25 March 2013

Mammoth and bison combination sculpture demands North American portable rock art be approached in a world-wide rock art thematic context

Buzzy Boles find, mammoth with bison head profile looking right,
Laurens County, South Carolina

Buzzy Boles of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, writes, "This is a very interesting statue. It is 5" at the base and 3 1/2" high. It seems very old. I found it in a small creek bed below the plateau where I have found most of my collection. Again, the photography leaves a lot to be desired. I am researching a microscope digital camera and hope to have one soon. I think this rock depicts a mammoth as it has a distinctive eye, ear complete with hole and a trunk. It also has the head shape. It shows numerous signs of human modification and has many micro carvings and several faces. I would like to have your opinion on it. It also shows signs of wear from use as a tool of some kind."

Markups by Ken Johnston to illustrate interpreted imagery in the stonework:
top, human face; left, lion face; right, bison head looking right
(click photos to expand)

As Buzzy Boles noticed, the overall shape of this stone in this view presents a mammoth profile form facing left. There are a number of possible human facial images and I marked one up in the mammoth head area (top). Paleolithic figurative art very frequently has combinations of several images nested into the artifacts. When I saw the compelling mammoth form I began to look for other creatures and noticed a bison head profile image looking right. The mammoth/bison combination is known from the European archaeology to have been significant to Paleolithic peoples. The right side of the stone appears to have been heat treated to darken the surface, then selected stone was removed to reveal the lighter stone and create the nose/muzzle area of the bison head. There is a concavity serving as the bison eye.

I also interpret a feline face image (likely North American lion being depicted) in the lower left of the sculpture here, looking at us straight on.  On this one side of the sculpture, we have 4 creatures so we consider this a polymorphic sculpture.

Here is a paper by E. Malotki and H. Wallace which includes a mammoth and bison rock art combination in Utah.

Don Hitchcock writes "Whether one subscribes to the orthodox ‘Clovis first’ paradigm (i.e. that the earliest entrants into the New World arrived from Siberia and became the Clovis culture about 13 500 years ago), or to the now generally accepted notion that there were multiple waves of immigrants prior to Clovis, it is surprising that pictorial evidence for the co-existence of pre-Clovis people and Ice Age megamammals has not to date come to light. As is well known, the presumed ancestors of the immigrants to the Americas from the Old World had a rich tradition of image making, including rock art."

The evidence is now coming to light but it is not the pictoral rock art expected by archaeologists. It is in subtle figurative portable rock art objects such as this amazing find by Buzzy Boles.

Bison head looking right, found by Buzzy Boles in Laurens County, S.C.

-kbj

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