Portable Rock Art / Figure Stones - America's (almost) Invisible Prehistory


Limestone "Venus" Figure - Artifact at 33GU218 (Day's Knob) in Ohio    Apparent Mastodon Petroglyph at 33GU218 in Ohio


 Figure Stones

(Pierres Figures)

"Portable Rock Art"




(almost) Invisible




Day's Knob in Guernsey County, Ohio

Site #33GU218 (Ohio Archaeological Inventory)

( And Other Figure-Stone Sites/Finds )


Website published in 2003 with the now deceased Microsoft FrontPage, and clumsily optimized for 800x600, Internet Explorer and Firefox.  Must redo this someday...

  About the Author (with assorted ravings) 


Aerial LiDAR View of Day's Knob and Redbud Earthwork (33GU218)

Aerial LiDAR view of site at 1 meter resolution, with (partially destroyed) prehistoric linear earthwork and single-file passageway, showing artificial terracing on opposite (east/sheltered) side of hill.

Google Earth View of Day's Knob (33GU218) from South

Google Earth View of Site from South

This material is presented for consideration by anyone with an interest in the early habitation of North America, describing artifacts first recognized and recorded in 1987 at an unglaciated hilltop site in southeastern Ohio, and first published in 2003.  These are compared with remarkably similar artifacts from locations in other parts of the world.  Twenty years ago, writing on this website this author was apparently the first to propose that, for whatever reason, when modifying lithic material for use as tools our distant human (and quite possibly protohuman) predecessors often incorporated not only utility but also simple but quite recognizable zoomorphic and/or anthropomorphic imagery into their rocks.

At Archaeological Site #33GU218, a Bird-Form Gouge, Digging Tool, Whatever

A Bird-Form hand tool from this site in Guernsey County, Ohio

Click HERE or image above for details.

Perhaps this practice originated in Africa (or wherever humans actually got started), migrating through millennia of ethnic and cultural diversification northward and eastward into the Americas, surviving here into at least the Early Woodland Period (ca. 2000 years BP).

For a quick look at a few artifact photos from this website on Pinterest without having to read lot of words, click HERE:


Initially recognized only as crude stone tools, but subsequently as much more, the artifacts here at 33GU218 have appeared in large quantity at depths of from near the surface to over a meter below, and the surface of this large site has only been scratched.  At this time, several doctorate-level professionals - geologists, petrologists, anthropologists, a forensic biologist, and a few archaeologists - have personally identified human agency in both lithic and organic material.  The Ohio Historic Preservation Office has included the site in the Ohio Archaeological Inventory, recognizing evidence of prehistoric habitation.  Ohio's state archaeologists have, however, shown no interest in further inquiry, on the rather odd assumption that the ruggedness of the unglaciated terrain here (and its distance from Columbus, perhaps?) would have deterred early American Indians from leaving anything significant (including earthworks) in this area.  Since 2003 this author has been proceeding on his own with the kind assistance and advice from professional archaeologists, anthropologists, and - most important - physical scientists including geologists, petrologists, and geomorphologists with the training and experience required to determine whether or not a given rock or landform could have acquired its current form entirely through natural processes.  Engaging such expertise was deemed necessary both as a sanity check and to ensure the credibility of research into this subject so fraught with controversy and official disapproval.  So far, this approach has proven quite successful.

Additionally, high-quality microscopes and cameras are employed in the examination and verification of artifact material.  When time and money permit, compositional analysis is performed in laboratories equipped with scanning electronic microscopy (plus XRF, EDS, etc.) to confirm or disconfirm the presence of, for example, red or yellow ochre pigmentation.  Applied Imagery's terrain modeling software is used in processing LiDAR point clouds to identify and create three-dimensional models of prehistoric earthworks.  Doing science properly is time-consuming and expensive - no way around it.  (There are alternatives, of course.  When you have no idea what you are looking at, it can be whatever you want it to be.  Just post random rock photos on the internet and become part of the large and vocal "portable rock art" fantasy cult emerging on YouTube, eBay, Etsy, the make-believe  rockartmuseum.com, and numerous looney-tunes Facebook pages.)

An important side project in which this author has become involved:  Confirmed and apparently Scandinavian artifacts (Homo sapiens' and/or earlier?) from deep within glacial till in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany, possibly Lower through Upper Palaeolithic, clearly inconsistent with the approved narrative of early humans and/or their predecessors not migrating farther north than the 55th parallel before the end of the last (Weichselian) ice age.  

Acheulean Handaxe - Ursel Benekendorff Find

The Venus of Pampau - Ursel Benekendorff Find

Bird Figure - Ursel Benekendorff Find

Click center image for more of the Groß Pampau artifact photos.

Also see this article in ScienceNordic.


A Eurasian/Upper-Palaeolithic-style "Venus" figure in limestone at 33GU218 in Ohio.  Shouldn't be here, but here she is, having eroded from the terrain surface with other artifacts in April 2015, apparently the first such find recorded in the Western Hemisphere.

Click HERE or image below for details:

Upper-Palaeolithic-style "Venus" figure at 33GU218




Human or Bird-Human Staring Skyward


Click HERE or image below for details:

 Sandstone Stargazer and Ancient Marble Stargazer at Cleveland Museum of Art



One Eye Open, One Eye Shut

A long-recognized Primal Image


Click HERE or image below for details:

Limestone Figure, 33GU218, Eye Open / Eye Shut



An apparently figuratively enhanced "Abbevillian" handaxe/chopper from northern France (Charles Belart find).

