29 November 2013

Flint bison and bear figures from the Chris Schram collection, from near Big Dry Creek, Westminster, Colorado, similar to European forms identified by Jan Evert Musch

 Bison in left profile, Chris Schram find and interpretation, Westminster, Colorado

Illustration of interpreted features of the bison

"Grazing Bison," Chris Schram collection, Westminster, Colorado

Interpreted by Chris Schram as a worked Grizzly Bear figure facing right

J E. Musch theory of standardization of bear and bison icons may be seen in Chris Schram's Colorado examples and explain the potential of "vagueness" produced by the template-like figurative forms in portable rock art. No individual art object is required to look just like the real-life figure, it just has to meet the visual trigger points to alert the viewer to the intended meaning within the understood design scheme.

Illustration © J. E. Musch. Musch, J. E. (1987). Beestachtig en Beregoed (deel 1). Archaeologische Berichten 18:108-129. Elst, NL. Page 120. From originsnet.org

27 November 2013

One-eyed face stone sculpture has human and feline qualities from Luigi Chiapparoli collection, at Montarsolo, Italy

One-eyed face stone sculpture has human and feline qualities from Luigi Chiapparoli collection, site at Montarsolo, Italy. Photo by independent rock art researcher Luigi Chiapparoli.

 Montarsolo, by Luigi Chiapparoli, High Trebbia River valley

The Italian sculpture from Montarsolo may be an example of therianthropy, where human and animal features are combined in one creature, like the famous Lion Man of the Hohlenstein Stadel

25 November 2013

Artistic convention of adding nostrils can be used to assess artificiality and may reflect the makers' animistic world view of stone figures as "alive with the breath of life"

 
Mike Raver find, Muskingum County, Ohio

Mike Raver of Zanesville, Ohio, has discovered about a dozen sites in his locale along the Muskingum River which he interprets as producing portable rock art figures and sculptures. This is a non-glaciated area but the Wisconsin glacier Scioto lobes came within tens of miles and the area was subject to being part of the glacial melt water river systems as the glacier retreated northward in the final Pleistocene.

Ohio "nostrils" (left) Maryland "nostrils" (right)

The face mask figure from Ohio seems to have similarly incised "nostril divots" as this stone from the Mark Jones collection, Maryland.

Nose and nostril representations added to stone figures seem to be used to disambiguate the face and might reflect a desire to add or recognize a symbolic "breath of life" in these objects. This may be a clue to an animistic world view held by the makers where all the world, even the rocks, are considered to be alive.

Artistic conventions like nostril elements may be used to help assess the probabilities of human modification made to iconic portable rock objects.

Ohio (left) and Thailand (right) stone face mask figures

Mike Raver of Zanesville, Ohio, notes a similarity between his Ohio pebble face mask figure and this Stone face mask discovered from the cave near Kanchanaburi, Thailand, featured in an earlier posting

24 November 2013

"In, On and Infinity:" Incised lines may represent ideas and concept modeling rather than evidence of tool function

Texas incised stone found in an archaeological context by an amateur archaeologist

This find in Texas was interpreted as a tool but may be an example of straight edge use in a European Paleolithic marking tradition as seen in Germany and described by John Feliks in his paper "The Graphics of Bilzingsleben." Lower Paleolithic art and language traditions may have persisted for tens of thousands of years or people in North America could have independently developed their own marking schemes.  

Amateurs find incised stones frequently but there is little or no consideration of potential symbolic meaning for the engavings. My hope is that the symbolic possibilities of stone markings will eventually be included in the hypotheses developed for objects like this in North America.

Texas incised stone

"In, On and Infinity," a geometric interpretation of convergent and divergent incised lines by Ken Johnston
Having read some of John Feliks' work about Paleolithic engraved stones, I looked at this stone and could see the first line converging with the second, the second converging with the third farther out and the third line not converging with the fourth with the fourth line angled away so as not to converge with the other lines. When I made an illustration to see what this looked like if I continued the lines, it seemed quite possible this rock was a kind of exogram, containing a recording of geometric and possibly symbolically significant ideas.

