Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations

26 June 2015

Acoustic resonance stone horn from the Arkfeld Site provides an extraordinary opportunity to hear the music of the distant past

Acoustic resonance stone horn from the Arkfeld site provides an extraordinary opportunity to hear the music of the distant past (30cm). It may be the oldest known stone musical wind instrument in the world.

In this video Adam Arkfeld demonstrates the acoustic resonance stone horn musical wind instrument he identified and has experimented with at Clear Brook, Virginia. Arkfeld's discovery of the instrument and replication of its use provides an extraordinary opportunity for us to hear the musical sounds of the distant past.

Arkfeld thinks the dark and shiny patina of the horn is evidence of heavy handling by human hands over a long period of time in prehistory. It appears to have "lip wear" around the mouth piece.

The art and tools at the Arkfeld archaeology site suggest a Pleistocene age for the site and this may be the oldest known stone wind instrument in the world. Some dated examples of wind instruments made in bone exceed 30,000 years BP, but portable stone acoustics seems much less common. I have not been able to locate record of another example of a naturally advantageous portable stone which has been humanly modified to create an acoustic wind instrument.

The people at Arkfeld Site were masters of limestone lithic technology and were able to exploit it to make the entire range of stone tools they needed, along with many art objects and now we know: musical instruments. This artifact speaks to the durability of the ancient peoples at the site and their profound intimacy with the natural materials available to them.

Side 1 with mouth piece

The mouth piece was enhanced by stone removal and accepts human lips perfectly

Side 2. A cupped or flat hand on the side opposite the mouthpiece allows one to manipulate the sound vibrations from the horn. The stone appears to have been modified to optimize air flow and vibration qualities.

The wind vent and sound holes illustrated, click photo to expand. The sound hole 1 has a shape reminiscent of the f-shaped sound holes found on violins. Sound hole 2 is connected to sound hole 1 but neither are directly connected to the wind flow from the mouth piece coming out of the vent.

"Though the purpose of sound holes is to help acoustic instruments project their sound more efficiently, the sound does not emanate solely (nor even mostly) from the location of the sound hole. The majority of sound emanates from the surface area of both sounding boards, with sound holes playing a part by allowing the sounding boards to vibrate more freely, and by allowing some of the vibrations which have been set in motion inside the instrument to travel outside the instrument."

Side 2. The stone has a look of two animal heads at the opposite ends looking away from each other. Adam Arkfeld says they somewhat resemble seals. Could it be a seal-horn?

22 June 2015

Limestone hare sculpture sniffs the breeze

Limestone sculpture "Hare sniffing the breeze"

Limestone hare sculpture find by Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber, The Old Route 66 Zoo Site, #23JP1222, near Joplin, Missouri. Found among scores of iconic stones in a concentrated area on private property still open to archaeological investigation by qualified professionals.

19 June 2015

"Advanced Denisovan" bracelet at 40,000 years BP claims have been overhyped by many

A stone bracelet from Siberia's Denisova Cave, claimed to be 40,000 years old due to dating of soil and made by Denisovans because of a pinky finger bone and two teeth found in the same soil layer. Neither claim is proven and requires further research at other sites to corroborate the possibility.

"Near one of the cracks was a drilled hole with a diameter of about 0.8 cm. Studying them, scientists found out that the speed of rotation of the drill was rather high, fluctuations minimal, and that was there was applied drilling with an implement - technology that is common for more recent times."

The significance of the “Denisovan bracelet” is not the disbelief of the establishment that Denisovans were capable of such stone working technology but that the claim has been given fact-like status in the popular media and even in this Pleistocene Coalition News (PCN) article. At this time, we only know this could perhaps, possibly, be the oldest known jewelry of its type.

"The institute's deputy director Mikhail Shunkov suggested that the find indicates the Denisovans - though now extinct - were more advanced than Homo sapiens and Neanderthals." This suggestion is preposterous and not supported by anything but the archaeologist's desires.

The bracelet is not attributable to Denisovans with any degree of certainty. There is no such thing as a “Denisovan layer” at 40,000 B.P. when we know there was breeding between Denisovans and Homo sapiens sapiens. They were in fact co-existing and more, so the presence of a Denisovan bone does not exclude the presence of Homo sapiens sapiens if we accept the 40k soil date as equal to the bracelet date.

Further, there is evidence of Homo sapiens sapiens occupations over thousands of years in the Denisova Cave until as recently as the Middle Ages. And "... researchers have suggested that Neanderthals, H. sapiens, and a third group of genetically distinct hominins (the Denisovans) inhabited the Altai region at the same time some 40,000 years ago."

