02 March 2017

'World's oldest images made from pixels' discovered in prehistoric French camp

Credit: Musée national de Préhistoire collections - photo MNP - Ph. Jugie

Scientists in France have discovered ancient pointillist engravings representing both a wild cow and a wooly mammoth. The engravings were made more than 35,000 years ago. Photo by R. Bourrillon

A drawing of the engraved stone highlights the individual pixels that make up a mammoth, or aurochs, facing right (R Bourrillon)

'World's oldest images made from pixels' discovered in prehistoric French camp
by Ian Johnston, Science reporter, The Independent.

What could be the oldest images in the world have been discovered in France.

And the engravings of mammoths and wild cows known as aurochs were made from individual pixels – essentially the same technique used to produce images on computers and televisions.

The pictures are also being compared to the pointillism technique supposedly pioneered in the 1880s by artists like Vincent van Gogh and Georges Seurat.

They were radiocarbon dated to 38,000 years old, which could mean they are the oldest pictures ever created.

A painted hand silhouette found in Spain could be about 5,000 years older but its dating has been contested. An ivory sculpture of a female figure from about the same period as the French engravings was also found in southern Germany.

Professor Randall White, a New York University anthropologist, told The Independent the images were certainly “among the very earliest images of things we can actually recognise in the entire archaeological record”.

“It’s not so much the final effect that we found interesting, it’s the conception of it – the use of individual points to form the body or the outline of a figure,” he said.

“If you look carefully at the aurochs, there’s really a significant control of the line.

“And this is very early when people are really just beginning to grapple with the production of images."

“They have mastered some of the fundamental aspects of line and shape, but there’s clearly a long way to go in terms of precise reproductions.”

It is unclear why prehistoric artists decided to use a pointillist or pixel-based technique.

“It’s almost digital in its nature … why this fixation on dots, I’ll admit it’s a puzzle,” Professor White said.

“It’s not exactly pointillism but the principle is there, the construction of a form out of pixels.

“We’re quite familiar with the techniques of these modern artists. But now we can confirm this form of image-making was already being practiced by Europe’s earliest human culture, the Aurignacian.”

He said they had been excavating the site for 18 months before they found the images.

“The engraving was face down and we knew within these sites such things are possible, so we were taking great care,” Professor White said.

“After a year and a half of excavating, we finally extracted the object … it is one of the great moments of my career, that’s for sure.”
The discovery was reported in the journal Quarternary International.

Laurens County, South Carolina

Buzzy Boles find, mammoth profile facing left with bison head profile looking right. The white stone at the far right is the 'muzzle' of the bovid. I think this may a representation of the Woodland Musk Ox because of what appears to be a symbolic 'downturned horn' visible in the middle lower edge as a curved and pointed feature of the stone.

North America has a similar sculptural tradition of making a combination of mammoth and bison as is also observed in several well known early European art pieces.

23 February 2017

A rhomboid plaquette from Arkfeld Site

Arkfeld Site, #44FK731, 'Rhomboid plaquette'
Clear Brook, Virginia

Adam Arkfeld has identified a recurring pattern of these diamond-shaped stones which have been sculpted using a "bend-break" or "buffer technique" to make the relatively straight sides. They have been found at several portable rock art sites and likely had some kind of symbolic significance to their Stone Age makers.

19 February 2017

Paleolithic hand puppets survive in stone from Site #23JP1222, Jasper County, Missouri

'Human face' detail on 'hand puppet'
Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo portable rock art site

I have interpreted a number of pieces on this blog as stone 'hand puppets' because they present human or animal imagery and have tapering projections which seem to be very suitable 'handles' to present the imagery. They have come from a number of locations in addition to this one. Perhaps these objects were childrens' toys, or maybe they were used as props in folkloric story-telling.

'Human head profile looking left as a hand puppet'

My illustration of an 'eye,' 'mouth with teeth' and 'handle' on this second example from Site #23JP1222. Stacy Dodd processed the image digitally and the eye and mouth may be seen in addition to two possible 'nostrils' at the 'nose.' (Click photos to expand.)