As illustrated above these concepts could be described as: In (lines converge inside the stone perimeter), On (lines converge near the edge of the stone) and Infinity (lines never converge). These kinds of concepts are introduced in Feliks' work and it seemed I could develop a potential symbolic meaning for this Texas stone based on those concepts. It was quite strange when I saw the stone and it had this meaning, I felt as if I was intuitively reading a complex idea in a language Feliks had enabled me to recognize. Maybe more objects like this will come to light and show this possible 4 line pattern is more than a one-time chance occurrence.

Amateur and professional archaeologists in North America should avail themselves of the information available from other parts of the world and other temporal periods in order to have a broader range of possibilities in interpreting the meaning of incised portable rocks here.

21 November 2013

From Mekong Delta, Vietnam, a wedged pebble serves as an "eye" in artistically correct position and should be evaluated as an indicator of human agency

Tira Vanichtheeranont collection, Bangkok, Thailand

Tira writes: "This is a natural stone without any modification. The small pebble in the eye is also naturally stuck in and quite hard, can not be removed easily. This piece is found in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam area, end of the river before running to the sea. This piece looked like the actor in the movie "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame "




While Tira's interpretation is that this is a natural stone, it has visual and stoneworking aspects which are comparable to suspected sculptures identified by north west European archaeologists like Ursel Benekendorff (Germany) and Jan van Es (The Netherlands) and Hans Grams (Germany) in Lower Paleolithic contexts.

Evaluation for artifact status might include taking close petrological examination of the features illustrated above. They may indicate human intent to create a face icon in line with a long-lived portable rock art tradition.

Another possible south east Asian pebble-face mask from Tira's collection featured earlier on this blog. Remarkably, this pebble has a crevice on the obverse side in which there are two very tiny pebbles wedged in what may a human action rather than a natural coincidence.

One is square and one is round and they can be interpreted as serving as eyes with a round mouth below.

Winona Axsom find, Portland, Oregon, in context of other sculpted rocks, featured earlier on this blog

With examples of this motif in south east Asia and the North American west coast, and in north west Europe and the North American east coast, and from middle-America, this is an art tradition which may have spread or existed around the world.

Mekong delta, Vietnam, Tira Vanichtheeranont collection

Dennis Boggs collection, Irrigon, Oregon. Because this stone has been worked and is an artifact I think a very good chance a tiny foreign pebble has been inserted in the mouth crevice to serve as a "tooth." This is much like the tiny pebble serving as the left eye of the Vietnam object.

19 November 2013

23JP1222 "Lion head left profile" shares "eye" with human face depiction of "one eye open, other eye closed" motif

Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo (OR66Z)
Site bearing mutliple sculptures, Jasper County, Missouri

This sculpted cobble depicts a lion head in profile facing left. 

It also depicts a human face in the "face mask one eye open, one eye closed (or missing)" motif toward the right side looking at the viewer straight-on. The big dark cavity which is the left (and only) eye of the lion is also the right eye of the human face depicted.

This is a representation of the now extinct North American Lion combined with an icon (face with closed eye) found in European Lower and Middle Paleolithic contexts.

16 November 2013

A quartz bison and three birds among many portable rock art sculptures identified by "D" near Prescott, Arizona

Found (by "D") near Prescott, Arizona
Interpreted by D as a bison figure, quartz

Prescott, Arizona artifact

Prescott, Arizona, the eye in correct position is a factor in evaluating artifact status 

Prescott, Arizona, sleeping bird figure with head turned toward its tail

D also kindly provided provides links to two Warren K. Moorehead articles about Arizona art objects:

Prehistoric Implements: A Reference Book : a Description of the Ornaments ...

Records of the Past, Volume 1

Thanks to D for the photos and links.

15 November 2013

Dutch pebble sculpture features head with one reflective eye on a deformed face

Jan van Es 40 year collection, Netherlands and Holland finds

Quartz pebble sculpture of human head with reflective mineral inclusion as eye and other eye deformed or missing as an example of common motif of "one eye open, one eye closed or missing or deformed." This motif originated in the Lower Paleeolithic at least 500,000 years ago. The van Es collection is from archaeology sites at Roermond and Boukoul worked for over 40 years.

Early sculptors worked in micro detail and must have had a quite intimate scale of relating to these objects. They are the kind of thing one might ponder while holding the stone close in the hand, maybe while stuck inside in a cold winter.

