Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations

29 August 2012

Could our Homo sapiens sapiens protruding chin have been culturally genetically selected to resemble a valued egg form, as evidenced by its exaggerated depictions and possible cosmic symbolism in some examples of portable rock art?

Find and photo by Mark Jones, at Piney Point, Maryland
A sculpted human stone head with an exaggerated, egg-like chin.

This is a polymorphic sculpture with a combined animal (horse) and human depiction. Mark is a fossil and artifact collector who does some underwater artifact collection at Piney Point. Mark independently identified the "one eye open, one eye closed/missing" Middle Paleolithic-based motif in his locale and has appreciated the subtlety of art finds, which he is able to distinguish from natural forms because of his rock and fossil knowledge. He identified this as an intentionally sculpted artifact. I was able to travel to Piney Point to visit and examine Mark Jones' collection of figure stones and I agree. This artifact is about 8cm tall.

Illustration of a horse head looking left, with turned neck, and a smaller second facial profile looking right. 

Art scholars sometimes refer to these as "nested images" because they are interwoven into another, larger, image form. They are like the "Hidden Pictures" exercise in the magazine "Highlights for Children"- they are not immediately obvious because one is struck by the overall image of the grotesque face- but they are meant to be found by the observer. This probably happened relatively quickly for humans contemporaneous to this sculpture as they had cultural iconographic context to inform them. For me, I did not notice the horse until it was pointed it out. The horse image on this sculpture form implies a likely Pleistocene age for the piece because horses became extinct in North America at the Pleistocene/Holocene transition, excepting some isolated Holocene stragglers.

Archaeologist Jan van Es of The Netherlands, with 40 years figurative rock art investigation experience, writes "... During all those years of research I noticed that, besides all forms nature offers in rocks, trees, fruit, animals etc., the egg-shaped rocks were considered as the most ideal kind. The big cosmic egg, the germinal force and origin of life, seems to have been a very important notion and turns out to be a main line in the images..." van Es has described the egg-like chin as dropping from the mouth, which also sometimes serves as a woman's vulva in an alternate view of certain sculptures he has identified. Please note how the woman's 'eye' location (little blue circle) also serves as the eye for the grotesque face depiction. This 'shared component' aspect is seen commonly in portable rock art.

"The Kempen Stone Face," Belgium, 450,000 to 300,000 BP

This was found in situ by archaeologist Jimmy Groen of Maastrict, The Netherlands. It is from the Belgian Kempen region and was recovered in soils dated 450,000 to 300,000 years before present. Ken Johnston interpreted this as a polymorphic sculpture with the 'chin as egg' motif.

Could our Homo sapiens sapiens protruding chin have been culturally genetically selected to resemble a valued egg form, as evidenced by its exaggerated depictions and possible cosmic symbolism in some examples of portable rock art?

We have examples of portable rock art which seem to invoke important cosmic egg symbolism in representations of the human chin, and an example such as this one which has a skull/mask with an egg-chin nested into a bird figure's head.

These examples and many more raise the possibility the "forward moving chin" seen in the development of anatomically modern humans, and also in the Neanderthals' fade to black, was the result of culturally mediated genetic selection* favoring this symbolic egg form and it being changed through time over our entire surviving genus by advantaged reproductive input from people with a lineage of this mating preference.  [*or our "self-domestication," a process described by Robert G. Bednarik in The Human Condition, Springer, 2011].

Display at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History

"Anatomically modern humans are distinguished from their immediate ancestors, archaic Homo sapiens, by a number of anatomical features. Archaic Homo sapiens had robust skeletons, indicating that they lived a physically demanding life; this may mean that anatomically modern humans, with their more gracile frames, had become more dependent on technology than on raw physical power to meet the challenges of their environment.

Archaic Homo sapiens also had very prominent brow ridges (protruding layers of bone above the eye socket). With the emergence of anatomically modern humans, the brow ridges had significantly reduced, and in modern humans they are, on average, barely visible. Another distinguishing feature of AMH is a prominent chin, something which is lacking in archaic Homo sapiens." (emphasis added).

