22 March 2011
19 March 2011
Face with an incised and chipped away mouth
Dennis Boggs collection. Irrigon, Oregon, U.S.A.
The technique to make the eyes and nose here seems similar to the technique used to make the eyes of "The Trickster" posted in February. An incision was made along a line to depict the mouth and then stone was chipped away under, and up to, the line. The visual affect is a more life-like mouth than a straight incised line alone could provide.
14 March 2011
Worked flint resembling a gorilla-type primate.
Dennis Boggs collection, Irrigon, Oregon, U.S.A.
When the view of the pierres-figures is changed slightly, the animal morphs into a horned bovid, presumably buffalo or musk ox, known symbols of "male fertility" and "masculinity" in early stone art. The nose of the buffalo in profile is at the far left of the artifact, they eye is above that and a curling horn icon is above the eye. (A coin is being used to stand up the artifact for some of the photos).
This is side 2, the back of the stone
Test your skill. Do you see any faces or other images on the gorilla/buffalo? Click the picture above to expand for details.
Here are three faces I detected on this stone. Primate face being seen straight on inside circle around head. Child or woman in hat/leered at by devil man, is seen in the pentagon.
Child or woman in hat, on left looking to lower left of screen, being leered at from right side from slightly above by left facial profile of a "devil-man" with a grotesquely exaggerated nose. Other possible faces on this stone, such as the one outside and just below the left point of the pentagon, are 1 to 2mm round- almost rice grain art size.
From Irrigon, Oregon, U.S.A., Columbia River Valley
Dennis Boggs collection
Smiling, chimp-like face on leading front of abrading tool
This is a view of the hard stone material on the bottom of this piece used as the abrading surface on this finger held pebble tool. The top of the stone which comprises the face is a softer, much different stone type. This is a view from behind of the left profile of the face, tip of the face's mouth is point where at left where the two materials meet. One would grab the "knob" seen here on stone top and hold with smiling face leading each forward stroke of the abrading tool.
View of right side of face. This face incorporated into a tool in the U.S.A. may indicate a Eurasian cultural connection to the maker.
From The Netherlands, collection of Jan van Es
Oregon example exhibits similar usage of different stone material to make the jaw line of the face.
07 March 2011
This likely prehistoric polymorphic sculpture came to my attention by an internet visitor to Portable Rock Art as a possible intended “ape” icon. The base it now stands on has been cleanly cut by a power saw in modern times apparently to facilitate standing display of the stone, which is quite interesting and beautiful not considering the imagery. It was gifted to a rock collector without any records. There is no provenance on the stone, it has modern alteration and it must be duly qualified. Nonetheless, it is quite interesting and I think suitable for introduction and discussion here. In addition to the ape, I have interpreted four additional creatures in this sculpture.
Feline head left profile. The black band is the cat's jawline, her mouth, at lower left of photo, is represented by an excavated hole to suggest a snarl out of the side of the mouth.
The rather obscure public recognition of the roles of these five "morphs" in ancient stone art make it unlikely someone would intentionally manufacture such a stone in current times. It seems very likely only someone with great exposure to stone material offered by a hunter-forager's intimate relationship with and knowledge of lithic resources, as well as a great culturally-driven desire to express these five creatures simultaneously, could produce the final form seen here. It is a combination of iconography and a craftsmanship of another time.
The most obvious human activity documented besides the saw cut is drilling and expanding of the lion’s mouth to manufacture a look of “snarl” or “grrrrrrr” out of the side of the mouth. There is a definite area of focused multiple percussive blows on the forehead of the ape, just above the right eye. The ape's mouth line seems partially incised. The ape's eye area was excavated down to black stone and recessed under a natural stone inclusion serving as a hard brow line. White stone was removed to access black stone underneath to make the two eyes of the elephant. The primate face mask has two ground stone nostrils. The duck likewise has white stone removed to depict an eye in exact location.
The piece appears polished, maybe resulting from a combination of environmental rolling, intentional polishing of breaks made to enhance the final form and smoothing and patination from human handling of the stone.
Primate (ape/human?) "mask" with grotesque/missing left facial depiction. Two nostrils are visible at the tip of the nose here, face is being viewed straight on. Each serves as the singular nostril for the profile views of the lion and ape.
(for orientation, ape on photo left side, lion on photo right side)
The idea of a lion taking a bite out of the head may be found in the “Four Memes…” article by James B. Harrod seen in the links panel on the right side of your screen. Such stone faces, or masks, are often depicted with visual distortion on the left side, often indicating an open mouth, a closed or missing eye- perhaps suggesting the horror of a lions bite. This artifact could be an expression of a “stratigraphic overlay” of three world “memes” or packages of cultural information (1) "hit the baboon (ape here) on the head," first identified by Mary Leakey at Olduvai, (2) “lion's bite out of the head” and (3) “mask of the opacity of suffering” to borrow James B. Harrod’s concepts and terminology.
Standing elephant, head at photo left side, rump at right
A slice of the stone was cut off by power saw in current times, about parallel to the horizontal plane of the standing elephant, where the lower 1/4 or so of the elephant, such as the bottom of the trunk, the bottom of legs and the feet, if they were ever there, are gone now.
Head-on view of elephant, eyes depicted in black stone
Apes are a known subject of European stone art. There may have been human networks from Europe into Africa or Asia which provided information to Europeans about apes. Some Europeans were very familiar with baboons which they had to contend with on the Iberian Peninsula and along the Mediterranean coast. It may be that the remains of bones, such as those of Gigantopithicus which went extinct about 100,000 years ago, were traded into Europe from south east Asia as novelties of a much larger but similar species.
Please use the links here for images and more information on the ape topic in ancient stone art. Right click your mouse to have your browser translate languages if needed.
Ursel Benekendorff, Germany
Hans Grams, Germany
Jan van Es, The Netherlands
Petrified wooden polymorph from Java. Jan van Es collection.
06 March 2011
Fossil-featuring by artist at center of pressure-flaked “flower” on a finger held abrading tool. From Irrigon, Oregon, U.S.A.
The chert here is a beautiful orange and rose color with little black fossil or mineral inclusions. Information from readers on the inclusions would be appreciated. When the flint is held to light, the inclusions (hereinafter “fossils”) become visible inside the stone. This translucence and suspension of visible material in stone may have been fascinating or meaningful to the maker of this tool-with-art (or art-with-tool) object.
The oldest and most famous example is the “West Tofts handaxe” which features a scallop shell fossil at its precise visual center (please see another John Feliks article below). The Irrigon, Oregon, USA, artifact from the Dennis Boggs collection displayed here seems to likewise feature a “frame,” but in the form of pressure-flaked “flower petals” around the accessed fossil. Flaking away the worn surface of the flint nodule, which has a "frosted" surface due to environmental contact, enhances its translucence in that area, giving the petals of the flower a somewhat "brighter" appearance than the surrounding stone. The petals are like glass windows into the flint material.