Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations

24 June 2012

Ohio Paleolithic point has "pair of eyes" like Siberian bird figurine

Coschocton County, Ohio, Paleolithic point

The two indents in this point with pre-Clovis morphology (Cactus Hill type similarities) raise the question with respect to a possible owl image, "A pair of eyes or pareidolia? Did someone in Paleolithic times symbolically give this point the deathly stealth of an owl by animating it with a set of eyes?" 

I located an analog identified as a bird figurine, presumably also an owl because of the forward looking eyes. It is in M. A. Kiriyak's Early Art of the Northern Far East - The Stone Age , page 57, figure 28, artifact 1, from the Tytyl' V site. There is also a bone point carved with eyes and face in the same book from another Siberian site.

A Russian Siberian bird figurine with "eyes" like the Ohio point

Collectors of American Paleolithic artifacts should carefully examine their points for indents as are seen here. Other examples may help answer the question about possible symbolic use of this pattern to express owl eyes. Use of the indents for hafting purposes would need to be ruled out, but the Russian example does not look like it would have been hafted the way the Ohio point would likely have been.


23 June 2012

Maryland find identified as like a laughing human face cartoon by artifact and fossil hunter Mark Jones resembles some Neanderthal models

Mark Jones find and photo, Piney Point, Maryland

Mark is an avocational archaeologist and a fossil hunter, so he is accustomed to assessing worked and natural rocks. Mark determined this piece has been slightly worked, so this is likely a natural stone which was found and recognized as resembling a laughing human and then enhanced. The reverse side is flat with no significant features. The piece has a polished patina which may indicate prehistoric handling and wear. It is approximately 4cm tall. It seemed to resemble a cartoon-like, laughing, human face. I noted some reconstructions of Neanderthals had similar looking smiling faces.

Click photos to expand

Mark Jones find at Piney Point, Maryland

Reconstructions of a few hominin heads and faces are available in this Daily Mail article.

Mark's "Kissy birds" figure stone and photograph was the first subject posted on this blog.


21 June 2012

Three turtle head figures from three archaeological sites

Coschocton County, Ohio, find by Dave Boucher, identified by Dave as a snapping turtle head figure

Dave Boucher is a member of the Flint Ridge Chapter of the Archaeological Society of Ohio and brought this piece to our meeting the month after I gave a presentation to the group on the subject of portable rock art. Dave notes the eye hole is in the anatomically correct position, arguing for artificiality in this object. It was found at a late Paleolithic site according to Dave.

Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, Old Route 66 Zoo site, site #23JP1222, Missouri inventory OR66Z, is interpreted as a snapping turtle head by Ken Johnston of Note how this sculpture stands upright on a flat base in correct viewing orientation.

Mr. Dodd interprets a sitting bird figure, I think with tail at far left and head at upper right looking down, as if into "nest" formed by tip of snapping turtle's lower jaw. The general zoomorphic nature of many stone sculptures and the creativity of prehistoric artists often allows presentation of several figures depending on how one focuses visual attention on particular constructive visual elements. It is as if the art pieces are also optical illusions. To see other stone sculptures from this Missouri site (including a mouse/fish!!) enter ZOO into this blog's search box in the right side column.

Ken Johnston find, Licking County, Ohio, interpreted as a flaked snapping turtle head. (click photos to expand). Part of the stone rind, or cortex, is visible where human flaking action did not remove it. This shows the newer chipped areas of stone and the older parts of the original stone surface.

Licking County, Ohio, figure with scale

Looking into the snapping turtle figure's mouth: the bifacial nature of the flaking on this piece is evidenced in this perspective


18 June 2012

Horned caprid's head image identified on Ohio hoard #7, flint and crystal owl sculpture, is similarly described on rock engraving from Gourdan, France

Horned caprid's head image identified on Ohio hoard #7, flint and crystal owl sculpture, is similarly described in a rock engraving from near the Grotte de Gourdan, France. The animal's head is about 6 x 2cm (click photos to expand and compare)

Prehistoric French engravings of animal figures. Number 3 is described as a "Saiga antelope on a stone from Gourdan"

(b. Aubigny, Ardennes, France, 1827; d. 1906)

The Saiga antelope was also found in Siberia, Beringia and Alaska during lower sea levels in the last ice age. The French and Ohio images are from the same perspective and involving the same key parts of a horned caprid's head. Perhaps this was a common way to indicate these animals in stone.

Buckeye lake sculpture hoard #7 of 7, flint and crystal owl shown with horned caprid's head highlighted in the oval and a possible image of a feline face leering from above highlighted in the circle. This feline visage seems to be a serendipitous inclusion in the flint material, including crystal cavities as eyes. It may have been a recognition of this "lion" which inspired the placement of a prey animal, the Saiga antelope, which requires several actions to modify the flint surface to produce the shape and image. In the earlier posting about this sculpture, a bird in flight at its eye and a still bird at its beak were described. Those birds, and the lion and antelope images illustrated here, may hint toward a "predator and prey" theme in this polymorphic piece.


