Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations

28 December 2015

A second mammoth and human combination sculpture from Hardin County, Tennessee

'Mammoth left profile with anthropomorphic face in lower left quadrant'
Jason Lamont find, Hardin County, Tennessee

As seen before from Jason's location, the mammoth and the human are sharing foreheads. This North American Paleolithic portable rock art motif is seen in several examples on this blog. The simple human face has an eye, nose and mouth feature in the stone. The mammoth has a ground eye in correct position. The sculpture stands upright in correct orientation.

Anthropomorphic face in left profile on the front of the mammoth

Faint traces of another face which may have been pigmented. I think it is a feline face where the mammoth's head bump and eye become the right ear of the cat. Its left ear is out of sight in this perspective.

Mammoth illustrated

26 December 2015

Homo heidelbergensis created a face on a tool handle by exploiting a fossil crinoid stem as 'eyes'

Homo heidelbergensis face on tool handle by exploiting crinoid stem fossil inclusions as 'eyes'

"Circa: 600,000 - 400,000 years B.P Made by Homo heidelbergensis. Found at Northfleet, near Swanscombe, Kent. The tool is partially bifaced and worked with a curved distal point, most of the tool remains cortical for grasping. This tool probably belongs to the Clactonian phase of the Lower Palaeolithic. It is in superb condition with clear working detail and even patination. Length cm: 8.5, Width cm: 3.5, Thickness cm: 4, Weight grams: 128"

I propose the human face icon in the top photo is created and included in this tool by the maker to add an enhanced visual dimension or animation to the stone. The nose and mouth features have been deliberately created to make a simple face on the edge of the tool where the two fossil inclusions become the 'eyes.' It appears the same crinoid stem is exposed on the two sides of the stone. It could be described as the known motif "decorated handaxe in the Acheulean tradition." Other examples also exploit fossils as facial features. The face is located on the functional handle of the tool which would come into contact with the fingers while the tool was in normal use.

The nose in this example is a regular circle which required focused directed stonework. The mouth is rectangular with a 90 degree intersection of lines.

Cultural imperatives may have suggested the tool maker select this stone for a tool because of the unique fossil exposure which could make for easy decoration of the tool edge with a simple facial likeness.

The November 2014 discovery of a shell from Java which had been engraved by Homo erectus has changed some mainstream attitudes regarding the possibility of art behaviors by early humans who in some circles are still characterized as ape-like. Just like the shell in the British Museum, we can look to current collections of "tools" to explore the possibility of the artistic inclusion of images and icons in these very old artifacts.

20 December 2015

Vietnam cave river stone head likeness of Shiva

'Shiva stone head'
Thath Chanuhacha collection, Bangkok, Thailand
Thath writes: Dear Ken, I just came back from holiday in Vietnam...This time I discovered a river stone from the area of Hoa Lu, Tam Coc or Halong Bay on land. The place is considered the most beautiful scenery of rice field in Vietnam. On a river trip by rowing a small boat and on approaching a cave I spotted a peculiar large pebble in the crystal clear water which is flowing into the cave. When I picked it up it turned out to be like Shiva head and the stone is very beautiful when reflected with sunlight... This face happens to be exactly in the style of the Champa's Shiva image.

Separately from Thath's interpretation, Ken Johnston illustration of a human head facing left split with a primate or hominin head on the opposite side in right 3/4 profile view. The approximate facial features have been added by the illustration to facilitate interpretation of the details of the two joined heads, a sculptural janiform. The sculpture may have been sharper at one time and become more water worn and visually ambiguous in the river flow into the cave.

The two-headed motif of the Vietnam sculpture is the same as the motif on this very recently featured Tennessee sculpture. In both, the more robust face with the brow ridge is seen on the right in 3/4 profile view.

Paleolithic art author Pietro Gaietto's conceptual illustration using skulls of a sculpture type juxtaposing an anatomically modern human head (at left) with an archaic type human head (Neanderthal, at right).

Gaietto's web site includes this information: "Sculptures of lower and middle Paleolithic are eight types:
1) human head
2) animal head
3) human head two-faced (bold added here for emphasis) 
4) animal head two-faced
5) human head joined for the neck at the head of animal
6) human head mixed to animal head
7) naked woman (Venus)
8) head of animal with human body.
"It is important to consider that the human two-faced head is not an imitation of nature, as it did not exist, but is an invention of the spiritual culture of humanity. All these eight types of sculptures appear in the Lower Paleolithic and are all linked to the cult, that is to religion." 
Link to Pietro Gaietto's Museum of the origins of man

A recent paper suggests the possibility that what we have thought of as 'archaic humans' survived until more recently than previously understood. December 17, 2015, A Hominin Femur with Archaic Affinities from the Late Pleistocene of Southwest China


