22 February 2011

"From Face to Venus" of Jan van Es (on big egg) from North America

"From Face to Venus" carved on big cosmic egg

When this stone was received in the Dennis Boggs collection from Oregon, U.S.A., it became one of the first to be closely examined because of its large size, unique egg shape and possible relatively explicit intended iconography.  It is also one of Dennis’ favorites. If it was an artifact, it was, to me, quite obviously representing the left profile of a man’s face and maybe more. 

When I showed it to my girlfriend, initially without prejudice, she said "I see a woman."  I asked "Do you see the man's face?"  She replied, "Yes but I looked past it."  She went on to explain the female imagery, which I had unsurely noted. If one shifts visual attention, a man's face profile and alternately a woman's body profile may be seen.  She further described seeing a family, together, in the image because of what looks like a few legs/feet on the “ground” of the image, looking maybe like a child in tow, along with the man’s face and the woman’s standing body profile.  Only then I recognized the possible kid.  When I asked Brennah, age eight, what she saw while I pointed to the image details, she replied without hesitation, “A giant egg.”  


A physical examination of the image under 10x lighted magnification shows likely areas of stone removal to create the fine details of the profile.  It looks as if there was a natural crescent shaped gash in the egg shaped rock and the gash was used to guide a chisel-like tool down into the stone to remove selected parts to make the image.  Today, the gash has two surface types, the smooth "original" or first gash and then a rougher part representing where detail stone was removed by the artist.  Or they represent two stone removal techniques used to create the gash then refine it to completion.

One of my avenues of inquiry was to revisit the work of a man in Europe who I was aware had made research of the “egg” motif in figure stones.  Jan van Es of The Netherlands began investigating figure stones exactly 40 years ago. I re-discovered he writes at his web site:
“During all those years of research I noticed that, besides all forms nature offers in rocks, trees, fruit, animals etc., the egg-shaped rocks were considered as the most ideal kind. The big cosmic egg, the germinal force and origin of life, seems to have been a very important notion and turns out to be a main line in the images.”  

As I browsed his home page, I came across a pencil sketch he made representing a composite image of another significant theme he has identified.  The sketch is titled “From Face to Venus.”  

For me, it is as if the Oregon, U.S.A., artifact image was one of the subjects composing the idealized drawing.  According to van Es, it represents a man's face, his nose also the breast, his mouth also the vulva, of a standing woman, representing together the breath of life. They are indeed depicted on this figure stone with a child, whose legs and feet are seen in the photo above the sketch (above) but wear may now have obscured the rest of the child's body image if there was one.  This polymorphic art sculpture was an object of a fertility ideology.
I experienced a great thrill of discovery as it became clear Dennis Boggs had found, and I had identified, a “From Face to Venus” carved figure and more- one integrated into a giant cosmic egg.  It is a western North American artifact linked to Middle Paleolithic Western Europe art traditions. It loudly calls into question the theories of the initial peopling of the Americas currently posited by mainstream anthropology.
-kbj

18 February 2011

The Trickster

The Trickster

Mr. Dennis Boggs of Irrigon, Oregon, has been collecting suspected crude tools and figure stones for fifty years on the valley floor above the Columbia River and below desired locations on mountain terraces to camp, observe migrating animals, etc. 

This example was examined under 10x lighted magnification and there appears to be intended work on both eyes and the mouth.  The stone was likely pre-historically found to be suggestive (the crack itself of the mouth looks natural) and then was “rectified” to complete it to the desired end form of the artist.  The entire length of the lower “lip” has been worked to turn the harsh edge of the crack into a more a more smooth, natural one.  This gives the upper lip an appearance of projecting slightly beyond the lower lip.  The smoothing of the lower lip cut another angled surface, like taking a 90 degree edge from face into mouth crack and topping it off with a 45 degree slope.  This slope has been worked but it has also been heavilly rolled (weathered, tumbled in abrasive soils, worn away somewhat) so it looks more rounded today than a 45 degree angle upon rectification.

