Temixwten (6/1/2012): This is the first positively-identified Neolithic Asian ceramic tool ever found in North America!  

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Temixwten Artifact: 45-WH-5-1647

Description: THE MOMENT I picked the blade up out of the of the temixw of Temixwten, I knew something was wrong.

Actually, there were several things wrong. When I bent down to pick it up, I was certain this blade was one of the thousands of broken Salish slate knives found at Temixwten and other major Salish archaeological sites in the Pacific Northwest.

But this knife blade was too heavy for its size. I noticed that first. Then I noticed it was too thick. The finely finished flat faces were likewise too nicely polished. And the edge was too crisp. Unlike almost all Salish slate knives -- which have rolled edges -- this blade has a hard, beveled edge.

Testing it with my thumb, I realized that this cutting edge was still quite sharp -- noticeably sharper, in fact, than any of the hundreds of Salish slate knives I've personally handled at Temixwten.

So I took this curious piece to the inspection table and didn't think any more about it until a couple days later when cleaning revealed the most visually striking feature of the piece: the long gold-colored band that snakes around both of the flat, polished sides, corner to corner in a spiral.

Although the head is partly broken at the tip, this yellowish decorative element resembles the simple curled snake dragon seen on some pottery from Neolithic Chinese Yangshao Culture. And like so many other Asian-made pieces from Temixwten, the larger blade apparently depicts a domesticated horse head.

Here the cutting edge forms the horse's mane and the golden dragon forms the stylized cheekpiece of the horse's bitless bridle. So just as the archaic rust-colored C-Dragon forms the stylized cheekpiece on the bridle of the horse in the 45-WH-5-1586 and the white dragon forms the cheekpiece of the haltered goat on the 45-WH-5-1491, the gold-colored snake-dragon on 45-WH-5-1647 forms the stylized cheekpiece on the bridle of this domesticated horse.

In these blades, the emblems of the deity and domestication have merged as the most powerful things imaginable to Neolithic man. It is impossible to over-emphasize how huge the domestication of animals -- and especially the horse -- was for human beings 6,000 to 7,000 years ago.

* * *

IN ADDITION to the stylized bridle with the golden snake cheekpiece, 45-WH-5-1647 also has a line incised in the very hard, finely polished material on Side 1 which appears to represent an archaic upper lip band -- one of the techniques used by Neolithic Asian horsemen to control their steeds in the time before the bit. (This type of control is still used as a training device on young horses, whose mouths have not grown enough to accept a bit.)

Other pieces in The Blade Masters of Temixwten illustrate this type of Neolithic horse tack in greater detail. For instance, 45-WH-5-1556, 45-WH-5-1476, and 45-WH-5-1491 indicate that the earliest Neolithic bridles -- in the time before hardened metal rings and rivets -- were actually a semi-free form Chinese macrame head net (probably made of rawhide) with an upper lip band instead of a bit.

Interestingly, this correlates with and supports research by Sandra Olsen at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Olsen found large numbers of bone tools for working leather into rawhide thongs at Neolithic archaeological sites in northeast Asia where domesticated horses are evident, such as the Botai in Kazakhstan.

* * *

INCISED INTO the face of the horse itself on Side 1 of the Asian Ceramic Crystal Glazed Horse Blade is a pattern of Xs, which resembles the pattern of Xs incised into Side 1 of 45-WH-5-1483,

On 45-WH-5-1647, this cross-hatch could represent a stylized (like everything on this regal blade) Chinese macrame headnet harness or horse birdle, or it could represent the Serpent or achaic dragon.

This ancient cross-hatch snake symbol is frequently seen in the art of the Serpent people of the New World. It is emblazoned, for instance, on the images of the Feathered Serpent on the Ballcourt railing at Chichén Itzá, the great Late Maya ceremonial site.

Similarly, in his essay, "Prehistory of the Lower Mainland," Charles E. Borden notes that a "small fragment of a thin siltstone plaque decorated with incised cross hatching" was found at the Esilao archaeological site near Yale, B.C., Canada, approximately 60 miles from Temixwten.

* * *

THE MUSEUM of the Salish had a leading North American materials testing lab perform EDS and Raman spectroscopy on this elegant blade to determine its chemical and mineral composition.

The EDS spectrum for material from 45-WH-5-1647 shows its constituents include silicates, feldspar and several types of iron, including magnetite. This kind of very hard, extremely fine-grained material can occur naturally, but it is also consistent with man-made ceramic stoneware.

Microtrace testing further determined that the gold-colored decoration snaking around 45-WH-5-1647 is an apatite crystal glaze. Again -- as with the underlying material in 45-WH-5-1647 -- this kind of crystal formation can occur naturally, but it is likewise consistent with crystal glazing on ancient manmade ceramic stoneware.

Apatite itself has long been used as a crystal glaze on manmade ceramic stoneware, and still is today. Furthermore, the Journal of Raman Spectroscopy
(Volume 41, Issue 4, pages 431–439, April 2010) recently identified apatite as a decorative pigment in Byzantine pottery.

