News from Temixwten: First positively-identified Neolithic Asian ceramic tool found in North America!
|Temixwten Artifact: 45-WH-5-1629
Description: WOW! By any measures -- artistic or utilitarian -- this is one of the finest pieces in the entire The God That Man Forgot exhibit.
On Side 1, this brilliantly realized little pocket blade depicts thick gray and white steam plumes rising from a molten lava flow. On the lower right corner, the beautifully rendered lava illuminates the head of a bridled horse in orange light. The horse's bridle is also the head of a white dragon coming down between its eyes, a motif seen on many pieces from Temixwten, such as 45-WH-5-1710 and 45-WH-5-1476.
So during the late Neolithic it would seem that lava flows and volcanic activity were a noteworthy aspect of the area around Kamchatka -- where the ancestors of the Salish apparently originated -- just as they are a noteworthy aspect of the area today, and a mainstay of the modern tourist industry.
The horse depicted here does not definitively appear to be wearing a bit, a hackamore or a martingale, but like all the early domesticated horse blades from Temixwten -- such as 45-WH-5-1556 and 45-WH-5-1491 -- the horse on Side 1 of this charm blade appears to be bridled and reined with an archaic upper lip band, and appears to be eating grass or hay.
So when the man who carried this charm out of Asia to the New World over 3,000 years ago, he was also delivering the news! Although this is relatively rare among charms at Temixwten, it is not unknown, especially among ultra-high end charms from the final wave of Salish migration. Another piece in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, 45-WH-5-1710, also seems to function in part as a carrier of news from Northeast Asia into the New World.
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SIDE 2 of this piece is naked stoneware without any apparent finish, but it is nonetheless striking as well, with two more dramatic views of the One-Eyed God.
One has white snakes and dragons writhing on his impassive face. The upper right hand corner of this view is broken, but there is the remnant of a sculptural salmon leaping there. It appears that the salmon is just diving into the water on the face of the One-Eyed God, and the splash is the White Dragon, rendered here in a freely expressive, almost abstract manner in what is probably Kaolin clay.
White Kaolin clay -- commonly called "China clay" -- is the material that made possible China's stupendous production of fine porcelain over the last three millennia. Kaolinite is found on all temperate continents, but it is best known for one deposit in northern China that it gives it its name. There sometime in the late Neolithic, anonymous potters began using the bone white Kaolin clay in ceramics. This was the beginning of the long and winding road road to Ming Dynasty porcelain because Kaolin clay is essential for the production of fine white porcelain, long considered the apogee of synthetic stone.
That was all in the future, though, when the piece was made. Here Kaolin clay is merely used as a way to achieve bright white on small charms, ceremonial objects and tools made of synthetic stone in the time before the invention of fully vitrified ceramic glazes.
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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.
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And this ultra high end Neolithic charm blade originally had eight cutting edges, which is exceptional. This meant it could be used far longer than simple single or double-edged blades before it had to be resharpened and finally discarded.
The ceramic material in this piece is extremely fine grained and several edges on this blade are still nearly glass sharp.
With a blade like this in hand, the man who wielded it knew he was going to have "an edge" over everyone he met.
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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 proto-stoneware apparently cut and trowelled while still wet; sculpted when leather hard; proto-glazed and fired.
Approximate Age: 3,300 years years ago
Basis for Age Estimate: I base this age estimate on the appearance of the domesticated horse, and the fact that the piece is so advanced ceramically and artistically. I believe this piece dates to early Dynastic Period in China -- the Xia or Shang Dynasty -- perhaps 3,300 years ago.
Provenance: Collected at Temixwten by the property owner. Museum of the Salish Collection.
Thoroughly Modern Feel: Although the upper right hand corner is broken on Side 2 of this charm blade, it appears there was once the tail of a leaping salmon there, which is splashing up the White Dragon on the impassive face of the One-Eyed God of Temixwten. Expressive, fluid and imaginative, this piece from 3,500 years ago has a thoroughly modern feel.
News From Asia: A ceramic materpiece from the dawn of stoneware in China before fully vitrified glazes were invented, this charm blade shows a massive lava flow, with gray and white steam plumes rising from a molten lava flow that illuminates a bridled horse, which has the head of a white dragon on its on its forehead, and apears to be eating grass or hay. This ultra high end Asian-made Neolithic ceramic blade boasted eight cutting edges. It was found at the ancient Salish Indian village of Temixwten, 2,000 miles into Notrth America.
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