Click HERE or image below for details:


Engraving on "Abbevillian" Hand Axe - Charles Belart Find



This poster was presented and quite favorably received at the 2013 International Rock Art Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico:
Portable Rock Art Poster, 2013 International Rock Art Conference

Click on the image to see it full size (scroll as needed).

Judging from ceramic material and a long, straight, and symmetrical earthwork oriented to true north-south, it appears that the upper artifact layer at this site may date from the Early and/or Middle Woodland Period.  Temporally/culturally diagnostic flint projectile points from the vicinity of the site indicate a human presence dating from the Early Archaic through the Middle Woodland Period, or roughly 10,000 - 1500 years BP.

Click image for details.

More important by far than just this particular site, the finds here have led to the discovery of a simple and consistent zoo-anthropomorphic iconography apparently routinely and usually perfunctorily incorporated into lithic and other artifact material over many thousands of years and across widely separated areas of this planet.  Most commonly the imagery is carved, ground, and/or pecked into pebble- or cobble-sized stone tools.  This author has tentatively (and no doubt presumptuously) dubbed it "Primal Imagery".  (An overdue attempt at concisely deconstructing it may [or may not] appear on this sadly disjointed website before too long.  Meantime, click HERE to see the existing clumsy start at this.)


Non-Useful Websites


Since this website was launched in 2003 and widely viewed, the now forensically verified "Portable Rock Art / Figure Stones" artifact typology is becoming more extensively recognized.  And in the past few years there has been quite a proliferation of new and mostly imitative/plagiaristic websites on the subject, at widely varying levels of plausibility and scientific validation, unfortunately at an increasingly and embarrassingly low level degrading the overall credibility of this quite legitimate line of investigation and the efforts of competent researchers who have invested a lot of time, work, and money in an honest effort to determine what is real and what is not.  On these recent websites scientific/forensic evidence has been almost entirely omitted from the discussion, replaced by lithic Rorschach games probably revealing something of a presenter's personality and state of mind, but nothing archaeologically meaningful.  Not surprisingly, even the imbecilic archaeology fantasy magazine Ancient American has now jumped onto the "portable rock art" bandwagon with its characteristic plagiarism, clumsy writing, and inept photography.  Likewise, and firmly in the pop archaeology category, the slicker but only slightly less dimwitted and little more credible Ancient Origins has recently joined the party.

Doing a search for "portable rock art", one is now swamped with poor-quality images of rocks that neither resemble anything else nor show evidence of human modification.  The now overused term "pareidolia", something to which we are all subject to a greater or lesser extent, is in fact an apt description of most of this.  Among the more cringeworthy of the recently appearing knockoffs of daysknob.com are the so far mostly random gravel display "rockartmuseum.com" and the semiliterate/comical "eoliths.blogspot.com".   Functioning at about the same level of compe- tence, these two have formed a partnership in propagating general goofiness.   With a link to PayPal, the "Portable Rock Art Museum" wheedles for money ("donations") while showing vaguely face-like patterns on apparently unmodified stones as evidence of Neanderthals in North America, and encouraging/facilitating the sale of ancient artifacts whether real or imaginary.  This is not a museum, but Jul "Rocky" Jones' digital display of a claimed 12,000+ photos of rocks submitted to him by people wanting to have them "authenticated" as artifacts, often for the purpose of scamming misguided and gullible collectors on eBay, Etsy, etc.  Apparently Mr. Jones indiscriminately accepts everything he is shown, so there are, not surprisingly, a very few seemingly genuine and sometimes interesting figure stones among the huge pile of geofacts, counterfeits, Mexican tourist souvenirs, and undifferentiated crap.  But even in the best cases, details of provenience and hence archaeological meaning have almost always been lost.

"Eolith's", which hosts  "Rock Art Museum's" forum, and whose author Brett Martin rather unconvincingly claims an IQ of 160+,  presents us with "proof" - rocks perceived as resembling dinosaur heads - that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth concurrently, thus debunking that pesky evolution theory once and for all.  On neither of these websites  is there any mention of validation of or even favorable comments on their material by anyone trained in the pertinent physical sciences (geology, petrology, chemistry, forensics, etc.).  Even a rudimentary understanding of the scientific method seems completely absent, as does any capacity for critical thinking.  While these new websites provide an entertaining display of the Dunning-Kruger effect, they make no contribution to intelligent and responsible research.

Brett Martin Avatar

And now a new comedy act from the inimitable Brett Martin,

this time on academia.edu.  Don't miss it!  Click on the image above.

(This was low-res AI-generated, but Brett's NS shines through anyway.) 

At the very least, anyone wishing to present meaningfully on this topic (or even to understand it) owes it to him/herself (and to everyone else) to learn the basics of lithic (rock) material. While this is not trivial, it certainly is not "rocket science", and there are numerous free online resources for learning geology.  And since pareidolia is now playing an increasingly large role in the study of Figure Stones, a greater understanding of this universally human foible is very much called for.  In 2016 Prof. Robert G. Bednarik, long recognized as a pre-eminent authority on palaeolithic portable rock art and rock art in general, published an excellent and objective essay titled "Rock Art and Pareidolia" in Volume 33 No. 2 of the peer-reviewed journal Rock Art ResearchHERE is a link to this article.

Page 176 discusses small Figure Stones in particular.

Click Image to expand article.