14 February 2017

Queensland portable rock art typically found at 1 to 2 meters depth

Human facial profile worked onto translucent stone material
 Rebecca Hainsworth & John Rogers finds, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Please note the attention give to the 'chin' which is a distinguishing phenotypic feature of anatomically modern humans.

Two views of the same piece of glass art found with the iconic portable rock art. Possible bird facing right in photo 1, possible creature's head looking right in photo 2.

A worked boulder 'face-mask' with missing left eye and distortion to the left side of the face in a possible example of this motif in Australia in addition to ones found in North America, Europe and South East Asia.

Animal facing right


Two sides of the same stone have worked human (robust type?) head and facial profiles, seen here facing each other. I call pieces like this 'literal bi-faces.'

Rebecca and John typically find this kind portable rock art material in the course of their excavation work at depths between 1 and 2 meters.

04 February 2017

Zoo Whooo! A paleolithic owl sculpture from Missouri

Owl portable rock art sculpture

Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo mega portable rock site producing dozens of figure stones and sculptures. Site #23JP1222, Jasper County, Missouri

This is a classic North American Paleolithic bird sculpture but this art has not been acknowledged, recognized or studied by Archaeology officialdom despite its potential to provide far more cultural information than studying tool sets alone.

30 January 2017

Mammoth, feine and human combination standing sculpture from Missouri

Stacy Dodd and Rod Weber find, The Old Route 66 Zoo, Site #23JP1222 near Joplin, Missouri

Interpreted features on the rock which invoked the mammoth imagery for the artist and audience: Head bump and back hump typical of the mammoth, symbolic eye, ear and tusk, intentional separation of the two front legs by an incised line.

 I interpret a feline face at the base of the mammoth's right front leg

Close-up of the feline face with illustration of the stone features. The cat's muzzle is made in "martini glass form," the same simple line drawing used today.

I interpret a human-like face carving on the 'hump' of the mammoth's back.

A carving on the sculpture of a quasi-human face in the art motif of 'human at posterior of mammoth" which has been well-documented in North America on this blog.
Sharing the world with mammoths, cave lions and other beings: linking animal-human interactions and the Aurignacian “belief world”
This paper outlines a “symbolic ecology” for the Aurignacian of Central and Southwestern Germany. Drawing upon data derived from cultural anthropology, psychology and zoobiology, we compare the sociocultural modalities of “managing” the recurrent theme of the mammoth and the cave lion with the encounter and interaction conditions underlying these two specific animal-human relations in the glacial landscapes of the European Early Upper Palaeolithic. We propose that being-in-the-world as highly mobile hunter-gatherers living in open and densely populated “animal-landscapes” strongly promotes non-Cartesian understandings of the animal-human interface, ultimately favouring notions of co-habitation, proximity and social intimacy. By reviewing key aspects of mammoth and cave lion ethology and socioecology, we point out the natural significance and relevance of these animals for human forager groups operating in the same environments. Moreover, we argue that this “natural significance” is directly reflected in the archaeological signature of the Central and Southwestern German Aurignacian that assigns these creatures a pre-eminent place in its material culture repertoire – for instance in craftsmanship, subsistence and settlement organisation and thus in areas deeply anchored in every-day practice. Although there is a clear convergence between the natural prominence of these animals and their sociocultural salience, different eco-behavioural profiles of mammoth and cave lion seem to have motivated varying modalities to engage with them materially. This, in turn, suggests different trajectories of constructing the animal-human interface and therefore a different “status” of both animals in the wider “Glaubenswelt” (belief world) of Aurignacian regional communities. The deep entrenchment of both animals in the sociocultural world as well as the rather unique interaction conditions they offer to human co-dwellers point to the social importance of mammoths and cave lions and thus to animistic and essentially relational ontologies. This, finally, demonstrates the blurring of the Cartesian boundary between animal and human domains and intro-duces the possibility of pondering aspects of “animal-personhood” in this part of the Aurignacian world. We conclude our survey by discussing some critical implications that arise when reading the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition from the perspective of animal-human interactions and the entanglement of ontologies and material signatures.

