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Title: The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland

Author: Daniel Wilson

Release Date: January 12, 2015 [EBook #47948]

Language: English

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Daniel Wilson, Delt.

William Douglas, Sculpt.


Published by Sutherland & Knox Edinr.

[Pg i]





"There is in the world no kind of knowledge whereby any part of Truth is seen, but we justly account it precious; yea, that principal Truth, in comparison of which all other knowledge is vile, may receive from it some kind of light."—Hooker.



[Pg ii]


[Pg iii]


My Lord Marquess,

In presenting to my fellow-countrymen a Work devoted to the elucidation of their National Antiquities, and to the recovery of the earliest traces of Scottish arts and civilisation, I esteem it a high gratification to be permitted to dedicate it to a Scotsman, not more noble by hereditary rank and social position, than by the virtues with which he adorns his high station.

To you, My Lord, I have reason to believe that the following attempt to establish a consistent and comprehensive system of Scottish Archæology will not be without interest, as the zeal shewn by you in furthering the objects of the Society of which you are President, and the costly donations with which you have enriched its collections, prove the value you attach to the Science as a key to the discovery of important truths.

I have the honour to be,

My Lord Marquess,

Your Lordship's most obedient Servant,


Edinburgh, January 1851.

[Pg iv]

[Pg v]


Preface, xi
Introduction, 1
Chapter I. The Primeval Transition, 21
... II. Aboriginal Traces, 28
... III. Sepulchral Memorials, 41
... IV. Dwellings, 74
... V. Temples and Memorial Stones, 91
... VI. Weapons and Implements, 120
... VII. Stone Vessels, 146
... VIII. Personal Ornaments, 154
... IX. Crania of the Tumuli, 160
Chapter I. Introduction of Metals, 191
... II. The Metallurgic Transition, 217
... III. Primitive Bronze, 238
... IV. Weapons and Implements, 250
... V. Domestic and Sepulchral Vessels, 271
... VI. Personal Ornaments, 291
... VII. Sepulchres, 331
... VIII. Religion, Arts, and Domestic Habits, 336
Chapter I. The Introduction of Iron, 347
... II. The Roman Invasion, 363
... III. Strongholds,[Pg vi] 408
... IV. Weapons, Implements, and Pottery, 431
... V. Personal Ornaments, 442
... VI. Sepulchres of the Iron Period, 453
Chapter I. Historical Data, 467
... II. Sculptured Standing Stones, 495
... III. The Norrie's Law Relics, 511
... IV. Scoto-Scandinavian Relics, 522
... V. Amusements, 562
... VI. Primitive Ecclesiology, 582
... VII. Medieval Ecclesiology, 600
... VIII. Ecclesiastical Antiquities, 648
... IX. Miscellaneous Antiquities, 677
... X. Conclusion, 695
Index, 703
[Pg vii]


1. Frontispiece.—Plate V.—Hunterston Runic Brooch.
2. Stone Celt, Glasgow, 35
3. Cromlech, the Auld Wives' Lift, 66
4. Cromlech, the Witch's Stone, 68
5. Plate I.—Plan of Pict's House, Wideford Hill, Orkney, 84
6. The Caiy Stone, 96
7. Standing Stones, Pitlochrie, Perthshire, 115
8. Flint Arrow-head, Isle of Skye, 126
9. Flint Hatchets, 130
10. Flail-stone, 132
11. Stone Hammers and Axes, 135
12. Stone Axes, 136
13. Stone Axe-Hammer, 137
14. Bead-stones, 137
15. Stone Ball, 139
16. Bone Dagger, 141
17. Bone Pins or Bodkins, 143
18. Bone Implements, 144
19. Stone Urns, from the Island of Uyea, 147
20. Stone Urn, from the Hill of Nowth, 147
21. Stone Pateræ, 148
22. Stone Basin, from Brough, Shetland, 149
23. Stone Basin, from Newgrange, 149
24. Indented Stone Basin, from Newgrange, 150
25. Pot Querne, from East-Lothian, 152
26. Stone Horse Collars, from Glenroy, 156
27. 28. Stone Personal Ornaments, 157
29. Cranium, from a Cist at Cockenzie, East-Lothian, 168
30. Cranium, from a Cairn at Nether Urquhart, Fife, 169
31. Cranium, from a Cist, Old Steeple, Montrose, 170
32. Cranium, from a Cist, East Broadlaw Farm, Linlithgow, 171
33. Cranium, from a Roman Shaft, Newstead, Roxburghshire, 172
34. Tower of the Old City Wall, Edinburgh, 175
35. Plate II.—Glenlyon Brooch, 220
36. Highland Powder Horn, 221
37. Pair of Stone Celt Moulds, Ross-shire, 223
38. Stone Celt Moulds, Ross-shire, 224
39. Celt cast from Stone Moulds,[Pg viii] 224
40. Bronze Rings and Staples, 227
41. Bronze Celt from Arthur's Seat, 228
42. Bronze Leaf-shaped Sword from Arthur's Seat, 228
43. Spiked Axe, 253
44. Incised Axe-blade, 253
45. Palstave, 254
46. Spade-shaped Palstave, 256
47. 48. Looped Palstave and Celt, 257
49. Bronze Crowbar or Lever, 259
50. Bronze Spear-heads, 262
51. Double-looped Spear-head of Bronze, 262
52. Eyed Spear-head of Bronze, 263
53. Bronze Dagger, 264
54. Bronze Buckler, Ayrshire, 267
55. Bronze Implement, Isle of Skye, 269
56. Bronze Reaping or Pruning-hooks, 270
57. Bronze Cauldron from Kincardine Moss, 274
58. Bronze Tripods, 278
59. Urns, from a Cist at Banchory, Aberdeenshire, 283
60. Urn with Perforated Ears, from a Cairn at Sheal Loch, 285
61. Cinerary Urn from the Dean, Edinburgh, 286
62. Cinerary Urns from Memsie and Ratho, 287
63. Jet Necklace, from a Tumulus, Ross-shire, 294
64. Jet Fibula, Crawford Moor, Lanarkshire, 295
65. Jet Belt Clasp, Isle of Skye, 300
66. Glass Beads, called "Druidical or Adder Beads," 303
67. Glass Beads, 304
68. Dilated Penannular Ring, from a Cist, Alloa, 311
69. Calicinated Ring, Cromdale, Inverness-shire, 315
70. Calicinated Ring, Island of Islay, 316
71. Gold Sceptre Head, Cairnmure, Peeblesshire, 317
72. Knotted Funicular Torc, Penicuick, Mid-Lothian, 318
73. Spiral Gold Armilla, Largo Bay, Fifeshire, 321
74. Gold Armilla, Moor of Rannoch, Perthshire, 324
75. Gold Armilla, Slateford, Mid-Lothian, 325
76. Bronze Head-ring, Lumphanan, Aberdeenshire, 327
77. Bronze Ring Fibula and Spiral Finger Ring, Granton, Mid-Lothian, 327
78. Piece of Knitted Garment, from a Cist, Yorkshire, 329
79. Incised Cist Cover, Coilsfield, Ayrshire, 332
80. Fragment of Cinerary Urn, Coilsfield, 333
81. Incised Cist Cover, Annan Street, 334
82. Gold Rod, found in the Circle of Leys, Inverness-shire, 341
83. Coin of Comius, 375
84. Inscribed Roman Tablet, from the Castlehill Station, Antonine Wall, 376
85. Base of a Column, Castlehill, 377
86. Iron Spear-head, from Newstead, Roxburghshire, 382
87. Bronze Lamp, found at Currie, 383
88. Bronze of Pallas Armata, Kirkintilloch, 389
89. Dentated Bronze Ring, Merlsford, Fifeshire, 393
90. Roman Oculist's Medicine Stamp, Tranent, East-Lothian 393
91. Impression of Roman Medicine Stamp,[Pg ix] 394
92. Roman Altar, from Birrens, Annandale, 398
93. Roman Sepulchral Tablet, Birrens, 400
94. Roman Potters' Stamps, 402
95. Iron Forge-Tongs, from Glenorchy, 407
96. Bone Comb, Burgh of Burghar, 424
97. How of Hoxay, Orkney, 426
98. Plan of Doorway, How of Hoxay, 427
99. Iron Dagger and Bone Pin, East Langton, Mid-Lothian, 433
100. Glazed Urn, from a Cist, North-Berwick, 434
101. Glazed Urn, from a Cairn, Memsie, Aberdeenshire, 435
102. Bronze Sword-sheath, 441
103. Silver Chain, Caledonian Canal, 444
104. Bronze Snake Bracelet, Pitalpin, Angusshire, 446
105. Bronze Ornament, 447
106. Bronze Snake Armlet, 448
107. Plate III.—Bronze Beaded Torc, and Brooch of Lorn, 449
108. Bronze Head-ring, Cairn of Clunemore, 450
109. Head-ring or Diadem, Stitchel, Roxburghshire, 451
110. Iron Spear-head, Melford, Fifeshire, 454
111. Iron Umbo, Ballindalloch, Morayshire, 457
112. Enamelled Bridle-Bit, Annandale, 458
113. Bronze Rings, Horse Furniture, Annandale, 458
114-116. Bronze Ornaments, Horse Furniture, 459
117. Standing Stone, Hawkhill, Alloa, 496
118. Dunnichen Stone, Angusshire, 497
119. Silver Scale-plate, Norrie's Law, 499
120. Meigle Stone, Angusshire, 502
121. Plate IV.—St. Andrew's Sarcophagus, 503
122. Celtic Brooch, 504
123. Celtic Dirks, 505
124. Inscribed Standing Stone, Newton in Garioch, 506
125. Bishop Patrick's Tomb, Iona, 507
126. Cross of Lauchlan M'Fingon, Iona, 509
127. Silver Bodkins, Norrie's Law, 516
128. Silver Ring Fibula, Norrie's Law, 517
129. Silver Ornament, Norrie's Law, 518
130. Primitive Gold Coins, Cairnmuir, 520
131. Oval Brooch, Pict's House, Caithness, 523
132. Sculptured Stone, Invergowrie, 524
133. Dunipace Brooch, 530
134. Runic Inscription, St. Molio's Cave, 531
135. Large Runic Inscription, St. Molio's Cave, 533
136. Runic Inscription, Greenland, 537
137. Kirk Michael Cross, Isle of Man, 540
138. Runic Inscription, Kirk Michael Cross, 541
139. Kirk Braddan Cross, Isle of Man, 542
140. Inscription on the head of Kirk Braddan Cross, 542
141. Bronze Ring-Pin, Sandwick, Orkney, 551
142. 143. Oval Brooch, Links of Pier-o-waal, Orkney, 554
144. Comb, Pier-o-waal, 554
145. Bronze Ring-Pin,[Pg x] 555
146. Animal-shaped Liquor Decanter, 556
147. Acus of Dunipace Brooch, 559
148. Glasgow Brooch, 560
149. Table-stones, 562
150. Lewis Chess-Piece, King, 568
151. Lewis Chess-Piece, Queen, 568
152. Lewis Chess-Piece, Warden, 573
153. Lewis Chess-Piece, Knight, 576
154. Chess-Piece, Museum of Scottish Antiquaries, 578
155. Chess-Piece, Queen, Penicuick Collection, 579
156. Ancient Seal, Abbey of Holyrood, 582
157. Doorway, Round Tower of Donaghmore, 587
158. St. Magnus's Church, Egilshay, 590
159. Doorway, Round Tower of Brechin, 596
160. Abbot Crawfurd's Arms, Holyrood Abbey, 611
161. Section of Arch Mouldings, St. Rule's Church, St. Andrews, 612
162. Section of Pier, St. Rule's, 612
163. Chancel Arch, St. Rule's, 613
164. Window, Corstorphine, 622
165. Corbel, Trinity Church, Edinburgh, 624
166. Chantry Door, Bothwell Collegiate Church, 627
167. Window, Dunkeld Cathedral, 628
168. Window, St. Michael's, Linlithgow, 628
169. Bishop Kennedy's Arms, St. Giles's, Edinburgh, 629
170. Boss of St. Eloi's Chapel, St. Giles's, 631
171. Rothesay Chapel, St. Giles's, 632
172. Ambry, Kennedy's Close, 637
173. Ambry, Guise Palace, 637
174. Monogram, Blyth's Close, 638
175. Masons' Marks, Roslin Chapel, 640
176. Plate VI.—Kilmichael-Glassrie Bell and Dunvegan Cup, 652
177. Bell of St. Columba, 654
178. Clog Beanuighte, or Blessed Bell, 656
179. Perthshire Bell, 658
180. Clog-rinny, or Bell of St. Ninian, 660
181. Quigrich, or Crosier of St. Fillan, 664
182. Ancient Episcopal Crosier, Fortrose Cathedral, 666
183. Oaken Crosier, Cathedral of Kirkwall, 667
184. Mazer, Castle of Merdon, near Hursly, 672
185. Mazer of the Fourteenth Century, 673
186. Gold Ring, Flodden Field, 677
187. Medieval Pottery, North-Berwick Abbey, East-Lothian, 678
188. Pottery, Penicuick House, 679
189. Celtic or Elfin Pipes, 679
190. Ancient Stone Tobacco Pipe, Morningside, 681
191. Two-handed Scottish Claymore, 682
192. Hawthornden Sword, 683
193. Scottish Two-Handed Sword, 684
194. Battle-Axe, Bannockburn, 685
195. Lochaber Axes, 686
196. Sculpture, Edinburgh Castle, Mons Meg, 686
197. The Scottish Maiden, 689
198. Thumb-Screws, 690
199. Jougs, Applegirth, 691
200. The Branks, Moray House, 693
201. Witch's Bridle, Forfar, 693
[Pg xi]