The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.  - Richard P. Feynman


Some historical background on this artifact typology:  In the nineteenth century Jacques Boucher de Crèvecœur de Perthes, an avocational archaeologist in France, conclusively demonstrated with the help of professional geologists (to the dismay and anger of the archaeological establishment) that stone tools in that part of the world dated from the Ice Age, a fact now universally accepted in the archaeological community.  Subsequent to this author's recognition of the iconographic artifacts at this Ohio site, he became aware that Boucher de Perthes had also noted that many of the French artifacts in direct context with the tools incorporated simple anthropomorphic and zoomorphic imagery, calling these "Pierres Figures", or "Figure Stones".  This latter observation has since been almost completely ignored, and it remains pretty much de rigueur among modern archaeologists to summarily dismiss the many discoveries of these by competent avocational archaeologists despite the often clear imagery and accompanying unequivocal physical evidence of human workmanship.  (See, for example, these finds from northern Germany.)

In recent years the advent of the internet has allowed a worldwide exchange of images and data that clearly validate the presence of such artifact material and the consistency of its essential iconographic components and subcomponents.  This author has adopted and applied Boucher de Perthes' term "Figure Stones" in presenting his own and others' finds for over twenty  years now, and along with "Portable Rock Art" this seems to have become more or less the standard designation among those now pursuing this line of inquiry.


A big and obvious Figure Stone, a verified case in point:

Sandstone Turtle Head from near Fort Ancient

Click image for published article with more photos.

A large sandstone turtle head with eyes carved on both sides, found by Dirk Morgan near Fort Ancient in Warren County, Ohio.  After dismissal as a natural rock (geofact) by Ohio's state ("Ohio History Connection") archaeologists who refused to look at it, it was identified as man-made by geologists and professional archaeologists.

Genuine science examines the unexplained.

Its fraudulent impersonation "explains" the unexamined.


Another rejected but professionally authenticated zoomorphic artifact, a bifacially edged side scraper skillfully crafted as a bird figure.

Click image above for an article on this piece published in Ohio Archaeologist, fall 2013.


Some of the Artifacts from 33GU218 - click images to expand:


Horse Figure in Limestone - Day's Knob Archaeological Site            Flint Bear Figure - Day's Knob Archaeological Site            Figure in Yellow Ochre - Day's Knob Archaeological Site

                              Equid?                Flint Figures (usually manuports)    Yellow Ochre Figures

Human Head Figure - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site      Human Figure in Limestone - Day's Knob Archaeological Site      Carved Sandstone - Day's Knob Archaeological Site      Mastodon Petroglyph - 33GU218

     Human                        Human                         Human, Male and Female                  Petroglyphs

Bird Pendant - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site                    Bird-Form Gouge - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

        Bird Pendant (Fractal Art)       Bird Microsculpture           Bird Head on Sandstone          Bird-Form Gouge

        Bird-Venus Statue - Day's Knob Archaeological Site (33GU218)      Dog Figure - Day's Knob Archaeological Site      Gallery of Carved Faces - Artifacts from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

   Portable Rock Paintings        Bird-Venus Statue                        Canine                     Gallery of Faces

   Sun Disk - Day's Knob Archaeological Site   Quasi-Human Image - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site   Bird-Human Image - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site   Bird-Human Image - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

         Disk Pendant             Sun Disk           Quasi-Human            Bird-Human              Bird-Human

Rabbit/Human Figure - Day's Knob Archaeological Site                     

           Rabbit/Human                                      Human-Like Skull


Fun Troublemaking

Many archaeologists claim they do not see simple face-like images carved and/or ground into lithic artifact material, and that these do not exist, being just "pareidolia" on the part of the beholder.  But are they just bluffing?  For a discussion of this from the perspective of recent research in neuroscience,  click here:

(Or click on the image above.)


The age of most of the artifacts at this site has not yet been conclusively determined, but their quantity, consistency of form, distinctive carving marks, and representation of bird and shaman-like hybrid bird-human images indicate that they are of human manufacture.  Several spirally fractured deer bones have been unearthed, indicating human activity.  Human remains in the form of hair, usually dark brown when not faded, have appeared in direct context with the lithic artifacts.  Some of the hairs were submitted to the Center for the Study of the First Americans, where in November 2003 Dr. Robson Bonnichsen identified them as human.  In 2004 genetics researcher Dr. Tom Gilbert, at the Univ. of Arizona (now at the Univ. of Copenhagen), attempted mitochondrial DNA analysis of a dozen hairs from the site, but unfortunately none of their DNA had survived, despite their outward appearance of being in good condition.  It is hoped that hairs might appear that have somehow been protected from moisture, freezing, and thawing.   One of the hairs remaining after the necessarily destructive attempt at DNA extraction has been verified by Dr. Scott Moody, professor of forensic biology at Ohio University, as being obviously human and apparently quite old.  Dr. Moody also identified artificially dyed plant fibers in direct context with the artifact material.


(Click images below for details:)

  Human Hair and Fiber Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site                Spirally Fractured Bone - Day's Knob Archaeological Site

        Human Hair and Fiber Artifacts     Spirally Fractured Bones

Carving Marks - Day's Knob Archaeological Site

Incised Stones

Whatever the age of this material might prove to be, it seems to point to an important if unrecognized anthropological and cultural phenomenon - the almost ubiquitous shaman-like bird-human figure characterizing the "rock art" at this site, remarkably consistent in its arrangement of readily identifiable sub- components.  Strangely, this figure incorporates iconography quite evident in modern but traditional Inuit/Yupik art, and also present in European Paleolithic artifacts, as well as in Australian material of unknown age, apparently a Primal Image.  (The presence of "portable rock art" or "mobile rock art" has long been recognized in European artifact material, and is starting to be seen for what it is at sites in North America.  At this site and others, it is often incorporated into simple lithic tools.)