23 January 2017

Acheulian 'animated handaxe' from Menashe Hills, Isreal

'Smiling left 3/4 profile stone portrait'
Acheulian of the Menashe Hills, Israel

This iconic sculptural artifact has two 'eyes' as protruding bumps, a 'nose', 'smiling mouth,' 'jawline,' 'chin' and 'neck.'

 Side 2 of another Acheulian tool with iconic properties- 'an animated handaxe'

21 January 2017

Human head statuette from Arkfeld Site

'Human head statuette' stands upright on a flat base
Arkfeld Site, #44FK731, Clear Brook, Virginia

18 January 2017

Exotic manuported stone 130,000 years ago may be a feline head profile

Interpreted by Ken Johnston as a 'Lion head profile looking left'
Exotic manuported biopelmicritic grey limestone, 130,000 years ago
Krapina cave Neanderthal site, Croatia, David Frayer, University of Kansas

Ken Johnston illustration of the locations of key elements of the 'lion head'

I think this stone was likely a figurative likeness of a feline head to the persons(s) who brought it into the cave. I think it requires extremely close petrological examination to rule out human modification. The 'nose' looks like it could have been distressed for contrast, the 'eye' is a possible area of removal and from under the nose to the back of the 'chin' it looks like a flake removal with ripples in the flint as if the cat's whiskers. It is not unusual for a feline portable rock art (sculpture) to have a dis-ambiguating well-defined or exaggerated chin and this one could be so interpreted.
None of the 1,000 lithic items collected from Krapina resemble the rock, but despite this it was overlooked for decades.
The discovery of the rock collection may not be as exciting to many people when compared with other discoveries such as cave paintings made by modern humans living in what is now France, 25,000 years ago. However, Professor Frayer said it adds to a body of evidence that Neanderthals were capable assigning symbolic significance to objects and went to the effort of collecting them. The discovery could also provide more clues as to how modern humans developed these traits, he said. 'It adds to the number of other recent studies about Neanderthals doing things that are thought to be unique to modern Homo sapiens,' he said. 'We contend they had a curiosity and symbolic-like capacities typical of modern humans.' Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4127934/Neanderthals-liked-home-decorating-too.html#ixzz4W7YxUlSh

A. Croatia example of 'lion head profile looking left' compared with three examples of suspected lion head figures from Ohio, USA, which were made on a similar artistic visual 'template' or 'scheme' and on very exotic and beautiful lithic materials.

15 January 2017

Australian rock art sculpture defies traditional dichotomy of 'geometric or figurative' rock art

'Sculpture of five motifs"
Rebecca Hainsworth & John Rogers find, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Hi Kenneth,
We have been studying patterns on rock here in Brisbane, Australia, for some time now. What we have discovered is that we have the same figure stones here, as seen on your blog.
For example: Monkey with one eye - common theme is iron in the eye with the left eye missing, Native American symbols, Egyptian and Greek depictions, A lot of animal representations. Additionally, we have discovered glass, slag and other materials.
We have a keen interest in stones we have found that are clear and seem to have a hologram within them.
Is this something you would be interesting in discussing with us?
Please find attached some photographs for your reference.
We look forward to your reply.
Rebecca Hainsworth & John Rogers, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Rebecca and John are professional excavators and have noticed patterns of iconic rock material through the course of their digging work in Queensland. They have noted some similarities with the proposed North American portable rock art featured on this blog.

In a preliminary review of a few photos of their finds, I can confirm the patterns they have detected are recognizable to me and will be to regular blog readers as well. This is a significant development in the effort to understand the world geographic distribution of portable rock art and I look forward to working with Bec and John to better understand what they are finding and where and in what association with other anomalous materials.

Two of the art motifs I can see on this sculpture are figurative. There is a left facial profile on the right side of the stone, angled from the horizontal 'base' of the sculpture as if tilted toward the sky. I drew an arrow to illustrate the approximate line of sight of the face from the eye. This may be an example of some kind of Stone Age proto-Jupiter, or "sky god," mythology. A "stargazer" motif has been described by the Ohio-based independent rock art researcher Alan Day.

