News from Temixwten: First positively-identified Neolithic Asian ceramic tool found in North America!
New Exhibit currently showing in the Online Gallery!
|Temixwten Artifact: 45-WH-5-1586
Description: This elegant, stylized blade is tremendously revealing about the ancestors of the Salish -- where they came from, and what made them so successful at Temixwten. Yet it remains a deep enigma.
Like the first dozen blades in The Blade Masters of Temixwten, this blade depicts a Neolithic Asian horse, shown here wearing an incised Chinese macrame bridle with a cheekpiece that is formed by a rust red Chinese dragon.
The Chinese dragon here -- essentially a rearing, reverse C-shaped electric snake -- is a double-headed version of the C-dragon of Neolithic Chinese Hongshan Culture. Like the Yangshao Snake Dragon seen in 45-WH-5-1647, the C-dragon is one of the oldest known forms of the dragon.
Chinese Hongshan Culture immediately predates the Dynastic Era. It flourished from approximately 6,800 to 4,900 years ago, the same time frame as the first big proto-Salish diaspora, and Hongshan was in Liaoning, in extreme northeast China.
The ancestors of the Salish probably weren't from Hongshan Culture (they were likely from a predecessor of the more northern Tokareva Culture), but this blade emblazoned with the red Hongshan C-dragon strongly suggests they were connected to Hongshan by trade in northeast Asia, where they began their journey to the New World, and Temixwten.
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THE SUCCESS of the Salish once they got to Temixwten can only be called explosive.
Within a few dozen generations they expanded to control most of what we now call the Pacific Northwest, from the Inside Passage in the North to the Columbia River in the south and east to the Bitterroot.
This blade helps explain how the Salish did it. Obviously, they had numbers. The many Asian-made domesticated horse blades included in The Blade Masters of Temixwten make it clear that there was a large influx of Asian Paleo-Indian immigrants to Temixwten shortly after the domestication of the horse, but before the introduction of the bit. This was between approximately 6,900 and 5,500 years ago.
Furthermore, the evolution in the tack of the horses depicted in the 45-WH-5-1556 and 45-WH-5-1476 indicates that this late Paleo-Indian immigration from Asia continued for hundreds of years, perhaps even as long as a millennia.
But that wasn't all the Salish had. They also had superior technology, as the Asian Ceramic C-Dragon Horse Blade and the six other unglazed Asian-made ceramic blade included in The Blade Masters of Temixwten demonstrate. Actually, this blade is not made of natural stone at all! It is manmade ceramic -- apparently a proto-stoneware.
This blade has apparently been washed with iron oxide, which unevenly imparted a dull rusty color to all sides except two, where it was broken later, and where it was apparently masked in the kiln. In these two areas, the ceramic clay body appears a light sandy to gray color.
Interestingly, this blade also appears to employ a type of early Neolithic Chinese finish described in Chinese Ceramics: A New Comprehensive Survey by He Li -- namely the application of metallic pigment in a flux. Although not a fully vitrified ceramic glaze, it can form a rough, dull-colored but permanent surface coating on the ceramic, as seen here in the archaic C-dragon on this piece, and the rough areas of black.
The dark rust red proto-glazing on the C-Dragon on this piece has a metalic glint that is reminiscent of the proto-glazing on the eye of 45-WH-5-1556. Both were probably achieved by applying iron oxide.
Then as now, ceramic stoneware blades are sharper than blades made of almost any other substance, except volcanic glass. So the man who brought the Asian Ceramic C-Dragon Horse Blade to Temixwten was not only carrying an extremely stylish blade, he was carrying a blade that was almost certainly sharper than any it encountered in the New World.
Stated simply, he was carrying superior technology. If prior Paleo-Indian immigrants were carrying Neolithic Chinese Culture Version 2.1, the Salish were carrying version 2.8.
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THIS BLADE and the other unglazed Neolithic Asian ceramic blades included in The Blade Masters of Temixwten are important because they show that the ancestors of the Salish brought lithic ceramics with them in their first big wave of immigration.
More and finer Chinese ceramics came to Temixwten later during the Dynastic Period -- specifically the Xia, Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties -- but this piece indicates that the ancestors of the Salish had superior Asian-made ceramic tools with them when they first arrived at Temixwten sometime around 6,500 years ago.
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IN ITS OWN small way, Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1586 is like the Great Pyramid of Giza: it should not exist, because there is no easy way to explain how it could have been made.
Take the impossible angles and straight lines evident in the horse's head and snout in the top photo. There is no way this effect can be achieved with traditional lithics. Stone and ceramic simply don't cleave this way.
You can get these kinds of straight lines and abrupt, uniform planer changes with stone sawing and polishing technology, but sawing and polishing marks the surface and leaves unmistakable traces of its use.
The Asian Ceramic C-Dragon Horse Blade shows no signs of stone sawing or polishing, yet it has characteristics you can't get in stone without sawing and polishing.
And although very different in many ways, the Asian Ceramic C-Dragon Horse Blade resembles other Asian-made ceramic blades in The Blade Masters of Temixwten in its flagrant use of impossibly straight lines and arbitrary planer angle changes.
How did they do it? I don't know the answer, but I suspect the artisans who made these blades may have worked the clay when it was leather hard. Beyond this, their technique remains a mystery.
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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.
Technology: ceramic stoneware apparently cut and incised when leather hard, washed and powdered with iron oxide, and fired.
Approximate Age: 6,500 years ago
Basis for Age Estimate: I base this age estimate on the appearance of both the Chinese dragon and the domesticated horse with a bitless bridle on this piece. Since the big wave of horse domestication occurred in Northeast Asia about 7,000 year ago, and the bit appeared there about 5,600 years ago, this piece must date from the approximately 1,400 year period in between.
Provenance: Collected at Temixwten by the property owner. Museum of the Salish Collection.
C-Dragon: here a horse wears a bridle or halter with a cheekpiece formed by an archaic red Chinese "C-dragon."
Many Faces, Depending On How You Look At It: turned this way, the double headed, rust red Chinese C-dragon forms the mouth of the One-Eyed God. At the same time, the One-Eyed God’s beard and mouth form the head of a horse, so that image is nested inside of image on the face of the One-Eyed God, and everything means more than it seems.
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