Bird-Human Image - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site (33GU218)

Bird-Human Figures - Click Photo for Explanation.


From the large quantity of lithic artifact material, it seems that this site, with its commanding view, ample water supply, and terraced eastern (sheltered) slope, may have seen more than just part-time habitation.  Initially, the possibility of a "pre-Clovis" presence came to mind since while none of the popularly recog- nized "Indian" spear heads and projectile points had appeared, many of the human-modified stones of local and non-local lithology were professionally recognized as in fact being artifactual, with others having a very high proba- bility of being so.  But subsequently, similar artifact material has appeared at other sites in direct context with points, blades, etc. temporally diagnostic of time periods as recent as Middle Woodland (roughly 100 BC to 500 AD).  Nonetheless, the distinct similarity of the artifact material here to that at the Gault (Clovis) and Topper (pre-Clovis) sites leaves open the at least hypo- thetical possibility that the more deeply buried artifacts (apparently at at least a meter or so beneath the terrain surface) might predate the Clovis time frame.  If not temporally "pre-Clovis", they certainly are technologically, and may represent the lithic tools from which Clovis and later technology evolved.  And tools of this kind seem to have coexisted for a long time with the currently more recognized and familiar flint implements, serving when and where these were not readily available.  At this point, the actual age of this officially unrecognized yet professionally verified artifact material is of less interest than the simple fact that it is present, but contextual evidence strongly indicates that in the upper strata it is Early to Middle Woodland in age, or very roughly two thousand years old.

A large linear earthwork is present at the site, a symmetrical rounded wall roughly 6 m (20') high at its highest point and  about 475 m (1560') in length.  It is quite straight and oriented to true north-south.  Such astronomical orientation and dimensions are characteristic of Late Archaic through Middle Woodland earthworks, as is the overall morphology of the structure, which includes a shallow trench along its east side (uphill toward the top of the knob).

Below, a winter view across the passageway, along the length of the earthwork.

 Earthwork at 33GU218 (Day's Knob Archaeological Site) 

Earthwork Gateway at 33GU218 (Day's Knob Archaeological Site)  Earthwork Gateway at 33GU218 (Day's Knob Archaeological Site)

The passageway, single-file through the structure, is aligned toward the summit of the knob, which is roughly 117 m (385') horizontally distant and 27 m (89') higher.  (As is evident in the winter photo above, this gateway is also aligned toward the lower hill farther west.)  Such wall earthworks are typically associated with ceremonial sites oriented to solar events, and other features of this site suggest that it is the case here.  Most directly, consider this photo of the vernal equinox sunset through the gateway:
Vernal Equinox Sunset at Earthwork Gateway, Day's Knob Archaeological Site (33GU218)

Below, the opposite (west) end of the gateway with large and somewhat zoomorphic sandstone slabs likely collapsed from an original structure flanking the upward path.  (Note that nothing like this is present on the uphill [east] end.)

Earthwork Gateway at 33GU218 (Day's Knob Archaeological Site)

Below, the summer solstice sunset viewed from the top of the knob as the sun arcs downward at 301 degrees behind the prominent hill 3.94 km (2.44 mi) in the distance, seen from quite near the location on the knob in direct line with the earthwork's passageway.  (The view from the precise location, a short distance to the left [south], is now obscured by trees.)

Summer Solstice Sunset at 33GU218 (Day's Knob Archaeological Site)

Below, a white oak estimated by an Ohio state forester in 2009  to be about 230 years old, growing from the surface of the earthwork.  This is in itself good physical evidence that the structure is not of recent origin.  In addition, vertical core samples taken by a professional archaeologist yielded dense clay indicating against recent deposition as claimed by Ohio's state archaeologists.

Earthwork at 33GU218 (Day's Knob Archaeological Site)


So far, aside from the earthwork, the artifact at this site that is, in terms of currently recognized evidence, best temporally/culturally diagnostic is a ceramic sherd from the uppermost artifact layer, about 12 cm (5") down at the top of the hill.  This is an apparent rim sherd identified by a professional Ohio archaeologist as likely being from the Middle Woodland Period, or roughly 2000 years BP.  (Older flint points have been found on bottomland just north of the site.)

Middle Woodland Ceramic Sherd - Day's Knob Archaeological Site  Middle Woodland Ceramic Sherd - Day's Knob Archaeological Site


Artifact material bearing imagery characteristic of this site has been found in areas of Ohio that, unlike this location, were flattened by glaciation, suggesting that the material there is less than 14,000 years old (unless, of course, it simply survived where it had been earlier or was carried in by an ice sheet).  In 2005 Dave Gillilan in Pickaway County, Ohio (glacial boundary) discovered, at a depth of about 1.5 m (5') in apparently undisturbed ground, a deliberately buried cache of artifacts quite similar in form and composition to those at 33GU218 but generally more refined, and accompanied by numerous flint and quartz points, blades, etc. characteristic of the Late Archaic and Early Woodland Periods (roughly 2000 years BP).  And some of the other artifacts in direct context are very strange, including non-utilitarian objects of iron, the carbon content of which has been radiocarbon dated to around 400 AD, suggesting prehistoric iron smelting by Native Americans.  (Similar iron artifacts, not yet dated, have appeared here at 33GU218).

Dave Gillilan Finds

Click image for details and more photos.

The lithic artifacts found so far at Day's Knob are carved, chipped, flaked, split, and abraded mainly from the local limestone, sandstone, hematite, and limonite.  Heavy V-profile incision marks (seemingly decorative or symbolic in most cases) are a distinctive characteristic of this assemblage.  A few of the simple tools are made from non-local igneous or metamorphic rock.  The site is well south of the glacial boundary, beyond the extent of significant outwash; also, it is on a hill rising about 120 meters (400') above any creek beds in which such material might appear.  Apparently this material was imported by the site's early inhabitants.