'Jupiter' looks toward the sky in classical Roman sculpture

On the back of the facial profile head I have circled a smaller, simple anthropomorphic face in line with many other examples. This smaller face is looking right, opposite of the profile face. Similarly, this may be an example of some kind of Stone Age proto-Janus, or "two-faced god" mythology. A Janus-like motif has also been described by Alan Day.

The two-faces of 'Janus'

A third motif I can recognize here is the more-or-less pentagon shape of the outline of the stone. This is not coincidental but an intended effort by the sculptor and visually accomplishes several things:
  • The dimensions of the pentagon create a 'skyward point' on the 'top' of the sculpture
  • By virtue of the pentagon shape the sculpture has a flat base which accomplishes both a visual "ground" and creates a platform upon which the sculpture will stand upright and present the imagery for viewing
  • The angle of the 'right side roof line' of the pentagon guides the eye sight line of the human face profile (direction the face is looking)
  • The intersection of the right side lines results in a point where the small face looking right is located.
The 'face on mid-right edge' of an artifact is a fourth motif which has been seen on the 'animated Acheulean handaxes' on this blog. This motif has been described by independent rock art researchers Ursel Benekendorff of Germany, Henri Valentie of France, Jan van Es of the Netherlands and early religion and art scholar James B. Harrod, Ph.D. of Maine, USA. I have presented many examples on this blog. These objects are not rare in Acheulean handaxe collections but have been commonly overlooked by archaeologists and collectors alike.

In fact, a blog reader posted a link to an "Animated handaxe" blog article this week on arrowheadology.com and the thread was CENSORED. It resulted in me responding to criticism (which is to be expected), misunderstanding and misinformation by making another a posting myself with some questions about a little bird figure. Ultimately, I was permanently BANNED from Arrowheadology for my questions and thoughts.

The significance of this sculpture is that the geometric and figurative aspects are fully integrated and were possibly inseparable concepts for the artist. Examples like this destroy the false dichotomy rock art scholars have set up by maintenance of these separate classifications. Their assumptions preclude their ability to recognize and interpret the art.

Various types of natural iron oxide compositions were routinely featured or exploited by stone age artists, likely for the dramatic contrast of the red/orange colors. Here, the 'eye' of the face profile looking left may have stained the stone directly underneath it. This would suggest this piece stood upright in this orientation in the open air for more than a brief period of time.

Iron Oxides in Global Systems

Possible motif five: 'Convergence/divergence of linear flow'

I notice a pattern created by the lines etched to remove the surface of the stone on the non-face parts of it. From the photo, the lines appear to have been created by use of a stone chisel and hammer. The lines flow away or toward the mid-point of the top left side edge of the pentagon.
  • This could be an intentional recognition of the center of the top left edge (indicated by the star) and its relationship to the face profile edge line in a 'flowing lines motif' marking.
  • The pattern could be a result of the physical demands of the raw stone and the directions the stone worker took to create the face edge from the series of perpendicular termination points of the carved lines.
  • The lines could be the unconscious result of a human aesthetic motive which was expressed in the execution of the sculpture.
  • The lines could refer to something symbolically we don't know about or even directionally like the 'earth' (lower left side), the 'air' section by the human face nose and mouth in the middle, and the 'sky' in the upper left corner.
Speculated 'Earth, Air, Sky' line flow sections on sculpture surface

Glass knife, Brisbane, Queensland,  Australia

This knife found by Rebecca and John may be supportive of the "Face on mid right edge of artifact" hypothesis for the pentagon sculpture. It looks like a natural dimple in the glass was recognized by the artist as a possible 'nose' and then the area around it was retouched to complete the other facial elements. This could be confirmed by magnified examination of the artifact.

I interpret a knife like this as a finger tool where the top segment of the index finger rested on the concave edge on top of the human face. The knife was then held by the thumb and ring ringers on each side where this would allow the 'face' to be seen through the thumb and index finger while using the knife. This would have the affect of making a "little pet face" to accompany the functional aspects of the piece. A piece like this, indeed, blurs the dichotomy of 'tool' or 'art' and shows how these classifications no longer well serve archaeology and art history scholars.