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Paleo Indian art recovered from a Spoon River archeological site.

Paleo Indian Art

Paleo Indian art recovered from a Spoon River archeological site. Click to view.

By Steven Hampton

These American Indian artifacts existed 7,000 years before Stonehenge split the seasons.

Updated with New Stuff: 03/30/2014

In this Chapter:

Totems of Stone > Ice Age Illinois > Devonian Relics

The Discovery

A waning screech catapults me out of a daydream. Overhead, a circling hawk parts the sky with a twist of its red tail and I’m back on the bare cornfield where I’ve been walking for hours. There’s a subtle sense of reverence for being on the very ground my distant ancestors once walked. Through the lace of human genetics stretching far back into dark Africa, we are all related, I thought. Sweet moldy scent of fresh earth pulls me back once again to the damp soil. How much have I missed? I vow to railroad my attention to the ground looking for clues, a single glint of reflected light - even for a brief instant – of how life was for the people who, lost to time, lived on this land.

Long before recorded history, Paleo Indians inhabited the upper Spoon River valley in Illinois.
[1 Footnote: How the river got its name] These stone age people left behind stone axes, adzes, and dart tips or "arrowheads". Among these Paleo Indian artifacts sprouting in the springtime cornfields along the Spoon River are various other stones with no apparent useful function. Locally called “field stones” these rocks are a nuisance; wearing on the farmer’s implements and tripped over by us arrowhead hunters.

The Spoon River

The Spoon River in Illinois where this Paleo Indian art was recovered. The river’s name is a translation of emiquon, an Illinois and Potawatomi Indian word referring to the mussel shells they used as spoons.The lazy brown Spoon River in Illinois has seen humans come and go for over 13,000 years. Stone-Age man drank, bathed, fished and canoed in its once pristine waters. Before that, during the last Ice-Age 25,000 years ago, it was a stream. When the glaciers suddenly retreated 18,000 years ago, the resulting floods excavated, ground, and polished riverstones into unique shapes. Shortly after, Paleo Indian finds them in clusters in the clear water, possibly diving for them. Another 11,000 years and 2 centuries of farming have silted over any chance of finding such perfectly matched riverstones again.

In some fields by the lazy river are ancient campsite mounds laying a few feet above flood plane. It’s around these Indian mounds we find Indian artifacts - arrowheads, tools and flint chips. My cousin Dan found a large, beautiful, and complete stone axe head when we were teenagers – we often cultivated the fields on tractors in early summer. My father had a collection of several arrowhead points he picked up over the years: Sometimes when working a field, a shiny flint point would catch his eye and he would stop the tractor to pick it up. I was in my late forties when Dad died. It was then I became interested in Indian artifacts and so set out to find them: I walk the likely places in 10-foot swaths until I cover the whole area. This simple technique made my collection grow quite rapidly. My wife Delores and I sometimes hunt in other fields – the farmers don’t mind if you pick them up, as long as you ask permission first, don’t drive into the field or step on his crops.

We are conditioned to think art be made of a single piece of material wholly formed by the hand of man.

My favorite place while growing up on our small dairy farm was a hilltop overlooking the rich Spoon River bottomland. The hill was cow pasture for as long as Mom could remember but she had the top of it plowed for cropland in 1995. It too had a campsite mound, but was concealed under grass all these years, so wasn't hunted-out like the rest of our fields by visitors in the past. It was ripe for the picking. It’s March of 2002, the beginning of my fifth year as a relic hunter and I was alone this time, anxious to find the top-half of a beautiful multicolored, dove-tailed spear point. I found the bottom-half on the hill the previous spring, so that’s where I headed. It’s there I would come upon a pair of stones that changed my view of the North American Indian forever.

Hilltop site 2601D overlooking the Spoon River in Illinois where this Paleo Indian art was recovered. The Spoon River valley is rich in ancient Native American history and has been turning up Indian artifacts for the past 3 centuries.Hilltop Site 2601.D  overlooking the Spoon

A panoramic of a River Owl site in late September of 1992 before the grassy pasture on the top of the hill (at left) was deep-plowed for cropland. The Spoon River tree-line can be seen off to the far upper right. To the lower far right lies a stretch of bottomland ending at the river. Trees don’t take root on this windy hill which is a peninsula backed by a creek, so for early Paleo-Indian this isolated site offered a safe, cool campsite in summer with good visibility for half-a-mile in either direction along this ancient river.

Cracked Nut?

Sun-drenched dewdrops spangle the spring morning grass along the edge of the field. The hawk is circling over the misty river bottom now, looking for some unfortunate field mouse foraging in last fall’s leaf litter. I turn my attention back to walking the ground. This hobby had become a walking meditation of sorts. What’s this? A couple of old red rocks. By now, I am quite conservative with bending over. But if I don’t check them out, I’ll wonder what they were for the rest of the day and will have to back-track to find them again. I pick up one of the dirt-caked stones. It has no remarkable features other than sparkling red in the morning sun. I make a mental note of their location and carefully slip both heavy stones into my pack containing a crude projectile-point found nearby on the previous pass.