The zeal for Archæological investigation which has recently manifested itself in nearly every country of Europe, has been traced, not without reason, to the impulse which proceeded from Abbotsford. Though such is not exactly the source which we might expect to give birth to the transition from profitless dilettantism to the intelligent spirit of scientific investigation, yet it is unquestionable that Sir Walter Scott was the first of modern writers "to teach all men this truth, which looks like a truism, and yet was as good as unknown to writers of history and others, till so taught,—that the bygone ages of the world were actually filled by living men."[1] If, however, the impulse to the pursuit of Archæology as a science be thus traceable to our own country, neither Scotland nor England can lay claim to the merit of having been the first to recognise its true character, or to develop its fruits. The spirit of antiquarianism has not, indeed, slumbered among us. It has taken form in Roxburgh, Bannatyne, Abbotsford, and other literary Clubs, producing valuable results for the use of the historian, but limiting its range within the Medieval era, and abandoning to isolated labourers that ampler field of research which embraces the prehistoric period of nations, and belongs not to literature but to the science of Nature. It was [Pg xii]not till continental Archæologists had shewn what legitimate induction is capable of, that those of Britain were content to forsake laborious trifling, and associate themselves with renewed energy of purpose to establish the study on its true footing as an indispensable link in the circle of the sciences.

Amid the increasing zeal for the advancement of knowledge, the time appears to have at length come for the thorough elucidation of Primeval Archæology as an element in the history of man. The British Association, expressly constituted for the purpose of giving a stronger impulse and a more systematic direction to scientific inquiry, embraced within its original scheme no provision for the encouragement of those investigations which most directly tend to throw light on the origin and progress of the human race. Physical archæology was indeed admissible, in so far as it dealt with the extinct fauna of the palæontologist; but it was practically pronounced to be without the scientific pale whenever it touched on that portion of the archæology of the globe which comprehends the history of the race of human beings to which we ourselves belong. A delusive hope was indeed raised by the publication in the first volume of the Transactions of the Association, of one memoir on the contributions afforded by physical and philological researches to the history of the human species,—but the ethnologist was doomed to disappointment. During several annual meetings, elaborate and valuable memoirs, prepared on various questions relating to this important branch of knowledge, and to the primeval population of the British Isles, were returned to their authors without being read. This pregnant fact has excited little notice hitherto; but when the scientific history of the first half of the nineteenth century shall come to be reviewed by those who succeed us, and reap the fruits of such advancement as we now aim at, it will not be overlooked as an evidence of the exoteric character of much of the overestimated science of the age. Through the persevering zeal of a few resolute men of distinguished ability, ethnology was at length[Pg xiii] afforded a partial footing among the recognised sciences, and at the meeting of the Association to be held at Ipswich in 1851, it will for the first time take its place as a distinct section of British Science.

It has fared otherwise with Archæology. Rejected in its first appeal for a place among the sister sciences, its promoters felt themselves under no necessity to court a share in popular favour which they could readily command, and we have accordingly its annual congresses altogether apart from those of the associated sciences. Archæology, however, has suffered from the isolation; while it cannot but be sooner or later felt to be an inconsistency at once anomalous and pregnant with evil, which recognises as a legitimate branch of British science, the study of the human species, by means both of physiological and philological investigation, but altogether excludes the equally direct evidence which Archæology supplies. It rests, however, with the archæologist to assert for his own study its just place among the essential elements of scientific induction, and to shew that it not only furnishes valuable auxiliary truth in aid of physiological and philological comparisons, but that it adds distinct psychological indices by no other means attainable, and yields the most trustworthy, if not the sole evidence in relation to extinct branches of the human family, the history of which possesses a peculiar national and personal interest for us.

