15 January 2017

Australian rock art sculpture defies traditional dichotomy of 'geometric or figurative' rock art

'Sculpture of five motifs"
Rebecca Hainsworth & John Rogers find, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Hi Kenneth,
We have been studying patterns on rock here in Brisbane, Australia, for some time now. What we have discovered is that we have the same figure stones here, as seen on your blog.
For example: Monkey with one eye - common theme is iron in the eye with the left eye missing, Native American symbols, Egyptian and Greek depictions, A lot of animal representations. Additionally, we have discovered glass, slag and other materials.
We have a keen interest in stones we have found that are clear and seem to have a hologram within them.
Is this something you would be interesting in discussing with us?
Please find attached some photographs for your reference.
We look forward to your reply.
Rebecca Hainsworth & John Rogers, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Rebecca and John are professional excavators and have noticed patterns of iconic rock material through the course of their digging work in Queensland. They have noted some similarities with the proposed North American portable rock art featured on this blog.

In a preliminary review of a few photos of their finds, I can confirm the patterns they have detected are recognizable to me and will be to regular blog readers as well. This is a significant development in the effort to understand the world geographic distribution of portable rock art and I look forward to working with Bec and John to better understand what they are finding and where and in what association with other anomalous materials.

Two of the art motifs I can see on this sculpture are figurative. There is a left facial profile on the right side of the stone, angled from the horizontal 'base' of the sculpture as if tilted toward the sky. I drew an arrow to illustrate the approximate line of sight of the face from the eye. This may be an example of some kind of Stone Age proto-Jupiter, or "sky god," mythology. A "stargazer" motif has been described by the Ohio-based independent rock art researcher Alan Day.

'Jupiter' looks toward the sky in classical Roman sculpture

On the back of the facial profile head I have circled a smaller, simple anthropomorphic face in line with many other examples. This smaller face is looking right, opposite of the profile face. Similarly, this may be an example of some kind of Stone Age proto-Janus, or "two-faced god" mythology. A Janus-like motif has also been described by Alan Day.

The two-faces of 'Janus'

A third motif I can recognize here is the more-or-less pentagon shape of the outline of the stone. This is not coincidental but an intended effort by the sculptor and visually accomplishes several things:
  • The dimensions of the pentagon create a 'skyward point' on the 'top' of the sculpture
  • By virtue of the pentagon shape the sculpture has a flat base which accomplishes both a visual "ground" and creates a platform upon which the sculpture will stand upright and present the imagery for viewing
  • The angle of the 'right side roof line' of the pentagon guides the eye sight line of the human face profile (direction the face is looking)
  • The intersection of the right side lines results in a point where the small face looking right is located.
The 'face on mid-right edge' of an artifact is a fourth motif which has been seen on the 'animated Acheulean handaxes' on this blog. This motif has been described by independent rock art researchers Ursel Benekendorff of Germany, Henri Valentie of France, Jan van Es of the Netherlands and early religion and art scholar James B. Harrod, Ph.D. of Maine, USA. I have presented many examples on this blog. These objects are not rare in Acheulean handaxe collections but have been commonly overlooked by archaeologists and collectors alike.

In fact, a blog reader posted a link to an "Animated handaxe" blog article this week on arrowheadology.com and the thread was CENSORED. It resulted in me responding to criticism (which is to be expected), misunderstanding and misinformation by making another a posting myself with some questions about a little bird figure. Ultimately, I was permanently BANNED from Arrowheadology for my questions and thoughts.

The significance of this sculpture is that the geometric and figurative aspects are fully integrated and were possibly inseparable concepts for the artist. Examples like this destroy the false dichotomy rock art scholars have set up by maintenance of these separate classifications. Their assumptions preclude their ability to recognize and interpret the art.

Various types of natural iron oxide compositions were routinely featured or exploited by stone age artists, likely for the dramatic contrast of the red/orange colors. Here, the 'eye' of the face profile looking left may have stained the stone directly underneath it. This would suggest this piece stood upright in this orientation in the open air for more than a brief period of time.

Iron Oxides in Global Systems

Possible motif five: 'Convergence/divergence of linear flow'

I notice a pattern created by the lines etched to remove the surface of the stone on the non-face parts of it. From the photo, the lines appear to have been created by use of a stone chisel and hammer. The lines flow away or toward the mid-point of the top left side edge of the pentagon.
  • This could be an intentional recognition of the center of the top left edge (indicated by the star) and its relationship to the face profile edge line in a 'flowing lines motif' marking.
  • The pattern could be a result of the physical demands of the raw stone and the directions the stone worker took to create the face edge from the series of perpendicular termination points of the carved lines.
  • The lines could be the unconscious result of a human aesthetic motive which was expressed in the execution of the sculpture.
  • The lines could refer to something symbolically we don't know about or even directionally like the 'earth' (lower left side), the 'air' section by the human face nose and mouth in the middle, and the 'sky' in the upper left corner.
Speculated 'Earth, Air, Sky' line flow sections on sculpture surface

Glass knife, Brisbane, Queensland,  Australia

This knife found by Rebecca and John may be supportive of the "Face on mid right edge of artifact" hypothesis for the pentagon sculpture. It looks like a natural dimple in the glass was recognized by the artist as a possible 'nose' and then the area around it was retouched to complete the other facial elements. This could be confirmed by magnified examination of the artifact.

I interpret a knife like this as a finger tool where the top segment of the index finger rested on the concave edge on top of the human face. The knife was then held by the thumb and ring ringers on each side where this would allow the 'face' to be seen through the thumb and index finger while using the knife. This would have the affect of making a "little pet face" to accompany the functional aspects of the piece. A piece like this, indeed, blurs the dichotomy of 'tool' or 'art' and shows how these classifications no longer well serve archaeology and art history scholars.


  1. When one softens the gaze and allows the mind to find the details the profile of a face is very evident...

  2. Hi Ken, Rebecca, and John...

    There definitely are plenty of Figure Stones to be seen in Australia, and the incorporated themes are unmistakably similar to those in other parts of the world. For a small sampling of these (from NSW), you might take a look at http://www.daysknob.com/Australia.htm , which I published almost eleven years ago. The first piece displayed is a classic Stargazer that requires little imagination to see.

    The glass piece is interesting, assuming that it appeared in a reasonably secure context suggesting it might not be of recent (historical-era) origin. I suspect the conventional wisdom in Australian archaeology is that the indigenous people there lacked the ability to raise the temperature of a fire to the level necessary to produce either glass or metallic slag. This is the case here in North America, although there exists some rather compelling evidence to the contrary. (Likewise for prehistoric Africa until proper archaeological investigation demonstrated that iron smelting took place there three thousand years ago.)

    Have fun!

    Regards, Alan Day