14 May 2011

Woman, with driving stick in hand, riding a proboscidean (with bison, an egg in a nest and a micro-carved skull) exhibits European influence in symbols, theme and stone working

Woman, with driving stick in hand, riding proboscidean
(with an egg in a nest and a micro-carved skull)
Pam Douglass collection, Jacksontown, Licking County, Ohio.
Lithic material is from Flint Ridge, 5km from the artifact find site.
Interpretation is by Ken Johnston.  Woman at top of figure stone in right profile, driving stick in hand, riding on the neck of a proboscidean. The head-on view of the elephant is represented by simple lines in the stone reflecting the wider ears at top of a face, narrowing into a trunk line toward the bottom of the depiction.
There is also a possible feline (lion) head in right profile just inter the woman's image.  The elephant’s ears are also the rump (curved black line) and fertile belly (photo right, involving protruding edge of stone, red color) of the woman as if she in profiled standing position.
Note the muscles in the woman’s short forearm are expressed.  The driving stick appears to be in motion via inclusion of a "sight line" in the sculpture, as is used in contemporary cartooning.  The stick has a narrow base, widening toward the tip, also visually indicating this "motion." 
The reverse side of the “red birthing/menses fertility” part of the stone is a micro-carved skull, perhaps symbolic of the return of ancestors through a new generation of kin.  At macro perspective, the skull is also an egg in a beautifully foreshortened, enveloping bird nest.

 Interpretation light mark-up of "woman riding proboscidean."

Woman, depicted two ways, as standing in right profile and as sitting across the elephant's neck
Blue= tip of driving stick being held by woman, as if in motion

Orange= elephant's right ear, woman's rump and legs
Pink= tip of elephant's trunk, woman's right foot when depicted in standing position
Red= elephant's left ear, birthing/menses depiction on protruding fertile belly
Light grey= woman's left knee as she is depicted sitting across the elephant's neck

Close up of woman's upper body.  Click photo to expand.

Reverse side of artifact. Skull icon protrudes at far right.

Close up of skull microlithic representation.

Close up of skull microlith under slighty different lighting.
Artist uses pearly flint element to help depict a boney head.
  (click photos to expand)

"Egg in nest" view of beautifully foreshortened, enveloping, nest.
Artifact with centimeter (cm) grid for scale.
Flint Ridge material, art piece found by
Pam Douglass, at Jacksontown, Licking County, Ohio. 

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.

Artifact 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.
Click photo to expand size and detail. 
See bison details and illustration markup. At far left, even a  short bison tail is represented n the flint (black lines highlight marks).

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.
Three stone "illusions" in this single artifact:
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.

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