Meanwhile the close relations which subsist between the researches of the ethnologist and the archæologist, and the perfect unity of their aims, have been recognised by Nillson, Eschricht, and other distinguished men in various countries; and while the two sciences have advanced together, in harmony and with mutual advantage, Scandinavian archæologists have given an impetus to the study of Primitive Antiquities, which has already done much to establish its value as the indispensable basis of all written history. The facilities afforded to the Scandinavian archæologist by the purity of his primitive remains, and the[Pg xiv] freedom of his ethnographic chronicles from those violent intercalations of foreign elements which render both the ethnology and the historical antiquities of Central Europe so complicated and difficult of solution, peculiarly fitted him for originating a comprehensive yet well-defined system. The comparatively recent close of the Scandinavian primitive periods has preserved in a more complete form those evidences by which we recover the knowledge of the first rude colonists of Europe, whose records are distorted and nearly effaced within the wide pale of Roman sway. The isolation, moreover, of these northern kingdoms preserved them from being the mere highway of the first Asiatic nomades. Whatever traces of early wanderers they retain are well-defined, so that to them we may look for clear and satisfactory evidence in illustration of one portion at least of the primal north-western tide of migration from which the origin of all European history dates. It chances, however, from various accidental causes, that the revival of archæological research in Britain, influenced by canons directly supplied from Scandinavian sources, has a tendency to authenticate some of the most favourite errors of older British antiquaries. Based, as nearly all antiquarian pursuits in this country have heretofore been, on classical learning, it has been accepted as an almost indisputable truth, that, with the exception of the mysteriously learned Druid priests, the Britons prior to the Roman Period were mere painted savages. Hence, while the artless relics of our primeval Stone Period were generally assigned to native workmanship, whatever evinced any remarkable traces of skill distinct from the well-defined Roman art, was assumed of necessity to have a foreign origin, and was usually ascribed to the Danes. The invariable adoption of the latter term in preference to that of Norwegians or Norsemen, shews how completely Scottish and Irish antiquaries have abandoned themselves to the influence of English literature, even where the appropriation of its dogmas was opposed to well-known historical facts. The name of Dane has in fact[Pg xv] for centuries been one of those convenient words which so often take the place of ideas and save the trouble and inconvenience of reasoning. Yet this theory of a Danish origin for nearly all native arts, though adopted without investigation, and fostered in defiance of evidence, has long ceased to be a mere popular error. It pervades both the Scottish and English Archæologiæ, and the great majority of works on every department of British antiquities, and has till recently proved a perpetual stumblingblock to the Irish antiquary. It is, moreover, a cumulative error,—certain Scottish relics, for example, found in Argyleshire, as well as others in the Isle of Man, being assumed in the Archæologia Scotica to be Scandinavian,[2] an able writer in the Transactions of the Cambridge Camden Society, taking these assumptions as indisputable facts, employs them in proving that other equally undoubted native works of art are also Scandinavian.[3] So, too, a writer in the Archæologia Scotica, ascribing a similar origin to the monolithic structures of the Orkney and Shetland Islands,[4] is quoted by Danish antiquaries[5] as referring to an established truth, and as proving, accordingly, that similar structures in the Hebrides are also the work of the Northmen! Pennant, Chalmers, Barry, Macculloch, Scott, Hibbert, and a host of other writers might be quoted to shew how this theory, like a snow-ball, gathers as it rolls, taking up indiscriminately whatever chances to lie in its erratic course. Even the poets have lent their aid to propagate the same prevalent error. Cowper, for example,—no uneducated or superficial writer,—thus strangely postdates Britain's birth-time:—

"Now borne upon the wings of truth sublime,
Review thy dim original and prime,—
This island, spot of unreclaimed rude earth,
The cradle that received thee at thy birth,
Was rocked by many a rough Norwegian blast,
And Danish howlings scared thee as they past."[6]

[Pg xvi]

Similar examples of the influence of this predominant theory might be multiplied from the most diverse sources; nor are even the recently established archæological periodicals free from it. It is obvious, therefore, that such opinions must be sifted to the utmost, and either established or got rid of before any efficient progress can be made in British Archæology. In Scotland this theory is much more comprehensive in its effects than in England, where the Anglo-Saxon element is recognised as the predominating source of later changes; and now that the character of genuine Roman antiquities is well ascertained, nearly the whole of our native relics have latterly been assigned to a Scandinavian origin. It is altogether unnecessary, I trust, to disclaim any petty spirit of national jealousy in the rigorous investigation of such theories which will be found pursued in the following pages. The error is for the most part of native growth; but whencesoever it be derived, truth is the end which the archæologist has in view; and the enlightened spirit in which the researches of the Northern antiquaries have already been pursued, is the best guarantee that they will not be less ready to co-operate in overturning error than in establishing truth. It is not a mere question between Northman or Dane and Celt or Saxon. It involves the entire chronology of the prehistoric British periods, and so long as it remains unsettled any consistent arrangement of our archæological data into a historical sequence is impossible.

The following work, embracing within its plan such a comprehensive scheme of Scottish Archæology as has not been hitherto attempted, has been undertaken under the conviction that this science is the key to great truths which have yet to be reached, and that its importance will hereafter be recognised in a way little dreamt of by those students of kindred sciences, who, while busied in investigating the traces of older but inferior orders of being, can discern only the objects of an aimless curiosity in relics pertaining to the human species. That such, however, should still be the case, is far more the fault of the[Pg xvii] antiquary than of the student of other sciences. It is his misfortune that his most recondite pursuits are peculiarly exposed to the laborious idling of the mere dabblers in science, so that they alternately assume to the uninterested observer the aspect of frivolous pastime and of solemn trifling. I cannot but think that a direct union with the associated sciences, and an incorporation especially with the kindred researches of the ethnologist, while it might, perchance, give some of its present admirers a distaste for the severer and more restricted study, would largely contribute to its real advancement, and free its truly zealous students from many popular trammels which at present cumber its progress. Meanwhile the archæologist may derive some hope from the remembrance that astronomy was once astrology; that chemistry was long mere alchemy; that geology has only in our own day ceased to be a branch of unreasoning antiquarianism; and that ethnology has scarcely yet passed the jealously guarded porch, as the youngest of all the recognised band of sister sciences.

In nothing is the want of the intelligent cooperation of the kindred sciences which bear on the study of antiquities more apparent than in the present state of our public collections. The British Museum contains the elements of a collection which, if arranged ethnographically and chronologically, would form the most valuable school of popular instruction that Government could establish; and no other country rests under the same manifest duty to form a complete ethnological museum as Britain: with her hundred colonies, and her tribes of subject aborigines in every quarter of the globe, losing their individuality where they escape extinction, by absorption and assimilation to their European masters. Were an entire quadrangular range of apartments in the British Museum devoted to a continuous systematic arrangement, the visitor should pass from the ethnographic rooms, shewing man as he is still found in the primitive savage state, and destitute of the metallurgic arts; thence to the relics of the Stone Period, not of Britain or Europe only; but also of[Pg xviii] Asia, Africa, and America, including the remarkable primitive traces which even Egypt discloses. To this would then fitly succeed the old monuments of Egyptian civilisation, the Nimrud marbles, the sculptures of India, and all the other evidences of early Asiatic arts. The Archaic Greek and Colonial works should come after these, followed by the master-pieces of the age of Pericles, and these again by the monuments of imperial Rome. Thus by a natural sequence we return to British remains: the Anglo-Roman relics piecing on like a new chapter of European history, at the point where our island first appears as a part of the old Roman world, and followed in succession by our native Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Norman, and Medieval antiquities. The materials for all this, if we except the primitive British relics, are already acquired; and while to the thousands who annually throng the Museum, in idle and profitless wonder, this would at once convert into intelligible history, what must now be to the vast majority of visitors a confused assortment of nearly meaningless relics, even the most profound scholar might derive from it information and pleasure, such as would amply repay the labour of re-arrangement. The immense practical value of collections to the archæologist renders their proper arrangement a matter of grave importance, and one which cannot be allowed to rest in its present extremely imperfect state.[7]

In Scotland no national collection exists, though a small body of zealous men have struggled to maintain an Archæological[Pg xix] Museum in the Scottish capital for the last seventy years, in defiance of obstacles of the most harassing nature. Not the least of these is the enforcement of the law of treasure-trove, by which all objects of the precious metals are held to be the property of the Crown. Notwithstanding the earnest zeal for the preservation of national relics which has actuated both Sir Henry Jardine and John Henderson, Esq., the late and present Crown and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancers for Scotland, and the liberal construction of the law by its administrators, as shewn in their offer of full value for all objects of the precious metals which may be delivered up to them, its operation has constantly impeded researches into the evidences of primitive art, and in many cases has occasioned the destruction of very valuable relics.

In a letter on this subject with which I have been favoured by the distinguished Danish antiquary, Mr. J. J. A. Worsaae, he remarks: "In Denmark, in former times, all hidden treasures, when found, belonged to the king. They were called Danefa. The finder had to give them up to the Crown without any remuneration. The effect of this was that very few or no antiquities of gold or silver were preserved for the Museum, [of Northern Antiquities at Copenhagen,] as the finders secretly sold the antiquities. For the purpose of putting an end to this, a law was passed in the middle of last century, in which the king declared himself willing to give the full value to the finders, and in some cases still more than the value; but, at the same time, he ordered all such things to be given up to the public museums, and in case of concealment the finders were to be tried and punished.

"This law is still in operation. It is the rule that the finder, in the strictest sense of the word, gets the remuneration, as the king—the real owner—has renounced his rights to him. The [Pg xx]owner of the soil only gets the value if he has ordered a servant expressly to dig for any such thing, or, of course, if he is the finder himself. This has proved most effective. Another measure which has secured a good many objects for the Museum is the payment of the finder as soon as possible. Poor people, as the finders generally are, do not like to wait for money. They get easily anxious, and prefer to sell the things for a smaller price, if they only get the money without delay. It has now come to this here, that very few antiquities of gold or silver are lost. The peasants and workmen are perfectly well aware that they get more for the things dug up, at the Museum in Copenhagen, than in the shop of a goldsmith. This has been effected by publication in the almanacs, newspapers, &c., of the payments given to finders of valuable antiquities."