Mother & Child. These Indian art forms are some of the first stones I found that hinted Paleo Indian did more with rock than to simply make tools.74.  Mother & Child

Mater matris & Puer

The Mother is sitting on her knees facing the viewer and holding up infant. The baby's head is over her left shoulder and they are face-to-face. The top stone teeters for several cycles once nudged, as if to rock the baby to sleep. To Paleo Indian this would have been quite a novelty. Sparkling red metaquartzite w hematite crystal inclusions, tool kit: Bone and nutcracker (shown wetted). Stacked dry. We mist with distilled water in spray bottle to bring out inner beauty of these ancient stones, 2 parts. 5.5”h; 1247 gm       Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

Later, back at home I wash the red stones with water and a dedicated toothbrush. I study the pieces more intently. Huh. They're heavy for their size. They appear to be crystalline metaquartzite of a deep red color and peppered with black hematite crystal inclusions. The normally clear quartzite is colored bright red by hematite (iron oxide). At first, I thought them to be a millstone and base, but the top piece will not sit flush with the bottom. Next the nutcracker theory was invoked, explaining the fissures in the base and old "hinge fractures" (cracks running parallel to the surface) under the top piece. (This area still supports many hickory and walnut trees.) The gap between the stones would prevent pulverizing the nut.

Catfish: Some of this Paleo Indian art can tell us what the fauna were like several millennia ago. This flint figure may have also been a tool kit because of its many sharp edges.

47.  Catfish

Ictaluridae, Noturus Gladiator

One of few flint figurines found. The dorsal (top) fin was chipped in a tongue-in-groove fashion by the ancient artisan to seat on the top of the smooth body stone. And indeed, catfish have a spine in their dorsal fin making it as sharp as it is on this figurine. The head was also extensively worked by the ancient artisan. Brown spruce needles were probably used for the fish’s whisker-like feelers. Catfish is still enjoyed in this region, but because of pesticide and herbicide field run-off into the rivers, it’s safer to eat American pond-raised. The clan however enjoyed catfish right out of the clear river using spear or possibly fish trap. Note the dappled pattern as if the fish is being viewed through shallow, clear water. Why is the fish colored like Oriental carp? Were Illinois catfish once a lighter color when the rivers ran clear?  Caramel, cream, white and gray flint, 6 parts; horizontal and vertical orientation. 8.0”L; 290 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

This nut cracker, I thought, would at least be a curious addition to the other strange rocks we had found on our arrowhead hunting excursions.

 

Totems of Stone

Then one evening about a week later, while casually observing the nutcracker set, the hair raised on the back of my neck. I saw her: A kneeling woman holding up an infant (#74 Mother & Child). The baby’s head is against her left shoulder. With trembling hands I reaffirmed this conclusion by re-examining the base. The bottom stone appears to have been chipped to divide her knees and its left side was cleaved – across the natural layers of stone – to make both thighs the same thickness. This was a deliberate attempt by someone long ago to make a stone figurine! I re-assemble the stones and study every detail. Anxiously I reach out to pick up the top stone but stop short, gently nudging it. It rocks left-to-right for several cycles like a dampening spring as if rocking the baby to sleep. This action does not misplace the top stone in the least. To Paleo Indian this would have been quite a novelty.

Totem poles and the casting of stones (more recently, dice) to predict the future may be residual expressions of these ancient stone figures.

Curiously, from any angle the work reveals a variety of lingham profiles. This figurine may have been a female fertility (Venus) and/or male potency idol, or a wedding gift to a medicine man (shaman), chieftain, or warrior. The bottom stone has a bowl-like depression from much use. Having been used as a bone-and nut-cracker and left standing to be exposed to hundreds of years of weathering and then buried by time, the bottom stone has acquired a few ancient fissures from water standing and freezing in it's bowl-like depression. But this Indian artifact is beautiful when wet revealing a bright, translucent red stone peppered with occasional black streaks of hematite crystals. Thousands of years ago when these stones were unsullied, fresh out of the river and dried, they probably looked much like they do today when wetted.

Bobcat, front. Some Paleo Indian figurine art are unmistakably animal icons.    Bobcat, rear. Even from the rear this Paleo Indian art resembles like a cat looking over its shoulder.

37.  Bobcat

Lynx rufus

This slick kitty, looking over her right shoulder, could almost pass as a domesticated house cat but it seems unlikely a nomadic clan would have such pets. The stones have a polished patina from extensive handling. By adding a short plume of ripened foxtail grass, the Bobcat becomes a "Lynx" proper. Caramel jasper, 2 parts. 4.0”h; 538 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

Since the initial discovery of the Mother & Child nutcracker, my wife Delores and I have found other stones that assemble into even more plausible figurines. Some of these Indian artifacts were found together in the field as if the statuettes were left assembled while the elements buried them in the soil. However, about 70% of these Indian artifacts were found in a shallow washout down the hill, which by all apparent means, may have also been left standing assembled and covered by centuries, nay millennia of rain-washed soil and plant debris.