AMH commonly have a vertical forehead whereas their predecessors had foreheads that sloped backwards. According to Desmond Morris, the vertical forehead in humans not only houses larger brains, but the prominent forehead plays an important role in human communication through eyebrow movements and forehead skin wrinkling." - Wikipedia

The human chin has long been an enigma to Physical Anthropology: Journal of Human Evolution, Jeffrey H. Schwartz and Ian Tattersall, The human chin revisited: what is it and who has it? (1999)

Maybe the answer lies in the realm of Cultural Anthropology, where its morphology was desired by certain peoples for ideological purposes. Perhaps the egg-like chin was perceived as a hierophany, a manifestation of the sacred.

Homo sapiens sapiens cum ovo mento

From site 23JP1222, "The Old Route 66 Zoo," Missouri #OR66Z 
Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find (click photos to expand)

(left) This is identified by Mr. Dodd as a large chinned human face sculpture looking right

(middle) Shows the mouth form in red and the eye as a white circle to orient one's perspective on this interpretation

(right and below) Depicting the human image upside down, one may see a perched bird image according to Dodd. Here, the chin is not just the egg, but the bird itself, as if a "time lapse" snapshot view into the 'egg/chin hatching into a bird' motif.

"Perched bird"
Sexual dimorphism in chins demonstrated by anthropologists in 2010 indicates sexual selection operators were indeed at work. However, the question remains. Why, not how, do humans have chins?

 Possibly, some of our ancestors had a sexual affinity
for a symbolic cosmic egg form 
in their mates' facial structures.


27 August 2012

Tira Vanichtheeranont of Thailand has found what could be a morphological analog to art in Western European and American "human/bird/egg" motif

Tira Vanichtheeranont find from the ground of the cave in Kanchanburi, Thailand
(click photos to expand view)

This piece with anthropomorphic visual qualities was found in the context of a life size stone face mask to be seen soon on this blog. Whether this object is a curated naturefact, or an artifact (human modified), is not as important as the context and similarities to other suspected culturally mediated forms from amateur identified prehistoric cultural sites around the world. This author thinks some artifactuality is present here, but difficult to detect because of its subtlety, the rock material, and its age since human deposition.

Italian example. Photo is (c) Copyright Pietro Gaietto, Museum of the Origins of Man

Italian Paleolithic sculpture author Pietro Gaietto identifies this as a sculpture of the human head. The "human/bird/egg" may be seen here from Italy. Gaietto suggests a possible depiction in these forms are faces of humans with the disease Ecromagaly. It currently occurs in a rate of 1 person of 20,000.

Thailand article with scale

Archaeologist Jan van Es of The Netherlands has described this form, and suggests that the facial edge line may also be interpreted as a female body outline, where the nose is the bust and the mouth is the vulva issuing forth life, in the form of the cosmic egg/chin.

Archaeologist Jimmy Groen of The Netherlands found this portable rock art face in the Belgian Kempen region in soils dated to 450,000 to 300,000 years before present. It has been interpreted by Ken Johnston as a polymorphic "art" piece which implies language and an ability to construct a 'world view,' or ideology, in Archaic sapiens. It also exquisitely exemplifies the egg/chin combination.

 Thailand face side 2

American example from Day's Knob, Guernsey County, Ohio. Find and photo and illustration by Alan Day, the landowner. This "human/bird/egg" motif was first described in America by Alan as seen in these two stone faces with zooanthropomorphic forms incorporated into the chin and many other figure stones from his site #33GU218 (Ohio archaeological inventory).

Here is a link to another recent posting from Tira's Thailand finds.


23 August 2012

A flint fish figurine surfaces in Ohio- while school of archaeologists swims away from investigation of figurative portable rock art because "It does not exist."

