27 December 2014

Human face on a pebble with possible pigmentation from Virginia

Arkfeld site, Clear Brook, Virginia

Found in a strong context of portable rock art including other faces on pebbles. Adam Arkfeld states the yellow adhering matrix does not match the soils in the area. The yellow material is seen in the eyes, mouth and possible ear of this face. He suggests the material may have been a pigment which covered the stone at one time but has worn away except in the crevices. It is a candidate for testing for presence of yellow ocher which would suggest likely human work on the stone.

In his 2011 paper "Cultural cobbles or a load of old cobblers? The detection of iconography and identification of artefactuality in lithics" Richard J. Wilson writes:
The human visual system devotes specialised resources to face perception which are neurologically well determined (Helvenston and Hodgson 2010, 2006; Hodgson 2008a). As Hodgson and others elaborate, there is a deal of evidence that there is a biologically determined preference for perceiving the hominin face (Watson 2010, Helvenston and Hodgson 2010,2006). Likewise, Sinha et al (2006) note that the visual system of humans begins with a rudimentary preference for face-like patterns. Recognition of a face is thus usually associated from an early stage with an emotionally satisfying reward through maternal contact (Hodgson 2010). A reward system intertwined from birth with that of face recognition offers one theoretical motivation for collecting ‘face-like’ stones and rocks such as the Boucher de Perthes object presented earlier – regardless of whether or not they were enhanced further. A predilection for collecting stones which resemble ‘faces’ is comprehensible in the context of the “neurological value” elicited in a system designed to detect and respond to faces.

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