Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations

25 October 2012

A bird in the hand

A bird in the hand

From Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio. Flint with this kind of coloration is like a canvas for the prehistoric artist and the rock material which includes crystals seems to have been highly valued. This artifact has bird-like visual properties and has a blade with suspected use-wear.  It is worth beholding as a beautiful example of the synthesis of art and tool.

The crystal-throated bird is a fine piece of rock art. Maybe the crystals are symbolic of the bird's song.

Side 2 with scale

The crystal beak of the bird could have served the functional purpose of being a leading edge, a kind of ripper, preceding the excurvate knife blade or being used on its own if wanted.


Gem hunter's "Just a volcanic rock" from Topaz Mountain, Utah, worthy of expert evaluation of artifactuality

Mike Youtz find, Topaz Mountain, Utah

At the web site, Mike Youtz writes

"Found this interesting Rhyolite rock while in Utah back in May 2011. We were wrapping up a two-week geology field class when we decided to visit Topaz Mountain in western Utah to do a little gem hunting. Instead I found this! Way cooler than a topaz in my opinion. At first glance I thought it was the petrified skull of some critter but nope, it’s just a volcanic rock. Enjoy!"

Any suspected portable rock art find outside of an archaeological context has a diminished value to our understanding of what transpired in the past. The find by Mike here is a good example of an object which is at least a mimetolith which could have been recognized and appreciated in prehistory, and possibly an artifact if it was altered in any way by the human hand.

Finds like this can be used to identify possible archaeological sites of significance where tools and other art objects might be found. An object with strong visual properties such as this should trigger an evaluation by archaeological science of the object itself and the context from where it came.

In my experience however, professional archaeologists would immediately make the same assessment as the gem hunter here did, and dismiss this jawless stone skull form as wholly a product of chaos, having no potential significance to a greater understanding of our human past. Sadly, these are opportunities lost for development of archaeological knowledge. Anomalies such as this skull deserve careful evaluation, not immediate dismissal. Only when archaeologists develop more specialized knowledge than the general public do they have any credibility in matters of portable rock art.

Some reasons why this object is a candidate for archaeological investigation:

1) a rounded aspect to the top of the skull which may be shaped by controlled flake removal
2) a larger left eye socket is in accordance with the known "one eye open, one eye closed/or missing" portable rock art motif seen in the Middle Paleolithic and seen in other American portable rock art objects of unknown age
3) possible flake removal under the left eye to shape the cheek
4) a symmetrical aspect to the stone which is aesthetically appealing


21 October 2012

Five flint artifacts with distinct bird forms, Licking County, Ohio

 Five flint artifacts with distinct bird forms, Licking County, Ohio

Side 1

Side 2

Side 1 and 2 of standing flake with translucent aspect

Side 1 standing upright and side 2 from above

 Side 1 and 2 of standing bird head figure

Side 1 and 2 of beaked bird head figure
 (click photos to expand)


19 October 2012

Prehistoric bling-bling: American Levallois finger tool incorporates natural crystal inclusion as a featured visual aspect

Ken Johnston find, Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio

Tools found near the Flint Ridge bird figure/chopper featured in the prior posting of 17 October include this Levallois-style reduction finger held cutter/perforator/borer.

The crystals appear between the index and middle fingers pointing skyward while the tools is used as designed. It may be thought of as a decorated tool, a finger axe with some "bling," which was likely recognized and appreciated by the maker in prehistory. 

The tool stands upright on its own "base" in this orientation, like one might expect from a sculpture.

Side two view.

Another less ostentatious Levallois style flake tool designed to be held in the fingers found nearby.

Illustrations of the designed thumb pads on these artifacts to facilitate one's grip.

These artifacts appear to be made using Levallois preferential unidirectional-convergent core preparation.

Pictured with a smaller, undecorated, Levallois-style tool found nearby (at right).


17 October 2012

A fine example of the "Topper chopper" bird motif described by Alan Day in Vanport flint material from Licking County, Ohio, about 50 miles from Day's Knob

Ken Johnston bird figure/chopper tool find, Licking County, Ohio
(click photo to expand)

A fine example of the "Topper chopper" bird motif described by figure stone investigator Alan Day, with bird's beak at far right. A human-like facial profile may be seen looking left from the bird's tail feathers at far left. Made from Vanport chert material from Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio, and found about 50 miles from the Day's Knob site, 33GU218.

Alan Day's illustration of weather worn carvings on the chopper/bird form he identified and photographed at the famous Topper site, North Carolina. Day has documented similar finds at Day's Knob, Guernsey County, Ohio, and from the Charles Belart collection of France. 