A flint fish figurine
Material is local high quality Coschocton blue flint

Detail of the fish mouth stonework which serves to disambiguate the figure enough to trigger its recognition as a fish. Mission accomplished for the artist, no more work required. This is not a "pre-form" of any kind, this is the finished piece.
(click photos to expand)

The mouth is depicted as being open on this side of the figurine
Mike notes it may have served as a scraper tool as well

(click photo to expand)


21 August 2012

Artists' rectification of natural forms: da Piacenza, Italy, finds by rock art investigator Luigi Chiapparoli suggest a vibrant local prehistoric tradition

da Piacenza, Italy, hand held rock art find by Luigi Chiapparoli

Luigi Chiapparoli investigates portable and fixed stone art at da Piacenza, Italy, where he found this left-front portrait.

Mother nature has delivered an inspiring form which required a few flake removals to "rectify" it, to disambiguate it visually with a couple of tweaks. The artist created the facial plane with top of nose,  and cheek, the right eye in sunken relief and the left eye in raised relief. A seemingly creative 3 level staggered rock surface treatment. The person's head and face has a female appearance to this author. The portrait may be taken as 'on the back' of a bird-like figure. The neck truncation may also be seen as the abrupt end to the tail feathers on the bird figure. Is this woman dead? Asleep? In mournful anguish?

The context Luigi has established suggests she could have been manufactured, or recognized and curated, in a culturally mediated tradition. Here is a direct link to a similar "face in anguish" from da Piacenza identified by Luigi in releif work on a large fixed boulder.

Are these faces of humanity pre-certified to so obviously have been formed and deposited by the forces of natural chaos to not be worthy of scientific evaluation, as mainstream anthropology would continue to have it? Or, could they provide prehistoric cultural information which is otherwise being forsaken at this time?

"Archaeologists must also realize the bias they may have. As anthropologists, they must strive to view a culture in relative terms to how that culture they are studying viewed the world. This is known as "cultural relevatism" where we can not judge a culture on the basis of our own values. Again we can turn to Jeremy Sabloff for some insights and a reminder of how important it is to minimize bias:
In recent years, some scholars have been casting a critical eye at how Western culture has influenced the thinking of archaeologists. Clearly, archaeologists are not unbiased observers of the past, collecting completely objective data about the archaeological record. It was not too long ago, for example, that Maya archaeologists did not "see" peasant house mounds because they were not perceived as "important." And we can be certain that archaeologists in the not-too-distant future will shake their heads in disbelief at some of the assumptions and procedures of contemporary scholars."
from- How is Archaeology Science?

Photo (c) Copyright Luigi Chiapparoli (ldp), All rights reserved.


19 August 2012

A chert bird figure stone, with tail feathering, from the confluence of the Licking and Muskingum Rivers, Ohio

 A chert bird figure stone, with tail feathering
Mike Raver find, Zanesville, Ohio, in the context of other art and tools and tool/art artifacts at the confluence of the Licking and Muskingum Rivers
Size is 6 x 8cm. (click photo to expand view)

A 90 degree rotation of the bird figure to the right yields a visage of a "one eye open, one eye missing" mask motif as seen in the figures Mike identified in the prior posting. The figure now becomes a flying bird-human icon, with legs/wings trailing behind.


Ohio collector Mike Raver independently describes known Old World "one eye open, one eye closed/missing" motif from river confluence site in Zanesville

Mike Raver finds, confluence of the Licking River and the Muskingum River, an Ohio River tributary, at Zanesville, Ohio.

Mike Raver of Zanesville, Ohio, has been artifact collecting for many years and a couple of years ago started noticing visual patterns in the worked material he was finding. The posting features just 7 of the many, many, pebble face masks Mike has found at the river confluence. These simple pebbles with naturally advantageous features were modified to the likeness of crude faces, many with "one eye closed and a moan" according to Mike. This interpretation is in line with a known motif in portable rock art from the Old World, according to the late German archaeologist, Walther Matthes as seen at, and in America as seen on this blog and from places such as the Day's Knob hilltop site, around 50 miles from Zanesville

Alan Day has investigated many of these objects, including this Licking County "one eye open, one eye closed/missing" figure stone found about 20 miles west of Zanesville with a unique story. Investigation and interpretation by Alan Day. Photo by Jonathan Gephart, Newark, Ohio, courtesy of Alan Day.

