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Bannerstones- An Ancient Native American Art Tradition


By Richard Sisson
G.I.R.S. Member

Bannerstones – An Ancient
Native American Art Tradition
By Edward Harvey

This study published in CD Rom format by Edward Harvey constitutes a major con­tribution to understanding the development and appreciation of the art of the banner-stone of ancient North America. This is true for several reasons. The author provides in succinct form both a summary and synthesis of what is known about these enigmatic objects, building upon and extending the majesterial books of Byron Knoblock and David L. Lutz, with a very special debt to the seminal work of the latter. He sets forth various competing theories of ceremonial function and every­day use, with inference elaborated from major archaeological contexts, though admittedly many of the finest examples have been surface finds. Through a wide range of high resolution pho­tographs, he vividly portrays the extraordinary beauty of this major art form of the American Archaic, and by utilizing the wonders of digital technology, he has provided all interested in this art form an exceptional educational tool, given its ease of access and versatility.

It is especially in the latter two ways that the author has given us a work of both immediate and lasting value. While the point is not explicit, he suggests that anyone of any culture on the plan­et must marvel at how the ancient sculptors who created these objects could see into the dense material that they worked, and with only the simplest instruments in hand, would encourage the material to yield its beauty and magnify the abstract forms that the artist envisaged. This was done through the utilization of banding in early slate banners to accent con­tours and ridges, and the use of lus­trous quartz—cool whites to flaming oranges and reds—to induce wonder and mood. The author approaches his subject with the eye of the artist, which indeed he was, and in so doing has helped to elevate the art of the American bannerstone into the broader realm of the world’s finest prehistoric art. It would seem that he saw these artists, whose names have been lost to time, as the Picassos of the Archaic.

The study has strong and versatile educational legs. The in­quisitive learner can easily go from section to section or page to page by simply clicking on the desired venue. One can go from useful and colorfully drawn timelines to more detailed artistic examples elsewhere, or to examples nested in their archaeologi­cal context or to other informative and artful sites by a simple “click of the mouse.” The references provided constitute a defin­itive guide for serious students of the subject.

This important and versatile CD Rom study is essential for anyone interested in the ancient art of the world, but particularly those inter­ested in the ancient art of the Americas, and especially those interested in that of the Ameri­can Midwest, the East and the South. The study is rich in form and color, it is stimulating to the eye and mind, and it is accessible to the beginner and to the advanced student and con­noisseur alike.

Bannerstones: An Ancient Native American Art Tradition Hybrid CD-ROM Mac/PC, $40.00 plus $4 shipping

Terry McGuire, 3926 North Keeler Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60641 (773) 283-9943 •