Click image for details.

Why there are not more flint implements here is somewhat of a mystery, but it is evident that the hard limestone abundant at the site was adequate for the population's needs at the time (it is quite capable of cutting wood, for example); they just used what was there, and flint does not occur naturally in Guernsey County.  Apparently they were unaware that 21st century AD archaeologists would not have approved their material for tool making.

The original expectation was to deal here only with the artifacts appearing at Day's Knob, but it has subsequently (and not surprisingly) become clear that material of very similar form and incorporated iconography is to be found in many places in North America (as far away as California), and, initially rather unexpectedly, in other parts of the world.  Among professionally excavated potentially "pre-Clovis" sites in North America, it almost certainly is present (even if not recognized) at Topper beneath the Clovis-age strata, and at Gault among diagnostically Clovis-age material.

            Topper                         Gault

Pre-Clovis Artifact - Topper Archaeological Site        Feathered Bird Figure from Gault Archaeological Site

Click images for details.

Many visitors to this website, collectors and amateur archaeologists in the USA and even Europe, have contacted this author to show very similar material they have found.  At least two in the USA had already independently recognized their finds as probable artifacts, and the European contributors (apparently having fewer preconceptions) had been doing this for quite some  time (for example, among other longtime investigators, Ursel Benekendorff  in Germany).  Individual visitors' interpretations of the material vary widely (sometimes as naturalistic depictions of extinct animals, early hominin physiognomies, etc.), frequently differing from this author's rather conservative ones - but right now this is not so important.  (And the "professionals" will eventually pontificate endlessly on all this once they become aware of it, and claim to have discovered it.)  The objects from this site are, for the most part, clearly artifactual and of essentially the same morphology and incorporated symbolic motifs, particularly significant in the context of the early habitation of North America.  And the overall implications for the worldwide migration timeline are obvious.  Some of the visitors' contributions (no time to include all of them yet), and some of this author's finds from other countries can be seen by clicking these links:



            North America                    Europe                Australia                         Africa


____________________ Bird Forms ____________________

In many cases the functional tools at 33GU218 are formed at least abstractly in the shape of birds or bird-humans, which apparently played a dominant role in the belief system (animism/shamanism?) of the people that left these mysterious objects behind.  Most of the bird forms have a rounded or even anthropomorphic face, but the overall morphology, and an eye distinctly carved in the appropriate place, are unmistakable when one even casually looks for them.

Bird-Shaped tools - click image for details.

Tools and/or decorative/symbolic objects ("portable art") of this form have also appeared in other parts of the world; some of these are claimed to date from several hundred thousand years ago, and the easily recognized form persists in tools well into the Neolithic.  

______________ Decorative/Symbolic Birds ______________ 

Besides being fashioned from rock, some of the primarily symbolic or decorative bird figures at Day's Knob are fashioned from various organic materials.

(Click images below for details:)


                                 Pitch                                     Wood                          Clay/Hair                               

The organic materials' state of preservation is good, apparently due to their having been packed tightly into clay of low acidity.  This includes the verified human hairs that have appeared in direct context.

LYRS2LO.JPG (44461 bytes)

Click image for details.

________________The Bird Spirit (Bird-Human)________________

Even more frequently than the actual bird form, the image of a hybrid bird-human creature appears - referred to here as the "Bird Spirit".  (Since this author seems to have discovered it, at least in this context, he presumably can call it whatever he likes.)  Whatever the age of this site might prove to be, the Bird Spirit image in itself is probably of considerable anthropological signifi- cance, being apparently of quite ancient origin.  In artifacts of the European Paleolithic it appears consistently, resembling in small detail the image here, and persists quite identifiably into modern but traditional Inuit/Yupik ("Eskimo") "transformation art".  (Actually, it has subsequently come to this author's attention that the Inuit and Yupik have been calling this bird-human figure "Bird Spirit", or even just "bird", for a very long time.  Oops!  So much for this author's originality...)  The figure also appears in Australia, Asia, and other parts of the world, seemingly a Primal Image.

For a while, this author was tentatively identifying numerous figures on stone tools as animals such as bear and wildcat.  Then came the discovery of what appeared to be the image of a human head made of a hard clay/ochre/plant amalgam, half buried at the bottom of a washed out rut in the "driveway" up the knob, and quite distinct in composition from the surrounding mud.  In its mouth were two distinctly detailed birds joined together, and it was adorned with several other small bird figures.  Looking more closely at the mischaracterized "animal" images on the tools and large stone figures then revealed that these usually had mouths abstractly or distinctly shaped like birds, leading to the recognition of a highly standardized albeit stylized bird-human figure.  The constant repetition of a complex and recognizable pattern was unmistakable.  (A few of the Figure Stones here are, however, distinctly and naturalistically in the form of particular non-bird animal heads, e.g., rabbit, dog, bear, equid, human.  And petroglyphs seem to include spider and mastodon.)

The head of a Bird Spirit may be strongly anthropomorphic, with distinctly human nose and eyes at the front of the face, or more bird-like with an elongated head.  In either case, it usually has a mouth rather than a beak.  Often one eye is open and the other is shut.  Below is a sketch of the general form, a simple schematic showing most of the typical components described in following paragraphs.  (Unlike the people that created these objects, this author has no artistic talent.  Do not laugh.)       