Some of the wretched fruits of the different system still pursued in this country are referred to in the following pages;[8] yet with the earnest desire of the officers of the Scottish Exchequer, to whom the enforcement of the present law is committed, to avert, if possible, the destructive consequences which it has heretofore operated to produce, it is manifest that nothing more is needed than to adopt the essential practical feature in the Danish plan, which gives the actual finder the sole claim to reward, and also holds him responsible and liable to punishment. Until this indispensable change is effected, the Scottish archæologist must continue to deplore the annual destruction of national treasures, not less valuable to the historian than the chartularies which are being rescued with so much labour and cost from their long-neglected repositories.

[Pg xxi]

In attempting to arrange the elements of a system of Scottish Archæology, as a means towards the elucidation of prehistoric annals, I have had frequently to regret the want of any national collection adequate to the object in view. That the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland is one of considerable value must I think be apparent, even from the materials it has furnished for this volume. Some private collections, it will be seen, add a few more to the rescued waifs of Scottish national antiquities; but the result of an extensive correspondence carried on with a view to obtain the necessary facts which no books at present supply, has forced on me the conviction that, even within the last dozen years, such a number of valuable objects have been destroyed as would alone have formed an important nucleus for a complete Archæological Museum. The new Statistical Accounts, along with some periodicals and other recently published works, contain references to discoveries made within that period in nearly every district of Scotland. From these I selected upwards of two hundred of the most interesting and valuable examples, and the result of a laborious correspondence is, the establishment of the fact that scarcely five per cent. of the whole can now be ascertained to be in existence. Some have been lost or broken; some thrown away, sold, or stolen,—which in the case of objects of the precious metals involves their absolute destruction; in other cases, the proprietors themselves have disappeared—gone to India, America, Australia, or no one knows where. Of the few that remain, the jealous fear which the operation of the present law of treasure-trove excites has rendered a portion inaccessible, so that a sufficiently meagre handful of so prominent a harvest was left to be reaped.

When it is considered that in Scotland we have no such treasuries of the facts on which an archæological system must be built, as the Archæologia, the Vetusta Monumenta, the Nenia Britannica, the Ancient Wiltshire, and a host of other works supply to the English antiquary, I have a right to expect that some forbearance be shewn in contrasting this first attempt[Pg xxii] at a comprehensive treatment of the subject, with the works which other countries possess. I do not desire to offer it to the reader with an apology, or to seek to deprecate criticism by setting forth in array a host of difficulties surmounted or succumbed to. It has been the work of such leisure time as could be snatched from less congenial but engrossing pursuits, and will probably be found to contain some recurrence to the same ideas, to which a writer is liable when only able to take up his theme at intervals, and to pursue it amid repeated interruptions. Nevertheless, I have aimed at treating the subject as one which I esteem a worthy one ought to be treated, and if unsuccessful, it is not for want of the zeal which earnest enthusiasm commands. Some new ground I believe has been broken in the search after truth, and as a pioneer I am fully prepared to see my footsteps erased by those who follow me. It will be found, however, that truth is the goal which has been aimed at; and if it be but as a glimmering that light appears, it is well, so that its streaks are in the east, and the clouds which begin to break make way before the dawn.

It only remains for me to acknowledge some of the many favours received in the progress of the Work; though it is impossible to mention all to whose liberality I have been indebted during the extensive correspondence into which I was led while collecting needful materials for substantiating the positions assumed in the following argument. The want of such resources as in other countries supply to the Archæologist the means of constructing a system based on trustworthy evidence, has compelled me to draw largely on the courtesy of private collectors; and with very few exceptions, the cordial response returned to my applications has rendered the otherwise irksome task a source of pleasure, and even in some cases the beginning of valued friendships.

The Council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland have afforded the utmost facilities in regard to their important national collection, and have accorded to me an equal freedom[Pg xxiii] in the use of the extensive correspondence preserved in their Library, from which it will be found that some curious information has been recovered, not otherwise attainable. From my fellow Associates in the Society I have also received the most hearty sympathy and cooperation. To the kind services of Sir James Ramsay, Bart., I am indebted for obtaining from Lady Menzies one of the beautiful gold relics figured in the work. To my friend Professor J. Y. Simpson, M.D., I owe the contribution of one of the illustrations, and to Albert Way, Esq., and George Seton, Esq., others of the woodcuts, presented to me as the expression of their interest in my labours; while I have to thank my friend James Drummond, Esq., A.R.S.A., for drawings from his faithful pencil of several of the examples of ancient Scottish arms, as well as of other relics figured in the work. The many obligations I owe to the freedom with which Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq., has long permitted me to avail myself of the treasures of his extensive collection, will appear in some degree from the use made of them in the following pages; while John Bell, Esq. of Dungannon, has obviated the difficulties which would have prevented my turning his no less valuable archæological treasures to account, by forwarding to me drawings and descriptions, from which some portions of this work derive their chief interest. Others of the objects selected for illustration are from the collection of W. B. Johnstone, Esq., R.S.A., the whole rare and costly contents of which have been placed completely at my disposal.

Nor must I omit to acknowledge the kind assistance I have received in various ways from David Laing, Esq., William B. D. D. Turnbull, Esq., W. H. Fotheringham, Esq., the Rev., James Mather, J. M. Mitchell, Esq., William Marshall, Esq., as well as from other Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

The Council of the Archæological Institute, with a liberality altogether spontaneous, offered, in the most gratifying and flattering terms of cordial sympathy with the object of my work,[Pg xxiv] the beautiful series of engravings of the Norrie's Law silver relics, which illustrate the account of that remarkable discovery.

The Council of the British Archæological Association have placed me under similar obligations in regard to the woodcuts which illustrate the sepulchral discoveries at Pier-o-waal in Orkney.

To Sir George Clerk, Bart., I owe the privilege of access to the valuable and highly interesting collection of British and Roman antiquities at Penicuick House, formed by the eminent Scottish antiquary Sir John Clerk.

The very great obligations I am under to Lieutenant F. W. L. Thomas, R.N., are repeatedly noticed in the following pages, though in no degree adequately to the generosity with which the knowledge acquired by him during his professional exploration of the Orkney Islands, while engaged in the Admiralty Survey, has been placed at my disposal.

I have also to acknowledge the contribution of valuable information from my friend Professor Munch of Christiania, and from George Petrie, Esq. of Kirkwall; as well as kind services rendered me in various ways by Charles Roach Smith, Esq., J. C. Brown, Esq., William Nelson, Esq., by my indefatigable friend and correspondent, John Buchanan, Esq. of Glasgow, and others referred to in the course of the work.

My special thanks are due to Robert Hunter, of Hunterston, Esq., for his courteous liberality in forwarding to me the valuable Scottish relic found on his estate—engraved as the frontispiece to this volume—after I had despaired of making anything of its remarkable Runic inscription from various copies obligingly furnished. Whatever opinion may be formed as to the value of the interpretation of its inscription offered here, the archæologist and philologist may both place the utmost reliance on the fidelity of the engraved fac-simile of this interesting monument of the palæography, and, as I believe also, of the language of our ancestors. Besides putting into the engraver's hands a carefully executed drawing, he had the advantage of having the[Pg xxv] brooch itself before him while engraving it; after which I went over the copy in his presence, comparing it letter by letter, and checking the minutest deviations from the original. It is justly remarked in the "Guide to Northern Archæology," that "in copying Runic inscriptions great accuracy is required; for a point, a small, scarcely perceptible line, changes the value of the letter, or occasionally adds a letter, which may easily escape notice." When, however, it is added that "one of the best helps in copying Runic, and indeed all other inscriptions, is a knowledge of the language in which they are written," I am inclined to question its strict justice. Most authors, I believe, who have had any experience of the matter, would much prefer a compositor entirely ignorant of the language for setting up Latin, or any foreign tongue, at least to one short of being a perfect master of it. Where there is the total absence of knowledge of it, the imagination is entirely at rest; and the patient copying of letter after letter ensures the accuracy which often surprises the young author when revising his first proofs. Even so I would, in most cases, place more faith in the version of an inscription by an engraver accustomed to accurate copying, though entirely ignorant of the language, than in that of the ablest philologist, with his head full of speculations as to its meaning. A direct example in point is found in the Cardonell or "Thorkelin" print of the Ruthwell inscriptions, where the Scottish antiquary has given a more faithful version of the Runic than of the Latin legends. Notwithstanding the extravagant flights which Professor Finn Magnusen permitted his imagination to take relative to the supposed personages named on the Hunterston brooch, little blame can attach to him for having missed its true meaning with nothing but imperfect copies to guide him; but the fact that this inscription should have been copied from the original brooch by two Scandinavian scholars familiar with the Runic alphabet, without either of them detecting the name Maolfridi, so palpably engraved on it, proves how completely, though unconsciously, they were blinded[Pg xxvi] by their knowledge of the old Norse language, and their belief that it must contain the word Dalkr, a brooch. The recognition, indeed, of this proper name proved to me the key to the whole inscription, as it immediately suggested the probability of the ᛚᚴ of former translators in the first line being also an ᛉ, and so led to a new and intelligible reading of the remainder. The word dìol, which I have rendered according to its significance as a substantive, is also employed as the verb to avenge. One Gaelic scholar to whom I shewed the inscription, accordingly suggested as a more characteristic old Celtic interpretation of the Runes: O Malbritha, thou friend, avenge Malfridi! "The difference," he adds, "between the ancient and modern orthography is not greater than frequently exists between the present spelling of familiar terms, as written or pronounced in two contiguous Highland districts."

