30 September 2012

Presented à la Edvard Munch's 'The Scream,' a water formed stone face mask has been discovered from the cave near Kanchanaburi, Thailand (with 2 additional sets of human and animal figures worked in combination)

Part 1 - The scream mask
The famous painting with an image of the stone face mask artfully inserted

Stone mask evocative of "The Scream" found by Tira Vanichtheeranont on the surface at the cave near Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Artistic rendering by Tira Vanichtheeranont. There are three parts to the interpretation here. Ken Johnston contributes a human interpretation to Part 2 and makes all the interpretation of part 3.

Tira Vanichtheeranont demonstrating how she suspects the mask was held during prehistoric human cultural use. (click photos to expand)

The scream mask with CM scale


Regarding the origins of art, Patricio Bustamante writes: "Leon Battista Alberti, (1464) in his treatise “De Statua” describes the mode in which he thinks sculpture begun: 

I believe that arts that aspire to imitate the creations of nature were originated according to the following scheme: on the trunk of a tree, a cloud of earth, or on any other thing, were accidentally discovered one day certain contours that needed only a few retouches to notably look like a natural object. Focusing on that, men examined if it was possible, by means of addition and subtraction, to complete what was missing to achieve the perfect resemblance. Thus, by adjusting and removing features according to the scheme required by the object itself, men succeeded in what they intended to do, and no without pleasure. From that day on, men´s ability to create images was growing until they knew how to form any kind of resemblance, even when the material did not present outlines that guided the labour.” (cited by Gombrich 1959).

Pareidolia supplies an adequate explanation for this process."


Part 2 - Tira interprets a canine head with a flying eagle here. "To me, it really looks like a flying eagle" writes Tira V. Ken Johnston interprets a human facial profile at left. (click photos to expand)


Canine-like animal head with red mouth and white nose, eye and ear cavity from right to left. Black dot inserted in eye circle in this illustration to enhance recognition of the animal head. Ken Johnston thinks the animal head may be of a feline or bear (thus "undetermined") because the canine look is more of a modern, domesticated, form than a form from the suspected time period of the use and modification of the mask. Canines thousands of years ago had a more narrow and longer snout. Also, it is seen in other examples of paleoart where the horse and feline are paired, maybe as acknowledgement of the predator-prey relationship. A human facial profile with strong nose and chin outlined in white at far left. A possible second human facial profile may be seen under it.

The artifact in different lighting and position. All the water worn surfaces provide fantastic natural sculpted forms which are ripe for the application of the human imagination and creativity.

Close up of the human face in left profile view

Part 3 - Horse head left profile view with subtle human face mask like (Part 1 - The mask) on far right. The mask seems to connote movement leftward with the horse. The mask may be seen as incorporated into the windblown mane of the horse.

Markups of the horse mouth in red, nose and eye in white, and subtle human face mask on right. (click photos to expand).

Thank you very much Tira for your fine photographs of this amazing example of portable rock art from Thailand.

-kbj

26 September 2012

Tool vs. art is a false dichotomy restricting development of archaeological knowledge

From archaeologist, artist and 40 year investigator of portable rock art Jan van Es, The Netherlands

"Here's my grinning hand-axe of Beegden (M.A.) In the so called technical artefact is clearly a splendid portrait, which is a very symbolical indication. The photo of this axe was published in the Archaeologische Berichten, Elst, NL, no 8 page 106.

We know that many hand-axes show polymorphe portraits, upright standing figures and animals. They are often modeled by flaking and retouching.

A tool fanatic will only see a tool, with again technical names." --Jan van Es.

Tool vs. art is a false dichotomy restricting development of archaeological knowledge. A definition of art I use most when I think of portable rock art is a human modified object which contains an idea other than its utilitarian purpose. (Modification includes manuporting which changes the original naturally occurring location of the stone material.) Thus, art is a category which includes tools, but the category of tools does not include art. What have been interpreted as "tools only" in existing collections may be found to have art meanings if a broader scope of what to consider significant in lithic artifact studies includes looking for visual properties. Also, any rock or stone which upon close examination, and all of them deserve it from a prehistoric cultural site, has possible significant visual properties but no obvious tool purpose must be ruled out as a cultural remnant.