15 June 2012

Microart expression of human left facial profile carved on a quartz pebble

Microart expression of human head in left facial profile carved on a quartz pebble.
Avocational archaeologist Allen Deibel find, Mahoning County, Ohio

Please compare the Ohio artifact on the right to the one on the left, a right facial profile, find by Nadia Clark, Prescott, Arizona. They may be representations of similar idealized forms, influenced by the same, or related, cultural traditions. (click photos to expand).

Regarding Homo sapiens neanderthalensis facial structure from fossil skull data is this description from TalkOrigins: "Like erectus, they had a protruding jaw and receding forehead. The chin was usually weak. The midfacial area also protrudes, a feature that is not found in erectus or sapiens and may be an adaptation to cold."


13 June 2012

Newly designated site 23JP1222 human head sculpture is similar to example identified in Italy by Paleolithic art author Pietro Gaietto

Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, "Old Route 66 Zoo" site, Smithsonian convention #23JP1222, Missouri Archaeological Survey Field Number (OR66Z)

This piece was found in the context of dozens of other sculptures and some stone tools. Here are three links to prior postings of art pieces from the "Old Route 66 Zoo" site identified by Dodd and Weber. This site has been surface collected and there are more sculptures and tools still in situ which are available to archaeologists for professional assessment. Messrs Dodd and Weber want to properly excavate the site and are actively seeking assistance with this.

4.14 Photo Copyright (c) Pietro Gaietto, All Rights reserved

"Fig. 4.14) Lithic sculpture. It represents a head of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis with neck, and look upwards . 
Size: Height cm. 15. It is worked in both the sides, almost full-relief. It has a pointed nape. It is a classic Neanderthalian.
Place of origin: Valle del Vero, Toirano, Savona, Italy. 
Material culture: Mousterian. 
Collection Museum of the Origins of Man. "

Illustration of the Italian sculpture Copyright (c) Pietro Gaietto, All Rights Reserved.

 Markups shown on the Missouri sculpture. Arrows show line of vision.

A brighter lighting perspective on the Missouri sculpture, seen with scale


11 June 2012

Maine zoomorphic sculptures, including a shark's head, identified by Warren K. Moorehead 90 years ago

A photographic plate of zoomorphic sculptures from Warren K. Moorehead's Archaeology of Maine, published in 1922

Bob Doyle, an avocational archaeologist and accomplished flintknapper living in Maine, indicated he thought these types of figures are likely from the "Red paint people," a Middle Archaic maritime culture centered in Maine.

Maine state museum archaeologist Bruce Bourqe has studied the Red Paint People. "Dr. Bourque will present an illustrated talk focusing on his decades-long research about the Red Paint People, a group of Native Americans who lived 4,000 to 5,000 years ago in the area between Maine’s St. John and Androscoggin Rivers. “I have been fascinated by the Red Paint People and their unusual culture throughout my career,” says Dr. Bourque. “They lived by the sea and hunted swordfish. They buried their dead in large, orderly cemeteries that included graves filled with a red powder, known as ocher, along with stone tools and bone ornaments of exquisite beauty and craftsmanship. After about 500 years, these people mysteriously vanished. Studying the Red Paint People’s artifacts provides an important, though still inconclusive view of an intriguing early American culture, centered exclusively in Maine.”

The artifact in lower right of the photo appears to be a shark head pendant, with a series of short, parallel incised lines serving as gill slits.


10 June 2012

Artist, naturalist and avocational archaeologist Allen Deibel describes proboscidean trunk imagery and "one eye open mask" in same piece

Allen Deibel find, Canfield, Ohio. Interpreted as a mammoth or mastodon head and curved trunk being viewed head-on.

Deibel writes to, "Most of us interested in Prehistoric American Art are aware of the incised Mammoth drawing on a bone found in Florida. I by no means am skilled enough to argue with it's authentication or those who did the tests. One reason it has been accepted as authentic is because it is representational.  

I have to point out that so much prehistoric art is anything but representational. In my experience the prehistoric art I am interested in is essentially abstract. Partial images combined and superimposed is the rule, sharing features like left eye, right eye or ear, nose, visages mainly, VERY rarely full bodied. There is a rotational aspect to this artwork that is important to the assimilation of the imagery. I have taken to referring to this art style as "Visionary." In this pebble, the rotational nature of this imagery is an essential element of expression. My belief is that this is not three dimensional but an arraignment of "postures" as the artifact is rotated from left to right. 