These Indian artifacts are stacking stone figurines which consists of separate pieces because early man did not have a way to effectively carve stone. Carving quartz is a difficult and time consuming task, even today and virtually impossible in the stone age. Many of these stones would have been too dangerous to work without eye protection. It was much easier to stack or otherwise arrange stones to display a concept. Aside from hide-painting, these people had no other medium to express themselves. In Europe, cave painting had been practiced for about 40,000 years. Just a few thousand years ago the Ojibwas of Red Lake, Minnesota left ancient petroglyphs (mostly of giant Thunderbirds) carved or painted onto the soft limestone cliff faces. But there are no known caves or cliffs near our recovery site. So these people used their most abundant resource for artistic expression: riverstones.

Iron Maiden. Though this image looks like I conveniently stacked some sharp rocks, these stones are actually Paleo Indian tool art found together, fit comfortably in the hand and show ancient patina and wear from usage.72.  Iron Maiden

Virgo Ferrum

 

Black, heavy and hard: Hematite ("virgin iron") -laden gneiss tool kit. Head = bone and nut hammer; breast = scraper, chopper and wedge; hips = anvil and hand axe. Each piece feels comfortable in the hand. 3 parts. 7.1”h; 1240 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

Dozens of these Paleo Indian art figurines had been deliberately chipped on the undersides of some of their stones to stack together and in one special case to define facial features. One chalcedony figurine (97. Fire Woman) of beautiful carnelian grade has a piece that, like flint tools made of the time, was completely chipped into a woman's head with hair tied into a bun and hollowed out underneath to seat on the torso. Another figurine (102. Four-In-One Ice Age Animal) head and antler stones were painstakingly cut in relief to assemble into 5 different Ice Age animals!

The chipped surfaces of all these figurine stones show long-term weathering, smooth edges, and patina, ruling out farm implements and historic man as being the sculptor. In other stones there are matching wear marks, even in deep recesses, revealing the way to stack some of these figurines.

Prairie Chicken figurine. This Native American Ice Age Indian artifact not only looks old, it FEELS old. The natural patina on the stones gives a sense it was handled frequently a very long time ago.50.  Prairie Chicken

Tympanuchus cupido

Chicken breast on the hoof – the body of this chick depicts the most favorite part of the bird. The now endangered avian once flourished across the U.S. in prolific numbers and the flightless bird was probably easy prey for the clan using throwing weapons such as shurikens (flat, sharp-edged stones), discoids and round-stone slingshot loads. The jasper head has a natural pit in its base and seats securely on the body. Like the majority of these Indian artifacts figurines, this was a tool kit - the head was a pecking and bone-scraping tool and the body was a pestle for tenderizing meat and breaking bone for marrow. Both pieces have a sheen patina suggesting they were heavily handled by Paleolithic people. Caramel jasper w crystal fossils and original "sheen" patina, 2 parts. 5.0”h; 543 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net  

It is far from coincidence these “riverstones” - found on a hill with datable arrowheads - stack to produce expressive works of Ice-Age Paleo Indian art in recognizable forms: The odds of finding two or more natural stones together, of the same primal material, in clusters that make a statement in human terms, are otherwise astronomical.

But how is it possible to find so many matching stones in one place? In most areas of the world only a massive flood or glacier can bring together such a diversity of odd stones from a geological deposit. So, in order to answer the question of where these stones came from we must first look at the geologic history of Illinois.

Totems of Stone Ice Age Illinois Devonian Relics

 

Ice Age Illinois

Ice Age Remnants: How do we know these stones to be from the Ice Age? Because of the immensity of past Ice Age glaciers and their scraping effect upon the land, the geology of Illinois is unique. Moraines were scraped-up and piled ahead of the glacier's leading edge as it pushed southwestward. In this area, these ancient moraines, once seabed from various eons past, were left behind in receding bands as the glaciers retreated after the last Ice Age. After four glaciations, Illinois has been scraped to the bone with variations in bedrock from the Cambrian Period 550 million years ago to the Cretaceous Period 65 million years ago. It's like the whole state was scraped down as watershed towards the Mississippi River exposing a cross-section of the history of life on Earth. See map below.

Geologic Map of Illinois

 

Note Middle Devonian deposits (dark purple) in the northeast (Chicago) region. These Paleo Indian artifact stones hold Devonian fossils 354 million years old but were recovered on 75,000 year old soil some 200 miles to the southwest.

 

Copyright 2009 by Andrew Alden, geology.about.com, reproduced under educational fair use.

Map of Illinois: This Paleo Indian art holds Devonian fossils 354 million years old but were recovered on 75,000 year old soil some 200 miles to the southwest.