The number of Late Pleistocene hominin species and the timing of their extinction are issues receiving renewed attention following genomic evidence for interbreeding between the ancestors of some living humans and archaic taxa. Yet, major gaps in the fossil record and uncertainties surrounding the age of key fossils have meant that these questions remain poorly understood. Here we describe and compare a highly unusual femur from Late Pleistocene sediments at Maludong (Yunnan), Southwest China, recovered along with cranial remains that exhibit a mixture of anatomically modern human and archaic traits. Our studies show that the Maludong femur has affinities to archaic hominins, especially Lower Pleistocene femora. However, the scarcity of later Middle and Late Pleistocene archaic remains in East Asia makes an assessment of systematically relevant character states difficult, warranting caution in assigning the specimen to a species at this time. The Maludong fossil probably samples an archaic population that survived until around 14,000 years ago in the biogeographically complex region of Southwest China.

14 December 2015

Tennessee River creek confluence site reports human head left profile with eye and with sets of parallel incised lines

'Human head left profile with eye and with sets of parallel incised lines'
Jason Lamont finds, Hardin County, Tennessee, along the Tennessee River

The reflective or sparkling inclusions in the stone may have inspired its use for an iconic sculpture.

This is a 'human/mammoth combination sculpture' where the two are sharing foreheads, a North American Paleolithic art motif described on this blog. There are two similar worked features in the stone to serve as the eyes of each. Click on the photos to toggle between the illustrated and non-illustrated versions.

When rotated 90 degrees left the human head profile becomes a mammoth profile facing left. This kind of optical illusion is achieved by focusing one's visual attention to see the desired image. The 'eyes' are the visual ques for each of the images. The idea of the human and the mammoth sharing foreheads was a significant one to some North American Paleolithic peoples.

Mammoth/human combination from France cave art, tracing by Brad Lepper

Eye, nostrils and mouth on head shaped stone

Worked stone heads from the site identified by Jason

Chert tool found among the art

Face with two eyes, nostrils and mouth, nested in the corner of this stone as if in the wide open mouth of a larger creature.

Depiction of larger creature (snake?) head left profile with the 'little head in its mouth'

11 December 2015

Smiling and scowling human head statue and hundreds of stone faces discovered in concentrations by Texas amateur archaeologist

'Stone head statue (smiling view)' 2 feet tall, 52 pounds
Becky Mills finds, Austin area, Texas

"My friend and I have found hundreds if not thousands of these in a couple of creeks close to where we live and are not sure what to do with them. We thought you may be interested." -Becky Mills

'Stone head statue (scowling view)'

Modified pebble-to-face

Modified pebble-to-face

07 December 2015

Missouri rock collector finds of stone faces are candidates for petrological examination for evidence of Stone Age human modification

'Human face with prominent brow ridge'
David Von Canon finds, west Missouri and Arkansas border area

These are candidates for petrological examination for evidence of Stone Age human modification. If Archaeology operated as a science, it would direct fair evaluation of finds such as these rather than summarily dismissing them. If people were modifying stones to create human face likenesses, the next questions are "who?" and "when?" and "why?"

The anecdotal density of the number of people in the Arkansas/Missouri area who report suspected portable rock art finds more likely reflects a regional pattern of a set of pre-historic culturally mediated art behaviors than a modern day regional propensity toward pareidolia.

02 December 2015

Head profile compatible with R. Dale Guthrie's 'gradient of human and animal heads' in Paleolithic art becomes a feline head when rotated 180 degrees

'Zooanthropomorphic head in right profile view'
Mark Gafkjen find, Minnesota River valley near Minneapolis

As a rock and mineral collector, Mark has identified numerous portable rock art figures in his locale which cannot be accounted for by natural coincidence. Mark uses a microscope to evaluate rocks for evidence of human modification.

Mark's identification of an anthropormorphic head figure with evidence of human modification is compatible with animal and human head forms as described on a gradient by R. Dale Guthrie in his book The Nature of Paleolithic Art.

When rotated 180 degrees the zooanthropomorphic head becomes a feline head looking left.

'Petrified wood human face mask'

In this view of the stone is a human head where the nose line splits two facets of the stone. Each of the visible facets has one of the face's eyes.

Circled in this illustration is a carving of a human face nested within the sculpture.

Close up of the little human face carving

Zooanthropomorphic head in right profile becomes a feline head in left profile when rotated 180 degrees. Click photos to expand.

When the zooanthropomorphic head is rotated 90 degrees on its way to the lion head, it presents another clear human head left profile figure compatible with the R. Dale Guthrie Paleolithic human head continuum. (Guthrie image reversed to face same way as rock image for ease of comparison.)