Mike is one of many careful observers of worked stone material who have also independently detected and described this motif in the Unites States. It is in fact prolific, being reported to this author from coast-to-coast by portable rock art investigators. Mike collects material which looks different from the natural background of rocks in his locale. He then examines pieces closer when he gets home. He finds a wide variety of tools and portable rock art artifacts.

Mike Raver has made some significant art and tool finds which will be seen in the near future on this blog.

Mike showing me part of his collection, holding a long, sharp tabular wedge. Many art pieces were present and will be seen here in the future. Mikes's blog is here.

Artifact from Germany as seen at for motif comparison to Ohio examples
Photographer © Walther Matthes. Matthes, W. (1969). Eiszeitkunst im Nordseeraum. Otterndorf, Gr: Niederelbe-Verlag; (1964/1965). Bild 62.

There is a micro crystal lined pipe in this stone which has been exploited as a "nose." It sparkles when holding the stone. The mouth area was worked to complete the form.

Tools found by Mike at the confluence of the Licking and Muskingum Rivers, Zanesville, Ohio.


18 August 2012

Acheulean style artifacts from glacial margin at Licking County, Ohio, ask if there could have been a technological persistence into Late Pleistocene or Holocene new world migrations

Sculpture #5 of 7 from the Buckeye Lake flint sculpture hoard was made using an Acheulean style of large flake removal of selected stone material to make this human head effigy in right profile view, with a bulb of force serving as the ear.

Artifacts at right and left are handaxes found 1/2 mile from the hoard sculpture #5

Reverse sides of the group. Artifact in center is an Acheulean handaxe from northern Africa, made by Homo erectus. It has a typical Sahara desert varnish.

Could there have been an Acheulean related technology persistence into some Late Pleistocene or Holocene new world migrations?  It does not seem likely given current Anthropology- produced archaeological knowledge.

This is a large cordate handaxe made from Black Hand Gorge sandstone, Licking County, Ohio, outcropped bedrock material. Ohio without glacial deposits offers mostly native sandstones, shales, limestones. This material was chosen despite the likely local abundance to the maker of glacial hardstone from Canada, broadly deposited in this area at the terminus of both the Illinoian and Wisconsinin glaciations at 125,000 and 20,000 years respectively. However, it is of suitable weight and with a staggered bit which could have been used in bone breaking to access marrow meats, among many possible handaxe activities.  

Side 2 of the Licking County, Ohio, giant cordate handaxe

The handaxe fits ergonomically, perfectly comfortable and workable in the author's hand.


16 August 2012

Stones worked using a buffer technique may be less recognizable expressions of the human aesthetic

A stone with edges trimmed into the desired shape using a buffer technique. From a hilltop site in unglaciated Licking County, Ohio, find by Ken Johnston.

The stone is shaped somewhat like a shell and small shell fossils are visible on one side. The creator may have noticed the fossils when making this artifact.

This shell shaped stone from an earlier posting was also worked using a buffer technique. It was found 1/4 mile away from the two pieces featured in this post.

This artifact was found in site association with the first one presented

Find by Houck, Knox County, Ohio, the county north of Licking County. It is attributed to the American Archaic period, from approximately 8000 to 3000 years before present. This is more familiar to our visual senses as created by a human aesthetic. The buffer technique which created the "rough looking" artifacts is not as familiar to us, but I argue the same human sensibilities of proportion and shaping are at work here, just expressed in different stone working technologies. The finely worked flint seems to 'feature' or be centered on the creamy, white stone inclusion. This featuring is similar to the what appears to be shell fossil featuring on two artifacts from the same locale.

An illustration of intentional shaping of this stone using five primary edge lines

Buffer technique illustration:

Illustration © Archaeologische Berichten. Wouters, A., Franssen, C. and Kessels, A. (1981). Typologie van de artefacten van de Chopper Choppingtool Complexen. Archaeologische Berichten 10:19-117. Elst, NL. Fig. 2.