So the bedrock around here varies by county and in this particular region Stark, Knox and Fulton countries along the Spoon River, the bedrock is from the Pennsylvanian Period 300 million years ago (mya). Below that is shale from the earlier Mississippian Period 335 mya. There is presently little exposed bedrock in Illinois, but in this region Pennsylvanian Period bedrock was exposed by the third major ice sheet of the Illinoisan Ice Age (between 250,000 to 135,000 years ago) when that ice sheet was over 1 mile high and stretched across the landscape as far as the eye could see.

This whole region eventually filled with silt from that retreating glacier which is where we get most of our clay subsoil. The fourth and last retreating Wisconsinan ice sheet left our rich fertile topsoil. But this soil is much richer in history. The whole Spoon River region is also loaded with over 2,600 known archeological sites - some dating back to well over 12,000 years ago.

How old are these "pre-Colombian" Paleo Indian artifacts? To the northeast Illinois region lies a vast arc of moraines. See map below. This arc outlines the fourth and last ice sheet, the Wisconsinan of that same ice age (between 75,000 and 13,000 years ago). At the height of the last Ice Age, the Wisconsinan ice sheet only extended down through, and just south of, the Chicago region along a line running south to southeast (the green area on the map below) from Harvard through Rochelle, Princeton, Bloomington-Normal, Effingham, Decatur, and Paris Illinois.[2] However, this region ends just 25 miles east of the recovery site but right at the headwaters of the Spoon. When the final giant ice sheet retreated, even though the Spoon itself was not covered by this fourth and final ice sheet, the Spoon River valley again became a-washed clearing away any riverbed silt or debris accumulated over the previous eons. (The Wisconsinan also provided glaciologists glues on how glaciers transported and deposited material. In New York City, for example, before it was settled in the 1800s, large boulders peppered the landscape, brought down by the Wisconsinan. The last of those boulders can be seen in Central Park.)

Quaternary Geology of Illinois

Quaternary Geology of Illinois

 

Note the end moraines (green area) of the last ice sheet, the Wisconsinan, stop just 25 miles east of the headwaters of the Spoon River. Also note there are 3 heavy or thick end moraines (darker green) indicating there were at least 3 major floods when those moraines broke.

 

Copyright 2009 by Andrew Alden, geology.about.com, reproduced under educational fair use.

Fortunately many of these stones have fossils and we can date to when they were formed. Nearly all these rocks come from a geologic strata of the Devonian mass extinction 354 million years ago. In the seas lived sponges, corals, ammonoids, trilobites, brachiopods, sharks and bony fishes. On the land, short primitive plants appeared along with the first trees only 3 feet high. The first wingless insects crawled from the seas to escape predation by the arachnids. Soon the arachnids followed. Shortly thereafter the first reptiles appeared on land to feed on the insects and the arachnids. There are still many unanswered questions about life on earth and the mass extinction in the Devonian Period.[3] But our core question here is, how did 354 million year old rock end up on the surface of 75,000 year old soil?

Where did these Paleo Indian art stones come from? Beneath the end moraines of the Chicago-to-Paris arc lies bedrock from the Upper Devonian Period 354 mya with its fossil evidence of that mass extinction. See Bedrock Geologic Map of Illinois above. By the end of the last ice age, the end moraines forming this giant arc contain torn-up rock from this period. Some of these rocks may have been held captive by the Wisconsinan glacier for tens of thousands of years. When the giant Wisconsinan ice field thawed about 18,000 years ago, it dropped its load of stones and silt called "end moraines" which sometimes held back lakes of water. When these moraine "dams" broke, the raging waters flushed rivers and streams. Torrents of melt water swept through the riverbeds throughout Illinois. The residual end moraines in the Chicago-to-Paris arc are evidence that there were at least three major floods throughout the Illinois river system during the last big thaw.

The Illinois River system...

 

Is a drainage network of which nearly all tributaries eventually lead to the Mississippi River. When the great Wisconsinan glacier suddenly melted 18,000 years ago, Lake Michigan was actually "Lake Chicago" and the Illinois River was much deeper and wider than the Mississippi is today. The whole Illinois River system was inundated and Illinois probably looked more like a giant mud-plain during a heavy monsoon storm. As water subsided and climate warmed, forests again took root. Smooth colorful stones left over in river bottoms were washed clean by the slowly receding waters - exposing them to ancient, curious eyes.

 

 

Map courtesy of http://geology.com/state-map/illinois.shtml

The Illinois River system holds a myriad of Paleo Indian artifacts.

Scraped-up Devonian rock of various materials ranging from quartzite, metaquartzite and jasper - to amethyst, younger Pennsylvanian slate, shale, and sandstone were washed down the headwaters of the Spoon River. The raging torrents ground and polished these stones as if in some giant rock tumbler. All Illinois tributaries of the Mississippi River were awash - the whole Illinois basin was flooded - the state probably looked like a giant lake or inland ocean. As the flood lessened, the waters slowed, clearing the riverbeds of silt and light debris like a giant sluice. The now smooth stones with similar specific gravities had settled into eddy pockets of the Spoon - especially near bends and meanders.