Both corners of the mouth were expanded with stone modification to represent 'smirks.' The eye on screen left looks to be human-expanded  from a smaller natural indent. The eye on screen right may be wholly manufactured by a chisel type instrument.  Perhaps a couple of small pebbles may have been inserted in mouth crack to represent teeth but they could have been naturally stuck in the crack due to erosive wear.  What could be interpreted as a small “tear” is leaving the inside corner of the eye on screen left. He looks to be laughing ‘till he cries.   
In the photo at left, a lighter band of stone along the lower lip area shows where material was removed to alter the natural crack.  There are two vertical lines between the eyes perhaps etched to represent a nose.  The visual "flow" of the nose matches the "flow" of the face toward the larger grinning side.

In the Boggs Collection, there are also items I might not find in Ohio or from my mostly eastern U.S.A. contacts.  Sperm whale, grey whale, killer whale and porpoise are represented in the Boggs collection.  One anthromorphic and one zoomorphic figure stone artifact will be posted in coming months where in addition to photos, there will also be demonstration of these amazing "joke" or "entertainment" figures in moving video on YouTube.  
Thank you Dennis Boggs for submitting such an emotive human face figure stone and for making your collection of thousands of suspected artifacts available for close examination and study to us in Ohio and elsewhere.  We will be busy for a very long time.  More of the Boggs collection will be seen here, as it demonstrates themes and artifact types similar to finds at sites in the mid-west and eastern U.S.A., Europe and Asia. 
The view here is along the  mouth crack from left side of face (photo bottom) to right side (photo top).  The light stone band along the lower lip is where stone was removed to open the mouth up a bit.  A good shot of the dimple area modifiction here, or an expansion of the left end of the mouth (photo bottom).

Back side of the artifact.  Although it appears it could  present a second face, examination did not reveal any clear human work.  A face on the reverse of a relatively explicit face image should be considered for artifactuality.  However, without evidence of human modification here, it remains an unanswered question. It may be that analysis using magnification beyond the 10x I commonly use, along with the interpretive expertise to use that technology on stone, could shed more light on this.  -kbj

14 February 2011

A Neanderthal-looking translucent human head profile "lithophane"

Possible Homo sapiens neanderthalensis flint figure from The Netherlands

L. J. Groen, an archaeologist with interest in paleobotany and lithics of The Netherlands and Belgium, made his artifact collection available to me for internet survey so I could learn more about stone working technologies and techniques in Europe.  While looking at part of his collection (just a few of 30,000 artifacts) I came upon a suspected flint tool which seemed to have several correlations to the prominent features of a human facial profile and rotated the picture to optimal viewing orientation.  

The likely intent of the iconography becomes more obvious when interpretative lines are added to the photo to demonstrate all the ‘correct’ edges and angles created to make the face.  

The material is translucent toward the left side where all the facial detail is. I consider this piece a "Lithophane" or a glass art piece passing light. There is a cluster of crystals on the forehead just above the brow line.
"And when I see what you made of my (artifact) ... it is remarkable. With your additional lines it really looks like a Neanderthal! And, made of Eluvium flint it dates from a possible Neanderthal period.... ( 50.000 - 58.000 BP)." -L Jimmy Groen

-kbj

13 February 2011

Cartoon-like human head right profile

Human head facing right, with a grin and a dimple

Allen Deibel of Canfield, Ohio, U.S.A., identifies this worked pebble as "almost comical."  The artifact seems foretelling of the illustrations of early-mid 20th century humorist, illustrator and cartoonist James Thurber of The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post.  It is known that prehistoric peoples used cartoon-like exaggeration to convey more meaning than otherwise possible in the often small and rounded medium of stone.  For cave art examples, please see figure 4.24 in Barbara Olins Alpert's book The Creative Ice Age Brain, including the Roc Saint Cirq caricature head and more.

If one moves viewing angle slightly and shifts visual attention from the cartoon face to translate the "dimple" and the "base of nose circle" as eyes, a feline-like visage emerges where the feline and the human are sharing the same mouth and chin, feline facing straight on toward viewer on a vertical pole orientation of 5 and 11 o'clock.  Allen has identified significant use of feline motifs, in particular, in the Mahoning River valley and surrounds and has amassed a collection of hundreds of pierre-figures from north-east Ohio.