It is a customary conclusion to a preface to crave the forbearance of the reader for all faults and shortcomings: the which, as readers and critics make an equally general custom of paying no attention to it, may as well be omitted. I can only say, that while writing this work with an honest and earnest desire for the discovery of truth, I have done it no less under the conviction that anything I could now set forth on the subject must be modified by more extended observations, and superseded, ere long, by works of a more complete character.

Edinburgh, January 1851.

[Pg xxvii]

Lightward aspire: nor think the utmost height
Of an attainable success is won;
Nor even that the mighty spirits, gone
With the bright past, in their enduring flight
So won their passage toward the infinite,
That they may stand on their far heights alone,
A distant glory, dazzling to the sight,
In which all hope of mastery is o'erthrown.
No height of daring is so high, but higher
The earnest soul may yet find grace to climb;
Truth springeth out of truth; the loftiest flyer,
That soareth on the sweep of thought sublime,
Resteth at length; and still beyond doth guess
Truth infinite as God toward which to press.

[Pg xxviii]
[Pg 1]



"Large are the treasures of oblivion. Much more is buried in silence than recorded; and the largest volumes are but epitomes of what hath been. The account of Time began with night, and darkness still attendeth it."—Sir Thomas Browne.

History which is derived from written materials must necessarily begin only where civilisation has advanced to so ripe a state, that the songs of the bard, and the traditions of the priest, have ceased to satisfy the cravings of the human mind for mastery over the past and the future. It has been too generally assumed that history is an inconceivable thing independent of written materials. Historians have accordingly, with a transient and incredulous glance at the fabulous infancy of nations, been too frequently content to leave their annals imperfect and maimed of those chapters that should record the deeply interesting story of their origin and rise. This mode of dealing with history is happily no longer sanctioned by the example of the ablest of its modern investigators. They are at length learning to analyze the myths which their predecessors rejected; and the results have already rewarded their toil, though much still remains obscure, or utterly unknown.

Gifted with an inspired pen, Moses has recorded in briefest words the story of the world's infancy: that, therefore, is rendered independent of myth or fable. But quitting that single illuminated spot, how shall the investigator recover the annals of our race during the dubious interval between the era of the dispersion of the human[Pg 2] family and the earliest contribution of written materials? Job, we know, was no Hebrew, but a man of Uz, in the land to which Edom succeeded. Could we fix his era, it would be of interest; for we know that he lived in a literate age; and his desire against his adversary was, that he had written a Book! But Biblical students are disagreed as to this epoch. A recent German critic brings it down to the period of the Exodus, while the great majority of commentators have heretofore placed it some 700 years nearer Creation. We must, meanwhile, be content to receive this as one pregnant scene of primitive social life incorporated into the Book of Books, while all the rest are swallowed up with the old centuries to which they belonged. It has to be intercalated as best may be, into its place in the first chapters of human history, ere we grope our way onward or backward, seeking amid the darkness for that historic oasis—the first establishment of the human race on the banks of the Nile.

Wilkinson places the era of Menes, the founder of Egyptian monarchy, and probably one of the earliest wanderers from the eastern cradle of our race, some 2200 years B.C. Bunsen, aiming, in his "Ægyptens Stelle in der Weltgeschichte," at fixing the exact year, assigns that of 3643 B.C., or, in other words, 1295 years before the commonly accepted era of the Deluge. Yet even this has not satisfied all the requisites of newly discovered data. Fleury, in his "L'Egypte Pharaonique," carries back the Menean age some 1600 years farther into the past; and Böckh, following out an independent series of investigations, fixes the same era, in his "Manetho und die Hundssternperiode," for the year B.C. 5702. The world's early historic chronology, it is now universally admitted, has been misinterpreted. The last date is just 1698 years before the creation of the world, if we are still implicitly to accept Archbishop Usher for our guide. But even this it is possible may yet be revised, as too scanty for the events which it must comprehend; unless, following the example of one distinguished archæologist, Mr. S. Sharpe, we consign all Egyptian history prior to the era of Osirtesen I. to the same order of fabulous or mythic inventions as the crude traditions of our own chroniclers, and esteem Menes as no more than the classic Saturnus, or the Scandinavian Odin. It is not our province here to do more than indicate the fact, that all early chronology is liable to correction by the contributions of new truths, its most accredited data being at best only approximations to the desired end. "Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater[Pg 3] part must be content to be as though they had not been: to be found in the register of God, not in the records of men. Twenty-seven names make up the first story before the Flood, and the recorded names ever since contain not one living century. The number of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live. The night of time far surpasseth the day; and who knows when was the Equinox?"[9]

Similar necessities and difficulties meet us when we would investigate the beginnings of younger nations. The oldest intelligible inscription known in Scotland is that graven in Anglo-Saxon Runes on the Ruthwell Cross, Dumfriesshire, and dating not earlier than the ninth century. The oldest written historic documents are probably the charters of Duncan, engrossed about the year 1035, and still preserved among the muniments of Durham Cathedral. Prior to these the Romans furnish some few scanty notes concerning the barbarian Picti. The Irish annalists contribute brief but valuable additions. The northern sagas, it is now certain, contain a still richer store of early historic notes, which the antiquaries of Copenhagen are busily digesting for us into available materials. Yet, after all these are ransacked, what shall we make of the long era which intervenes between the dispersion of the human family and the peopling of the British Isles? When did the first rude prow touch our shores?—who were its daring crew? Whence did language, manners, nationality, civilisation, and letters spring? All these are questions of the deepest interest; but on nearly all of them history is as silent as on the annals of Chaos. With reverential piety, or with restless inquisitiveness, we seek to know somewhat of the rude forefathers of our island race. Nor need we despair of unveiling somewhat of the mystery of their remote era, though no undeciphered hieroglyphics, nor written materials, preserve one solitary record of the Menes of the British Isles.

Human intelligence and research have already accomplished so much, that ignorance alone can presume to resign any past event to utter oblivion. Between "the Beginning," spoken of in the first verse of the Book called Genesis, and the creation of man, the most humble and devout of Biblical students now acknowledge the intervention of ages, compared to which the whole era of our race is but as the progression of the shadow one degree on the dial of time. Our whole written materials concerning all these ages are comprehended in the few introductory words of the Mosaic narrative, and for well-nigh[Pg 4] 6000 years no more was known. But all the while their history lay in legible characters around these generations who heeded them not, or read them wrong. At length this history is being deciphered. The geologist has mastered the characters, and page after page of the old interleaved annals of preadamite existence are being reduced to our enchorial text—to the writing of the people. The dislocated strata are being paged, as it were, and re-arranged in their primary order. The palimpsests are being noted, and their double readings transferred to their correct places in the revised history. The whole accumulations of these ages between Chaos and man are, in fact, being dealt with by modern science much in the same way as the bibliographer treats some monkish or collegiate library suddenly rescued from the dust and confusion of centuries.

Returning to the same book of Moses, called Genesis, we find in it another record of things since the Beginning, thus noted in a passing parenthesis of the sacred narrative: "And God made the stars also." Very brief words; yet these are all our written materials about worlds and suns so filling the azure vault, that the astronomer, scarcely conscious of using figurative language, speaks of nebulous spaces as powdered with stars. Science has added somewhat to our knowledge of these also, without written annals. The Chaldean shepherds, who had never travelled beyond the central plain of Asia, where we recognise the cradle-land of the human race, began the work of unriddling these mysterious records. Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler, added largely, with unassisted vision, to the accumulated observations of astronomy. Galileo supplied a new key that unlocked many secret stores. Huygens, Newton, Herschel, Dollond, Lord Rosse, have each given us others wherewith many more are being opened. Astronomy and geology have both accomplished much, and have yet to accomplish far more ere their scattered leaves can be bound up, or their thousand lacunæ filled in. Nevertheless, histories, it seems, may be based on other than written materials—may, indeed, be all the more sure and incontrovertible because their evidence is traceable to no such doubtful records.

It is in curious consistency with human nature that we find the order of its investigations in the inverse ratio of their relation to itself. In the infancy of our race men studied the stars, bringing to the aid of their human sympathies the fancies of the astrologer to fill the void which Astronomy could not satisfy. The earth had grown older,[Pg 5] and its patriarchal age was long past, when Cosmogony and Geology had their rise. Now at length when the studies of many generations have furnished materials for Astronomy, and the history of the earth's crust is being patiently unravelled by numerous independent labourers, some students of the past have inquired if the annals of our own race may not also be recoverable. Men with zeal no less earnest than that which has done so much for Astronomy and Geology, have found that this also lay around the older generations, recorded in characters no less intelligible, and containing the history of beings no less interesting to us than the Saurians or Mammoths, to whose inheritance we have succeeded. Bacon has remarked, in treating of the vicissitudes of things,[10] "The great winding-sheets that bury all things in oblivion, are two—deluges and earthquakes." But the weft of our historic winding-sheet is of a feebler texture, and its unnoted folds envelop an ampler oblivion, which also will yield secrets worth the knowing. Not a day passes that some fact is not stored in that strange treasury, some of them wittingly, but far more unwittingly, as the chronicles of man. To decipher these and to apply them as the elements of a new historic chronometry, are the legitimate ends of Archæology.