After all the flooding was over, parts of the crystal-clear rivers were paved in beautiful cobblestones of endless shapes and colors.

Egg-Laying Turtle. Turtle is an enduring Native American icon. The core of this Paleo Indian art is a flattened geode.41.  Egg-Laying Turtle     

Turtur ovum conservatio

To the ancient Native American Indian, animals that could travel between the basic elements i.e. earth to water (such as frogs and turtles), and water to air (ducks and geese), were special creatures and considered sacred. Knowing that, it is little wonder this figurine was collected from the river by Ice Age Indian. Probably a good harvest idol or used as a decoy to catch real turtles. The turtles’ shell is an unbroken, translucent chalcedony geode. The “tail” is her ovipositor and several round, polished milky-quartz “eggs” or fresh water pearls may have been with the original set. Turtles lay their eggs in the shoreline of lakes and rivers in early summer on a moonless night. The clan may have celebrated the turtle’s aNight scene of Egg-Laying Turtle. Here I included milky polyester cock-valve balls to represent turtle eggs with this Paleo Indian art. Originally, fresh water pearls or quartz pebbles may have been used to educate the young on turtle behavior.rrival. Turtle is considered a delicacy here in Illinois and this little fellow may have been a decoy to lure the real thing up onto the Spoon River shore. (The stone head, tail and feet of a much larger turtle were found, but its soccer-ball sized shell may have been tossed aside when the land was first cleared 170 years ago – or a real shell was used to dress up the ruse.) Translucent honey chalcedony geode “shell” w honey jasper appends, 7 parts; horizontal orientation. Seven polyester "eggs" included for effect. 6.5”L; 380 gm     Not for sale.

 

 

Devonian Relics

Earth Sculpted by Ice: Near the end of the Devonian Period some 354 million years ago - long before Earth's Ice Ages - Illinois, as well as much of the Midwestern United States, was at the bottom of a shallow sea teeming with life. The seabed in this region was iron-rich and oily with decayed sea life. (Much of the ancient plants that came later during the Pennsylvanian Period (300 mya) became coal in this region.) The resulting oily mud was buried by tectonic action and baked under immense heat and pressure in the earth’s crust. After the water had steamed away, a smooth, reddish-brown mass rich in silicates was left. Most of this material became microcrystalline jasper. Some of the silicates crystallized into cavities such as geodes but also within Devonian fossils, sometimes replicating the original animal in great crystalline detail. In the eyes of archaic man these stones must have seemed like they were alive - a gift from the mysterious river and Mother Earth’s poetic license.

Little Black Hawk. This “toy” bird art form was found near prehistoric Paleo Indian artifacts.60.  Little Black Hawk

Buteo albonotatus

This figure probably represents the Zone-tailed Hawk. Often mistaken for the common Turkey Vulture, Zone-tailed Hawks do not have the predominate white coloration in the tail feathers and are active predators rather than scavengers. The light-colored "wing" is a natural part of the body stone. Black w brown jasper, 2 parts. 1.9"h; 74 gm   Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

So what is this common stone we all call "jasper"? Jasper is a term which refers to a member of the chalcedony family of microcrystalline quartz which includes flint, agate and opal. Chalcedony (silicon dioxide - often with some iron and aluminum) itself is an opaque to translucent quartz, usually white with pale blue or gray tint and with a wax-like luster. Chalcedony has been considered a semi-precious stone since the 15th century (See 62. Cloud Woman and 70. Night Sky Maiden below) and it is considered a gemstone when it interferes with light such as opal and carnelian. Another member of the chalcedony family is flint, a tough glassy quartz which breaks and chips easily but keeps a sharp edge. Its color scales the rainbow and was the primary material of projectile points, knives and other tools.[4]

Night Sky Maiden. This beautiful Paleo Indian head was art chipped out by the ancient artist to form a profile of a young woman with her "brains" already exposed before the stone was worked.Night Sky Maiden. The Paleo Indian art form viewed from its front greatly resembles the face of a skull, its right side greatly resembles the profile of a man.Night Sky Maiden is a pale blue chalcedony geode head. Prehistoric Native North American Paleo Indians collected Spoon River stones to make figurine art and some statues are for sale.

