Figure Stones in England


Richard Wilson Collection


Figure Stone from England - Richard Wilson Find

Richard has his own excellent website, well worth a look:

Richard Wilson, British Figure Stones Researcher and Flintknapper

For several years Richard, a skilled flintknapper himself, has been investigating a surprisingly large concentration of Paleolithic flint artifact material appearing beneath the surface of his property in the Colne river valley, all excavated from a 1m x 1m x 1m square.  Much of this lithic material incorporates the classic simple zoo-anthropomorphic iconography characteristic of the European Paleolithic.  He has carefully researched the geological stratigraphy of his site, which was initially thought to date from roughly 450,000 years BP.  Recently, however, it seems plausible that this could be from nearly 900,000 years BP given that the venue apparently lies within the same early river system (proto-Thames) as the Happisburgh artifact finds from that earlier time period.

With the assistance of lithics experts - including professional geologists/petrol- ogists, actual physical scientists - Richard has demonstrated convincing evi- dence of human agency in material that had been summarily dismissed by academic archaeologists.  (This would suggest that, in distinguishing human- modified from naturally formed rocks, British archaeologists are more or less on a par with their American counterparts.  It should be acknowledged, however, that altogether the relationship between professional and avocational archaeologists is much more harmonious and productive in the UK than here in the US.)

In September 2010 Richard presented a well received paper and lecture on his work at the IFRAO's Pleistocene Art of the World Congress in France, and in 2015 the Watford Museum near London hosted an exhibition of his Palaeolithic Figure Stones from Fontmaure.   He has published on the Fontmaure artifacts in the peer-reviewed journal Rock Art Research.  The article is available HERE.

Richard and I have been in correspondence on both our projects since 2006 when he contacted me via this website, having noted the clearly not coincidental pre- dominance of apparently worked lithic bird forms in his assemblage.  We have shared a lot of joy in the discoveries, as well as, of course, much amused frus- tration in dealing with the archaeological/academic "establishment".


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Palaeolithic bird Figure Stone, England.  Richard Wilson find.

Above, a classic flint bird from the 1x1x1 m square.

Below, a close-up of the eye showing the impact scar and ripples, and bulb of percussion - clear evidence of human manufacture.  Fabricated eyes in the anatomically correct position are very much a hallmark of Palaeolithic Figure Stones. 

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Palaeolithic Bird-Venus, England.  Richard Wilson find.

An exceptionally nice Bird-Venus, and maybe the oldest detailed one I have seen.  In the flint's cortex note the weathered but still discernable face, and the much clearer one - two eyes and a mouth - emerging from the figure's belly, as well as possibly a pointed face emerging egg-like (in left profile) from the posterior.  Note also the probable vagina represented bottom right.

Below, a piece in possibly the same theme but less detailed.


All photos above by Alan Day during a most interesting visit in 2015.

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Below, more flint birds.



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Above left, a primal image appearing fairly often among the Figure Stones, an open-mouthed quasi-human face staring upward at about a forty-five degree angle (this author has dubbed it "Stargazer").  Compare this with the figure on the right from Ursel Benekendorff's remarkable collection from northern Germany.




Simon Parkes Collection


Flint, putatively 125,000 - 200,000 years BP

Characteristic features:  Facing left,  face with round-faced creature over forehead.


"Venus" figure in flint from deposits dated to ca. 425,000 years BP.  Character- istic features:  Apparent figure emerging from belly, and possibly one emerging egg-like downward from the posterior, both common at the Day's Knob site.

A flint blade in the "Venus" form.


Not much guesswork required with this image... 

Basalt, estimated age 125,000 years BP.



A classic example of the polymorphism/polyiconicity in Paleolithic imagery, this hand axe or chopper has the appearance of an animal face.  But rotated clockwise, the figure presents a rather anthropomorphic profile, a wide mouth deeply flaked in juxtaposition with the naturally formed eye.  A flaked mouth like this one appears frequently on such pieces - a fair amount of work serving no utilitarian purpose, but nonetheless deemed important.

Bird-form Clactonian flint tools from about 425,000 years BP, the longest being about 6.3 cm (2.5") in length.



David King Collection

From the Colne River Valley Near London

Sun Disk - David King Artifact Collection    Sun Disk - Day's Knob Archaeological Site

A "Sun Disk", left, shown for comparison with one from the Day's Knob site.  Note the small figure (bird?) emerging from the mouth on Mr. King's disk.  This old Sun Disk motif covered a lot of territory...

Bird form?


Bird form.



'Venus" figures.

The one on the left is more or less the "classic".  The other strongly incorporates the bird form, and here the new creature or spirit emerges from the posterior like an egg.


Steve Robinson Collection



Flint tool, length 4 cm (1.6").

Classic quasi-anthropomorphic bird form.


Two flint tools and a slate piece in the same form.



Apparently burnt flint tools - 7 cm (2.75") and 5 cm (2").


Flint tool - 5 cm (2") - with close-up of parallel flaking.


A flint knife or scraper, length 4 cm (1.6").



A flint scraper in the classic bird form with a head emerging egg-like from its posterior (lower left).


Two more flint tools - left, height 2.5 cm (1") - right, length 7 cm (2.75").


Small artifacts of flint and bronze.  Lengths 4.5 cm(1.8") and 5 cm (2").


Ceramic fragment, 5.5 cm (2.2").


Slate artifact (tool?), height 4.5 cm (1.8").

          Slate artifact (tool?), 5 cm (2').                  Between two similar flint pieces.

Another worked slate piece.


Strange object, light in weight, composition not yet determined.



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