Slowly and grudgingly is its true position conceded to the study of the archæologist. The world has had its laugh at him, not always without reason. The antiquary, indeed, in our own day, has taken the first of the laugh himself, feeling that it was not unmerited, so long as he was the mere gatherer of shreds from the tattered and waste leaves of the past. Now, however, when these same shreds are being pieced together and read anew, it is found that they well repay the labours both of collector and decipherer. But Archæology is yet in its infancy. Little more has been done for it than to accumulate and classify a few isolated facts. We are indeed only learning the meaning of the several characters in which its records are engrossed.

The history of one of the oldest and most faithfully studied branches of the science, may afford an example, as well as encouraging assurance, for the whole. In 1636 the learned Jesuit, Father Kirchner, published his "Œdipus Ægyptiacus," a ponderous treatise on Egyptian hieroglyphics, completed in six folios, containing abundance of learning, and no lack of confident assurance, but never a word of truth in the whole. It is a fair specimen of the labours of hieroglyphic students down to the year 1799, when M. Bouchard, a French officer of[Pg 6] Engineers, in digging the foundation of Fort St. Julien, on the western bank of the Nile, between Rosetta and the sea, discovered a mutilated block of black basalt, containing three versions of one inscription graven in the year B.C. 196, or 1995 years prior to its discovery. Inscribed in this late era of hieroglyphic literature, Epiphanes, whose accession it records, had decreed it to be graven not only in the hieroglyphic or sacred characters, but also in the enchorial or popular Egyptian writing, and in the Greek character and language. Here then seemed to be the long-coveted key to the mysterious records of Egypt. Casts of it were taken, fac-similes engraved and distributed throughout Europe; and expectation, roused to the utmost pitch of excitement, paused for a reply. But eighteen years elapsed before Dr. Thomas Young, one of the greatest scholars of his age, mastered the riddle of the key, established beyond doubt the alphabetic use of hieroglyphics, and demonstrated the phonetic value of five of its characters. It seems, perhaps, a small result for so long a period of study, during which the attention of many of the first scholars of Europe had been directed to the critical investigation of the inscriptions of the Rosetta stone, and the comparison of their diverse characters. Nevertheless it was the insertion of the point of the wedge. All that followed was easy in comparison with it. What has since been accomplished by the scholars of Europe in this old field of archæological investigation, where they dealt with written though unread materials, is now being attempted for the whole compass of its legitimate operations by a similar union of learning and zeal, and Archæology at length claims its just rank among the inductive sciences.

The visitor to the British Museum passes through galleries containing fossil relics of the secondary and tertiary geological periods—the gigantic evidences of former life, the tropical fauna of the carboniferous system, and all the organic and inorganic proofs by which we are guided in investigating the physical changes, and classifying the extinct beings, that pertained to the older world of which they speak. Thence he proceeds to galleries filled with the inscribed sarcophagi and obelisks, the votive tablets, the sculptured altars, deities, or historic decorations of Assyria, Egypt, India, Greece, and Rome, relics which belong no less to extinct, though newer systems and orders of being. "The antiquities," says an eminent geologist, when instituting a nearly similar comparison, "piece on in natural sequence to the geology; and it seems but rational to indulge in the same sort of[Pg 7] reasonings regarding them. They are the fossils of an extinct order of things newer than the tertiary; of an extinct race, of an extinct religion, of a state of society and a class of enterprises which the world saw once, but which it will never see again; and with but little assistance from the direct testimony of history, one has to grope one's way along this comparatively modern formation, guided chiefly, as in the more ancient deposits, by the clue of circumstantial evidence."[11] Such are the reflections of an intelligent geologist, suggested by a similar combination of geological and historic relics to that which offers itself to the visitor of our great National Museum. But it is even in a more absolute sense than the geologist dreams of that the antiquities piece on to the geology, and show the researches of the archæologist to follow up the closing data of the older systems without a pause. He labours to build up that most important of all the branches of palæontology which pertains to ethnological investigations, and which when brought to maturity will be found not less valuable as an element in the elucidation of the history of nations and of mankind, than the grammatical construction and the affiliations of languages, which the ethnologist now chiefly favours. The archæologist applies to the accumulated facts of his own science the same process of inductive reasoning which the geologist has already employed with such success in investigating still earlier states of being. Both deal with unwritten history, and aim at the recovery of annals long deemed irretrievably erased. Nor is it merely in a parallelism of process, or a continuity of subject, that the affinity is traceable between them. It will be found that they meet on common ground, and dispute the heirship of some of old Time's bequests. The detritus records archæological as well as geological facts. The more recent alluvial strata are the legitimate property of both; while above these lie the evidences of still later changes on the earth's surface—the debris of successive ages, the buried ruins, the entombed works of art, and "the heaps of reedy clay, into which chambered cities melt in their mortality"[12]—the undisputed heirlooms of the archæologist. The younger science treats, it is true, of recent periods, when compared with the eras of geological computation, and of a race newer than any of those whose organic remains are classified in the systems into which the strata of the earth's crust have been grouped. But this race which [Pg 8]last of all has peopled the globe, once teeming with living beings so strangely diverse from all that now inhabit it, is the race of man, whose history embraces nobler records, and has claims to a deeper interest for us than the most wonderful of all the extinct monsters that once

"Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood."

Among the recent contributors to archæological science, the Danish antiquaries have surpassed all others in the value and extent of their researches. Occupying as they do a comparatively isolated seat of early northern civilisation, where the relics of the primeval and secondary archæological periods escaped to a great extent the disturbing influences of Roman invasion, they possess many facilities for its study. Notwithstanding this, however, the mute but eloquent relics of antiquity which abound there, excited, until a very recent period, even less notice than they have done among the archæologists of Ireland and Scotland, where also aboriginal traces have been little modified by the invading legions, whose memorials nearly superseded all others in the southern part of the British Isle. The Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, held the chief power among the races of the remote north in early times. Rome scarcely interfered with their growing strength, and left their wild mythology and poetic traditions and myths untinctured by the artificial creed which grew up amid the luxurious scepticism of the conquerors of the world. When the flood-tide of the legionary invaders had given back, and left the scenes of their brief occupation like the waste lands of a forsaken shore, the Scandinavians were the first to step into their deserted conquests. Fearlessly navigating seas where no Roman galley dared to have sailed, the Scandinavian warriors conquered the coasts of the Baltic and the German Ocean, occupied many parts of the British Isles, and especially established permanent settlements in the north of Scotland, and the isles on its northern and western coasts. Their power was felt on the shores of France and Spain, and they retaliated even on Italy the unavenged wrongs of the north. America was visited and partially occupied by them fully three centuries before Columbus steered his venturous course across the Atlantic. Greenland was colonized by them, and Iceland became the central point in their system of maritime operations. In that remote island the old northern language still lives, dialects of which were anciently spoken among[Pg 9] the Scandinavian races, including the Anglo-Saxons of the south, and the Norsemen of the Scottish mainland and the Northern Isles.

Enduring traces of these hardy colonists still remain to furnish evidence of the source of much of our national character and hereditary customs. The religion of the Angles, the Saxons, the Scottish Norsemen, the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish Scandinavians, was similar. Christianity, which supplanted so much else, could not root out the memorials of their wild creed, which preserve in the names of the days of the week those of Tyr, Woden, Thur, and Frea, favourite deities of the Scandinavian mythology. In Iceland a large portion of the literature of this northern race still survives, in the form of mythic songs, sagas, laws, and other historic treasures. To this the attention of Danish and Norwegian antiquaries is now devoted with untiring enthusiasm, and already we are possessed of some of its fruits. These are of immense value to all the nations allied to the common stock, and among them Scotland ranks more directly than any other portion of the British Isles. The promised contribution by the antiquaries of Copenhagen to the written materials of history, of the "Antiquitates Britannicæ et Hibernicæ," cannot fail to add a historic era to early Scottish annals, richer in suggestive interest even than the romantic chronicles of the long lost "Vinland," by which, in their "Antiquitates Americanæ," they have added three centuries to the history of the new world.

