Denisovan Ancestry in East Eurasian and Native American Populations

Sermons in Stones

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing. I would not have it any other way." Duke Senior in William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 1599.

My objectives for the Archaeology of Portable Rock Art blog

To document, interpret and present anomalous portable rock objects, from amateur-identified cultural sites, which are suspected of having been modified or curated as "art" by prehistoric people in order that archaeologists may identify similar potential art objects in situ and document this phenomenon- a heretofore neglected component of the 'official human record'- more systemically. Interpretation means describing and comparing forms, shapes, icons, common patterns, subtle relationships, etc. and my rare attempts at specific meanings are speculative and likely futile.

To provide a comprehensive online resource center of photos and writing about portable rock art from laypersons, amateur archaeologists, scholars and researchers around the world.

To promote healthy discussion and debate regarding issues of verification of artifactuality and intended iconography in portable rock art.

To challenge the “pareidolia accusation” as a valid de rigueur argument against possible intended imagery incorporated into portable rock art and help bring this part of the archaeological record to the higher level of scientific inquiry and scrutiny it deserves.

To explore relationships between portable rock art modalities and human evolution, population dispersal, cognitive capabilities and life ways.

Ken Johnston, avocational archaeologist (blog publisher)

My opinion: There is no dearth of U.S.A. Paleolithic art

It is claimed there is little evidence of Paleolithic art (palaeoart) in the U.S.A.  Of some 600,000 artifacts, several pieces of pre to post-Clovis tradition art have been found at the Gault site, Texas, and some more recently at the nearby Debra L. Friedkin site.  These and the Old Vero Beach, Florida, mammoth engraving on a megafauna bone should alert us to the possibilities for palaeoart in the United States. However, they are just a small taste of what is really out there to be found.

There is a vast period from at least 130,000 years before present to the Archaic period 9,000 years ago with the emergence of "peck, grind and polish" stone art modalities where there has not yet been a systemic accounting of prehistoric art in the U.S.A.

The Ohio History Connection museum at Columbus displays one Clovis spear point as its palaeoart, despite the Clovis tradition being relatively short-lived at about 500 years and with tens of thousands of years of more subtle art not yet understood by mainstream archaeology. So far, it has been bypassed, or forsaken, in a great tragedy.

There are likely many millions of pieces of figurative portable rock art in the U.S. and amateurs, collectors and laypersons are identifying them. The internet is allowing hyper-communication among these people as opposed to the snail's pace of a dogmatic academic community of archaeologists. Art motifs are emerging, recurring anthropomorphic "characters" are being detected, common animals and forms are depicted and what could become full art taxonomies are coming to light.

It is not that the stone palaeoart does not exist, it is that we have not known what to look for. And what we should look for does not necessarily comport with preconceived conventional ideas about what art from the Pleistocene to the Archaic in North America should look like. Because of its typical incorporation of rough or natural stone features it is even more difficult to detect in the field.

Portable rock art is being found from coast-to-coast in the U.S.A. and shares many attributes with known palaeoart from Eurasia. The Beringia land bridge was open for 200,000 of the past 500,000 years. Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, Denisovans, Neanderthals and other archaic ancestors of contemporary humans in Asia at the time certainly would have crossed it in to North America with animal migrations. Robert Bednarik has shown humans were seafaring in South East Asia at 840,000 years ago.

The portable rock art being identified here says North America was a part of a larger connected world in times long ago, not some uniquely virgin land that was "discovered first" by any “culture” we will ever know.  North American portable rock palaeoart tells us we would do better to approach our archaeology in this world-wide context, rather than as a special island which evaded humans until the last 1/200th of our existence. Bipedalism and large brains are not to be underestimated! The tools and art of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic exist here in great numbers but have not yet been described by Archaeology Officialdom.

By setting aside our cultural biases and conventional expectations of what prehistoric portable rock art should be like, we become better prepared to see into a broader spectrum of creative expression which was recorded in the permanence of stone.
The "Clovis First" dogma perpetuated by United States archaeology officialdom set back knowledge of world population dispersals and prehistoric peoples here by several decades. Let's not have the "figurative portable rock art does not exist" dogma set us back any further. The stones have far too much to tell us about our heritage and our future.

Kenneth B. Johnston
Archaeology of Portable Rock Art

It is long past time for Archaeology to recognize the significant amounts of cultural information recorded in stone materials in the most subtle and sophisticated ways by our early ancestors.



  1. Nice collection... much work! T Y! I have hundreds of these beautiful pics of art!

  2. Kenneth Johnston,

    Thank you for creating this website. I agree that you have done a really good job. It only makes sense that humans have been in the America's for a very, very long time. Portable art from the Paleolithic period only makes sense because ancient people like people today would have left a personal trail of their existence here on this earth. However, it is sad that this whole field of study is still virtually ignored by mainstream academia. Perhaps half the world's archeological mysteries could be solved if they just looked at the evidence left in stone. I, also have found many wonderful examples over the years of this very ancient art form located mostly near the Snake, Clearwater, and Spokane Rivers in Eastern WA State.