First the profile is more "heads up." The full frontal view is from a "slightly below " viewpoint. There is a point were its right eye is staring directly at the viewer. As it is rotated from the left, much like the "Cheshire Cat," carved elements fade away leaving a well defined right eye. The "Winking" or representation of one eye open, one closed is common. More than a simple drawing of an extinct animal done from life, Prehistoric Art of this Visionary style is a visual language conveying a message."

Allen presents this figure stone along with drawings of his interpretations.

A "one eye open, one eye closed" or "winking" mask as Allen describes 

Ken Johnston markup of the winking face mask. The mouth (red line) appears natural. A worked gash makes the right eye, and a lightly excavated square shape makes the left eye. The pebble has been rolled in the environmental elements and shows such wear.  

The "right profile" sketch on the left highlights the face mask features

A similar pebble was identified by Ken Johnston from the collection of Dennis Boggs, Oregon. It has natural features which were recognized as being "elephant trunk like" and was worked to add a mouth. It also is an example of a "winking mask."

Allen has made an amazing series of drawings of the figure stones he has identified in the Mahoning River Valley, Ohio. Most of the icons and visages Allen has identified are felines, so he calls his finds "The stone cat collection."  This is an excellent way to see how some of the images appear to a skilled interpreter who has been studying suspected worked images in stone for over a decade. Thanks Allen for your article and photos.


06 June 2012

Ohio mammoth figure stone is combined with human head similar to Washington find 2200 miles away

Ken Johnston find, Licking County, Ohio. A mastodon or mammoth figure in right profile view combined with a human face in left profile view, including radially incised lines.

This figure stone was found on the surface in disturbed soil at a light construction area. Crude tools and lithic debris supporting a former cultural site were also identified. The same site produced a couple of other suspected sculpted stones last year which were subjects of postings on this blog and worth reference here because of their contextual support for the prehistoric intent of an artist to create the imagery I am describing here in this piece. Several other pieces from this site were identified this Spring and will be seen here in the future.

This piece demonstrates a combination of proboscidean imagery with human head and human facial profile imagery as is similarly seen in the posting just prior of the find of Jim May, at Wahougal, Washington. The Ohio find and the Washington find are separated by 2,200 miles, including the Rocky Mountains.

The human mouth line, eye and ear, along with the proboscidean's eye are marked up in this photo. The elephant's tail is also the nose of human face. The sloping trunk profile is seen in the contrast of light and shadow seen in the diagonal line in lower right. (click photos to expand and compare)

I identified what appears to be an expression of a further describable motif I detected on two prior figure stones posted on this blog. It could be named "lion atop prey animal." I highlighted the visual line of the bottom of the feline and its tail in this photo and added an eye for orientation to the animal. The ear and the nose and mouth of the cat are worked features in the stone. The nose and mouth of the lion is also the eye of the elephant. The material is sandstone and it is weathered by time in the elements.

The lion figure head resting on paw as viewed from the reverse side of the stone, like the "Spinx" position.

Side two of the figure stone has two deeply incised lines intersecting and terminating at their intersection to create a distinct "v" form. These markings support the artificiality of this piece.

View from the hilltop site which produced this figure stone. Looking west across the Licking Valley from the western edge of the Appalacian plateau.


05 June 2012

Human face profile sculpture identified by Jim May also includes a mammoth form, a second human face at its posterior, and a bird

Jim May find, Washougal, Washington, mouth of the Columbia River Gorge. Human left facial profile with mouth agape. Scale is in inches.

I noticed at this orientation, a mammoth or mastodon form in left profile may be seen. Its forehead is in the upper left with a semi-circular carved eye. (click photos to expand view)

To further support the idea of an intended mammoth form in this sculpture, an anthropomorphic face can be seen on the posterior of the mammoth. Here, an eye and a red mouth line have been added on top of a concavity and an incised mouth line in the stone in order to highlight them. A face at the posterior of animals and birds in sculpture is a known motif in figure stones described by Alan Day, seen on this blog and described by Pietro Gaietto of Italy.

A bird in right profile view atop the human head. Eye markup added to orient figure. The "bird at crest of head" iconography has also been described by Alan Day, site 33GU218 located on his property, Day's Knob, in Guernsey County, Ohio. The bird's posterior and the human's nose are the same element in the stone. The bird and the elephant also share the same eye. Please note the continuation of the carving lines to create a feature below the beak highlighted in white, beyond the point where they intersect, showing two, confident, stroke actions by the artist to execute the pointy feature.

A possible interpretation here of the shared human nose and bird posterior, as indicated by the arrow in the photo, is "the human breath of life becomes bird waste" as a symbolic representation of funerary practices in which birds are utilized to dispose of human remains.

This close up of the form at the beak of the bird shows a possible anthropomorphic head with face details. Alan Day has also described the human form at the mouth of the bird in figure stones from Day's Knob, Ohio. See Jim May's Facebook album link titled "Small faces," and showing some of the small carved faces Jim identified on additional finds at Washougal, Washington.