Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations

28 August 2011

Art on a stone flake: a translucent head shaped flint with two simple faces

Human head in left profile.  The flake was found by Dennis Boggs, Boardman, Oregon, in the valley floor potato fields growing right alongside the Columbia River near Irrigon.  The location is about 45 miles downriver from Kennewick, WA.
Side 1 again.  Click to expand, this is a nice photo.  Forehead, eye, nose, mouth, chin all seem to be present in micro-carving.  Click photo to expand.  The photo left side of the flake as shown here has been worked to take advantage of the translucence of the flint.  Shown above with morning light streaming from behind. The left edge of the flint has been re-touched by the artist to refine the facial features.  The features are highlighted when one holds the flake up to low angle sunlight.
Side 2 with natural morning sunlight illuminating from behind.  It depicts a face in right profile view.  A small incised line makes for a mouth in the bottom right of the artifact here, the dark spot is maybe a nose, right eye in center, part of left eye seen on other side of the nose on edge of artifact.

Side 2, artifact on a 1cm grid to provide scale

Right eye has been ground into the cortex surface. It is located in the center of the artifact here and the left eye is on the screen right edge of the flint looking like a crescent shaped gouge. Because of the left facial profile view presented by the artist, the left eye is seen only in part because it is partially hidden by the nose.  This seems to be a rather complex visual technique for the artist to accomplish.  Most all of the flint observable here is the rind from the original stone cortex- weather battered except for the two eye holes and an incision for a mouth.  Side 2 is from inside the core.

Side 2 as back lighted as a lithophane

Side 1, artifact as back lit in a dark room as a "lithophane."

Side 1, inside the cortex exposed by this flake removal were some beautiful crystal formations.  Artifact on centimeter(cm) grid for scale.  The flint fractures here appear to be well-weathered which attests to some combination of time and abrasive environmental forces acting on the piece.  All the crystal formations look like brains inside the head or maybe head hair.
This whole flint nodule, not just a flake made off one, is of the same material as the flake art piece and shows a precedent for making facial icons out of this beautiful orange/red translucent lithic material in the locale of the Columbia River, Irrigon, Oregon. A similar grinding technique was used to create all four eyes on the two figure stones.

Another earlier posting of a human head left profile utilizing translucent material, from L Jimmy Groen of The Netherlands.Artifact from Neanderthal strata ca. 45,000 to 55,000 years BP from L Jimmy Groen, stone tools expert from The Netherlands.  Ken Johnston detected what could be a human facial profile in the translucent material, Neanderthal in nature, and then it was confirmed the find context and site dating made it entirely possible.

24 August 2011

Bird head shaped limestone plaque considered in context supports possibility it was shaped in prehistory

Limestone plaque with possible bird head profile, from near Hawks Nest state park, Ansted, West Virginia, near the confluence of the Gauley and the New rivers. The park is named for the large numbers of birds of prey which nest in the old stone cliffs in the rich riparian environment.
Artifactuality is not evident on the tablet itself but its context, find location and possible imagery make it a candidate for recognition by someone in prehistory resulting in it being among crude tool lithics on the valley floor.  The discovery of two bird heads in a small survey area make it possible some more could found in the immediate locale with a closer look, and this could reinforce the liklihood of artifactuality here.

Right profile bird head silhouette image

A human shaped stone from the survey site, 30 meters along a West Virginia creek bed

side 2 of human shaped stone exposed by Shade Creek
A suspected duck head figure stone found in the same 30 meter surface survey of Shade Creek in Kanawah County, WV.  Even though the subject of this posting does not have any plainly evident signs of human agency, having found it in a cluster with this duck head and tools, make it possible it was worked into form or perhaps at least recognized as being bird like and manuported to a cultural site.  The duck rock was the subject of an earlier posting found here:

An unnatural number and proportion of triangular or rhomboid shaped flat stones, enough to demonstrate a pattern of human agency to me, were found in a sampling of the current bed of Shady Creek, Ansted, West Virginia.  The creek bed cuts 1 to 2 meters into the valley floor, exposing suspected crude tools and a couple of bird figure art artifacts.

click photos to expand

My interest in crude and opportunistic stone tools led me to observe patterns of human agency on non-tool artifacts and artifacts which resembled simple images of people and animals.  This led to my study of portable rock art.  In West Virginia, I was able to find an abundance of worked stone material and two possible bird head sculptures from a random stream-cut valley floor location in the hollow.  Thanks to Bill Niday family for allowing me access to their land.

The rhomboids were often made on tabular stone blanks using buffer technique according to James Harrod, Ph. D., at the web site  These tools may indicate the presence of Homo erectus or other early humans in America.  These articles are generally dismissed as "geofacts" by archaeologists.

