Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations

26 July 2011

Kermit: Tennessee worked stone sculpture stands on a flattened base and resembles a simple hand shadow puppet and the head of the famous muppet, Kermit the Frog

Worked stone identified as a possible art sculpture representing a head and mouth by amateur archaeologist Sherry Hill.  The piece was found in the Doe River valley, Carter County, Tennessee.

The back of the mouth has been excavated and the convergence of the lower jaw and the upper palate is marked by a narrow and fine, deep, incised line running from side to side across the back of the mouth of the sculpture.

This rock struck an aesthetic similarity to Kermit the Frog's head when I first saw it and as I studied it more.  This got me thinking about the possibility of it representing a sock-type puppet, almost like a living, laughing, rock head.  As I studied the profile of my bare hand against the rock, I noticed both the outside of the rock, the part in contact with the hand when held, and the interior mouth outline of the mouth, both mirrored the outline created by the inside of my bare hand.  Here is a comparison of my hand aligned with the rock while in a position as if I would be making a simple shadow puppet.

Here is the flattened base the sculpture stands upright on

One of Sherry Hill's tool finds from the Doe River valley, Carter County, Tennessee.  This knife or hand axe appears heavily rolled by the environment which can be an indicator of great age or great localized forces (like blowing dirt or sandy water) acting upon the artifact, or a combination of time and heavy weathering.
Dennis Boggs find, Irrigon, Oregon, Columbia River valley.  This artifact also resembles a laughing head character.  It was identified as a humanly worked piece by Mr. Boggs.

View from above demonstrating the convex/concave nature of this artifact.  Jan van Es, archaeologist in The Netherlands, has identified convex/concave attributes as being significant to the artists of the Middle Paleolithic and very early Upper Paleolithic times in Eurasia.

Tennessee's Kermit alongside Oregon's similar looking artifact

The chase is on!

The First Bobblehead (see earlier posting of same name), at left, from Oregon, Kermit in middle from Tennessee, and at right another possible rock head with similar mouth representation from Oregon.

24 July 2011

Paired bird motif identified in several art pieces by Mark Jones from Piney Point, Maryland

A paired bird line etching in sandstone, Mark Jones find, Piney Point, Maryland

This rare petroglyphic portable rock art piece was found near the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. It depicts two birds on a hand-sized cobble. This area is a major migratory bird flyway and birds, especially water birds, are a major component of the local natural environment.

Please also see the February 10 posting "Kissy Birds" for another example of the paired bird motif identified as a recurring pattern in local portable rock art by artifact and fossil hunter Mark Jones. Mark was kind enough to host me at his home earlier this year and shared part of his collection of hundreds of natural fossils, stone age tools and art pieces. He arrives at many of his waterside find sites by boat. "Kissy Birds"

23 July 2011

Several possible portable rock art pieces from western Montana reported along with concentrated icons from a Portland, Oregon, garden

A possible worked human face "mask" from western Montana.  Finder Nona A. writes "I found it in Sanders County, Montana. Above the town of Thompson Falls. I also found some other suspected art pieces from the same general area."

Another view of the mask.  A possible head with face comprises the bas-relief right eye.  The left eye is depicted as "missing."
This piece has a similarity to the duck head identified from a West Virginia stream two postings ago.

A worked face icon which resembles the artifact from the prior posting "Rick Prince finds a siltstone pebble..."  The artifact here seems to be a depiction of the "one eye open, one eye closed" motif seen throughout Middle-Paleolithic portable rock art.

Nona has created a web site with more pictures of the suspected art she has identified coming from the  concentrated area of her garden.

19 July 2011

Relative ubiquity of portable rock art among crude tools in Eastern North America demonstrated by informal sampling of West Virginia creek bed

Duck head right profile.
Found in association with hard stone tools in Shade Creek at Ansted, Kenawah County, West Virginia. Finds and interpretation by Ken Johnston.

Find location is a few miles from the confluence of the New and Gauley rivers, which together form the Kanawah River, an Ohio River tributary. Despite its name, the New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world.

In an informal surface sampling of approximately 30 meters in length of the creek bed, in the Skaggs/Lucas families' hollow at Ansted, dozens of stone tools and two bird head sculptures were found in about two hours of surveying for stones which evidenced apparent human modification. Tool photos are included here to demonstrate context of the portable rock art finds. The second bird head sculpture will be featured in a separate posting on this blog.

