The "skull" becomes the "cosmic egg, source of life" in this view of the sculpture. This piece may reflect a theme of the cycle of life and death and rebirth. Proboscideans are thought to have multi-levels of symbolism to Paleolithic peoples, including fertility and maternity. The horned bovid, skull, egg, woman riding animal, corpulant Venus-like depiction, are all known Paleolithic art icons.
Carving and bipolar reduction using an anvil and a hand held hammer, sometimes with an intermediate object or hand-held pebble or chisel, rather than free-handed knapping, was used to make the micro-carvings in this type of flint art. Bipolar reduction is sometimes not recognized as human-worked by those trained to look for conchoidal fractures, free-hand knapping and pressure-flaking reduction as is seen on many North American tools. Many iconic items have been dismissed by archaeologists for lack of understanding how the stone "could possibly" have been worked.
rtifact finder Pam Douglass, Jacksontown, Ohio, Licking County. Pam detected human workmanship on this of flint without clear use or intent to use as a tool.
The woman's breasts are the nostrils of the bison, representing the breath of life. The bison's left eye is also the eye of the woman. Ears in red triangles, horns, eyes, nostrils and tail are marked up in this interpretive illustration. The bison appears to be in "defensive" position here. Having evolved with the scimitar cat (Homotherium) bison herds will form a circle with heads/horns lowered on the outside of the circle to create a defensive wall. This bison depiction also appears to be in the defensive position because of its stance, legs drawn together to minimize vulnerable surface area a cat could get a hold of.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC NEWSWATCH: The world's oldest optical illusion. Bison and elephant on spear thrower.
This Ohio figure stone exhibits these opportunities for a "gestalt shift" of visual attention to intentionally see alternating images in the sculpture.
1) Woman's head is buffalo head, sharing an eye, her breasts are also the bison's nostrils
2) Standing woman profile is also woman sitting on elephant neck
3) On side two, the Skull is also bird egg in a nest at macro perspective
POST PUBLICATION FEEDBACK from Jan van Es, Netherlands archaeologist:
"Hoi Ken et al.,
A classic and beautiful depiction of a riding human being (woman) on a animal.
In this sculpture I see a horned animal with open mouth (only the head). So it.s a depiction of a "masculine head (horned animal-mostly a masculine symbol) being mounted sun=masculine, moon -feminine. My thought is horned animals, like bison-wisent-prehistoric ox etc are symbolic of the sun, mostly visible in separate sculptures of there animals a bump in the neck (half egg shape) and the horn can be seen as (slylistic) a bird and the half moon.
Together they form a complete egg-shape showing a feminine item. Maybe it's time to do an experiment in a line technique and to V shapes from a very famous sculpture? Your find is remarkable Ken!!!!"
The following interpretations and markups on the photos are made by Jan van Es, archaeologist from Netherlands who has been studying imagery in stone material from the archaeology sites he has investigated since 1971.
The artifact was found by Pam Douglass, Jacksontown, Ohio. Interpretations in this post made by Pam Douglass, Jan van Es, Ken Johnston.