The sketch below shows the general form of the two-faced (janiform) image appearing repeatedly in the carved rocks at this site, with the quasi- anthropomorphic shaman-like face at one end and a more zoomorphic one at the other:

A Bird Spirit (or similar zoo-anthropomorphic) figure typically exhibits at least some of the following features shown below, apparently basic components in a set of Primal Images.   Click on the underscored terms or the "thumbnails" for photos:


A bird or other creature facing forward (sometimes sideward) on top of the head, often suggesting shaman headgear.

Click image for details.


One or more creatures emerging from the mouth, possibly a theme of regeneration or transformation, like the figure-emerging-egg-like and figure-from-the-belly imagery also shown below.  Sometimes there is a fractal-like succession of figures, each emerging from the one preceding it. 

Click image for details.


The head of a creature emerging from the belly of the primary figure.

Click image for details.


A creature emerging from the posterior, in the manner of an egg.

Click image for details.


Janiform - a face at one end of the figure, another at the opposite end looking in the opposite direction.  Typically one face is more or less anthropomorphic, and the other more zoomorphic. 

Click image for details.


A mouth consisting of two birds conjoined most of the way back from their heads, and facing away from each other with their heads forming or occupying the corners of the mouth.  When the figure is depicted only in profile (more common), the mouth has the form of a single bird facing toward the back of the head.

BS033_10.JPG (25440 bytes)

Click image for details.


Sometimes the mouth takes the form of a big toothy grin.

Human Figure - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

Click image for details.



Eyes typically circular or diamond/lozenge/rhombus-shaped, very often with a distinct raised or indented iris in the center.  When the face appears in frontal view, often one eye is open while the other (more commonly the left?), is partly or fully closed.  The eyes seem to have received particular attention to detail, and are among the most quickly recognizable evidence of human agency in the lithic artifact material.  Sometimes they are micro-carved into the form of a bird or bird-human head.

Click image for details.


A nose consisting of a bird or human-like head facing outward or downward.

bs045_01.jpg (286991 bytes)

Click image for details.


A chin, if significantly present, in the form of another creature.

bs044_01.jpg (136144 bytes)

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A bird or bird-human on the back of another one, often suggesting copulation.


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A bird or other creature on the side of the primary figure.

Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

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The figures typically exhibit symmetry in that the reverse side usually bears a similar image, at least thematically.

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As is evident from the features described above, the figures are typically polymorphic/polyiconic - multiple images in one.  The details of an image and its multiple components are often not deeply or distinctly carved, and are usually best visible (sometimes only visible) with the light source above the figure when positioned vertically.  Sometimes when the figure is rotated 180 degrees, one image or set of images virtually disappears and another comes into view.  The artisans clearly understood the interplay of light and shadow.    While often varying markedly in overall appearance, the figures appearing usually exhibit the same general arrangement of subcomponents.  

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For a tip on effectively photographing artifacts like these (it can be tricky), click the photo below:

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The image of the Bird Spirit appears to be of ancient  and primal origin, present in stone images from Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa often dating back into the Paleolithic.  This has survived from its origins in the very earliest "art" of the Old World into the Paleolithic in the western hemisphere, and in quite recognizable form into the Mississippian period, as is clearly visible on the well known Cahokia Birdman Tablet:  

Photo by Peter A. Bostrom, lithiccastinglab.com


Inuit/Yupik (Eskimo) "transformation art" incorporates many if not most of the various Bird Spirit (bird-human) themes in the Day's Knob artifact material, like the very common bird-from-the-mouth below.  A cultural affinity seems quite apparent:

It is interesting to speculate on the origin of the Bird Spirit image.  Cave paintings of the Paleolithic, with their magnificent depictions of animals of all sorts, often include people only as simple "stick" figures, if at all.  It has been conjectured that humans of that time considered themselves to be essentially separate from the natural world, having come from above.  One of this author's possibly strange hypotheses is that this Bird Spirit figure is the manifestation of a sort of "collective unconscious".  Many or perhaps most of us have had vivid flying dreams, particularly in childhood.  It seems reasonable to think that if we do it, people hundreds of thousands of years ago did it also, and took it much more seriously and literally.  And early humans poking around on the ground must have regarded birds with more than a little wonder.  When people first began to think of themselves as transcending their earthbound condition, birds must have quickly come to mind, and a "morphing" of human and bird in their physically rendered imagery seems a logical extension of this.  

Given its wide geographical distribution and apparently great antiquity, one might tentatively speculate that the bird-human image originated in Africa, then was carried into Europe and the Middle East, then on into Asia and Australia, and across Beringia to North America.

Click the image below for bird-human figures and related material from other parts of the world:

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__________________Human Figures __________________

Figures that can be identified as distinctly human are less common at this site than those that are zoomorphic or zoo-anthropomorphic.  Of the human images that have appeared, several are faces eye-to-eye or mouth-to-mouth with a hybrid creature, sometimes sharing an eye.
Human Face Images - Artifacts from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

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____________________Petroglyphs ____________________

Mastodon Petroglyph - 33GU218

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____________________ Rock Paintings ____________________

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___________________ Larger Stone Sculpture ___________________ 


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___________________ Personal Ornamentation ___________________

These are two pendants - one the image of a bird, the other a disk.  The holes drilled in each are of the same size, and appear to have been produced in the same manner.  

Bird Pendant - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site            Disk Pendant - Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

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____________________ Micro-Art ____________________

Some images are as small as a couple of millimeters, indicating remarkable visual acuity. 

