27 February 2014

Bird and horse head optical illusion figure stone from Colorado

Bird and horse head optical illusion figure stone, worked in jasper
Chris Schram find, Westminster, Colorado

This may be interpreted as a "Two headed sculpture" with two creatures combined and facing away from each other, bird to left and horse head to right.

Polyiconic sculpture: The bird may also be interpreted as a "horse head in right 3/4 profile," looking slightly to the right, while the bird faces left. The bird's beak is the right ear of the horse icon. The "breath of life," the horse's nostrils, would be on the bird's tail as seen here. The bird's protruding tail is the muzzle of the horse figure. The horse's head image is cropped at the animal's neck, the rounded edge on the left side of the photo.

KalahariRose original line art approximates the depiction of the horse head in this figure stone

This is the second figure stone identified by Chris which has revealed horse imagery as a part of polyiconic "optical illusion" where two icons exist simultaneously but vary depending on how one focuses visual attention on them.


In this perspective, the bird's beak may be seen as the chin of a human "skull face," just as seen in two other figure stones presented on this blog.

These three figure stones are from Hemet, California, Westminster, Colorado and Zanesville, Ohio, implying a broad area of geographic coverage by the cultures which practiced these art traditions.

Possible human facial profile worked on to the bird's belly, where the bird's tail feathers are the neck of the head in the facial profile. 

26 February 2014

Site number 23JP1222 human head profile statue has a smaller analog from Zanesville, Ohio

(left) Site 23JP1222, the "Old Route 66 Zoo" in Missouri, human head profile statue found by Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber compared to (right) human form identified by amateur archaeologist Mike Raver, at Zanesville, Ohio. 

Figure stone researcher Alan Day has dubbed this recurring human form "Stargazer" because it seems to represent a human head profile looking skyward.


Side 2

Possible animal head figure looking right (canine?) identified by Mike Raver in the context of other iconic finds at Zanesville, Ohio

Mike Raver find, Zanesville, Ohio, a beautiful giant lancolate point made in the local Ohio limestone

-kbj

25 February 2014

Simple flint human head profile found among other stone figures at Buckeye Lake, Ohio

Ken Johnston find, Licking County, Ohio

This iconic flint was found in a figurative flint and coarse stone context, the same as the limestone bear head in the prior posting. Interpreted as a human head profile by Ken Johnston. Also found nearby was a flint feline head looking left in similar format to this human face. Perhaps this was a tool with incorporated iconic properties, or perhaps it was a child's little puppet?

From OriginsNet.org, The Netherlands, Middle Paleolithic

Identified as stone sculpture, male head by J. E. Musch. Rijckholt, NL. Middle Palaeolithic. Photo © Phototeam SAB. Musch, J. E. (1990b). Continuation picture book: Stone sculptures Pliocene-Neolithicum. Archaeologische Berichten 20:85-107. Elst, NL. Page 100.

Upon close examination a tiny white pebble at this site appears modified to fully realize a human face

Flint feline head looking left found near the human human head figure looking left seen at top. The lion head has a flaring and flattening base which looks like it was used for hafting, perhaps to the top of a staff or to a carved wood body of a lion?

20 February 2014

Bear head with nose sniffing the air from site near the Wisconsin glacial episode advancement line at Buckeye Lake, Ohio

Limestone bear head sculpture find and interpretation by Ken Johnston, from the shores of a former glacial swamp, now Buckeye Lake, Licking County, Ohio. 

The bear is depicted with its nose up in the air, a recognition of its powerful sense of smell. The sculpture stands upright in this position on a flat base. It was found among dozens of other iconic rocks of chert and coarse stone, suggesting an unnatural pattern created by prehistoric human activity. It was found about 1/4 mile from the find site of the Buckeye Lake Paleolithic flint sculpture hoard described on this blog in postings in May 2012.

This is a two-headed sculpture in this view with a bear head profile looking left and a human head profile looking right. 

The two-headed format has been traced to the Lower Paleolithic by early sculpture author Pietro Gaietto.  This "split and joined beings" concept may have persisted and may be seen in examples such as Janus and the two-headed sculpture from Roquepertuse, south France.

The subtle human face right profile depiction 

A culture expecting icons in certain places in relation to others probably had no trouble seeing this human face aspect of this sculpture. Even though it may seem ridiculously crude or meaningless to many, these are the expressions our ancestors left in stone and they are reproducible through many repeating examples. Close examination and consideration of all lithic materials from archaeological sites for iconic properties requires a revolution in the currently apathetic and dysfunctional approach of Archaeology toward lithics outside the already known tool taxonomies.  