The near 90 degree angle in the lower right corner of the plaque, almost as if the bird head is truncated by the corner of a "frame," makes it possible for the object to rest on a horizontal surface in a correct viewing orientation.  The head could have been inserted into a slit or gap on a log or wooden staff for display or as a wooden bird body the stone head was attached to. (click photos to expand)

20 August 2011

Worked flint resembles a crested bird's head and stands on a base to orient such a figure stone correctly

Worked flint resembles a crested bird's head, with an "eye" seen in this view, and stands on a nice and likely intended base to orient such a figure stone correctly
Artifact from Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio.  Find and interpretation by Ken Johnston.  One suspected artifact incorporating bird head imagery might be a fluke but with a couple of compelling birds having emerged from the Flint Ridge area in Licking County, Ohio, a possible motif here is worth further investigation and study.  Please also see the posting "Least Bittern" for what could be a similar execution of bird head imagery found in near proximity, 10 meters, from this possible crested bird head.  I have wondered if these simple nature based images could have been created for children to ponder and play with as "toys" or maybe they had another significance.  The possible intended bird imagery may be familiar to us, but uses and meanings are not attainable from rock art of the long past.

Artifact is pictured on a centimeter (cm) grid for scale.  The beak on this side is lined with quartz crystals.

The Flint Ridge Knap-in, the largest gathering of flint knappers in North America, takes place September 2, 3 and 4, 2011, at Flint Ridge, Glenford, Ohio, just east of Newark and about 1 hour east of Columbus. That's Friday through Sunday of Labor Day weekend.  Hope to see you there!

09 August 2011

Two birds depicted in flint and quartz crystals on figure stone from Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio

Two birds depicted in flint and quartz crystals on figure stone from Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio.  Artifact found and interpreted by Ken Johnston.

This side of the figure stone resembles a standing water bird, with its wing and tail raised away from its body, connoting movement.  The bird has a ground crystal eye, and a crystal head.  Note how the little sculpture stands upright on a pedestal-like base.

With scale

The blue circle in this photo indicates where the crystal was ground down to differentiate that spot visually from the rest of crystal in order to make an eye.  The eye is in the perfect spot to depict a standing, long-billed bird in left profile view.  As most all art like this, nature offered up the ideal starting form and with some modification this piece of chert was brought to life.

In this position, the same artifact would never be recognized as an art piece worked on a micro-carving scale to depict two separate birds.  However, once the birds are recognized, this is a great view of the work to remove stone material to define a bird's beak.  The area of grinding to remove quartz material is seen highlighted in blue marking on this photo.  Click photos to expand views.

Watch this short video of this beautiful flint and crystal bird sculpture rotating slowly on a display turntable.  The video is a little fuzzy but combined with the photos will provide a good sense of what this figure stone is like in three dimensions and how much the crystals catch the sunlight.

Crude cobble tool may have been modified to exploit shape to make a head and face figure stone

Crude cobble tool may have been modified to exploit shape to make a head with face sculpture.  Find by amateur archaeologist Sherry Hill near the Doe River, Carter County, Tennessee. Click on photo to expand detail.
Sherry Hill identified this as a possible crude cobble tool, in what would be similar to the tradition of Oldowan technology, taking a river cobble and making a couple of breaks to create a sharp working edge.  In addition to the focused flake removal here, it looks as if a face may have been created to take advantage of what the artist may have seen as a shape suggestive of a human head, with a serendipitous forehead and chin. The eyes may have been worked and the nose bridge between them was left alone and not ground away like the eye sockets.  The mouth area appears to have focused percussion to create visual differentiation of the stone in that place. 

This side appears to have wear indicating this flat, smooth, side was used for a rubbing type activity, as would be expected in food processing.  Maybe the face icon was incorporated into this tool so it could be seen and used in daily life. 

This kind of facial representation may indicate and expression of the lower to middle Paleolithic motif of "predator bite out of head" (Harrod, 2010).  So, the flaking to create the tool working edge is also the "bite" in the stone "head."  This same kind of mask stone is seen in a painting in a link on the right panel) to a Jan Evert Musch (archaeologist published on iconography) illustrated biography.

In the 9th painting here, the artist interprets some of the artifact types Musch has identified and one can see an illustration of a stone face, bite removed, like the one seen here.

Thanks to Sherry Hill for submitting her finds so they can be appreciated on!

