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Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a … Mace?

A jet nose-driving prior to crashing at a Chinese air show.
A jet nose-driving prior to crashing at a Chinese air show.
rock art mace
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When I saw a recent photo of a jet nose-diving at a Chinese air show, it jogged a long-standing question in my mind. Why do anthropologists and archaeologists call rock-art pictures such as the ones in this post “maces”? My suggestion for an answer is “Because their academic world-view does not allow them to see these pictures as airplanes or spaceships.”

Sign at Washington State Park Rock Art Site, Missouri.
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Here’s a precolumbian Mesoamerican “avian-motif stone” that served as a macehead:

'Avian Motif Stone Macehead,' precolumbian, from Costa Rica.
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Later maces look quite a bit different:

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The mace of the U.S. House of Representatives.
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In the spring 2011 article “America’s Ancient Cave Art,” from the Paris Review, via slate.com, John Jeremiah Sullivan makes an interesting observation. He and his colleague are lying on their backs in a Tennessee cave, looking up at a “panel” of images:

…And last a picture of a crown mace, a thing shaped like an elongated bishop in chess, meant to represent a symbolic weapon, possibly held by the chiefly elite during public rituals. It’s a ‘type artifact’ of the Mississippian sphere, meaning that, wherever you find it [in the U.S.], you have the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, or, as it used to be called (and still is by archaeologists when they think no one’s listening), the Southern Death Cult. In this case the object appeared to be morphing into a bird of prey.

See this post for more (mind-blowing) S.E.C.C. art. Also, see the post on Thunder Gods. There are some very interesting photos of cave art that accompany Mr. Sullivan’s’ article, especially this one.

The University of Arkansas offers a website with many good pictures of local rock art, including many pictures of maces, and also this rather amazing rock art picture:

rock art arkansas

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Meanwhile, while researching “mace,” I wasn’t surprised to discover that (as with the ancient Thunderbird gods), the U.S. Air Force is using the name. The USAF used to have a surface-to-surface missile it named the Mace, and still has a tactical squadron of jet fighters called the Royal Maces.

The Royal Maces.
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rock art mace
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More maces from Washington State Park Rock Art Site, Missouri.
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'Hawk petroglyph with crown mace wings,' Devil Step Hollow Cave, Tennessee.
‘Hawk petroglyph with crown mace wings,’ Devil Step Hollow Cave, Tennessee.
The mace was a favorite motif in art of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.
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A digital painting by the artist Herb Roe, of a mississippian era priest holding a ceremonial flint mace and a severed human head.
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This Mississippian design includes a mace.
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The insigna for the U.S. Air Force Flying Maces.
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Art of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex

Here are some examples of artwork from ancient Native North Americans who lived primarily in what is now the Southeastern United States.

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'A digital illustration by the artist Herb Roe, based on a S.E.C.C. design whelk shell engraving from Spiro, Oklahoma.'
A carving in shell.source
A carving in shell.
Prehistoric designs carved on shell, from southeastern USA.source
Prehistoric designs carved on shell, from southeastern USA.
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Prehistoric symbols (sun circles), Middle Mississippi Valley, southeastern USA.
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Shell gorget (throat-protecting armor, or ornamental throat ornament), from Spiro Mound in Oklahoma.
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Shell gorget (throat-protecting armor, or ornamental throat ornament), from Spiro Mound in Oklahoma.
Shell gorget (throat-protecting armor, or ornamental throat ornament), from Spiro Mound in Oklahoma.
Shell gorget (throat-protecting armor, or ornamental throat ornament), from Spiro Mound in Oklahoma.
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