Temixwten Artifact: 45-WH-5-1415
Description: THIS POCKET blade is a stunning piece -- in use of tool making technology, in effectiveness of tool design, and in boldness of artistic vision.
The serrated Neolithic edge on this blade is still sharp after several millennia buried in the temixw of Temixwten. And the polished top combines with the dished area around the Serpent's eye to create a pleasingly ergometric grip for forefinger and thumb.
You don't realize what a masterpiece this blade is, though, until you turn it longways. Then a human face emerges: the dramatic, stylized face of a one-eyed Oriental-looking man with a Chinese dragon flying down his face to his nose.
The larger figure represented here is the One-Eyed God motif seen on every piece in The God That Man Forgot exhibit. Like many representations of the One-Eyed God from Temixwten, the face of god here appears to have a beard of water flowing down his checks and chin, as in 45-WH-5-1201. and 45-WH-5-1476 and others not included in this exhibit, notably 45-WH-5-1506.
Here the dragon's bat wing gives the One-Eyed God a distinctly Asian look. Another piece in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, 45-WH-5-1513, likewise features the One-Eyed God with an Asian eye, but most depictions of the One-Eyed God from Temixwten show the diety with Caucasian features, including Caucasian eye, and full heavy beard.
Furthermore, the dragon asssociated with the One-Eyed God is most commonly white.
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SIDE 2 features a nicely rendered bas relief image of a bridled dragon / horse head. It is impossible to see if the the creature is wearing a bit, but the bridle on the cheek and where it crosses the nose appears to be made of flat leather strapping, a relatively late development in Neolithic horse tack.
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AND HERE'S another surprise! This blade isn't made of natural stone at all! It is actually made of unglazed ceramic proto-stoneware, which is to say synthetic stone.
It seems likely that the exquisite sculptural details on this blade -- the One-Eyed God, the stream running down his face, the long-necked dragon, etc. -- were sculpted while the clay was leather hard, before it was fired to a hardness that makes this kind of fine work impossible with the tools available to Neolithic stone tool makers.
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LIKE ALL the ceramic artifacts from Temixwten, this piece helps time the rise of the Salish in what we now call the Pacific Northwest, beginning 7,000 or more years ago.
A Temixwten charm in the form of a C-dragon -- complete with the "ancestor in mouth" motif -- indicates that the Salish migrations out of Asia to the Pacific Northwest began before the domestication of the horse became a huge, world changing development.
However, based on the evidence at Temixwten, it apears that there was a much bigger influx of immigrants to Temixwten after the domestication of the horse, maybe 6,000 years ago, and then another influx during the early Dynastic Period in China, maybe 3,000 years ago, at the dawn of glazed ceramic stoneware in China and Northeast Asia. This correlates to the so-called Charles or St. Mungo Culture Phase when the Salish expanded and conquered most of the Pacific Northwest, as well as the subsesquent Locarno Beach Culture Phase observed at Salish sites in British Columbia.
The thousands of Asian-made charms and other artifacts found at Temixwten clearly demonstrate that the Salish had numbers at the time they exploded on the North American scene, but they also had superior technology.
The thing that makes this kind of ceramic tool exceptional are its edges, both their number and their sharpness. It is possible to produce a ceramic stone blade that is significantly sharper than almost any natural stone blade, except volcanic glass.
I believe this piece is from the last wave of Paleo-Indian migration out of Asia to Temixwten during the early Dynanstic period in China.
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NOTE: Because the Chinese apparently do not possess any stoneware from the earliest lithic phase of their long and glorious history of ceramic manufacture (namely from the very beginning when stoneware was an exciting new material for making stone tools), I believe that the Asian-made ceramic pieces in the Museum of the Salish collection are the oldest Chinese ceramic stoneware artifacts ever found anywhere in the world, including China.
I believe this is the oldest known example of a serrated edge knife in the world.
Technology: ceramic stoneware carved when leather hard, polished wet, and then fired without apparent glaze.
Approximate Age: 3,300 years ago
Basis for Age Estimate: Since stylization is a characteristic of mature modes of expression, I think 45-WH-5-1477, 45-WH-5-1629, 45-WH-5-1513 and 45-WH-5-1415 are among the most recent pieces in this exhibit because of their highly sylized appearance. I estimate they are perhaps a little more than 3,000 years old, even though they are unglazed ceramic.
Provenance: Collected at Temixwten by the property owner. Museum of the Salish Collection.
Diving Dragon: a Chinese dragon dives across the face of the One-Eyed God to form its nose, while the bat-like wing on the dragon’s shoulder gives the One-Eyed God’s one seeing eye a distinctly Asian cast.
Still Sharp: the serrated edge on this charm blade is still dangerously sharp.
Bridled Dragon / Horse Head: Side 2 of this piece displays a nifty little bridled dragon / horse head. It is impossible to see if the the creature is wearing a bit, but the bridle on the cheek and where it crosses the nose appears to be made of flat leather strapping, a relatively late development in Neolithic horse tack.
Hidden In Plain Sight: The dragon and the One-Eyed God have always been evident among Salish artifacts, they just haven’t been recognized. For instance, in the Smithsonian’s Handbook on North American Indians, Donald Mitchell describes these two Salish carved stone figures from the Baldwin Culture of the Lower Fraser Canyon 3,500 years ago as a “zoomorphic stone figure” (above) and a “stone figure of a fantastic segmented creature” (right), but you could also call them a carved stone dragon -- either Chinese or Salish -- and a stone figure of the One-Eyed God, both of which are seen by the thousands at Temixwten.