Human Head Figure in Quartz Sandstone at 33GU218

Human Head Figure - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site
This figure of evidently non-local large-grained quartz sandstone appeared eroding from the hillside at the spring that supplies the site with water.  Not surprisingly, artifacts are in great abundance in the area of the spring.  This piece has been identified by professional geologist/petrologist Prof. Eric Law as being artificial in origin.  His evaluation is presented farther down the page.  Dr. Roy Mapes, professor of geology at Ohio University, has also confirmed evidence of  human modification.
Human Head Figure - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

Above:  Human head profile, looking to the right.  Height 35 mm (1.4").

Below:  In the large middle photo, the figure is rotated horizontally about eighty degrees clockwise (shown at an intermediate angle in the leftmost photo).  The front edge of the human profile is still discernable at the left, but the figure "morphs" into the classic image of a bird-like creature sending forth a quasi-human head from its mouth; in turn, a small figure also emerges from the head's mouth, lower right.  (As always, a two-dimensional photo does not really do the job; when one examines the actual stone, the imagery is quite vivid.  And photographing these things well is not easy!)

Bird-Human Figure - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site


Bird-Human Figure - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

Above:  The flattened and polished bottom of the figure, which allows it to stand firmly upright.  This surface incorporates the very common Janus-like image of a bird-like head (left) and a more anthropomorphic one (right).  Note the clearly pecked eye and iris of the bird head, a distinctive feature of the zoo-anthropomorphic figures at this site.

Dr. Eric Law, chair of the geology department at Muskingum University in New Con- cord, Ohio, has taken an interest in the material at this site.  His specialty is petrology, the branch of geology dealing with the origin, composition, structure, and alteration of rocks.  Besides being quite meticulous and conservative in his assessments, in evalu- ating these objects he does not consider the matter of incorporated imagery, but only whether or not the physical properties of a given rock would allow it to acquire its current form entirely through natural processes.  Following is his assessment of the object shown here:

In rough estimation, this rock sample is of approximately 80% quartz grain and 20% matrix.  The absence of other mineral grains in the rock indicates that it probably is not native to Ohio.  Judging only from naked-eye observation, it seems to be a quartz sandstone with a weak, possibly clayey, or, less likely, carbonate cementing matrix.  Most of the quartz grains in this rock are 1 mm or larger in diameter.  There is one relatively flat surface on the piece, allowing it to stand with its elongated direction upward.  This surface is slightly concave but very smooth to the touch.  Magnified view shows all quartz grains on this surface to be cut across the grain.  Some grains are apparently polycrystalline, and crystal boundaries within the grains are clearly visible.  Such a section cutting across quartz grains could be done only by physical cutting or polishing. Considering that this surface is the only flattened one, and is one of the smallest surfaces on the piece, it is also unlikely that it was caused by glacial abrasion. Thus the most plausible conclusion is that this flattened surface is artificial.

There are three indentations appearing only on the flattened surface, about 4 mm in diameter and 3 mm deep.  Grainy texture is clearly visible on their surfaces. There is no obvious natural process that would cause these indentations only on the polished surface.  It is probable that these small indentations are also artificial in origin, requiring a very sharp point to make them.

Earlier, Brent Eberhard at the Ohio Historic Preservation Office summarily dismissed this piece as a geofact, a naturally broken glacial pebble - one of the favorite pre-packaged ready-to-go explanations in Ohio's state archaeologists' arsenal. Presented with Prof. Law's assessment of the stone, Mr. Eberhard conceded that "The item is indeed most likely cultural".

Verification by a physical scientist that this object is not likely of natural origin is significant in that this piece is unusually explicit in its incorporation of the human and bird motifs, and the transformation from one to the other, as well as that of one creature emerging from the mouth of another; all this seems to constitute part of the leitmotif in artifact material at this site as well as others, not only in North America.  

There has been fierce opposition to acknowledging the presence of the usually crude but quite recognizable stones intentionally formed in these images in North America, based mainly on preconceptions related to the paradigm of humans arriving relatively recently on this continent, being present only in small bands of nomadic hunters dashing about and just trying to survive, with no time to create symbolic objects.  And this is in the face of convincing evidence at sites like Gault, where people of the Clovis era were apparently living well established in large numbers on a full-time basis, and intricately carving stones of a purely aesthetic/symbolic nature.  Paradigms, which are based on whatever information one happens have at a given point in time, come and go.  It is time for this one to go.

Human Head Figure - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

Above:  The object rotated 180 both vertically and horizontally.  Although cruder and not displaying the human-to bird transformation when horizontally rotated, this human image is unmistakably similar to the one shown above.


Human Figure in Hematite - Day's Knob Archaeological Site

A human figure in hematite, also displaying the "transformation" effect when rotated horizontally.  Click the image for expansion and description.

Limestone Sculpture - Day's Knob Archaeological SiteLimestone Sculpture - Day's Knob Archaeological Site

One of several large carved limestone boulders at the spring where the quartz sandstone figure shown at the top of this page appeared.  Note the sculpted bird head emerging from the mouth of the rightmost of the two conjoined larger figures.  It appears that this is an artificial enhancement of features created naturally by water flow.


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