Fourknocks Face Stone | Possible Figurative Art
Fourknocks Face Stone | Possibily anthropomorphic (representing a human form)
P.J. Hartnet the archaeologist who excavated Fourknocks in 1950 had no doubt about classifing the
Face Stone as anthropomorphic (representing a human form). The following description is from
his excavation report
This, one of the functional uprights of the central chamber, measures 1 meter in height and 50cm in breadth.
It is a coarse-grained sandstone, the decorated surface ground smooth and regular. The ornament is
executed in broad, U-sectioned channels achieved by the fusing of the isolated peckings by subsequent hammering.
That this remarkable design portrays a caricature like figure which belongs within the anthropomorphic
group of "statue-menhirs" is unquestionable. It is, perhaps, worth noting that the workmen on the
excavation were among the first to appreciate its " human" characteristics and referred to it
as "The Clown," or "The Old Man of Fourknocks," and sometimes as "King Tut".
Though it bears a vague likeness to the statue-menhirs of Brittany, no exact parallel can be
cited for it. The composition is a unitary one and depicts the head and upper part of the body,
contained in a rough border formed by a vertical zig-zag on the left (as viewed), a curved
double line on the right and by a single line across the lower part. The right "eye"
(on the left as viewed) is indicated by a double lozenge, the other by a much-worn or
sunken single lozenge.
A single lozenge marks the "nose" and the ends of this lozenge
continued beyond the apex may possibly represent "eyebrow " and/or "hair" motifs.
The "mouth" is suggested by two dependent arcs forming a wide crescentic curve. Other
features suggested are a possible "belt" (a double line midway between the "mouth" and
the bottom of the frame), and a rather indefinite loop or curve above this on the right, a hand"?
The phenomenon of seeing faces in everyday objects
In a presentation given at Fourknocks in June 2004, Martin Dire
argued that the Face Stone is unlikely to depict an anthropomorphic figure.
The literature also states that Fourknocks contains one of the earliest representations of the human
face. When dealing with a culture as clearly sophisticated as is evident from the careful positioning of the massive stones, it is unlikely that they
produced a crude face when clearly they could manage much more difficult tasks. It is more likely that modern day interpreters
of the site have seen faces where there are none.
There is a curious tendency for the human mind to see faces in clouds,
melting snow, embers of fires etc. and there is a scientific reason behind such a phenomenon, most likely based on the primitive
need to identify human from nonhuman. Depictions of the human form do exist from the stone age, notably the "Grimes Graves Goddess"
from Norfolk. (Image from a booklet "Grime's Graves, Norfolk", published in 1975)
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