Microtrace acknowledged that its tests could not conclusively determine whether 45-WH-5-1647 was ceramic or not. The chemical, mineral and cyrstaline features Microtrace identified in 45-WH-5-1647 could be either natural or manmade.

However, taken together with the cleavage, lithic and archaeological evidence, the electron microscope evidence strongly indicates that 45-WH-5-1647 is, in fact, manmade ceramic.

Actually, the proof of ceramic for 45-WH-5-1647 is as much a matter of simple deductive logic as high tech testing, as follows...

Given: Microtrace EDS testing indicates the golden band is a crystal glaze containing hightened calcium and phosphorous, probably the mineral apatite.

Question: Is this a natural or manmade ceramic crystal glaze?

Deductive Answer: Since a natural apatite crystal glaze can ONLY form on a natural rock surface, the decider here is whether the smooth, parallel faces and nicely beveled edge on the Asian Ceramic Crystal Glazed Horse Blade are natural, or manmade. If these lithic features are manmade, then the crystal glaze must be manmade, and blade must be manmade ceramic as well.

Fortunately, this is one place where there is not even the slightest doubt. As discussed above, the lithic evidence is overwhelming. When you compare 45-WH-5-1647 to the thousands of Salish slate knife fragments at Temixwten, this blade stands out for the fineness of its polish work, its crisply beveled edge, and the golden band that snakes across its polished sides. So the qualitative evidence here strongly indicates that this elegant blade is not just manmade, but the work of very skilled craftsmen.

You don't even need to know anything about lithics to see this, though. The photos at right of 45-WH-5-1647 reveal it to the naked, untrained eye. Here you can see in the darkened, broken areas that this material naturally cleaves conchoidally with a rough surface. (As Microtrace noted, the darkness of these naturally broken portions is due partly to their roughness.) The material in 45-WH-5-1647 does NOT naturally cleave in the extremely smooth, flat parallel faces or hard, 45-degree beveled edge seen here. This simply does not happen in the natural world, with only natural forces at work.

Therefore -- in addition to all the archaeological evidence and scanning electron microscope evidence -- the visible physical cleavage evidence indicates that the smooth, polished faces and bevels on 45-WH-5-1647 must be manmade. This means the golden-colored decoration must be man-made crystal glaze, and the 45-WH-5-1647 itself must be manmade ceramic.

This is the first positively-identified Neolithic ceramic stoneware artifact ever found in North America, a small Asian-made ceramic tool that overturns centuries of mistaken assumptions in New World archaeology.

So even though I knew that something was wrong with the Asian Ceramic Crystal Glazed Horse Blade of Temixwten when I first picked it up, I had no idea how wrong!

* * *

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.

Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1647 is the oldest known example of Asian-made, crystal glazed ceramic stoneware in the world, including China.

Technology: ceramic stoneware formed and polished when leather hard, crystal glazed to create the golden snake adornment, and fired.

Material: The Museum of the Salish had a leading North American materials testing lab perform Raman spectrography and EDS testing on this Temixwten artifact to determine its chemical and mineral composition.

The EDS spectrum for material from 45-WH-5-1647 shows its constituents include silicates, feldspar and several types of iron, including magnetite. The gold-colored band that snakes around the polished faces on 45-WH-5-1647 is a crystal glaze containing apatite. This kind of material can occur naturally, but it is also consistent with ancient manmade ceramic stoneware.

Museum of the Salish analysis of data collected by Microtrace conclusively demonstrates that 45-WH-5-1647 is, in fact, manmade ceramic with a manmade apatite crystal glaze -- the first positively-identified Neolithic Asian ceramic stoneware tool ever found in an ancient North American Indian village.

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.

Because there is no evidence that ceramic stoneware was ever produced anywhere in the New World by Native Americans, I believe this blade was made in Neolithic Asia and carried into the New World by Paleo-Indian immigrants.

Provenance: Collected at Temixwten by the property owner. Museum of the Salish Collection.

 

45-WH-5-1647

Crystal Glaze: EDS spectroscopy reveals that the gold-colored snake on the Asian Ceramic Crystal Glazed Horse Blade of Temixwten is made of an apatite crystal glaze. This yellowish decorative motif also forms the cheekpiece of a stylized bridle on the head of a horse, which has a noseband but no bit.

45-WH-5-1647 closeup

Golden Snake: This closeup of the golden, crystal glazed snake dragon on Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1647 also shows the difference between the dark, rough naturally broken surface and the highly polished, man made surface.

45-WH-5-1647 closeup

Tale of Two Blades: here we have a side-by-side comparison of a Salish slate knife from Temixwten (right) and its progenitor, an Asian-made ceramic blade with a golden apatite crystal snake glaze, also found at of Temixwten (left). Although the two blades look similar at first glance, the Asian-made ceramic blade is both much older, and a vastly superior tool.

45-WH-5-1647 EDS spectrum
Electron Microscopy: the EDS spectrum for the gold-colored snake laid on top of the EDS spectrum for the adjacent, grey-colored areas on 45-WH-5-1647. The gold-colored band that snakes around the blade is made of apatite crystal glaze. Click to enlarge.


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