology which has had so many of its major twists and turns and developments and advancements assisted by amateur observers. Despite this, there is still an institutionalized disposition against the portable rock art question- largely pushed by amateurs since Jacques Boucher de Perthes in the mid 19th century. Without any changes and given enough time, the mast of the archaeology discipline will grabbed away from it by those with more functional and open systems of knowledge generation.

The several hundred well intended and intelligent individuals who have contacted me over the years regarding visually significant objects found in concentrated areas have been treated by professional archaeologists as "misguided" or "cloud watchers" or "pareidoliacs" in every case. This kind of patrolling of ideas is seen in cults, not in academic disciplines. Archaeology may defer to the hard sciences when it is convenient but in no way yet adopts the Scientific Method for its own core functions and operations. 

"Some patterns and features in stone tools and art are easily detectable by laypersons but they are eschewed by most archaeologists because they are not already covered in the books and papers they have read. It is as if they know all there is to know and of course that is never the case." -Ken Johnston

Jacques Boucher de Perthes was eventually vindicated on the tools he noticed, later to be accepted as Acheulean handaxes, the most common human artifact in the world after the Mode I modified cobble. Soon enough, he will be vindicated too on the question of pierres-figures, or figure stones, existing right alongside the tools.