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____________________ Clay Figures ____________________

One of the more unusual (and certainly controversial) finds at this site is the many zoomorphic figures made from clay or a compressed  amalgam of mud, ochre, and plant material.  Some contain verified human hairs and/or artificially colored plant fibers.

Clay Bird Figure Containing Human Hair - 33GU218

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Leaves and other plant material were sometimes attached, including a piece of pine cone in one case.  (There are no pine trees currently at the site.)  Apparently, packing the objects into the dense clay created a more or less anoxic environment that protected the plant material.

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______________________ Iron ______________________

Iron artifacts appear at the site, almost all of a non-utilitarian nature, and seemingly the product of direct-reduction smelting.  (Speculative at this point.)


Iron Artifact at 33GU218 (Day's Knob)

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_____________________ Glass _____________________


Glass Artifact of Unknown Origin - Day's Knob Archaeological Site

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____________________ Wood ____________________

Wooden bird figures, as well as cleanly cut and carved wooden sticks, often appear buried in the clay, rather well preserved in context with other artifact material.

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  _________________Stone Tools _________________

Among the assemblage, several very general tool templates are evident.  Since few of the implements are made of flint (which does not appear naturally in this area), they do not fit well into the classic "Indian" taxonomy, so this is only a crude attempt at classification (fitting square peg into round hole).  Click on the links below for photos and/or expanded descriptions.  (Please note:  This part of the website is poorly developed, showing mainly low resolution photos of just a few of the earliest tool finds.  There are better examples that will be posted later.)

Since there is evidence at this site of extensive earth moving and at least some plant cultivation, it seems likely that many of the tools were simply digging implements.

Small Gouges and Picks:  These are pointed implements contoured for right-handed thumb and finger grasp, often in the form of a bird or bird head.

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Large Gouges These are pointed or chisel-shaped right-hand implements contoured either for downward or for forward thrusting.  Like the hand axes, they often exhibit the characteristic grooves and ridges for thumb and fingers.

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Hand Axes:  These have a bifacial bit edge and a wider, rounded proximal edge for right-handed grasping. The sides of  the implement are often grooved and/or ridged for thumb on one side and fingers on the other.

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Wing-Shaped Implements These are flared trianguloids in a generally birdlike form, including scrapers, hand axes, gouges, and abraders.  This is one of the most common templates in the assemblage, and maybe a precursor of the well known bannerstone.

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Misc. Scrapers and Cutting Tools:  These vary considerably in size and form.  Most are more or less in the shape of a bird or bird head.

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Semilunar Implements:  These are celts, scrapers, or abraders with a bifacially beveled bit edge along the circumference, and a flat or more-or-less flat proximal grasping end.  They are usually very simple, but are sometimes well detailed with contours and/or flanges for right-handed holding.  The size range is considerable.

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Sandstone AbradersHand-held or finger-held grinding tools apparently for surface reduction and forming of other implements and decorative/symbolic objects.  These appear in huge quantity across the site.

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Tool Preforms:  Rocks split and carved in preparation for further process- ing into tools.

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Although the implements are sometimes bizarre in appearance, close inspection reveals genuine skill, creativity, and attention to detail in fabricating a functional tool from the material at hand.  It seems reasonable to assume that these tools were, when actually used, applied with considerable force over an extended period of time, and that sharp or rough edges against the hand or fingers would have been intolerable.  On this assumption, an object at this site is very seldom classified as a tool unless it meets these simple criteria:    It must fit firmly and comfortably in the right (sometimes but seldom left) hand, or, if small, in the fingers.  When the object is held in a position in which there is such a fit, the bit edge or point must be in the appropriate orientation to perform its function.  It is remarkable that, with the exception of some of the more amorphous sandstone abraders, the tools present at this site both meet these requirements and manage in many cases to recognizably if abstractly incorporate the ever-present bird or bird-human image.  It seems that cutting the image was an integral part of the manufacturing process, as much so as making the point or edge and the grasping surface.  It was seldom an intentional display of artistic virtuosity - just part of the routine, perhaps like forming the cross on hot cross buns.  Assuming an animistic belief system, maybe it was just putting the spirit's image on the rock it was believed to inhabit.  In any event, it seems that a rock was modified to incorporate both utility and symbology.

In contemplating whether a given lithic artifact is a "tool" or a piece of simple "art", a fair amount of confusion has arisen because the concept of art is, relatively speaking, a very recent one in the course of humans' physical, cognitive, and cultural evolution.  Seeing and judging what was left behind by people many thousands of years ago only through only the lens of one's own culturally conditioned perceptions will never lead to an understanding of what was really happening.  This author would propose that many of the puzzling worked stones (often called "portable rock art") that have been examined at this site and throughout much of the world, probably many of which no longer show clear evidence of use wear, are both "tools" and "art" or perhaps neither - just potentially if not always utilitarian objects that also routinely incorporate rudimentary iconography.  It has long been recognized, as in the Rift Valley in Africa, that early humans (hominins) produced and left behind vastly more stone implements than were ever actually used, what would seem to be an almost compulsive behavior deriving from the fact that the manufacture of stone tools was a matter of everyday survival.  Perhaps an evolving animistic belief system (i.e., everything is inhabited by a spirit) and intellectual capacity for symbolic representation gave rise to the routine incorporation of simple imagery into potential tools.  (This seems to have been in full swing by at least 450,000 years ago, judging from some of the European finds from reasonably secure stratigraphic context.)