70.  Night Sky Maiden

Virgo polus nocturnus

Love often drives the artist and this stone may have been chipped to profile a young woman in the clan. The cranium was also cleaved to reveal the crystalline “brains” of life-force within: Her sparkling mind is open and exposed to the cosmos. The Paleo Indian art form viewed from its front greatly resembles the face of a skull. From its right, a man. We picked this up in 2000 because it’s a beautiful geode. At that time, I refused to believe it had been deliberately worked. But in 2002 after the washout discovery, I gave it another look. It was found not far from the red flint surgical blade also found in 2000. Here, I wetted her “brains” to bring them out in the photo. Blue and white chalcedony geode w sparkling crystal-coated botryoidal “brains”, 1 pc.  2.5”h; 199 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

Chert is silica-rich and similar to flint but not as glassy – almost dull – and not as tough, but was also fashioned into tools. Agate forms in bands or rings in rock cavities with successive layers growing in parallel rings usually towards the center of some stones. We have found a beautiful red and yellow carnelian agate figurine - 15. Stars Eyes Baby.

Diving Duck. Banded glacial slate is beautiful when wet and when Paleo Indian saw these stones underwater, likely could not resist collecting them to form art like this duck inclined to take a dive.

53.  Diving Duck

Anas urino

I looked in vain for signs of working and impact on the larger soft stone until I remembered that a smaller, similar piece was found two years earlier from the same site sector. Apparently this duckling figurine, like so many others, was buried by time with its head still on the base stone – it was recovered first. To the ancient Native American Indian, animals that could travel between the basic elements i.e. water to air (ducks and geese), were special creatures and considered sacred. Knowing that, it is little wonder this figurine was collected from the river by Ice Age Indian. Green Pennsylvanian banded glacial slate, 2 parts. 6.3”L; 692 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

Microcrystalline quartz such as jasper however, usually comes in varying shades of yellow, brown, and red depending on the amount of iron present in its formation. Jasper, a chalcedony, becomes various gemstones the more it interferes with light. Jasper can also hold fossils such as crinoids. Their stem segments are commonly called "Indian beads" and when found loose, were drilled in their centers and worn like jewelry by Paleo Indian and some later tribes of Native Americans. Other such jasper fossils would include small mollusks, sponges and other creatures often in crystalline form. Over millions of years in water saturated mud, some of the carbon and oils from those extinct sea creatures became displaced with silicates which precipitate to form quartz crystals within the fossil cavity. Jasper colored blue, gray or black is from the carbon of ancient sea life and, depending on the quality, is usually waxy smooth and classified as a rarer form of chalcedony.

Leaping Frog. The crystal-loaded geode body stone of this Paleo Indian art reveals a chip at its lower left suggesting Ice Age Indian believed crystals represented life force or chi.46.  Leaping Frog

Rana insilio

 

The body of this amphibian is a crystal-loaded nodule. The notch at the lower left side near the extended rear leg reveals its crystal interior. To the ancient Native American Indian, animals that could travel between the basic elements i.e. earth to water (such as frogs and turtles) were special creatures and considered sacred. Knowing that, it is little wonder this figurine was collected from the river by Ice Age Indian. Caramel jasper nodule w caramel jasper appends, 6 parts; horizontal orientation. 4.0”sq; 129 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

In one special case we found a few pieces of a rare chalcedony that can only be described as "decayed animal matter". Despite the grotesque description, it's made up of many colors in a beautiful swirl pattern with fossil remnants. A geologist told me that he had never seen such a chalcedony before so we took the liberty to name it. These "Necro" chalcedony pieces assemble into figurine 77. Great Grandfather's Bones below. (Recently we found another pair of stones made of a lesser grade of this material, 75. Father's Bones, below, but contains citrine crystals for a "third eye".) Figure 71. Harvest Woman is another new stone we named "Salsa" chalcedony. There are other new chalcedonies in our Ice-Age Paleo Indian art collection we have yet to name.

Great Grandfather's Bones. This spooky set of stones turned up together at site 2601C and is not your typical Paleo Indian art. The stones are unique micro-crystalline quartz we named “Necro-chalcedony” because of their cadaver-like coloration.

77.  Great Grandfather’s Bones

Proavus ossis

The head stone on this eerie figure has a gap that runs near completely through the stone with fossil crinoid stems (Indian beads) attached inside its mouth like ancient, abandoned bones (must have been a gas pocket in the Devonian seabed mud). If this very rare moldy-green/gray opaque fossilized chalcedony figurine is any indication, the clan bound-up the corpse of deceased loved ones in a knees-to-chest fashion at death to make transport and burial easier, as some indigenous people of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim still practice today. All three stones are of the same rare chalcedony. The body stone has an iron oxide "patch" on the back which can only come from long-term burial in the iron-rich Illinois soil. A very rare find. Waxy smooth Necro chalcedony (a new classification of stone that we named) colored by ancient-life carbon and loaded with crinoid stem fossils, 3 parts; horizontal and vertical orientation. 3.9”L; 267 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

Sometimes a large fossil such as a crinoid’s head would form a steam pocket, allowing beautiful quartz crystals to grow within to become a geode or a collapsed jasper nodule. A few have beautifully colored crystals, tainted by various minerals. Many jasper geodes were torn out and some broken up by glacial action and ended up as riverstone.