A mingled race now occupies Britain, diverse in name, and still distinct in blood. The names of England and Scotland, however, contradict the character of the races. While the natives of the South retain the name of Angul, the father of the Scandinavian colonists, long since nearly superseded by Germano-Teutonic races, the Celtic Highlanders, and the Lowlanders of the North, alike take that of the Irish Scoti, the conquerors of the older Celtæ; though there is not wanting evidence to show, that the peculiar characteristics of the hardy Lowland race, including those of the whole north-eastern mainland, and the Northern Isles, are chiefly derived from the mingled Norse and Saxon blood of a Teutonic ancestry. But older races than the Scandinavian Vikings were colonists of the British Isles. Christianity has failed to obliterate the traces of the creed of Woden. Still less influential have been the modifications of Teutonic and Scandinavian dialects in supplanting the older Celtic names which cling to every hill, valley, and stream, though the Celtic race has, for nearly[Pg 10] eight centuries, ceased to occupy aught but the north-western Highlands of Wales and Scotland. The ethnologist has yet to solve the problem as to whether there exist not among these traces of still older tongues, pertaining to races who have left other but no less certain memorials of their former presence. From the remotest era to which historical tradition points, the Celtæ are found in possession of the north-west of Europe, whither they appear to have been gradually driven, by successive migrations of younger races from the same eastern centre, to which we refer the origin of the whole human family. We can trace, by unmistakable indications, the gradual western migration of this people, until we find them hemmed in between the younger races and the sea, on the north-west coasts of France, and along the mountainous regions of the west in the British Isles, where the invaders of the more fertile regions of the low countries have not cared to follow them. Modern philologists discover a clear affinity between the Celtic dialects and the languages known by the general title of Indo-European, affording confirmation of that eastern origin assigned to them, both by tradition and history, but which is no less true of the newer races which supplanted them. The essential differences between these remain markedly distinguishable after centuries of peaceful intercourse, and a common interchange of rights and privileges. The Scottish Gael, though by no means to be now regarded as sprung from a pure Celtic stock, scarcely differs more widely in language than in moral and intellectual characteristics from the race that peoples the fertile Lowlands. Yet the names of the most remarkable Lowland localities prove their possession by a Celtic race, whom therefore we cannot doubt to have been the prior, if not the aboriginal, occupants of the soil.

Of late years the direct evidence of the character of the primitive races of Europe, furnished by their sepulchral remains, has been made the subject of careful investigation by distinguished ethnologists, both of Denmark and Sweden. Eschricht, Nillson, and Retzius, have all aimed by this means to recover the traces of the colonists of the north of Europe, and have discovered different physical types, apparently corresponding to the successive stages of advancement in civilisation, which the more direct archæological evidence establishes. Arguing from these results, Professor Nillson arrives at the conclusion that the northern relics of the Stone Period are not the memorials of the Celtæ, but of a much older and unknown race, which in the course of time[Pg 11] has disappeared before the immigration of more powerful nations. Similar ideas are now generally gaining ground among ethnologists. "Within their own pale," Dr. Latham remarks, "the Celts were the encroaching family of the oldest, the Romans of the next oldest, and the Anglo-Saxons and Slavonians of the recent periods of history."[13] On like grounds to those by which Professor Nillson arrives at the conclusion that the Celtæ were preceded in the north by other races, Danish and Swedish ethnologists concur in rejecting the idea of the Fins having been the aboriginal race of Scandinavia. The earliest people, whose remains are found accompanied with the primitive class of implements, prior to the introduction of metals, appear to have belonged to a family of different physical character from those of any of the Arian races, and have been supposed to present features of greater affinity to the nations of Northern Asia. Professor Nillson, who has carefully examined the skeletons of the aboriginal Swedish colonists, and especially noted the conformation of their crania, states that they are readily distinguished from all the subsequent inhabitants of Scandinavia. They present the same peculiar form of cranium which has been recognised as existing among several ancient peoples, such as the Iberians or Basques of the Pyrenees, the Lapps and Samoyedes, and the Pelasgi, some traces of whom are still found in Greece.[14] The last noted coincidence is of considerable interest, both from the ancient prevalence there of cyclopean architecture, and other traces of primitive arts of unknown antiquity, and also from its vicinity to the Asiatic centre of aboriginal emigration. Dr. Latham remarks, in reply to the question, "Is there reason to believe that any definite stock or division of our species has become either wholly extinct, or so incorporated as to be virtually beyond the recognition and analysis of the investigator? With the vast majority of the so-called extinct stocks, this is not the case; e.g., it is not the case with the old Gauls of Gallia, who, though no longer extant, have extant congeners—the Welsh and Gaels. To an extinction of this kind among the better known historic nations of Europe and Asia, the nearest approach is to be found in the history of the Pelasgi."[15] It will be of no slight interest if we can trace the congeners of this ancient people among the extinct aborigines of the north of Europe.

[Pg 12]

Two later races are supposed to have succeeded each other in Scandinavia prior to its colonization by the true Swea race, the first settlement of which in Scandinavia Professor Nillson assigns to a much more recent date than has been commonly supposed—probably some time in the sixth century. Mr. Worsaae justly remarks, in his "Primeval Antiquities of Denmark,"—"It is a vain error to assume that certain races must incontestably be the most ancient, because they are the first which are mentioned in the few and uncertain written records which we possess."[16] Unfortunately extremely little attention has been hitherto paid to the size and form of the crania found in British tumuli. Some few examples, however, have been preserved, and will furnish the elements of a brief inquiry into this interesting department of Physical Archæology, in a subsequent chapter. To this branch of evidence it is probable that much greater importance will be attached when it has been thoroughly investigated, since to it we may look, with considerable confidence, for a distinct reply to the inquiry, which other departments of archæological evidence suggest as to the existence of primitive races in Britain prior to the Celtæ. So far as our present limited data admit of general conclusions being drawn, we find traces of more than one race, differing greatly in physical characteristics from any of the successive colonists of Britain within the era of authentic history. Professor Nillson is of opinion that the type of the old Celtic cranium is intermediate to the true dolicho-kephalic and brachy-kephalic forms, a conclusion in which Dr. Thurnam and others concur. Such is not the form of cranium of either of the races of the Scottish tumuli, and in so far, therefore, as such forms may be assumed to be permanent, we are necessarily led to the conclusion, that in these we recover traces of the Allophylian pioneers of the human family in Britain.

The infancy of all written history is necessarily involved in fable. Long ere the scattered families have conjoined their patriarchal unions into tribes and clans, acknowledging some common chief, and submitting their differences to the rude legislation of the arch-priest or civil head of the commonwealth, treacherous tradition has converted the story of their birth into the wildest admixture of myth and legendary fable. To unravel the complicated skein, and recover the pure thread divested of all its extraneous acquisitions, is the impos[Pg 13]sible task of the historian. This period past—so momentous in the influence it exercises on all the years that follow—the historian finds himself among materials more manageable in some respects, though not always more trustworthy. He reaches the era of chronicles, records, and, still better, of diplomas, charters, deeds of gift, and the like honest documents, which being written with no thought of posterity by their compilers, are the only really trustworthy chronicles that posterity has inherited. This historic epoch of Scotland is involved in even more obscurity than that which clouds the dim and fabulous morning of most nations. We have indeed the few but invaluable allusions of Roman authors supplying important and generally trustworthy data. But it is only a momentary glimpse of sunshine. For the era succeeding we have little better than the perplexing admixture of traditions, facts, and pious legends of monkish chroniclers, furnished with a copiousness sufficiently characteristic of the contrast between the literary legionary of imperial Rome, and the cloistered soldier of her papal successor. Amid these dusty acres of parchment must we glean for older dynasties and monarchical pedigrees—not seldom tempted to abandon the weedy furrows in disgust or despair. It is with no lack of zeal or courage, however, that these soldiers of the Church have encountered the oblivious past into which we still peer with no less resolute inquisitiveness. Bede, Fordun, Wyntoun, Boece, and the other penmen of the cloisters who, more or less accurately, chronicled contemporary history, all contributed their quota to the thick mists of fable which obscure the earlier annals of the country. Wyntoun, the best of our Scottish chroniclers, following the example of other monkish historians, begins his work as near the beginning as may be, with a treatise on angels, before proceeding to "manny's fyrst creatoune!" In the sixth chapter he gets the length of "Ye Arke of Noe, and of the Spate," and after treating of Ynde, Egype, Afryk, and many other lands with an enviable and leisurely composure, he at length reaches the threshold of his legitimate subject, and glances, in the thirteenth chapter of his Scottish Chronicles, at "how Bretanne and Irlande lyis." This, however, is a mere passing notice; nor is it till after the dedication of many more successive chapters of his first five books to the general history of the world, that the author of the "Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland" quits his ample theme, and devotes himself exclusively to the professed object of his investigation, with only[Pg 14] such occasional deviations as might be expected from an ecclesiastical historian.

With such laborious chroniclers peering into the past, which lay fully five centuries nearer them than it does to us, there might seem little left for the men of this older generation to do. But unhappily the very best of monkish chroniclers must be consulted with caution even as contemporary historians, and scarcely at all as the recorders of what passed any length of time prior to their own day; their information being nearly as trustworthy in regard to Noah and his spate, as to the traditions of generations immediately preceding their own. Lord Hailes begins his annals with the accession of Malcolm Canmore, "because the history of Scotland previous to that period is involved in obscurity and fable." Tytler, with even less courage than Lord Hailes, commences only at the accession of Alexander the Third, "because it is at this period that our national annals become particularly interesting to the general reader."

