Portable Rock Art

Bird-form and Bird-Human-Form Sandstone Artifacts in Australia

These Figure Stones were collected by the author in New South Wales in April 2006, in an area known to have been inhabited for at least 40,000 years.  They were all surface finds, many of them from dirt roads graded through the bushland to a depth of roughly 60 cm (2").  Improbable as it may seem, the similarities of the images and their incor- porated motifs to those at the 33GU218 site in Ohio are unmistakable.  These figures also closely resemble Palaeolithic artifact material from Europe, suggesting the possibility that a symbology of quite ancient and primal origin propagated over a long period of time across most of the planet.  Given Australia's geographical isolation from the rest of the world, these finds were not really expected - but there they were...

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Australian Sandstone Artifact

Standing quasi-anthropomorphic figure looking skyward, with figures emerging from its belly (close-up below).

Australian Sandstone Artifact  

Australian Sandstone Artifact  Australian Sandstone Artifact

Two photos above:  The figure from additional perspectives.

Australian Sandstone Artifact
The common theme (badly weathered) of a human-like face (left profile) emerging from the mouth of a crested zoomorphic figure. 
 

  

The flat back surface of the standing figure, covered with a layer of red ochre.

Close-ups of the red ochre, a paste-like material quite distinct from the sandstone onto which it is layered.  At the laboratories of NSL Analytical Services in Cleveland, Ohio, this was determined by SEM/XRF analysis to consist of iron oxide, aluminum oxide, silicon, carbon, and potassium, while the sandstone is (not surprisingly) mainly silicon.

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Below:  Bird and bird-human figures.

It is interesting that bird imagery is widespread also in Australian Aboriginal cave art.

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Australian Sandstone Artifact

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Australian Sandstone Artifact

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Australian Sandstone Artifact

The circular indentation on this piece has been assessed by a doctorate-level geology professor and petrologist as almost certainly artificial.  And note the distinct eye, nose, and mouth at the left end of the figure.

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Australian Sandstone Artifact  Australian Sandstone Artifact

Australian Sandstone Artifact  Australian Sandstone Artifact

Four views of the same artifact.  Note the carved grooves on two sides (top two photos), directly opposite each other.  These have likewise been assessed by a doctorate-level geology professor and petrologist as probably artificial.

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Australian Sandstone Artifact

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Australian Sandstone Artifact

Length 6 cm (2.4").  The features are weathered, but this bird figure exhibits the motif very common in the Day's Knob material, a quasi-human face emerging from the mouth of the bird.  Below, at the top of the rear edge of the stone, the also very common frontal figure of one creature sending forth another one from its mouth (image width 1 cm (0.4").  Note that this figure also incorporates the likewise common theme of one eye open, one eye shut.

Australian Sandstone Artifact

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Australian Sandstone Artifact

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Australian Sandstone Artifact

A classic "janiform" figure - a face at each end.

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Australian Sandstone Artifact  Australian Sandstone Artifact

Another two-faced image - animal (or bird-human) left, bird right.

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Australian Sandstone Artifact
Human face carved protruding from a large boulder, with a zoomorphic figure facing right over the head.  (This was left in situ, obviously.)

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In 2011 this author was contacted by Leanne Egan, who had been collecting apparent Figure Stones in NSW's Snowy Mountains region.  Sure enough, many of these Incorporate the characteristic bird and bird-human imagery with the classic themes:
 

An excellent sandstone piece in the form of a bird with a humanlike face (left end), and a larger anthropomorphic face emerging egg-like from its posterior, altogether a classic janiform.
 

Another bird-human combination.

 
An upright bird in limestone(?).  Note the anatomically appropriate eye on each side - reflectional symmetry, a recognized hallmark of human agency.
  
 

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