10 June 2012
Artist, naturalist and avocational archaeologist Allen Deibel describes proboscidean trunk imagery and "one eye open mask" in same piece
Allen Deibel find, Canfield, Ohio. Interpreted as a mammoth or mastodon head and curved trunk being viewed head-on.
Deibel writes to portablerockart.com, "Most of us interested in Prehistoric American Art are aware of the incised Mammoth drawing on a bone found in Florida. I by no means am skilled enough to argue with it's authentication or those who did the tests. One reason it has been accepted as authentic is because it is representational.
I have to point out that so much prehistoric art is anything but representational. In my experience the prehistoric art I am interested in is essentially abstract. Partial images combined and superimposed is the rule, sharing features like left eye, right eye or ear, nose, visages mainly, VERY rarely full bodied. There is a rotational aspect to this artwork that is important to the assimilation of the imagery. I have taken to referring to this art style as "Visionary." In this pebble, the rotational nature of this imagery is an essential element of expression. My belief is that this is not three dimensional but an arraignment of "postures" as the artifact is rotated from left to right.
First the profile is more "heads up." The full frontal view is from a "slightly below " viewpoint. There is a point were its right eye is staring directly at the viewer. As it is rotated from the left, much like the "Cheshire Cat," carved elements fade away leaving a well defined right eye. The "Winking" or representation of one eye open, one closed is common. More than a simple drawing of an extinct animal done from life, Prehistoric Art of this Visionary style is a visual language conveying a message."
Allen presents this figure stone along with drawings of his interpretations.
A "one eye open, one eye closed" or "winking" mask as Allen describes
Ken Johnston markup of the winking face mask. The mouth (red line) appears natural. A worked gash makes the right eye, and a lightly excavated square shape makes the left eye. The pebble has been rolled in the environmental elements and shows such wear.
The "right profile" sketch on the left highlights the face mask features
A similar pebble was identified by Ken Johnston from the collection of Dennis Boggs, Oregon. It has natural features which were recognized as being "elephant trunk like" and was worked to add a mouth. It also is an example of a "winking mask."
Allen has made an amazing series of drawings of the figure stones he has identified in the Mahoning River Valley, Ohio. Most of the icons and visages Allen has identified are felines, so he calls his finds "The stone cat collection." This is an excellent way to see how some of the images appear to a skilled interpreter who has been studying suspected worked images in stone for over a decade. Thanks Allen for your article and photos.