Side two also has a bird-like form. The artifact seems to have been made using Levallois type reduction technology. The prepared striking platform to remove this large flake is seen at the lower right edge in the lighter and grey colored flint.

There appears to be light use-wear between the peak of the quasi-human head profile on the left and the peak of the bird's profile head at right. So, this was likely a scraper or light chopper with deliberate iconic properties. This may hint at a ceremonial use of these bird form choppers and scrapers.

My own far-flung speculation based on rock art motifs is that these iconic tools were used in mortuary practice to deflesh the dead and prepare them for "consumption" by scavenger birds, who were thought to guide or facilitate a "rebirth process," by releasing or bringing back to life the deceased's spirit, and seen as human-like faces and skull forms on certain bird figure stones.

Bird with translucent crystal beak

In this orientation, a natural crystal lined hole in the flint may be taken as another bird's eye and the translucent white crystal area at far right may be taken as the bird's beak pointing down. At left, simple tail feathering is expressed in two colors in the flint work.


15 October 2012

"Strange shaped flint: rock art?" A possible Neolithic Belgian pierre figures identified by archaeologist Jimmy Groen

Find and photo by Jimmy Groen, The Netherlands, courtesy of Jimmy from his blog ARbannig

Groen writes, "The image above is representing a piece of local Hesbaye flint, found at the nearly the highest part of the hill named "Montagne St. Pierre" part of the community of Visé in Belgium.( location Lat.. 50.78192708669826 x Long 5.675597190856934) Visé Lanaye in Google Maps

This area, rich in flint, is known for large tool production zones from the prehistory, for the production of tools from the locally mined flint, so in the area  pieces of flint can be found easily. The local flint type is a rather coarse flint, probably mined at the location named Heyoule, this conclusion is based on the fact , the flint was found in the loess layer, so it has been transported at this field. Characteristics for this flint type are: very weak expressed bulbs ( because of the granulate structure) no rings of percussion and a dull appearance, if not patinated. During the production of tools, flint was mined from the cretaceous slopes of the Meuse river, for the production of tools. A raw flint core,  after eventual decortification, was prepared with a platform, to strike regular blades or flakes from , to get  blanks for the production of a large diversity of tools ( scrapers, knives, drills, etc.).

The flint piece, found in the field, has such a platform type, but the platform ( bottom side of the flint object in the picture below) was not used for the production of blades, maybe some flakes were taken of the nodule.  The flint piece is  remarkable and does not at all look like the usual, traditional ( often pyramidal) cores that were left over after blade- or flake debitage and sometimes still are found in the fields. Moreover, this not a debitage core, but  looks rather like some sort of  flint sculpture, maybe representing someone with a quiver with arrows...

This is reinforced by the fact some parts of the stone show a secondary retouch at some edges ( at top parts of the image), but this cannot be functionally. Step- fractions occur, maybe these are placed deliberately for sculpting the stone.

The assumed period for the production of tools from local flint in this part of  Mt. St Pierre is the Middle to Late- Neolithic, appr. between 4000 and 2600 BC.

Technical details:
Length = 7,6 cm
Wide = 7,8 cm
Depth = 2,8 cm

Preliminary conclusion:
A remarkable flint piece was found, with traces of limited debitage of flakes. Besides of this, the secondary retouch at two edges, would plea for the anthropogenic origin of the flint piece. This secondary retouch is not made for a functional purpose.The flint piece cannot be used as a tool ( like a tool core). It is quite well possible this is a piece of rock art (Figure stone, Pierre figures) or might have served as some sort of special object. The round form at the left could be the head of someone, and the triangle shape a quiver with arrows. This would make it a small statue of a torso."

-L. Jimmy Groen, Maastricht, NL

Ken Johnston illustration of possible image of a man's torso with a quiver pack on his back (Groen). On first impression of this object, I saw a rabbit head facing right. The Groen and Johnston interpretations of possible imagery may both be "valid" in the sense that art objects can have a greater meaning composed of parts of combined forms. For example, this figure may signify "a man rabbit hunting."

Now, one may use the Groen and Johnston interpretations to make another interpretation which is derived from a synthesis of the first two. Perhaps alternatively, the quiver interpreted by Groen may also be seen as a rabbit figure facing left on the back of the man. It may depict pre-hunt and post-hunt imagery, or two points in time, in one figure. (click photos to expand and compare).


