10 January 2014

Mammoth sculpture from site 23JP1222 has now faint lion glyph incorporated into its back, which along with other examples demonstrates a Paleolithic art theme

Identified as a mammoth sculpture by Stacy Dodd. From 23JP1222, "The Old Route 66 Zoo" site near Joplin, Missouri, Rod Weber, landowner. This is the second mammoth sculpture from "The Zoo" featured on this blog.

This artifact presents a fairly simple "big picture" icon of a mammoth form where the entire perimeter of the stone in this view resembles the profile of a mammoth- in a seemingly simple cookie-cutter outline. This art object depicts two extinct Pleistocene creatures, mammoth and American Lion.

Missouri Archaeological Inventory site OR66Z "The Old Route 66 Zoo" This amateur discovered archaeological site has produced many dozen examples of deliberately worked iconographic flint and limestone objects and is available for professional archaeological investigation. It is a palaeoart megasite which presents a unique in situ opportunity for archaeologists and art scholars.

(click photos to toggle and compare original to markup)

Faint lines faded with age in the soil can still be detected and define the body of the lion interpreted by Ken Johnston, including rear leg and tail. The definition of the lion's body has been etched into the stone. Several art pieces with this motif have been seen on this blog, enough to establish "lion atop mammoth/human/bison" as recurring depictions in United States portable rock art.

Labels of the worked stone features composing the lion head image

Lion's head looking right. This is a depiction of the now extinct American Lion, Panthera leo atrox. Actual size in microsculpture is about 2cm.

Reconsruction of now extinct American Lion head as depicted in stone above

Some early Americans may have had paradoxical relationships with lions, where humans lived in constant vigilance against predation and surprise attacks by lions while at the same time being dependent on lion kills of fauna to leave flesh and marrow meats behind the humans could exploit for nutrition.


  1. Dear Ken,

    As a great reader of your blog, I try to understand more about prehistoric portable rockart. This, because sometimes I find myself pieces of stones, that show some kind of adaptation in traditional a flaking method, in case without a logical function, or e.g. exaggerating in shape, or dysfunctional in shape. In such case, the explanation of the object is very difficult, but the applied technique and context are often well visible or known ( except of course for manuports)..

    What I try to discover in this and many other objects from this website is the applied technique to get to a sculpture like this. A sculpture indicates an artifact of anthropogenic origin, so manufactured by tools in a certain technique. The ear- eye- nose- mouth- chin, how do you think this was made? What tools were used to get such a result? And: were they satisfied with so little visible result? After some practice I can see the result you mention in the picture.

    What material is this rock? How does the rock behave when you try to pierce it?
    The many dozen examples of deliberately worked iconographic flint and limestone objects are available for professional archaeological investigation, I understand, but where does this rock come from? What is its context? Dis they find the tools to sculture this? What are the features of sculpturing such rocks?

    The question for me is, - and this is the same for my own finds that could possibly be some kind of portable rock art- beyond the explanation of what I see in a stone must be some kind of visible, reproducible technique.

    As I am not at all an expert on the interpretation of portable rock art, I emphasis to say it's not the iconography or phenomenon I have questions about. It is simply the technique, the context and in many cases also the question about such a poor result after sculpture, or must this be considered a matter of raw material quality?

    With my regards from this side of the ocean,

    L. Jimmy Groen, Oudemirdum, The Netherlands

    1. Dear Jimmy,

      I understand your thoughts on improving context information and possibility to develop information about art stone working methodologies and tools. My blog has its limitations as we are group of amateurs and non-archaeologists who are calling for attention to material with what we have identified as common and recurring visual properties. We do not share the expertise you have regarding geological context and tool making technologies. We are trying to tell the pros “Look for this kind of stuff while you are digging and if you find it, study it closely. We have many suspected examples you can study in the meantime. And those examples may lead you to new archaeological sites to dig.”

      Requiring “visible and reproducible technique” seems to limit one to what is already known and implies all is known about stone working of the past. In a recent posting I wrote: “Archaeologists must concede they do not already know everything about ancient technologies which may have been used to carve, incise, sculpt, shape, break and otherwise remove or alter stone surfaces.” (20 December, 2013, posting). I think this requirement would limit rather than potentially advance knowledge into new areas. It may be that an entire sub-field of “art technologies” could emerge from a new understandings of the iconic lives of our ancestors. Paleolithic art author Pietro Gaietto of Italy has called for an entire new academic field which he has dubbed “Arteology.”

      I am aware of some work done on the art tools and methods which should encourage Archaeology to pursue this subject further. The archaeologists who studied art from the Don River, Russia, Paleolithic site wrote “The ancient craftsmen of Kostenki I used burins, borers and stone knives with edges of varying widths.” (16 December, 2013, posting)

      From the world top expert on early religion, symbolism and stone working, Dr. James Harrod’s site originsnet.org [http://originsnet.org/boukoulgallery/pages/o)boukan13.htm] “J. van Es and J. E. Musch identify these artifacts as various work tools used in the making of Boukoulian tools and palaeoart. A full report on the Boukoulian is given in Van Es, J. and Franssen, C.J.H. (1989). Een vroege microkern-traditie van de Peelhorst het Boukoulien. Archaeologische Berichten 19:6-25;93-133. Elst, NL.”

      Archaeologists must always endeavor to be aware and correct for parochial personal and institutional biases which they could bring to their work. The question “Were they satisfied with so little visible result?” and the comment “…in many cases also the question about such a poor result after sculpture” reflect only your own beliefs and values and sense of art. Art in this archaeological sense is not produced for aesthetic appeal and certainly not for the aesthetic appeal of an interpreter thousands of years later. It is not possible to access information that Stone Age peoples would have thought the imagery was not very visible or of poor quality.

      My own conclusion is that the portable rock art was highly visible to the eyes of those times and peoples and that the cultural motives of making the art are more important than the “final result” of any particular object. I have also seen results which I can regard as “masterpieces” done by artisans with greater abilities and skill sets than others. This is what would be expected in artistic activities.

      Best Regards,

      Ken Johnston

    2. I firmly believe I have the tools used to create the sculptures here with my collection. They are truly amazing. I will pres

    3. Hi Jimmy...

      FYI, the artifact material at Stacy's site is mainly low-quality chert. It is hard, but soft enough to be modified with a tool made of purer/harder chert. Indeed, the resolution/detail of imagery incorporated into a rock is a function of the rock's malleability.

      I took some photos of finds from the site a couple years ago, which you can see at http://www.daysknob.com/SD.htm. Note the two "authenticated" hand axes.

      Regards, Alan Day

  2. I will present the tool collection to KBJ in person. I believe 23JP1222 has produced all of the evidence needed to prove the authenticity of the sculptures !!