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock made predominantly of fine, round grains of quartz (sand). Gritstone is similar to sandstone but made of angular grains and was prized by early man for its sanding abilities. It sparkles quite brightly in sunlight. Quartzite is also a sedimentary sandstone with much larger grains of round to irregular shape. Many of our quartzite figurines are downright beautiful in bright sunlight (See 10. Father of Men on page Prehistoric Venus.

Grandfather's Bones. This tortured Paleo Indian art looks as if it was made of dried desert mud but in fact is heavily weather jasper. Of all the other stones we found, they only match each other. Why would Ice Age Indian collect such stones?76.  Grandfather's Bones

Avitus ossis

Looking like dried seabed mud, these heavily weathered Ice Age riverbed stones were glacier-ground, giving them the dried-up look of long-deceased remains. We've found several "mummy-like" figures at our site, why would the clan know what an old cadaver looks like? Why would they collect these stones? Though the concept rubs against the grain of many Native Americans, did the clan dig-up remains of ancestors and moved them around as some Indonesian clans do today? Khaki jasper, 2 parts. 3.0"L; 186 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net


Metaquartzite is quartzite that had been heated by the Earth so that the grains are fused together (metamorphic) into a singular crystalline mass, often times with streaks, making the individual grains almost indistinguishable. Without a microscope it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the latter two from each other.

Semiprecious gemstones are found in this area and archaic man surely appreciated them. Shiny items were extremely rare and highly prized. Stones of any kind were few and far between after the flooding subsided and plant life took over. Some semi-precious stones such as Carnelian (a fire-red and yellow chalcedony) and Amethyst (a clear quartz crystal colored violet-to-purple by tiny traces of iron) were even more rare. Citrine is amethyst crystal that has been slowly cooked in the earths crust. It has a clear yellow to golden color and considered valuable to gemstone collectors. Pieces of beautiful petrified wood and dinosaur dung are also occasionally found in this area and we have several specimens of both.

Father's Bones. This Paleo Indian art is composed of another type of Necro-chalcedony stones that also matches perfectly. This head stone has a crystal third eye between its two regular eyes.75.  Father's Bones

Genitorovis ossis

In Hinduism and Buddhism, the sixth Chakra, or “third eye” is considered an ethereal nerve plexus from which psychic visions emerge. To the clan, the sparkling yellow citrine crystal cluster between this fellow’s eyes may have symbolized wisdom and this mummy-like figure may have represented a high-ranking clan member. Necro chalcedony w citrine crystal “third eye”, 2 parts. 5.0L; 472 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

Olivine, which is made primarily of peridot, is a beautiful semi-precious olive-green gemstone colored by iron and magnesium and has a sheen luster. Sometimes olivine can manifest abundantly in quartzite and metaquartzite (see 84. Thunderstorm Bird). Olivine can also be found in granite (see 90. Green Thunderbolt) and in varying degrees in jasper. Other green rocks may include sedimentary shale and slate, which are usually colored by chlorite, such as 7. Medicine Man.

Singing Cardinal. Cardinals are the Illinois state bird and were in this region long before it was declared a state by white man. This Paleo Indian art would highlight your collection of modern bird figurines.54.  Singing Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis

 

Aside from being the Illinois state bird, this avian is a friendly sight at wintertime bird feeders. The male has bright red plumage and the female has drab reddish-brown feathers to camouflage it while nesting. We have another Paleo Indian cardinal figurine art in "Thunderbird". Red blush w yellow beak jasper, 2 parts, 3.5"h; 212 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

Gneiss (pronounced “nice”) is a hard metamorphic rock found primarily in mountain ranges. The mass of a growing mountain range and the Earth’s heat folds and tempers various minerals such as quartz and the softer feldspar like a steel Katana sword worked by a Japanese bladesmith. It is forged into a material much harder than any one of the original components making rocks such as gneiss (see 72. Iron Maiden above) and hornblende but like the Samurai sword is resilience to impact. Gneiss is usually marked with striations or streaks like its cousin schist, a softer and finer grained stone. Hornblende is tougher and has a dark grainy appearance.

Snapping Turtle. My wife Delores saw the snapper’s head and located the other body parts that make this Indian art. Prehistoric Native North American Indians collected Spoon River stones to make Paleo figurine art and some statues are for sale.43.  Snapping Turtle

Chelydra serpentina

 

Snappers are common in this area. Their funky looking heads were designed by nature to look like old leaf litter. The snapper will lie still underwater with opened mouth and using his tongue as a lure, attract small fish to their doom. This jasper figure has a conglomerated (naturally cemented stones) jasper head that looks remarkably like a snapping turtle. Snapper is a delicacy in these parts, but this animal affords respect from swimmers and the curious alike. Its bite can remove a digit. This figure is big enough to have been a decoy to lure larger snappers. To the ancient Native American Indian, animals that could travel between the basic elements i.e. earth to water (such as frogs and turtles) were special creatures and considered sacred. Knowing that, it is little wonder this figurine was collected from the river by Ice Age Indian. Chestnut jasper w jasper conglomerate head, 7 parts; horizontal orientation. 7.0"L; 614 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

Hematite is prized as an iron ore and a gemstone. It develops in many rock from granites to limestone. Sometimes it forms shiny crystals called spectacular hematite which describes the black, highly reflective crystals such as 89. Black Beaver. We are offering a beautiful hematite 81. Red Thunder. The River Owl may have prematurely started the Iron-Age by use of this mineral, not just for their Indian art, but as tough and dependable tools.

