Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another Strange Artifact From Spanish Hill

Well this time I am going to present a strange artifact that may or may not be significant as it relates to our local Native American past, but it interesting at any rate!

As many of you know - I used to own a house on the east side of Spanish Hill which is now separated from the hill by Rte 220. Before the highway was put in however, the east side of the hill would have been in my own front yard. My next door neighbors had lived in their house for 60 - some years. It should be no surprise then that their sons had their own artifacts they had found from the hill as a result.

Each son as a matter of fact over the years that I lived there showed me all of the things that they had found as they played on the hill throughout their childhood. Sometimes they also would share their stories of how and where they found them...I being so intensely interested in all aspects of Spanish Hill that is private property, always loved to hear anything they could tell me.

One story and artifact in particular though takes the cake....

One of the sons named Dave is now middle aged, but as a child his front yard was the base of Spanish Hill. There was a gully that ran down from the top of the hill he claimed and one day he happened to see something white sticking out of the ground at the base of that gully and he gave it a kick. The pictures below are of the artifact that he kicked out of that gully that day.

The material is possibly steatite, although Dave claims that a professor at one of the local colleges claimed it was made from a hip bone. As you can see it is porous...and as I am no scientist, that's all I can tell you...

Where it was found - for those of you who are not familiar with Spanish Hill visit my site at:


As you can see, the hill has been used for centuries by many different people, but at one time, there were embankments that enclosed 10 acres on it's top and because of it's location, shape, artifacts that were found there as well as the fact that the ditches were on the interior of these embankments, it is believed that it was once a ceremonial space before the Europeans ever entered the region.

Of course it has been plowed and farmed and so on ever since that time as well...

The reason why I am telling you this is because when I posted this up on my SpanishHill.com site a couple of years ago, I had expected to have people tell me that it had to be a sculpture or some sort of artwork that fell off a building or something and was dumped there...but instead, I had someone contact me from Ohio with a theory that still makes me wonder even today...

The following is the email I received:

Dear Ms. Twigg,
John Dunkleberger in Williamsport recently made me aware of your excellent and fascinating Spanish Hill web site. While I was perusing it, the soapstone figure caught my attention; since you are asking for suggestions as to its origin, I'd like to offer some information. I don't pretend to be anything more than an amateur archaeologist, but I have looked long and hard at many such figures. It is almost certainly an aboriginal American artifact, and the motif is very common and apparently widespread in North
America, although professional archaeologists seem reluctant to recognize it, calling it "amorphous" and "the product of natural weathering". It also appears in European Paleolithic material and, in more refined form, in Inuit "transition art". It is a Janus-like figure with faces looking in opposite directions, one typically being noticeably anthropomorphic and the other more bird-like but with human-like features. Very likely the motif is quite ancient and primal, and I would bet that it appears in recognizable form in most parts of the world. To see enough of these figures to last you for quite a while, please take a look at my own web site, http://www.daysknob.com , describing an apparently quite old habitation site I have been investigating here in southeastern Ohio. It presents my description and attempted interpretation of various components of this "Bird Spirit" figure, and I think that after reading it you will quickly recognize more than just the human face in the soapstone. Here is a piece from Alan's website- http://www.daysknob.com - describing the "Bird Spirit": The Bird Spirit typically exhibits the following characteristics when all features are present: At least as frequently as 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.) 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 (shown leftmost in the top row below) made of a hard mud/ochre/coal amalgam, half buried at the bottom of a washed out rut in the "driveway" up the knob. In its mouth were two distinctly detailed birds joined together, and it was adorned with several other small bird images. Looking more closely at the mischaracterized "animal" images on the tools then revealed that these usually had mouths generally or distinctly shaped like birds, leading to the recognition of a highly standardized bird-human figure. The constant repetition of a complex and recognizable pattern was unmistakable. The Bird Spirit typically exhibits the following characteristics when all features are present: 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, the mouth has the form of a bird facing toward the back of the head. This gives an appearance that easily causes the image to be misidentified as an animal such as a bear or wildcat. A bird, resting or sometimes perched, facing forward on top of the head, often suggesting shaman headgear. One or more birds or Bird Spirits emerging from the mouth. Eyes in the form of birds or bird heads, the two eyes typically being different in shape. A nose consisting of a bird facing downward. Ears in the form of birds. If a significant chin is present, this may be in the form of a bird or Bird Spirit head. A bird or Bird Spirit emerging in the manner of an egg, when the figure appears in full-length bird form. Possibly as a variation on this, a bird or Bird Spirit face often also appears at the posterior end of the figure. A bird or Bird Spirit emerging beneath the primary figure (when in full-length form), as if from the belly. 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 elon- gated head. In either case, it normally has a bird-shaped mouth rather than a beak. Below is a sketch of the general form, a simple schematic showing the typical components described above. (Unlike the people that created these objects, this author has no artistic talent. Do not laugh.)

This is Alan's rendition of how the mouth would look:

This is a closeup of the carved face's mouth:

I am certainly no scientist and cannot say for sure what to think of it scientifically - but when you look at the mouth of this artifact ir does make you take a second look....and in my opnion, it DOES look like two birds as he describes!

However, when I go to Alan's website, I have to say honestly that at first glance, there seems to be this artifact from Dave/Spanish Hill and then what looks like a bunch of geo-facts. As a result, part of me has to ask if man made many of the pieces shown, or if nature did....and then if there is any other artifact that I can honeslty say is like Daves.

One thing I can say for sure is that man did make the artifact from Spanish Hill.

I decided to make this posting about this artifact and share the stories that accompany it simply as an interesting study of both science and the human imagination that I believe is worth sharing for many reasons.

I will leave you decide what to think of any of it.

( ;

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