Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations

31 May 2013

Large feline face identified by Buzzy Boles

Buzzy Boles find, Laurens County, South Carolina

Note from Buzzy: "Possible large feline face (15cm wide and 18 cm long) found in the same creek bed and close to the large black mammoth sculpture. One eye open, one eye closed."

Several large feline head sculptures have been identified on this blog and Buzzy's find is consistent with them and found in the context of other probable portable rock art sculptures, including this mammoth/Harlan's musk ox combination sculpture in subtle relief.


25 May 2013

A two-sided oolitic chert mammoth sculpture featuring a crystal eye

A crystal-eyed mammoth sculpture, facing right in this view

This sculpted chert boulder was found near other zoomorphic flints along the shore of the former glacial terminus swamp now known as Buckeye Lake, Ohio. The largest creature on the landscape was captured in simple, slightly disambiguated, figurative portable rock art sculpture forms being identified by several amateur archaeologists in the United States and seen on this blog. This sculpture invokes two "visages of the mammoth," one from each side. 

Close up of crystal inclusion serving as the mammoth's eye. The material the sculpture is made of is oolitic chert from Flint Ridge, Licking County, Ohio.

Side 2 view of sculpted chert mammoth in profile now looking left. The trunk of the mammoth is the left edge of the stone here. The sloping posterior of the mammoth profile is on the right, with its butt being the right vertical edge. The sculpture stands upright in this orientation on a perfectly flat base.

BBC artist's rendering of a frontal view of a mammoth

The fixed outcrop source of the stone material is about 10 miles from where the sculpture was found.


19 May 2013

150 years ago: "Common sense tells us that the primitive people who made haches and tools were able to make figures..."

Licking County, Ohio, bird figure stone

1) this object is an undisputable artifact
2) this object has a consensus (generally agreeable) likeness to a bird
3) this object combines skilled flint working with skilled artistic interpretation of the bird form
4) this object was found in the local context of pre-historic stone tools
5) this object was found in the local context of other flint bird likenesses

One may conclude this object is a figure stone.

"Common sense tells us that the primitive people who made haches and tools were able to make figures... ...As to the Symbols and Figures, although I have gathered of these some types which may be seen at my house to-day, numbering about fifty analogous shapes on which the human work is evident, I have converted very few people, and of the number, not one Englishman. Why-they say to me-are you the only one who finds Figure Stones ? Have they never been found anywhere else than at Abbeville ?-and-mention one collection besides your own in which they have been seen ...To-day, Sir, your examples will be questioned, I do not say that I shall have gained my cause, but Truth will have made one more step, and will strike forcibly by coming from two sides."

    - From a lettter from Jacques Boucher de Perthes to Victor Chatel, Oct 20th, 1866

Side 2 with scale. The bird figure has a serviceable and/or symbolic graver tool feature as the bird's beak. 

The thickness of the bird seen from above as it stands on its edge


17 May 2013

"...certainly not a habit of nature"

Flint bird figure made of Vanport chert, Licking County, Ohio is one of several dozen identified by amateur archaeologist and blogger Ken Johnston.

"Patterson (1983) warns that subjective discussion should be avoided and observes that even natural damage can be described in explicit terms. He places value on recognising the patterns that characterise artefactuality including frequency:

'Even if nature can produce lithic objects resembling simple man-made items, nature is not likely to do this often. Therefore, the frequency of occurrence at a given location of specimens with similar morphologies is important in demonstrating probable manufacturing patterns. Production of numerous lithic specimens with consistent morphology is certainly not a habit of nature.'" 

Side 2 view


10 May 2013

Psychological "PAH triad" described by Bustamante et al. may have triggered the Stone Age artistic judgments which transformed mimetoliths into artifacts

Licking County, Ohio, sculpture find interpreted by Ken Johnston as, alternately, depending on switching one's visual attention, a lion head looking right and a one-eyed lion face looking straight-on

Flint and quartz crystals have been ground away around the natural crystal-lined tunnel which serves as the lions' eye. The eye may have been somewhat hidden before this action was undertaken by the artist. This same lithic removal activity was undertaken around the eyes and beak of the flint and crystal owl which was the subject of an earlier posting.

This is the bottom side of the artifact, a ventral flake surface

Optical illusion: in addition to the lion head looking right, there is a depiction of a one-eyed lion, a Paleolithic art motif described earlier on this blog. The one-eyed lion is looking at the viewer straight on. It is as if the lion looking right has turned its head toward the viewer and revealed itself as having only one eye. I have made a mark up of the photo adding a black oval as the lion's missing left eye in order to orient one to this second face. The nose, cheeks, mouth and chin area of this lion's face have been worked to clarify the desired end form of the artist. (click photos to expand and compare).

When mimetoliths inspire artistic activity, the large amounts of surface area which remain untouched, or are only lightly touched, often makes it difficult to notice or detect artifactuality.

One of my purposes for this blog is to elevate mimetoliths, or rocks that look like things, to equal status of artifacts when they are found in archaeological contexts. Also, statistically large numbers of mimetoliths in a concentrated area may also be used to identify archaeological sites.