Siberian archaeologist Anatoly Derevyanko merely believes the layer was not contaminated by Homo sapiens sapiens. There is no way to prove this or to exclude the possibility the bracelet and ring were not deposited by later intrusions into that soil layer such as with a burial of someone wearing them both. Because stone bracelets like this have never before been associated with soils or cultures anywhere near 40,000 years old, archaeologists have a further burden to demonstrate other examples before claiming anything more than pure conjecture. No hard conclusions can be made based on this single find.

Archaeologists now need to find use of easel speed drilling, boring tool type rasp, grinding and polishing with a leather and skins of varying degrees of tanning as used on this bracelet in a “Denisovan layer” somewhere that pre-dates and excludes Homo sapiens sapiens. Then we can discuss Denisovan jewelry. This is not likely to occur in our lifetimes.

I personally think it is very possible it is a Denisovan bracelet but think the highly speculative claim of the archaeologists only lays the ground for further research. I also think speculation is a healthy part of initial scientific inquiry and my speculations about portable rock art are prefaced by the word "suspected" in this blog's header. Sometimes, art is a difficult thing to prove.

However, speculation in the cloak of fact by archaeology officialdom needs to be questioned. In its desire to demonstrate early human intelligence and capabilities they have failed to qualify or be critical of claims regarding this bracelet. We simply do not know that this was a Denisovan bracelet or that it is 40,000 years old and these should not be accepted or repeated as established facts.

For now, it's just an interesting possibility.

The archaeologists reporting the bracelet, the popular media and the PCN have contributed to a distortion of the human past by presenting the technologies used to make the bracelet as “advanced.” This is a highly judgmental and biased construct of these analysts and does not reflect any “undeniably high workmanship (PCN)” on any known material culture technology continuum.

Some early art collectors, scholars and students would be of the strong opinion that "more advanced" stone working technologies and concepts in art were present at several hundred thousand years ago and almost completely lost to us in our time. Luckily the internet has come along to allow world-wide uncensored exchange of photos and opinions by persons making these observations. From another and important perspective, the "Denisovan bracelet" may be seen as quite a juvenile, simplistic piece of work.

“It should be noted that many millennia would pass before modern man would again turn out jewelry of the same quality and workmanship (PCN)” Does the PCN really believe this can be known?

“So what is the bracelet that has stood the archaeological community on its ear? It’s (sic) physical appearance shows that it is something that most any modern woman would be proud to wear (PCN).”  This only furthers the distortion of this artifact in the greater archaeological context and seems to value the artifact more because it is like something we are familiar with. Value judgments like this should be culled from anthropological presentations.

The archaeologists present a modern copper bracelet next to the purported “Denisovan bracelet” in their media release photos (photo above) which also distorts its technological and cultural context and can only be present as a rhetorical device to show us how much those Denisovans were just like us.

The hardness of the Denisovan braclet stone approximates that of wood on the Mohs scale. It seems possible the same technologies could have been in use on wood for a very long time and we just happened to have been given a glance at a wood technology applied to a highly rare stone material procured by the maker. What if the Denisovan bracelet is a freak? Maybe we need to see examples on harder stone, more like the known Neolithic examples, in a Denisovan context before such direct comparisons of lithic technologies may be properly made.

It is time for archaeologists to adopt a more honest and taphonomically logical approach to these kinds of discoveries and to strive for an emic perspective rather than falling into an etic, even judgmental one.

In conclusion, there is not enough archaeological data or knowledge which should allow the publishing researchers or the PCN to draw the conclusions they have. The PCN article title is "Advanced technological skills in early human groups is still resisted." Maybe this resistance is because it is not proven in this case.

Proposed "goal state model" after a kind of taphonomic logic of criticism is applied to the "Adavnced Denisovan" bracelet. Click photo to expand and view.
Disclosure: I was perturbed by the archaeologists' publication, then the mainstream media reports. Then the PCN chimed in and I felt the topic should be addressed with a more critical eye. The PCN has published a couple of articles I submitted to them over the years and I link to two at the top of this page. I enjoy the PCN immensely and am very thankful for the extraordinary volunteer efforts of its publishers and editors.        -KBJ

15 June 2015

Arkfeld Site "Sitting Mammoth" sculpture from Clear Brook, Virginia

"Sitting Mammoth" (6.5 cm)
Adam Arkfeld find, site #44FK732, at Clear Brook, Virginia

As far as I can determine, the Virginia Ice Age Arkfeld Site has produced more mammoth sculptures than any other archaeological site in the world.