14 October 2012

Another sleeping duck figure stone from Maine archaeological sites

Sleeping duck figure stone, Bob Doyle find and photo

Bob typically recovers artifacts from deteriorating undocumented archaeology sites in coastal Maine.

"hi ken and all...
here is another...made from quartz. a beautiful carving, delicately created. it is under 25 mm across.
i have recovered several more of these ducks. one that is almost life sized.
all the best...bob"

Thanks Bob!

Nadia Clark of Prescott, Arizona, has also identified a sleeping duck figure stone from an art and tool context and has posted the image to her blog here.


Sleeping duck figure stone from "Old Route 66 Zoo" site in Missouri

A Missouri sleeping duck figure stone from 23JP1222

With eye and bill area highlighted for orientation to the image in top photo. The faint remnants of a possible pigmented image may be seen at left of the bill marking, in the tail area of the duck.


11 October 2012

Naturally perforated head effigy on a flake found in art and tool context, including a horse head figure, at Flint Ridge

A naturally perforated human head effigy on a flaked artifact found near a horse head figure and other figurative portable rock art and tools at a Flint Ridge quarry location, Licking County, Ohio. Finds and interpretations by Ken Johnston.

Human head and horse head facing left (with scale)

Left profile of human head retouched on a flake

Compare this human head left profile found 5 miles away to the general form of the Flint Ridge effigy's left profile seen above it. These may be similar iconic representations, with a somewhat recessive chin and mid-facial prominence, maybe even a head of hair. They may represent the same idealized human form, or they may represent a convention in human representation in their morphological similarity.

Human head flint effigy right profile view

A crystal lined natural perforation in the eye area of the figure may be used to hang the effigy and it defaults to a suitable viewing orientation. Perhaps this perforation was recognized and utilized to suspend the effigy or attach it to a cord. The artifact is lighted from behind as a lithophane in this photo which sets off its pink and clear crystal translucence. 

Colorful flint human head left profile view hanging from a cord in the autumn evening sun.

Close up of a flint horse head figure. In the bottom right is a depression worked into the stone which accommodates the thumb as if holding the piece like a horse head finger puppet.

Horse head figure side 2


09 October 2012

A sleeping duck pebble carving

A sleeping duck pebble carving
Bob Doyle find, Maine

Mr. Doyle is a naturalist, amateur archaeologist and master flintknapper from the Portland, Maine area. Bob has replicated the prehistoric creation of figure stones in both flint and coarse stone materials. He identified this pebble as a worked artifact, with very subtle removal of stone material to affect the final form of a sleeping duck, or waterbird. The overall shape is similar to a modern duck decoy. The head is at right, with a carved eye cavity. The duck's head is resting on its back, turned toward its rear, with its bill pointing left. The "sleeping duck" is a relatively common prehistoric portable rock art motif seen in Europe and America.

An example of the natural form which inspired the "sleeping duck" portable rock art motif


05 October 2012

Pigmented sculpture from central Texas combines bird, rabbit and human forms

Ronda Eldridge find, Bee House, Texas

The bird's head may be seen at left, in the middle the bird's wings serve as the ears of a rabbit with a smiling face (Ohio motif analog in flint) and at right is the profile of a human face with a ground and then pigmented (white) eye.

Ronda writes about her interpretation of the sculpture: "The 'bee' is a whopper with regard to size measuring out at five inches by almost eight inches across. I would say it easily weighs over a pound. What I see as an "eye" has a white substance inside of it. There are no other white areas on the entire piece. Bees have a significant history associated with the area and there is still a significant amount of vegetation along the creek here pollinated by bees. Of course, I am assuming it is a bee when I realize it may have represented some other winged creature.

The "duck" heads are almost as common as the ones that look like cardinals. I have seen wild ducks fly through here but in our recent drought years, they never stay long. It would have been exciting to see what differences in the terrain existed at the time these artifacts were created."

The only white part of the sculpture is the eye of the human. A human facial profile opposite the animal or bird figure is seen repeated again in this remarkable piece. Native American art scholars and archaeologists should be studying a piece like this, with black and white pigment residues available for scientific composition analysis.

(click photos to expand and compare)
Ken Johnston detected a smiling face image in pigment below the bird/bee wings/rabbit ears.

A broadly smiling, winking rabbit figure has been described from Ohio previously on this blog which lends support to this interpretation of "intentional pigmentation" of the mouth shape on the middle face on the Texas sculpture. Now I can suggest the "Happy rabbit" was an iconic art motif in portable rock art of prehistoric middle North America.