-kbj

24 September 2012

American Paleolithic figurative art "does not exist" according to the mainstream, but flint bird head combined with human skull found in Central Texas is another American example of a motif described in Europe

 Ronda Eldridge find, Bee House, central Texas
A bird head facing right combined with human skull facing left
(click photos to expand and compare)

Ken Johnston identified the skull form on Ronda's bird figure. Photo with markups of bird's eye, ground human eye, mouth line of skull in red. The circled eye of the profile perspective may also be seen as the right eye of a second skull figure looking straight on toward the viewer. Found in a strong portable rock art context, more sculptures to be featured from Ronda. This is an example of how art could lead archaeologists to what could be some significant sites in America.

Nadia Clark find, Prescott, Arizona. Interpreted by Nadia as a sculpted bird head. Ken Johnston identified a human head combined with bird head but facing in the opposite direction like Janus. Alan Day has called these sculptures "janiforms." Note the exaggerated chin on the human, seen as the lowest part of the stone in this photo.

Duck head figure with human head combined, from Ansted, West Virginia at the head of the Kanawa River was featured in a prior posting. The bump on the far left in this photo is the nose of the human figure.


Illustration is Copyright Pietro Gaietto, Italy. Here he illustrates a bird head figure, identified as an Admiral Gull with markup of eye feature in the stone, human head in profile combined into the bird head and facing left.



-kbj

20 September 2012

"Bear alert," rotating image 90 degrees left, reveals known motif of bird cresting human head

 Bob Doyle find, Maine. (click photos to expand)

This is an elaboration on the prior posting "Bear alert" with interpretations of additional iconography by Ken Johnston. When the bear icon photo in the prior posting is rotated 90 degrees to the left, a (bearded?) human facial profile looking left may be seen (left of and below the white line). To the right and above the white line is a winged bird figure, cresting at the human's forehead. The bird's beak is exactly at the top of the human's forehead. This kind of bird/human combination, a therianthrope, is a recurring motif described by Bob Doyle from the Maine coast and by Alan Day in Ohio. (click photos to expand)

Rotation of the bear icon 90 degrees to the left, displays a proboscidean-like image, perhaps a mastodon head. This stone has polymorphic possibilities, depending on how it is viewed.

-kbj

19 September 2012

Bear alert

Bob Doyle find, Maine

Master flintknapper and naturalist Bob Doyle writes: "This piece is made from flint, I have thought this stone was chosen because of its color...I see the stance of the bear as important. I have seen bear in the high country standing in this manner...looking out over a large area,and probably smelling the air for something to eat. Also on this little carving a tail has been etched into it's back end...there is the detail of a face too,but i didn't include it...the posture is the most important thing about this carving. all the best...bob"


-kbj

12 September 2012

Flint bird figure from Buckeye Lake, Ohio

Flint bird figure found by Ken Johnston at Buckeye Lake, Ohio

Side 2 of the bird figure shown with scale

-kbj

09 September 2012

Accidental find interpreted as "...a serious and meaningful carving of a fish of some kind" rejected with certainty by petroglyph art web publisher as "not Indian"

Mary Garmon find, Whatcom County, WA 

This find is without the context of any other suspected artifacts. Mary Garmon of Texas was struck by this zoomorphic face looking at her from the rock on the ground and took a closer look at it. The area context is strong for prehistoric human visitation, being near an 88 foot waterfall and the Pacific Ocean in north west Washington.

According to Mary, "Its shape on front gives the impression of a shark or large fish."

"I found it on the Nooksack river in Washington State near a large waterfall."

Carved parallel lines create the mouth of the creature. Vertical slash marks are carved along the horizontal lines, perhaps to represent teeth.


When I saw this photo, I noted what looked like a small face in the figure's right eye and mentioned it to Mary.

Mary replied to me "I just looked closely at the left eye and it is a small bird in profile... It doesnt just look like it, it is. Unbelievable."  Maybe the fish 'is seeing' its common predators?

Back of the stone with scale in inches

Mary Garmon continues writing, "I have contacted museums in the area as well as the Nooksack Indian tribe and had no response. A gentleman who lives in Seattle who publishes online about Indian petroglyphs in the area told me he is certain this carving is not by Indians in that area nevertheless it came from that river, of rock very similar to other stones on that river, and it was not a section of river frequented by the public. I would have to hear that from some concurring experts to believe it. I suppose it could have been carried as well from another location. What do you think? I feel that it is a serious and meaningful carving of a fish of some kind."

Mary, I agree with your assessment.


Here is a 9 year old's drawing of the "face reflected in the eyes" concept, expressed like fractals through 5 levels, one going off the paper and out of the frame of reference. A similar kind of representation is also seen in portable rock art. Another example of a face within an eye identified by Alan Day can be seen here. 

-kbj