 

 

Patina & Surface Variations

Stone patinas on figurines are the result of mineral deposits from soil. This process usually requires great lengths of time. But not all such depositions occur at the same rate for a given square yard of soil. Actually, differences in stone patina can be due to soil conditions that may vary by the inch. For example, a dead field mouse in a burrow may change the soil ph to alkali in a 12” circle for decades.

Mating Cougars. These two Paleo Indian art forms display undeniable feline features. Even the body stones are feline-like and the males’ front and females’ rear contour perfectly.

38.  Mating Cougars

Puma concolor

Her belly laden with unborn cubs, the female holds tiny quartz crystals with a left front paw, (shown wetted) symbolizing she is carrying life. She looks back at her mate who appears to be ready to leap into the mating position: The two felines contour together perfectly. The female’s body is a collapsed jasper nodule and the front appears to have been chipped away by the ancient artist to reveal the crystals within. Khaki jasper w heavy alkali patina, 4 parts. 2.9”h; 299 gm     Interested parties please email us at paleoart@frontiernet.net

The amount of water that drains through a patch of soil can also vary by the inch and water balances soil ph but also increases iron oxidation. So some of these Paleo Indian artifacts have parts with slightly different patinas even though they were buried a few inches apart. You will even notice variations in patina on a single stone. Some stones buried in a run-off may have no patina at all. Red-brown iron oxide (rust) stains (from bits of iron in the rich Illinois soil) on stone and flint Paleo Indian artifacts are “birthmark” signs of long-term burial.[5] These birthmarks, some as tiny specks, are also a sure sign that Indian artifacts such as arrowheads and tools are genuine.

Bullfrog. The stones of this Paleo Indian art were skillfully selected by the ancient artist to display a large leaping frog. Pre-Columbian Native American Indian antiquities and fine figurine art for sale.

44.  Bullfrog

Rana catesbeianus

Life-sized, and realistic, this fellow may have been a lure for the real thing. To the ancient Native American Indian, animals that could travel between the basic elements i.e. earth to water (such as frogs and turtles) were special creatures and considered sacred. Knowing that, it is little wonder this figurine was collected from the river by Ice Age Indian. Caramel jasper with alkali patina, 8 parts; horizontal orientation. Approx 10"L and about 1 1/2 lbs

SOLD

Some of these fine collectible art pieces are polished with a clear, almost sheen patina as if hand-rubbed smooth by the original owners. Many of these Paleo Indian artifacts have this sheen patina on the head stones only, indicating they may have been carried or held like good luck charms by the owners. Like a photograph, a head stone might have been a reminder of a loved one. Or having the animals' spirit by the head gives the hunter the psychic edge. Fortunately for us, these figurines had their heads – left behind by the River Owl – for what would one day become their final autumn …

Next Page: When did these stones become Paleo Indian art?

 

Endnotes/Bibliography

[1] The Spoon River is a meandering river in west-central Illinois, U.S. It rises at the confluence of the West Fork Spoon and East Fork Spoon rivers in Stark county and flows south and southwest to a point west of Lewistown, where it turns southeast, joining the Illinois River opposite Havana after a course of about 160 miles (260 km). It drains an area of some 1,850 square miles (4,800 square km). Spoon River was made famous by the poet Edgar Lee Masters, whose Spoon River Anthology (1915) details the frustrated ambitions of people who lived in the fictitious town of Spoon River—actually a compound of two towns, Petersburg and Lewistown. The river’s name is probably a translation of Emiquon, an Illinois and Pottawatomie Indian word referring to the mussel shells they used as spoons. Dickson Mounds, a rich archaeological area, is near the confluence of the Spoon and Illinois. At the beginning of the 21st century, ecological restoration efforts were underway at the confluence. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/560894/Spoon-River. Also see http://www.spoonriverdrive.org

[2] www.geology.about.com

[3] http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/devonian/devonian.html

[4] Fuller, Sue. Rock & Minerals. New York, NY: DK Publishing, Inc., 2003. Also, National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals, North American Edition. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1979. Also, National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fossils, North American Edition. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1982

[5] See Homo Sapiens in the Americas www.radiocarbondating.com/origins/America.html  Unfortunately, we can’t radiocarbon date stone, but its surface does age over extended periods of time and can be distinguished from its freshly broken surface and other interim breaks, the latter usually has smoother edges to varying degrees.

Also see http://www.canyonart.com

 

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