Mark Jones find, Piney Point, Maryland, identified as a worked pebble by this fossil and artifact hunter

Featured in an earlier post is a water worn example of the one reflective eye pebble mask motif. Faint remnants of  added nostrils as engraved divots remain visible. Found near the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay at Piney Point.

Ancient genetic data from Siberia places human lineages from north west Europe there and then into the Americas via the Beringia land bridge. The art of north west Europe could have arrived in Maryland from Asia or via a shorter Atlantic-based population movement. Now some genetic data supports the possibility of a western European component to the peopling of the Americas and offers a possible explanation for some of the similarities shared by the portable rock art objects from the two continents.


I ran in to this multimedia sculpture at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art with the left eye depicted as missing as is seen in some of the Stone Age art.

This may speak to the universal nature of facial recognition and how distorting just one element can significantly open the possibilities of meaning for the presentation. Maybe the distorted face is a primal image with meaning in the deep brain which is quick to evoke with the just the right visual cues.

This art piece includes a "found object" according to the placard, much like the iconography of the Stone Age often found its inspiration in found rocks that look like other things, known as "mimetoliths."

14 November 2013

Pecked face on handaxe places figurative art in the mind of Homo erectus, in addition to the geometric aesthetic which produced the classic amygdaloid-shaped artifacts

Pecked face on handaxe firmly places figurative art in the mind of Homo erectus, in addition to the geometric aesthetic which produced the classic amygdaloid shaped artifacts. Two other West African examples were presented last month on this blog.


The inverted Acheulean handaxe shape in the photo above left may be thought of as a symbolic womb with a possible representation of a human fetal-like form with oversized head as illustrated here.  


Acheulean, West Africa, Sahara desert patina, Orange jasper

length : 20,5 cm ( 8.44 inches)
width : 10 cm ( 3.93 inches)
thickness : 4.5 cm ( 1.77inches)

"Acheulean handaxe with pecked face figure"

The smiling face becomes a bit easier to see when the image size is scaled down.

13 November 2013

Exotic Libyan desert glass object from Egypt may also have been found and worked in prehistory

 From Silicate valleys, south west Egypt
8 x 7 cm ( 3.14 x 2.75 inches ), 218 grams, 1090 carats

This object was collected as Libyan desert glass formed when an asteroid or a comet hit the surface of the earth in this desert zone. It seems very possible this object was recognized as exotic material in the Stone Age and was transformed into a glass sculpture of a head with two eyes and a mouth. A scientific examination of objects such as this should be able to rule in or out the presence of human agency.

Rather than defaulting to a determination of "geofact" status with pareidolia on the part of the modern-day interpreter, archaeological science must actually thoroughly examine each find like this from a non-prejudicial approach. Too much importance rides on the possibility of human agency to write off objects like this as "just rocks." For example, if confirmed to be worked artifacts, iconic objects may be able to direct researchers to locations of archaeological sites or zones, or to the raw materials which were preferred for sculpting.

Mother nature can of course produce objects such as this but this one appears worked and because of the rarity of the material should be considered as an item which could have been modified by the human hand.

8 x 7 cm ( 3.14 x 2.75 inches ), 218 grams, 1090 carats



08 November 2013

Sounds of the Stone Age: galop cheval blanc

Denis Argaut collection of galloping lithophonic horse sculptures from France

Denis Argaut interpretion of a white horse head figure with perforated eye which reproduces the galloping sound of a horse when rocked with a finger. Denis' finds are from near Toulouse with some from the Dordogne.

Watch this video of the "Galloping white horse" pictured above.


Denis interprets the obverse side of the horse head as a figure of an eagle head

With over 15 years of intimate work with stone figures in France, Denis Argaut has come to appreciate the use of light and shadow in the Stone Age sculptures he has studied. Denis is able to take many hours to consider one sculpture in differing light schemes, different times of day, different seasons of the year. His close work with the stone sculptures led to what amounts to a significant discovery in the annals of the history of rock art.

Denis has discovered some horse image figure stones have been engineered to produce the sound of a galloping horse when manipulated in a rocking motion by a human musician. These sound-stones may be thought of as the earliest audio recordings and Denis has discovered how to play them back for us.

This "horse head" comes alive with light passing through its perforated eye as it moves to the sounds of the Stone Age.