The earliest iconic image 'framed' by a human being

By John Feliks (Back to The Impact of Fossils)

        These studies are excerpted from Feliks, J. 1998. The Impact of Fossils on the Development of Visual Representation. Rock Art Research 15: 109-134. The published paper includes full explanatory text. In brief, this is the West Tofts handaxe, a 250,000-year old flint artifact from West Tofts, Norfolk, in England that features a fossil scallop shell in its center
The artifact's maker had carefully chipped around the fossil so that it sat undamaged in the center of the artifact. These are the first studies of the handaxe demonstrating geometrically just how centered the fossil actually is. fossils.p115.feliks1998crop.gifMore importantly, The Impact of Fossils is the first paper granting early people the intelligence of recognizing fossils as related to their living counterparts. Prior, scholars simply assumed that early people could see nothing more than interesting patterns.

Geometric Study 1: Fig. 2a (x.75)

1.) In triangle ABC, median AL nearly bisects the umbo (or beak) of the fossil shell.

2.) Median lines BN and CM also contact the umbo within one millimetre of median AL.

3.) Centroid T (the point at which all three medians meet) is located directly “beneath” the umbo of the fossil shell. In actual visual effect the shell is pointing directly at centroid T.

4.) Midpoints M and N, at which medians BN and CM contact the sides opposite their vertices, occur at the outer edges of the fossil shell. Hence, the triangle formed by M, N, and centroid T is directly superimposed over the shape of the fossil shell. Note also that medians BN and CM follow the radiating rib lines of the fossil shell [as does also median AL].

5.) Line GH, drawn through the center of the fossil shell, divides the hand-axe into two parts with equal edge measurements. These two parts, for convenience, will be called “triangle” AGH, and “quadrilateral” GBCH. Specifically, the outline of the “triangle” created by following the outer edge of the hand-axe is approximately 241 mm. The outline of the “quadrilateral” created by following the outer edge of the hand-axe is also approximately 241 mm.

Geometric Study 2: Fig. 2b (x.75)

1.) When an image of the hand-axe is divided lengthwise into two halves of equal surface area (approximately 37.5 square centimetres each) bisector line WX crosses directly through the umbo of the fossil shell.

2.) When the hand-axe is subdivided into four parts of equal surface area (approximately 18.75 square centimetres each) geometric center R is determined. This central point is synonymous with the central point of the ellipse suggested by the smoothed portion of the fossil shell.

3.) If a line (PQ) is drawn from point R through the center of the umbo of the fossil shell, the shell is divided into two near equal parts [in fact, mirror images like the handaxe itself]. Line PQ also crosses centroid point T (determined in Fig. 2a). Put in other words, a line drawn between geometric center R and centroid point T follows the central rib lines of the fossil shell.

Why this researcher is now expounding the need for "open peer-review" in anthropology

The empirical geometric studies presented above represent Figure 2 from The Impact of Fossils. Due in large part to a neurological bandwagon effect that took place in
anthropology during the 1990s, The Impact of Fossils was heavily ridiculed and successfully blocked from publication for many years. However, within one year of publication, a competitive researcher from the neurological camp used The Impact of Fossils (including its outline, format, and organization) as a template w/o acknowledging the fact in order to publish a verbose neurological objection essentially claiming that early peoples were not intelligent enough to do such geometric work as the West Tofts handaxe consciously. It was claimed that all such work from this time period and earlier (the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic ages) was the result of unconscious experiences resembling hallucinations. 10 years later, the same researcher attempted to block from publication the empirical geometric data presented in Phi in the Acheulian on the grounds that it was "highly problematic," only to quickly author their own Acheulian phi paper by employing the approach of "Phi-based conceptual units" (Feliks 2008, Phi in the Acheulian) and geometric techniques of the West Tofts handaxe studies (Feliks 1998, The Impact of Fossils). Again, this was done without any citation. It is an unfortunate statement about academic trust, but the author has had to deal with matters such as this ever since The Impact of Fossils was first submitted for peer-review in the field of anthropology in 1995. Experiences such as these and the realization that important data is assimilated by competitive reviewers behind-the-scenes while simultaneously withheld from public scrutiny is part of why the author is now expounding the critical need for "open peer review" in anthropology. In open peer review both reviewers and editors are held accountable when they withhold empirical data from the public. If they care anything at all about the reality of what they are being taught by the scientific community then the public needs to be made aware that modern anthropology cannot be trusted with the honor system of anonymous peer review. This important topic is further discussed on The Graphics of Bilzingsleben page.

The Impact of Fossils is the work of John Feliks, registered ©1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998. It was submitted for peer-review in 1995 and twice in 1997. It was finally published in a different journal in 1998. See the section titled, A Rough Road for The Impact of Fossils.

E-mail: feliks (at)
Last updated December 28, 2009. © John Feliks 2009