As was mentioned above, a long time ago this author noted consistent motifs and their subcomponents incorporated into artifacts from this site and others in Europe and Australia, and a distinct correspondence in modern but tradi- tional Inuit/Yupik carvings and masks, which also derive from something quite ancient and primal in a culture intimately connected to nature.  In this context, consider this quote from anthropologist Edmund Carpenter's 1973 book "Eskimo Realities": "No word meaning 'art' occurs in Eskimo, nor does 'artist'; there are only people.  Nor is any distinction made between utilitarian and decorative objects."  (Thanks to Richard Wilson of Watford, England for pointing out this book after being subjected to this author's ravings on the similarity of Inuit/Yupik iconography motifs to those of the European Paleolithic.)  It seems likely that the symbology persisted through many thousands of years of migration and ethnic/cultural diversification.  (Belief systems, like languages, are not bound to ethnicity.)

It is interesting and significant that recently European archaeologists have announced their realization that simple tools at Wilczyce and Lalinde/Gönnersdorf, showing no signs of use wear, are in the form of the long recognized "Venus" figurines that have appeared at various sites.  The fact of the matter is that amateur archaeologists, free of the long- standing preconceptions, have been recognizing and publishing this relationship for decades.  While the perceptiveness and insight of the professional archaeologists in this recent discovery certainly is to be commended, it seems that this announcement is, as is so often the case, a matter of assigning importance to a given discovery less on the basis of its archaeological significance than on the academic credentials of the observers.  The presence of rudimentary "portable rock art" in the form of "tools" has long been rejected in Europe and elsewhere, this being "argumentation from absence"; no one (with a very few unpopular exceptions) in the professional/academic archaeological community had reported it, so it was assumed not to exist. 

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The artifacts unearthed so far at Day's Knob have appeared mainly in these locations:

Along the 130m (425') access path from the ridge road to the top of the hill, after years of erosion and maintenance grading, from roughly 25 cm (10") to 60 cm (24") below the current terrain surface.

In a large hole dug out by deer around a salt block at the top of the hill.

In several small test holes at random locations.

On and near the surface of the large earthwork along the west side of the hill.

On and below the surface of a large artificially terraced area including the spring on the steep east (sheltered) side of the hill.

On or near the surface, or eroding from banks in quarried or otherwise disturbed areas of the site. Characteristic artifact material has, in some cases, been retrieved from far below the current terrain surface.

Most of the artifacts collected at this site have been cataloged or at least sorted by the location of their appearance, but a controlled dig remains to be completed.   One 1x1 m square was started in 2003, with lithic objects logged by XYZ coordinates.  This was left on hold, mainly because of the large quantity of artifacts that suddenly appeared as the result of heavy rains eroding the deeply rutted "driveway" up the hill, requiring full-time attention.  Although barely started, this square has produced numerous clearly fabricated sandstone objects, most of them bearing the ubiquitous bird/human image.

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 ____________________          ____________________

Day's Knob would have been highly favorable for habitation, with its commanding view in all directions, ample water supply, and abundant lithic material, and it clearly was the site of much human activity.   However, it is hardly unique.  There are undoubtedly many other such sites in North America waiting to be discovered by professional or amateur archaeologists willing and able to see beyond the current and rather rigidly orthodox paradigm for aboriginal American artifacts.  (Topper in South Carolina is almost certainly such a site.)  Many photos of similar artifact material, resembling that here in minute detail, have been e-mailed to this author.  If one were given to wild speculation, one might present the heretical hypothesis that North America was well populated before the advent of the diagnostically "Clovis" implements.  One way or another, it is seems likely that the ground of North America will yield quite a large body of heretofore unrecognized artifact material related to but morphologically distinct from that popularly seen as Native American.

Following their discovery by the archaeological pioneer Boucher de Perthes in the nineteenth century, simple figure stones have been rejected and ignored by archaeologists despite forensically verified evidence of human agency.  This is a sad and almost inexcusable oversight given that figure stones present an index to a site's early human presence where more popularly recognized artifact material is not present.  In short, there is a lot more to all this than just "arrowheads".

Note to persons recognizing and collecting artifacts like those shown here (or any other old artifacts, for that matter!):  Please record the exact location of each find (a handheld GPS unit can be quite helpful in this).  Place the find in a plastic "zip-lock" bag along with a note detailing its provenience.  Context is very important.  If the artifact is damp, let it dry out before sealing it in the the bag.  If you think you must clean it, FIRST look under magnification (at least 10X) for adhering material of interest.  For example, on several occasions at this site human hairs and dyed plant fibers (sometimes intertwined with the hairs) have been found in the encasing soil or attached to the stone, even well below the current terrain surface.  This is fragile evidence of something quite interesting, and you wouldn't want to destroy it.

Cleaning the inspected artifact gently with a soft-bristled brush and rinsing carefully with distilled or at least clean water is usually safe.  Obviously, using anything like alcohol or bleach as recommended by the make-believe "Portable Rock Art Museum" is a very bad idea.

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Please email questions, comments, and flaming arrows to


And please note:  Being rather overwhelmed, I apologize for falling far behind in replying to and corresponding with the many visitors who have submitted comments and questions.  Your input is welcome and valued, and I will try to catch up with all this.

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Except for photos and quotations from other sources, the material presented on this website is exclusively the intellectual property of the author.  However, you are welcome to share anything here if proper credit is given.        

                           ---- Copyright Alan Day 2003-2024 ----

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Some Interesting Links:


                               originsnet.org             schafftwissen.de        palaeoart.co.uk     Charles Belart     


                         hekoverlag.de       Hans Grams     paleolithicartmagazine.org       portablerockart.com


                                             dirtbrothers.org                                                                     lithiccastinglab.com


                             ohioarch.org                       pleistocenecoalition.com           asaa-persimmonpress.com