Deibel has composed a fine collection of line drawings of his artifact interpretations.  These line drawings will be of great assistance to anyone new to the portable rock art subject. If you are looking at artifacts here and thinking "I don't see it," the drawings will illustrate how the visages are interpreted by Allen and others.  The images are often comprised of combinations of color and relief in the stone material and are sometimes difficult to capture and communicate in photos.

http://s813.photobucket.com/albums/zz56/kenbjohn/Diebel%20Cat%20Drawings/

He has also perfected the technique of figure stone presentation using chopsticks, a fine example of this innovation seen above.  Work of James Thurber below.


"What's Come Over You Since Friday, Miss Schemke?"

-kbj  

Family united in tenderness


Family in tenderness (in proboscidean context)

Hans Grams of Germany has kindly submitted this figure stone with his interpretative notes "Child, Mother & Father in tenderness."  On the right side, view the man's head from the left rear.  The nape of his neck and jawline are visible.  On the left, the woman's forehead is pressed against the man's forehead, her face is nuzzled against him in right profile with a closed eye lid.  The baby is depicted as being behind her head, presumably on her back in a sling.
Grams has noted the elephant iconography in the overall shape of the stone.  This family is united in form with what may have been a revered animal. Mr. Grams writes:

"V922
Category: 1
Family in Elephant
Finding date: 03/10/2006
Finding place: D-41748 Viersen-Helenabrunn
This stone from pure quartz weighs 132 gr. and has the dimensions 5x4x2 cms.

The very pure material lets suppose a very valuable motive with a figural representation. The man covers the right one, the child and the woman the left side of the relief. Eyes and mouth of man and woman subtend themselves. The faces are leaned towards each other. The whole figure has the outline of an Elephant. Still today this animal is marked by his stove love. The back of the stone is absolutely level and smooth. Here only the quality of the material works. The picture side contained two elated parts as a physical structure. These were used by the palaeolithic artist to model relief-like the faces of a man, a woman and a child. The child seems to carry a kind of pointed cap.

In a mail from the 12.10.2006 Jan van Es, Roermond, (Netherlands) dates the origin of the sculpture in a period from before 750,000 to 1,000,000. At that time in the Rhineland there was the flint - lighter to be worked on - only seldom. It was transported only with the glaciers of the ice age of the Baltic States to there. At that time the prehistoric artists helped themselves of the lydit- or the quartz-stones, which existed here always. Also for the treatment of this stone they have had quite excellent technologies."

Here is the link to Mr. Hans Grams' website:

10 February 2011

Kissy Birds

Kissy Birds - Potomac River, east coast, U.S.A.
Mark Jones of Piney Point, Maryland, USA, reports the pierres-figures motif of partnered birds is recognized in a large number of artifacts in his area.  He and his wife refer to them as “Kissy Birds.”  Additional avian motifs have also been identified.
Birds often have very visible and vocal courting routines, unlike almost all other regularly encountered fauna.  The full run of the  bird family relationship cycle is observable nearly everywhere within several contiguous months in dozens of bird species.  This may have had significance in the traditions of the maker of this artifact. 
Could the makers of Kissy Birds have intended them as courting stones, gifts intended to win and seal the affections of a desired partner similar to a wedding engagement ring?   Perhaps they are demonstrating their level of affection for someone as analogous to “bird-like tenderness and love.”  Love birds.
“Togetherness” is represented when one is first drawn to studying the naturalistic action forms depicted at the top of the figure stone, then it becomes “oneness” as the eye eventually slides down the ever-narrowing base.  Like us, they become a new kind of individual, a pair in union, maybe not ironically looking similar to the contemporary heart icon in form.

The presence of Kissy Birds may be related to the fresh water to salt water estuaries and the millions of migrating water birds which stop over at the Chesapeake Bay each year.

This piece does not stand on its own, it is staged in this photo using moulding clay on another stone to present it in "upright" position.

The beautiful phopto is by Mark Jones.

-kbj
(Kissy Birds artifact and photo are courtesy of Mark Jones.  Photo is © Copyright 2011.  Mark Jones.  All Rights Reserved.)