07 August 2011

Alexis Bousiges of France interprets human face and mammoth icons carved on suspected fossilized mammoth tooth from near Calico Early Man Site, Barstow, California

Interpreted as a fossilized (baby mammoth) tooth with a carving of a human facial profile and a mammoth figure by Alexis Bousiges of France.  The width is roughly 6cm.
A possible mammoth figure is seen in the top photo in this portrait view, where the trunk is a rounded off vertical rectangle with diagonal lines on the right side of the piece with one eye divot inside the trunk line and another eye divot to the right, outside the trunk line.  The human face may be taken as emerging from the belly of the mammoth or as proboscidean foot imagery.
The suspected artifact is from the Mojave desert near Barstow, California.  The find location is near the former, Pleistocene, Lake Manix and relatively near the Calico Early Man site. 

Here is a video presentation of this piece from Alexis Bousiges

Here is a link to Alexis' blog with this and additional pieces from the Barstow, California, locale.

Calico Early Man Site lithics and a great book on peopling of the Americas issues in recent archaeological history:

Fossils from Pleistocene Lake Manix

Interpretation by Alexis Bousiges.  Thanks to Alexis for letting me share her photos and video on

02 August 2011

Columbia River valley fish sculpture may have been inspired by wavy inclusions in the rock material

Fish sculpture from Irrigon, Oregon, Columbia River valley may have been inspired by wavy sedimentary inclusions in the stone material itself.

Found and hypothesized to be humanly flaked reduction by Dennis Boggs, Boardman, Oregon. The artifact is interpreted as an intended fish sculpture by Ken Johnston after examination and study. The fish stands upright on a perfectly flat "belly." It also stands, albeit precariously balanced, upright on a short, perfectly flat, "tail," hinting toward human design in the piece, not just the hands of Mother Nature.

Please note the possibility of an eye and side fin as being depicted at one time in a dark pigmented material once in contact with this stone

Click photo to expand view to see wavy inclusions in the stone material which may have inspired the artist to make a fish.

View from above as the artifact stands upright on its flat belly

The fish sculpture is remarkable in that the base of the tail is at at a near 90 degree angle and the fish actually stands upright on the base of the tail in an anthropomorphic head and neck shape.

Click photo to expand
This is the same photos as the one above, only with mark-ups indicating possible residual material on the rock which may indicate a representation of a human face in a pigmented substance painted on this sculpture. The rounded upper eye orbits are also in contrasting surface relief on the stone.

Water-like waves in the rock material shown up close. It is hypothesized the waves were recognized as significant in pre-history and inspired the artist to make a water creature, a fish, out of the stone material.  The fish seems to have some salmonoid qualities and may have been representative of a particular fish species from the nearby Columbia River.  
Click photo to expand view to see these little waves up close.  Nature provides the starting ideas for many portable rock artists of the past.

01 August 2011

A petrified wooden polymorph ape-sculpture from Indonesia (Java)

A petrified wooden polymorph ape-sculpture from Indonesia (Java) 

Jan van Es of The Netherlands writes on his web site:

"The measures of this ape head are: height 18 cm; width 17 cm; thickness 8 cm; weight 4½ kilo. It’s extremely heavy, considering the measures.

In 1991 I bought in Roermond (Holland) in a little shop a piece of fossilized wood (it was presented like this), but I saw immediately a clear ape head. Because the ape item from the pitch in Pampau was presented by Mrs. U.Benekendorff as a new addition in the sculpture series, I thought this ape head a hot item. I asked the owner of the shop about this piece of wood. He told me about an acquaintance in Indonesia, from Java, who let children search for minerals and fossils in ancient riverbeds (he used to pay them f 1,- for a good fossil or mineral).

This polymorph ape head had been presented 4 x in expositions of several collectors, including present writer. Typological this piece fits in the sculpture-sequence: male portrait – sitting mother or ape portrait – sitting ape mother. I frequently notice these images besides (also frequently) females riding on the back of animals, like Europe on the back of a bull (Zeus). Because the ape images are turning up at several places in the world, this ape portrait seems to me a suitable piece in the jig puzzle of sort (species), source, period, interpretation and presentation. Ambiguous aspects in an ape portrait, e.g. the skull of a chimp but the snout of an orang-utan, can be an indication of a (geographic) connection to the African continent and Asia. This ape head for instance has a resemblance with a male chimp (and “en profile” with an Australopithecus), but upside down one can see an ape (mother) with a long snout. For many years I’ve been collecting a typology of male portraits and sitting females (in one sculpture), of which the male portraits were to be seen on the bellies of the females. I found this item also in human-animal sculptures.

When I saw this ape head I immediately had Dr. Eugene Dubois in mind, a professor from Amsterdam, who found in 1890 and 1891 fragments from skeletons in Indonesia from a species, which he called at that time the Pithecanthropus."