Photo of a sitting elephant for comparison of the sitting proboscidean forms.

13 June 2015

Two more standing bird sculptures from the Arkfeld Site this week makes a flock

Two standing bird sculptures, Arkfeld Site, Clear Brook, Virginia. Note the wing depictions on the backs of both birds. Prepared for flight.

At the ends are the two sculptures featured in the second posting prior to this one. In the middle are the featured sculptures.

A petrified wood raptor sculpture from the Big Dry Creek watershed, Westminster, Colorado

Petrified wood raptor sculpture
Chris Schram find, Westminster, Colorado

11 June 2015

Arkfeld Site bird of prey sculptures

"The Arkfeld Raptor"
Adam Arkfled find, Clear Brook, Virginia, Site #44FK732

Another bird of prey sculpture from the site, looking straight on

10 June 2015

Centipede Rock Ranch Site near Austin, Texas, reports iconic finds in concentrated numbers near an insect fossil outcrop

Flint fish figure with "eye" on a point found by Texas Rancher near Austin

"I found this montell point which are one of the most popular arrowheads in Texas. They aren't as commonly found as say a pedernales but they aren't rare either. They are one of my favorites and supposedly date back 7,000 years. Anyways, this ancient knapper made this Montell into a perfect fish! Everything is spot on to resemble blue gil/sun perch even the top spiny spikey fins on the top and the eye is perfect."

Ken Johnston interpretation of a possible human head left profile image in the middle of the artifact. Was this human likeness noticed in prehistory? Perhaps. Was it intentionally worked to tease the image out of the stone? Perhaps. Did it inspire an artist to make a fish figure of an arrowhead? Perhaps. Could this piece represent the fish and fisherman? Perhaps. Only by exploring these possibilities and setting the stage for future examples can we learn about portable rock art.

PAC-MAN like zooanthropomorphic stone identified by Texas Rancher

Texas Rancher writes: "This is my favorite one so far. There's a buffalo with his head pointing right. I also think there might be a bear facing the other way but I'm not certain. I believe the indention made on the buffalo's face is not an eye rather a horn - if you zoom in and look closely - it's in the shape of a horn (more of a tear drop shape rather than a round circle.)" 

"What makes it such a cool piece is how the cortex was left on to show the buffalo's fur. The cortex is spot on with how a real buffalo's fur looks. Especially how the yellow fur goes all the way down to their front leg then kinda turns to a different color and then the hair stops just like on my rock and then their ass is completely bald. " Photo comparison by Texas Rancher.

"The photo of the smooth opposite side of the rock really shows the bear." -Texas Rancher.

05 June 2015

Arkfeld site at Clear Brook, Virginia, produces a mammoth-human depiction on a stone with a hemispheric cupule at its center

Mammoth-cupule stone identified by Adam Arkfeld, Site #44FK732

The mammoth form cupule stone also depicts a human facial profile facing right. The "bump" on the mammoth head serves as the forehead of the human and the mammoth's trunk is also the human's nose.

Drawing Copyright (c) 2015 Bradley Lepper, Ohio History Connection.  Lepper has traced a European cave art depiction of a figure with both human and mammoth qualities. This same fundamental combination is seen in this Arkfeld sculpture example. 

The presence of a cupule in the center of the stone is compelling evidence this is a portable rock art creation. Three mammoth form cupule stones have been identified in Ohio but the Arkfeld example is the first seen elsewhere.

Perry County, Ohio, cupule stone with depiction of a mammoth in left profile with "head bump" depicted at top

Fairfield County, Ohio, a plow-abraded stone at left has its main cupule preserved as well as two smaller cups on its poles. A mammoth form for this rock may be preserved as well as seen by the possible head bump feature.

(Pike County, Ohio find) I propose this is an abstract form of a mammoth body in left profile. The dimensions and proportions of the lines approximate the main form of the body of this animal. The cupule is located at the center of the mammoth.

The Arkfeld Site mammoth-human cupule is so remarkable because of the combination of the two art motifs: cupule and mammoth-human. In a posting last month I described another remarkable piece from Texas with a cupule, bison and bird combination.

04 June 2015

Flint Ridge, Ohio, figure has different bird depictions on two sides

Flint bird figure, Ken Johnston find, Flint Ridge, Muskingum County, Ohio 
 Side two of flint bird figure looks to be in the known motif of a water bird with its head turned back as if sleeping seen in multiple examples on this blog 

This flint bird figure shown with other bird figures found at the same location which have already been featured on this blog. The material is Vanport formation chert, Nethers variety, Muskingum County, Ohio.