The judgment to pick up and transport a stone object, or manuport, to one's location constitutes an action which we may conclude bestows the object with a kind of artifact status even though the object itself has not been modified. Its location and context has been modified to bring it into the human activity sphere. That is the business of Archaeology.

Bustamante et al. may explain why these judgments to collect, and often modify, mimetoliths were made by prehistoric peoples. Below they lay out the definitions for the "PAH triad" which they address in their paper "Search for meanings: from pleistocene art to the worship of the mountains in early China. Methodological tools for Mimesis.

"-Pareidolia (psychological phenomenon): involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Psychological phenomenon related to the Rorschach test.

-Apophenia (psychological phenomenon): that describe the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined by Klaus Conrad (1958).

-Hierophany (psychological phenomenon): the perception of a manifestation of the sacred.

-PAH Triad (psychological phenomenona): Pareidolia-Apophenia-Hierophany working simultaneously, is changeable among diverse individuals. The PAH triad is part of the unconscious mechanisms inherent to every human being, present in the primary stages of the early development of the human conscience." - Bustamante, et al., 2011.

Of importance in the taphonomic logic process, the archaeological interpreter and his audience are also subject to the PAH triad. The portable rock art interpreter is subject to criticism by his audience as "fanciful," while his audience seems to ignore the universally important role of such "fanciful" observations by our equally human predecessors.

Side 2 and bottom of artifact seen with scale

This is the second flint and quartz crystal lion's head sculpture from Licking County, Ohio, featured on this blog, and one of several large portable rock art lion heads.

Reconstruction of Panthera leo atrox, the extinct Pleistocene North American Lion, with a relatively elongated head like the lion depicted in the Licking County, Ohio, sculpture.


03 May 2013

Colorado head sculpture with muzzle-like nose falls into R. Dale Guthrie's illustrated gradient of large mammal combined with human features in Paleolithic art

Petrified wood artifact found by 29 year collector Chris Schram in Westminster, Colorado, near Big Dry Creek. It changes from horse head to human head as the figure stone is rotated.

"Many human faces in Paleolithic art look a little like those of large mammals, with an elongated nose or muzzle. These are my drawings to illustrate the character or flavor of this gradient"
(c) Copyright R. Dale Guthrie, "The Nature of Paleolithic Art," 2005, page 92

Orthodox Archaeology continues to overlook, ignore or deny the existence of Paleolithic figurative portable rock art in North America. Here, the art of the "mammoth-steppe biome" peoples of Europe and Asia as described by R. Dale Guthrie may be seen extending across Beringia to Colorado, USA. This possibility may be supported by the paper "The Mammoth Steppe Hypothesis: The Mid Wisconsin (OIS 3) Peopling of the Americas" by Steven R. Holen and Kathleen Holen to be presented later this year in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This polymorphic figure stone features images of the human/horse therianthropy described by Guthrie as originating in the psyche of the large mammal hunter, who "becomes his prey" in mind, spirit and movement, in order to be more effective. Change from horse to human through this transformational process is seen as the figure stone is viewed in left, center and right perspectives below.

View from left perspective: a simply beautiful horse head and neck figure

Chris Schram's figure stone in "center on view" with close up of a R. Dale Guthrie "center view" drawing which has been reversed here for a more direct comparison.

View from right side perspective is a human head figure. Gazing back leftward across the artifact from here, the observer sees the human head transform into the horse head.

Quite remarkably, this figure stone thus exemplifies Guthrie's "horse to human" art gradient by presenting horse imagery as one looks at it from the left and as one's viewing perspective moves toward the right, the imagery becomes more anthropomorphic.

Chris Schram interprets this sculpting work to expose the darker material along the back of the figure as representative of flowing hair, like a mane.


01 May 2013

Prepared core, bi-polar lithic reduction technology used to create bird sculptures

Bird sculpture found by Ken Johnston near Buckeye Lake, Licking Township, Licking County, Ohio

This bird was found within 100 yards of another bird sculpture which was manufactured the same basic way and seen in an earlier posting here. In the case of the other bird, nature did most or all of the preparation of the core with a potential bird figure, but the sculpture was separated from the core in the same way, resulting in a sharp edge around the entire perimeter of the ventral side of the artifact. 

This is a side view of the bird sculpture. It was attached to the core along the red line. The angled sides in green are the part that was prepared by the artist before the final bird sculpture was removed from the core.

This is the ventral surface that was separated from the core (the red line in illustration.) The entire perimeter edge is "sharp" because it was removed from a prepared core, just like is seen in prepared core tool manufacture.

This bird sculpture was also found at the same location as a bird head figure I posted last month, seen here.

On the flat, dorsal, side of the bird sculpture is another possible zoomorphic representation. It reminded me of the Shortnose Gar, a fish present in the Ohio River tributary system where the bird sculptures were found. This fish is unique in that it has a gas bladder to assist with flotation: a fish that floats in water like a bird floats in the sky. A gar nose at the tip of the bird's tail may be seen as another example of a motif described as "the breath of life emerging from the bird."