Duck head reverse side with scale

Duck head features an 'eye" in bas-relief in the anatomically correct position.

View from above.  The "bump" seen at the peak of the stone in this photo is the duck's bas-relief eye.  Two round nostril divots may be seen on the top of the duck bill on the left side of the photo above and illustrated below with green circles.

Detail of the tip of the duck bill as seen from above looking down.

When the view of the artifact is turned upside down from the duck view, the sculpture transforms into another bird in whole body form, not just the head.  The duck's mouth serves as a tail feathering representation when seeing the sculpture in this whole bird view.
Upside-down duck head side 2 also looks like a second whole bird integrated with the duck head.

Knife found in the 30 meter sample area that also produced two bird head sculptures, including the duck in this post

Knife side 2

Knife as likely held in use

Hand axe, convex side

Percussion pitting on reverse of hand axe

Hand axe as held

Awl/perforator type tools worked to points

Reverse sides of points

Detail of reduction with possible intent to leave a bulb or knob to assist grip (seen as the rounded form in lower right of tool).

An abrading block


14 July 2011

Feline figure of head and neck may be portrayed in finger held pebble resembling a scimitar cat profile

Dennis Boggs collection, Irrigon, Oregon
interpretation as possible scimitar cat made by Ken Johnston

Animal neck and left head profile on pebble which is shaped for optimal finger holding and has a smooth, shiny, patina of possible human handling. Perhaps it was a little icon used by a child as a "toy" or perhaps to learn about animals in the surroundings. It is almost like a little finger puppet.  The long, narrow, neck is suggestive of Homotherium serum or the North American scimitar cat, a predator of Pleistocene megafauna, including humans.

This artifact was found in the context of other worked stone material including both crude stone tools and other suspected iconographic pieces. A significant amount of cultural information would need to be communicated regarding the appearance and behaviors of predatory carnivores like the scimitar cat.

Note the bump in the line of the lion's neck in the artifact photos.  This may be attempt to represent a visually prominent and distinguishing feature of the animal among other felines, seen in the Wikipedia illustration below as a "breast plate bump" at  the base of long, narrow neck.  

A possible face form is found on the front of the artifact, two eyes, nose, and mouth are worked into the pebble.  The face is shared by the lion head profiles on both sides of the artifact.
Based on the archaeological record of human skeletal remains, an estimated 7% to 10% of early humans lost their lives to animal predation.  A cultural focus on deadly animals in iconography, including the scimitar cat, would aid survival odds.  A piece such as this could have served to relay information to children about the deadly scimitar.  Here is a link to more information about this now extinct big North American cat.

10 July 2011

Grave goods pebbles producing light, sparkling, powder found in arch “crown” formation over head of Ohio Hopewell Culture female burial

Ohio Hopewell Culture burial pebbles.  John C. Rummel excavation, near Miamisburg, Ohio, Clairmont County.  In situ, the pebbles formed a crown shape over the skull of the burial.
Archaeologist and Hopewell Culture scholar John C. Rummel identified six pebbles placed as grave goods in a semi-circular, arch or crown, formation on the flat plane of the body over a female Hopewell burial he excavated near Miamisburg, Ohio, in Clairmont County.  John was kind enough to allow me inspect and photograph the six stones.  My most significant observation about them was they left a light yellow, powdery residue on my fingers which contained very small sparkling inclusions.  As one’s angle of vision changes, on the rocks or on the skin after handling them, the sparkles throw reflections and change as if twinkling.  After I shared this with John, he noted the Hopewell seem to significate darkness with underworld and lightness with the upper world.  It made me wonder if the pebbles could have used in mortuary practices to lighten the skin after death, like glitter make-up, which is done by various cultures even today.  They could then have accompanied the burial as a link to the upper world in the form of a powdery, sparking crown of pebbles. 

Rough illustration of the position of the six pebbles as found in situ with the burial.  Hopewell Culture burials were so carefully orchestrated it seems likely there was a significance given to the pebbles and to the placement in a crown formation over the head of the deceased woman.
Here is a link to more information about the Ohio Hopewell tradition:

Hopewell Culture National Park near Chillicothe, Ohio