Temixwten Artifact: 45-WH-5-1656
Description: WHEN YOU hold this spectacular and significant little piece in your hand, it feels truly ancient.
Although half of The God That Man Forgot is likely older, I believe 45-WH-5-1656 has actually been -- for whatever reason -- in the temixw of Temixwten longer than any other artifact in this exhibit.
Although there once may have been decorations scattered across the top, only one small decoration is still visible. This is a minature face of the One-Eyed God on the top corner that is mostly ruined, except for the dragon that is the eye of the One-Eyed God, which is recessed.
And here we meet the third great Neolithic Asian dragon of domestication: the elephant dragon.
First came the pig dragon, which ruled the imagination of man for perhaps two millennia beginning about 9,000 years ago. It was the weakest of the three domestication dragons, but because swine are so widely adapted (and so closely match the geographic range of human beings), its power in Northeast Asia was broad.
Then about 7,000 years ago came the domesticated horse dragon, which was the game changer for homo sapiens. Although not quite as widely adapted as swine, the power of the horse was so large that it affected virtually every area of human culture and became the global standard of physical strength (what we still call, "horse power").
The elephant -- an animal whose strength is the greatest of the three domestication dragons, but whose range is the narrowest -- was first domesticated about 4,000 years ago in India, where its effect on human culture and was at least as great as the horse elsewhere, maybe even greater because the elephant is superior to the horse in both power and intelligence.
Here on 45-WH-5-1656, the domesticated elephant is represented in regal attire with a fierce dragon's head at the end of its trunk. The dragon's head at the end of the elephant's trunk is bridled and a rein line is clearly visible. The detail work on this part of the piece is wonderful, indicating how important the domesticated elephant was in the world where this ceramic core was made -- so important, in fact, that word spread to the ancient Salish Indian village of Temixwten, on the other side of the globe!
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FROM A ceramic standpoint, this is a fascinating piece of work. First of all, the ceramic stoneware here is very, very fine -- so fine, in fact, that it approaches the sharpness of volcanic glass.
Secondly, this Asian-made Neolithic ceramic stoneware core uses proto-glazing -- not to protect the surface or decorate -- but first to bind the internally balkanized core together, and then later to aid the work of the stone tool maker who would use the core to manufacture stone tools.
So in this core, numerous pieces of clay have been heavily englobed and crystal glazed together. This binds the pieces, but also creates huge, easy to open cleft lines since the crystal glaze englobement is nowhere near as strong as the whole, uncut ceramic stoneware.
This core has also been cleverly cut at right angles to the stratigraphy of the claybody and offset a half inch or so in a staggered line to further facilitate the manufacture of tools. The exceptionally clean, unsmeared look of these cuts suggests that they were cut with a metal wire.
Looking at these high end Neolithic core making techniques, it is easy to see that the stone tool maker essentially "unpacked" the tools he needed from the latent tool kit that the ceramic core maker had built into the core.
Finally, the Asian Ceramic Elephant Dragon Core Blade shows that high end Asian ceramic core makers added decorative details to their work when the clay was leather hard, just as they were doing with charms, blades and other ceramic pieces, as seen elsewhere in this exhibit in piece like 45-WH-5-1641 and 45-WH-5-1556.
This piece has been black fired, heavily on one side, and with delicate tracings on two others. The heavy crystal glaze growth and the fineness of the ceramic suggest that this piece was allowed to cool slowly, for a very long time. 45-WH-5-1656 is a ceramic tool master work.
One side has been knapped, and all the exposed edges have been heavily used to dullness, suggesting it was used in a time when the people at Temixwten no longer knew how to "unpack" the latent tools this core contains.
This technique of heavy crystal englobing is also used in a more sophsticated way in a later piece in The God That Man Forgot exhibit, 45-WH-5-1678, where the crystal structure is much finer and has blackfiring underneath which has been selectively removed to create a handsome sgraffito effect.
An example of even finer Neolithic Asian crystal glazing is the dramatic mouth of the serpent in 45-WH-5-1281.
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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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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 image of the domesticated elephant in the world. There is also another charm in The God That Man Forgot exhibit that contains the elephant / dragon in the same form, 45-WH-5-1678, but I believe it was made several hundred years later.
This is also the oldest -- and first -- Neolithic Asian-made ceramic core ever found in North America. Temixwten artifact 45-WH-5-1656 conclusively proves that the ancestors of the Salish brought not just Asian-made ceramic tools and other items with them when emigrated to the New World. They brought ceramic cores that would enable them to make new ceramic tools once they got to the New World, which literally gave them an edge over everyone they encountered!
Technology: ceramic stoneware core apparently formed from several pieces of clay, then twice fired; once with chrome oxide and once black fired; later knapped into tools, the last of which is this piece.
Because the depiction of elephant / dragon on 45-WH-5-1656 shows actual taxonomic knowledge of elephants -- the elephant was not a mythic creature for the artist who created this cameo four millennia ago -- I believe this Neolithic ceramic core was made in India, not China.
Approximate Age: 3,500 years years ago
Basis for Age Estimate: I base this age estimate on the understanding that the elephant was domesticated about 4,000 years ago. The pacedyrm's fine attire on the recessed eye of god minature suggests that this piece was made some time after initial domestication.
Provenance: Collected at Temixwten by the property owner. Museum of the Salish Collection.