I have written previously on some candidates for the earliest art in North America. These were the Vero Beach, Florida, engraved bone and the Cooper, Oklahoma, painted bison skull. The Cooper painted skull has been dated to the Fremont period and the Vero Beach engraving is problematical at best.
Purposefully made markings on stone from the Clovis culture have been recovered from deposits at Gault, Texas. A number of limestone plaques or flakes have been modified or decorated with lines scratched into them. Interpretations of the lines range from maps of surrounding drainages to illustrations of plants. A number of these engraved stones have been recovered from with identifiable artifacts from a Clovis context dating to approximately 13,500 years ago.
The example illustrated was recovered in proximity to a Clovis point made from “Alibates flint”. It shows engraved lines on both sides. D. Clark Wernecke and Michael Collins examined over 100 other stones from this location with purposeful markings on them as well which they date from 13,500 B.P. to 9,000 B.P. and reported on this to the September 2010 IFRAO Congress Symposium: Pleistocene art of the Americas. Their description of this example is that it “is limestone and has a design, on both sides, that incorporates parallel lines meeting with lines terminating in diamonds. It may represent plants or, as often found in iconography elsewhere, fletched darts.”
Wernecke and Collins also reported that some artifacts and stones found at Blackwater Draw, the type site for Clovis, had incised lines on them.
This suggests that Clovis period engraved stones must be considered as strong candidates at this time for the oldest art in North America.
WERNECKE, D. Clark and Michael B. COLLINS
2010, “Patterns and Process: Some Thoughts on the Incised Stones from the
Gault Site, Central Texas, United States”, IFRAO Congress, September 2010 – Symposium: Pleistocene art of the Americas.