Bear head sculpture side 2, nose sniffing the air


Close up of the selected stone removal to create the eye, nose and mouth facial features of the bear head


18 February 2014

Niagra Falls "Rock of Skull" was in an archaeologist's hands for 40 years but not tested for artifact status

"Rock of Skull," from near Niagra Falls, North America
Sebastapol Chanuhacha collection, Bangkok, Thailand

Sebastapol is a self-described rock hound and writes: "I bought this "Rock of Skull" (so-called by the former collector, because of its actual-human-skull size and three- hole characteristic) from 70-year-old American Archaeological Professor who has kept it in his collection for over 40 years.  This masterpiece of nature, he said, was collected somewhere near the bank of river around Niagara Fall by the local Indians long time ago.  So, I believe, this rock has particular meaning to the Indians."

To me, it looks like a possible prehistoric serendipitous find which was chipped and trimmed to realize a more idealized face mask. Found objects like this deserve a close look to determine if they have been modified in the past. This piece seems a good candidate for an example of a "one eye open, other eye shut or missing" mask sculpture in the Lower-to-middle Paleolithic European motif, with distortion to the left side of the face as is seen in most other examples.

If the original archaeologist who collected this piece was aware of the common utilization of found natural forms as starting forms for art, and that this mask fits an already known and described motif, then he might have been able to contribute some more information about the context of this object or subject it to full petrology assessment of artificiality.

16 February 2014

Papua New Guinea "phallic obsidian cache"

 
Complete obsidian stemmed tool found by workmen at Barema plantation, near Hargy, New Britain, PNG. Image: Peter White © Australian Museum

From the Australian Museum: "A beautiful and expertly-flaked obsidian tool which formed part of a cache, rescued from a development site, offers a greater insight into the lives of ancient people that inhabited the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In October 2010 Dr Robin Torrence a Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Museum Reseach Institute was contacted by the General Manager at Barema oil palm plantation on New Britain Island. The company was in the process of bulldozing the side of a hill to make a house terrace. In the process they had uncovered a group of finely worked obsidian (volcanic glass) tools. A workman had recognized the obsidian as something belonging to the time of his ancestors and rescued a large tool before it could be crushed by the bulldozer."


Torrence, R., White, P., Kononenko, N. 2013. Meaningful stones: obsidian stemmed tools from Barema, New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Australian Archaeology 77: 1-8.

Torrence, R., Kelloway, S. and White, P. 2013. Stemmed tools, social interaction, and voyaging in early-mid Holocene Papua New Guinea. The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 8: 278-310.

14 February 2014

From the U.K.'s Pleistocene Thames River, likely a two-headed sculpture in a Lower Paleolithic format as described by early art author Pietro Gaietto

Find by amateur archaeologist David King, Colne Valley, England, in a Lower Paleolithic tool context on the banks of the Pleistocene Thames River

Interpretation of anthropomorphic head facing left split with a horned caprid head facing right by Ken Johnston. It is as if the animal heads are joined at the nape of the neck, like in the two heads of Janus. They eyes are circled and the mouths are in red in the illustration above. The anthropomorph is depicted with its mouth wide open, perhaps as in a yell.

Perhaps a animal such as the Sable is being depicted looking right on the sculpture

Paleolithic Art author Pietro Gaietto identified 8 sculpture types of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic, Number 5 on his list here includes this piece with a human like head and animal head joined together at the back of their heads:
1) human head 
2) animal head 
3) human head two-faced 
4) animal head two-faced 
5) human head joined for the neck at the head of animal 
6) human head mixed to animal head 
7) naked woman (Venus)
8) head of animal with human body.

(Gaietto, 2012) Anthropomorphic Paleolithic Sculpture, From Homo habalis to Homo erectus and from Neanderthal Man to Modern Man (in English)

Recent news: Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk

13 February 2014

Danish Neolithic period axe worked around stone inclusions like "pair of eyes"

Neolithic stone axe from near Silkeborg, Denmark
 22,3 CM,  Weight 1127 grams (42,5 ounces)

The maker of this axe appears to have centered it on two inclusions in the stone which resemble eyes on the finished product- in what would be an anatomically correct position for "eyes on an axe" if such a thing existed. Such artistic centering of unique inclusions in the lithic material spans all-time, from the Lower Paleolithic to historical times.

What meaning these "eyes" may have had remains elusive. Was it to bring the axe to life, to show off stone working skills or to amuse the maker? Only when archaeologists and collectors begin identifying possibly iconic tools like this and start comparing them and their find contexts, will we move toward being able to know what they mean.

Artist writes of being inspired by natural rock forms as may have been typical in the Stone Age birth of sculpture

Tira Vanichtheeranont collection, Bangkok, Thailand

Tira thinks this is a mimetolith, or a rock that looks like something. Even though its find context has been lost it may be an example of a natural form which was found in prehistory and elaborated upon by a Stone Age artist. It seems some carving may have been made to separate the bird, to better define it, in relation to the "rock" it is sitting upon. Even though the rock looks like a base for the bird sculpture, they are found or composed on the same piece of stone.

