OWL IMAGES IN STONE,
BONE, AND CLAY
ILLINOIS, MISSOURI, OHIO,
MISSISSIPPI, COSTA RICA
30, 2014 PETER A. BOSTROM
This assortment of prehistoric owl
figures illustrate how diverse a design style can be and still
project a fairly strong owl image in the mind of the observer. The
images range from a simple slightly altered pebble to very natural
full body sculptures.
This small clay head is reported to have been found on the Cahokia
Mounds site. Although it has no eyes, the round shape of the head
and the beak are features that present the image as an owl. The
lower portion of the head is broken away indicating that it was
probably once attached to some type of ceramic vessel. It measures
5/8 inch (1.6 cm) high.
computerized image shows the basic design pattern of an owl effigy
pipe that was found on a site in northeastern Kentucky. The bowl is
located behind the neck area. It's made from a very fine green-gray
Ohio pipestone and measures approximately 2 1/2 inches (6.4 cm)
This is an exceptionally nice example of an effigy platform pipe from the Knight site in southern
Illinois. It skillfully illustrates the full standing figure of an
owl. The carving of the feet, claws, feathers and features of the head
are all very well done. This pipe was once in the Dr. Titterington
collection and is known as the "Titterington pipe."
A common form of Costa Rican owl effigy mace head. Costa Rican stone
maces are unique for their many different carved forms that
illustrate both the natural and metaphysical world. In Mesoamerica
the owl is connected to the underworld and the abode of the dead but
also to a warrior class. This Costa Rican owl mace may have once
belonged to members of a warrior caste of wealthy individuals. It
was found on a site in the central highlands of Costa Rica. It's made of a granite-like stone and
it measures 2 inches (5.1 cm) high.
clay effigy represents a stylized version of a full figured
standing owl. It's main design features are the "horns," beak,
extended tail, legs and side to side perforation. The perforation
indicates it was probably worn as a pendant. Although the form seems
odd, it does represent a design type that has been reported from
sites farther to the east. It was found at Mound 72 on the Cahokia Mounds site in southern
Illinois. It measures approximately 1 3/4 inches (4.5 cm) long.
A small fluorite bead that was found many years ago on the Cahokia
Mounds site in southern Illinois. Owl fluorite beads are rare but
other examples have been reported.
7. This carved bone owl effigy was found several years ago by Fred
Bollinger in Scott County, Missouri. Although it's not finely carved
and does have some damage at the bottom front where the feet may
have been, it does have enough design features to identify it as an
owl. It has a round head, large eyes, two "horns," and engraved
wings. The deeply grooved neck suggests that it may have been
suspended from the groove. The bone may be identified as deer. It measures 1 11/16 inches (4.3 cm) long.
A computerized likeness of a carved bone owl effigy that was found
with a burial on the Campbell site in southeastern Missouri.
It's described as a, "remarkably well-preserved carved bone owl
effigy pendant that was recovered in association with a child." It
was positioned at the neck of the individual and most probably was
used as a pendant. The bone is drilled at the neck from front to
back and it has nicely carved feet. It was carved from the second
phalanx (toe bone) of an adult deer and measures 1 5/8 inches (4.2
9. This owl effigy pendant is believed to
have been found on the Cahokia Mounds site in southern Illinois.
The lower portion has broken away, but the main upper portion
is preserved. Although there is no beak, the round shape of the
head, large eyes, and the two "horns" very effectively portray the
image of an owl. The "horns" suggest that it may represent a great
horned owl. The eyes are deeply drilled and may once have contained
some type of inlay material. There are two smaller suspension holes
at the upper chest which may have served to hold the image flat
against the body if it was worn as an ornament suspended from the
neck. This pendant is made of canal coal and it measures 1 1/4
inches (3.2 cm) long.
This pipe was originally in the Claude Stone collection. It's
illustrated in an early issue of the Journal Of The Illinois State
Archaeological Society over a caption saying it's described in
another issue. It's a good example of a stone carved owl with large
eyes and the often represented "horns" on the top of the head.
This picture shows an excellent example of a Poverty Point culture
animal effigy bead. It was found on a Late Archaic site in Louisiana
near the Poverty Point site. This bead was skillfully crafted from
hard stone by pecking, grinding, and polishing into the form of an
owl. The beak, wings, and feet are well represented.
This is a nice example of a Costa Rican owl effigy mace head. Costa Rican stone maces are
unique for their many different carved forms that illustrate both
the natural and metaphysical world. In Mesoamerica the owl is
connected to the underworld and the abode of the dead but also to a
warrior class. This Costa Rican owl mace may have once belonged to
members of a warrior caste of wealthy individuals. It was found on a
site in the central highlands of Costa Rica.
This simple owl effigy pendant is reported to have been found in
Jackson County, Illinois by Don Ethenton on a
multi-component camp site. The site produced both Mississippian and
Woodland artifacts. The main design features are the large eyes and the two "horns."
The "horns" indicate that it probably
represents a great horned owl.
The eyes are very shallow and were formed by hard stone pecking. The
"horns" were formed by notching the top center of the head. The
shape of the head follows the natural shape of the pebble. The
identifying suspension feature is in the form of a fairly deep notch
that encircles the narrow end of the pebble. It appears to have been
suspended in an inverted position. This owl pendant was made on a
small hard-stone pebble and it measures 1 3/8 inches (3.5 cm) long.
These two images are computerized likeness of two engraved owls that
were discovered on a cave wall in southwestern France. The cave site
is known as the Les Trois Freres
(three brothers) cave. A third smaller owl, that is described as a
chick, was also found situated between the two. They are referred to
as snowy owls because they have no feather-horns and the bones of
snowy owls have been found on many early cave sites. These engravings
are believed to date to at least 17,000 years ago.
15. This picture shows a computerized likeness of the oldest image
of an owl. It's actually the only known example of an owl in
Paleolithic art. It was discovered on a Paleolithic site in southern
France called Chauvet cave. The engraving, of what has been identified as a
great horned owl, is situated on an overhanging rock next to the
image of a horse. It's described as "a finger tracing of an owl in the soft outer layer of the cave wall."
One description interprets the image as an owl looking backwards
over its back. This engraved owl dates to sometime between 32,000
and 35,000 years ago.