This is the kind of object which the public needs to understand is important to archaeology so find locations are not lost because someone thinks it must be "just a rock." Pieces like this which can be determined to be artifacts may lead to new archaeological sites and new insights into ancient life ways.

Leone Battista Alberti’s opening words in his treatise De statua, written about 1430. Here the origin of sculpture is described as follows:

"Those who were inclined to express and represent... the bodies brought forth by nature would at times observe in tree trunks, clumps of earth, or other objects of this sort which through some slight changes could be made to resemble a natural shape. They thereupon took thought and tried, by adding or taking away here and there, to render the resemblance complete. Before long the primeval sculptors learned how to make images without depending on such resemblances latent in their raw material".

This passage is the earliest statement of the idea that what sets the artist apart from the layman is not his manual skill but his ability to discover images in random shapes, i.e., his visual imagination, which in turn gives rise to the desire to make these images more explicit.

Noted portable rock art investigator Jan van Es of Roermond, The Netherlands, writes:

"Particularly people of the older stone-age traditions were handling the principle: nature shows and offers the basic forms or basic shapes. They acquired these forms to fix and perpetuate their "image-language" in typological iterations." (pers. comm.) 

Washington sculptor Joy Jasinek says in a recent interview:

“In my 28 years of stone sculpting, I have yet to purchase a squared stone and most likely will not. I do not come up with an idea and then sculpt it from a block. My ideas come from the natural shape and colors of each stone, whether I find a stone or purchase one from a stone vendor. Yes, there are vendors that seek quality and unusual stones from around the world for the sculpting trade. But, ouch … we pay by the pound!"

“I noticed this large, pear-shaped, granite stone half-buried in a nearby field. Looking it over, what came to mind was a BIG FAT CAT.”

Bessie Harvey, a 20th century wood carver explains the process to Barbara Olins Alpert in her book "The Creative Ice Age Brain: Cave art in the light of neuroscience"

“I don’t design my work.  I don’t carve it.  I just make what I see from found objects.  The wood- the insects has already created what it is, and time.  Time rots away a lot of wood, and inside that wood, these little people hide.  I just go to them and find what I see and bring it out.  I think that God is the artist in my work.” 

06 February 2014

Extraordinary Texas figure stone has "secret pair of eyes" and is a compelling example of same iconography seen at Dolní Věstonice, Moravia, Czech Republic

 Human head figure on a small pebble, find and identification by David Boies, Austin, Texas. Scale is in inches.

Close up of the detailed stonework to compose the figure's right eye. A pigment may have been used to stain the stone to create the darker iris feature of the eye.

Rotating the stone slightly reveals a flash of light of two otherwise hidden eyes which were manufactured by exposing the same plane of fracture of this pebble so light is reflected from both eyes at the same moment.

Close up of the "hidden eyes" awaiting the observer's discovery when the stone is viewed while rotating in ambient light.

Texas artifact at left compared to an illustration of a carved mammoth tusk ivory figure from Dolní Věstonice, Moravia, Czech Republic, dated to ca. 26,000 years before present. The similarity of this and a lion's head ceramic figure to North American portable rock art figures implies a relatedness of the iconography across a long distance from Europe to America, perhaps supported by the "mammoth steppe hypothesis" of Steven R. Holen and Kathleen Holen.

03 February 2014

Selected point of impact and application of exacting force makes "birdseye" of Hertzian cone flake scar

"Birdseye"
Rock with a suggestive avian form was immediately animated as a "bird" by addition of an eye in one selective and masterful blow by a Stone Age artist to a lithic material he must have known well. A conchoidal fracture bulb of force flake scar (in this case a perfect Hertzian cone) serves as the bird's eye. Artifact find and interpretation as a bird figure in a portable rock art context by David Boies, Austin, Texas

Close up of the human-manufactured eye which, although simple, disambiguates the bird-form rock enough to be recognized as an intended bird figure in a context of other portable rock art finds, Austin, Texas.

02 February 2014

Oregon and Texas amateur archaeologists independently identify zoomorphic figures which are visual analogs of the same idealized creature

David Boies find, Austin, Texas, identified as an ape form with a face looking left

Dennis Boggs find, Irrigon, Oregon, identified as an ape form with a face looking left, featured in an earlier posting on this blog

Texas creature's face looking to the left

Oregon creature's face looking to the left

The creature depicted in the Oregon and Texas stone figures is of the same idealized form which must have been a shared cultural icon, despite being found 1,600 miles apart.