Till recently, the never-failing apology for all obscurities and deficiencies in Scottish history, has been the rape of our muniments by Edward and Cromwell. The former spoliation supplied for some centuries an excuse for all degrees of ignorance, inconsistencies, or palpable blunders; and the latter came most conveniently to hand for more recent dalliers in the same pleasant field of historic rambling. Edward and Cromwell both contributed a helping hand to the obscurity of Scottish history, in so far as they carried off and destroyed national records which could ill be spared. The apology, however, has been worth far more to maundering manufacturers of history than the lost muniments were ever likely to have proved. Not a few of these irrecoverable national records, so long deplored, it begins to be shrewdly suspected, never had any existence. Many more of them, it is found, were not sought for, or they might have been discovered to have never left their old repositories. Diligent Scottish antiquaries, finding this hereditary wail over lost muniments a very profitless task, have of late years betaken themselves to the study of what remained, and have been rewarded by the recovery of chest-loads of dusty charters and deeds of all sorts, of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, containing mines of historic information. The Scottish chartularies, now printed by various Clubs of literary antiquaries, disclose to us information scarcely open to a doubt, concerning old laws, feudal customs, servitude, tenure of[Pg 15] property, ecclesiastical corporate rights, the collision of lay and clerical interests, and the final transference of monastic lands to lay proprietors. The old apology, therefore, of muniments lost or destroyed, will no longer serve the Scottish historian. Imperfectly as these treasures have yet been turned to account, medieval history is no longer obscure. Many fallacies are already exploded, and many more must speedily follow. The legends of the old chroniclers must be tried by the tests of documents written sometimes by the same authors, but with no thought that history would ever question them for the truth.

Yet ample as is the field thus open to the literary antiquary, these will only partially satisfy earnest longings after a knowledge of the past, and a clue to the old ancestral chain whereof they are but the middle links. Ritson has already carried back the supposed limits of authentic Caledonian history fully a thousand years before the obscurity that daunted Lord Hailes. Chalmers, Gregory, Skene, and other zealous investigators, have followed or emulated him in the same bold inquiry. But neither do they reach the BEGINNING which we still desiderate. Much obscurity indeed vanishes. We begin to discover that the Northern and Southern Picts, so long the subject of mystery and fable, were no other than the aboriginal Celtæ; while the Scots who founded the kingdom of Dalriada, in Argyleshire, and ultimately conferred their name on the whole races occupying ancient Caledonia, were probably, if not indeed certainly, only another branch of the same Celtic race, who so readily amalgamated with the older occupants of Caledonia, that the change which is known as the "Scottish Conquest" long puzzled the historian, from the absence of any defined traces of a progress at all commensurate with its results. This is somewhat gained on the medieval beginning which could alone be previously held tenable. But this also begins in the wake of much progression, and glances at a period which likewise had its old history full of no less interest to us, could its annals be recovered.

In one of the few records of Sir Isaac Newton's reflections which he has left for the help of others, the following comprehensive thought occurs:—"It is clearly apparent that the inhabitants of this world are of a short date, seeing that all arts, as letters, ships, printing, needle, &c., were discovered within the memory of history." The reflection is surely a very pregnant one. The data it suggests to us as[Pg 16] the landmarks of time are well worth extending and turning to account, if so be that with their aid we can arrive at some trustworthy system of chronology, whereby to travel back towards that date which we reckon to be the beginning of things.

In this inquiry the labours of the literary antiquary, however zealously pursued, will but little avail us in reaching the desired point. The antiquary, nevertheless, has been long familiar with the elements of this older history, though turning them to very much the same profitable account as, till a very recent period, he did the hieroglyphic records graven on the granite tablets along the Nile. The first of arts mentioned by Newton is letters; justly first in point of dignity and universal value. Far homelier arts, however, sufficed the primitive races of mankind. Humble were their wants, and limited their desires; and if we are justified by the records of creation preserved to us in the Mosaic narrative, in assuming that man, beginning with the woven garment of fig-leaves and the coat of skins, has slowly progressed through successive stages to the knowledge of nobler arts, and the higher wants of an intelligent being, then we have only to establish evidence of the most primitive arts, pertaining to the primeval race, in order to be assured that we have reached the true beginning at which we aim. In the general investigation, indeed, allowance must be made for the speedy loss of antediluvian metallurgic arts which would follow almost of necessity on the exodus of the primitive nomades from their Eastern birthland, though preserved perhaps by the founders of the first Asiatic kingdoms, and probably practised by the earliest colonists of the Nile valley. Such at least we shall find to have been the case with the primeval colonists of Britain.

This point it is at which the modern archæologist now directs his inquiries, not altogether without the anticipation that these same primitive arts, the product of the beginning of things, may also prove to contain a decipherable alphabet, which may be resolved into definite phonetics, and furnish the key to many inscriptions no less curious and valuable than the parchments of medieval charter-chests, or even the tablet of Abydos and the Rosetta Stone.

It is long since the evidences of a primitive state of society, still abounding in the midst of modern civilisation, attracted the attention of the antiquary. It was indeed almost a necessary consequence of the accumulation of large collections of antiquities. The private[Pg 17] hoards of "nick nackets,"—including in general a miscellaneous assortment of relics of all ages, only sufficient to produce a confused notion of useless or obsolete arts, without creating a definite idea of any single era of the past,—may be aptly compared to the disjecta membra of some beautifully-proportioned and decorated vase. Hoarded apart, the pieces are nearly without value, and to new possessors become even meaningless. But should the whole, by some fortunate chance, be re-assembled in a single collection, it becomes possible for a skilful manipulator to piece the fragments together, and replace them with an elegant and valuable work of art. Thus it has proved with more than one archæological museum. In 1780 the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland was established, and its collection of national antiquities begun. A brief but most suggestive paper, read at one of its meetings in 1782, and published in the first volume of its Transactions, shews the speedy results of such valuable reconstructions, by means of an intelligent comparison of the primitive relics of Scotland.[17] But the resources of private zeal proved inadequate to the effective pursuit of these researches into Scottish Archæology, and the national funds found other, though not always more valuable objects for their expenditure. The hint was lost, but the accumulation of materials for future students was happily not altogether abandoned.

"About forty years ago," says J. J. A. Worsaae, the eminent Danish antiquary, writing in 1846, "the general character of scientific pursuits was in our country (Denmark) much the same as in most other parts of Europe. Great pains were spent in collecting all sorts of objects illustrating the changes of the globe upon which we live, and the distribution and habits of animals and plants—in short, all the departments of Natural History; whilst, strange to say, people for the most part neglected traces of men, the remains not only of their own ancestors, but also of all the different races who have been spread over the world. The antiquities, with the exception of those of Roman and Greek origin, were regarded as mere curiosities, without any scientific value."[18] Notwithstanding all the zeal of British archæologists of late years, so much of this spirit still remains among us, that it [Pg 18]would be easier, perhaps, even now, to secure the purchase by the Trustees of the British Museum, of a Roman statue or an Egyptian tablet, than of valuable relics of British antiquity.

One man has within the last thirty years accomplished, not for Denmark only, but for Europe, what the whole united labours of earlier archæologists failed to do. About the year 1815, the present Danish Councillor of State, C. J. Thomsen, the son of a merchant of Copenhagen, was appointed Secretary of a Royal Commission for the preservation and collection of national antiquities. It had then been in existence some seven or eight years, and the whole result of its labours was a few miscellaneous articles, unclassified and uncared for, lying in a small room of the University Library. His enthusiasm in the study of the antiquities of his country surmounted all obstacles. He had to contend alike with the theories of the scholar and the prejudices of the unlearned. But he had succeeded to a position of the utmost value to a man of energy and enthusiasm. From the first he had grants (though exceedingly small ones) of public money at his disposal. He soon enlisted the more important element of public sympathy, and nationality of feeling, in his pursuits. His little room became too small for accumulating purchases and donations. A suite of apartments was yielded, at his intercession, in the Royal Palace of Christiansborg; and as the varied collection increased in his hands, he found himself possessed at once of the space and the elements for systematic classification.

The Royal Museum of Northern Antiquities of Copenhagen now numbers between three and four thousand specimens of stone weapons and implements, some hundreds of bronze swords, celts, spear-heads, armillæ, torcs, &c., and a collection of native gold and silver relics unequalled in all the museums of Europe. To it we owe the valuable suggestion of the system of classification now universally adopted in the nomenclature of archæological science—the Stone, Bronze, and Iron periods, which, simple as it may appear, was first suggested by Mr. Thomsen, and is justly esteemed the foundation of Archæology as a science. By means of it the whole materials of antiquarian study at once arrange themselves according to an intelligible chronology of universal acceptance, and adapted in an especial degree to Northern antiquities. This, therefore, is the system on which the following data are arranged, subject only to such modifications as seem naturally to arise from national or local peculiarities.

[Pg 19]

It is not necessary here to enter on the question, of curious interest and value, as to whether the primeval state of man was essentially one of barbarism, from whence he progressed by slow degrees to social union, arts, civilisation, and political organisation into communities and nations. The investigations of chronologists the further they are pursued, seem only the more certainly to confer on primitive civilisation a more remote antiquity. At the same time, they confirm the idea, that the long accepted chronology of Archbishop Usher, still attached to our English Bibles, cheats the world, at the lowest computation, of fully 1400 years of its existence—a trifle perhaps in the age of worlds, but no unimportant element in the history of human civilisation, when we remember that between the era of the Mosaic deluge and the accession of the Egyptian Menes, we must account for the peopling of Egypt, the establishment of its social and political constitution, and the founding of a civilisation, the monuments of which are still among the most wonderful that human intellect and labour have produced. Not the least important branch of this inquiry relates to the primeval inhabitants of our own quarter of the globe; of whom as yet we know only with any degree of certainty of the Celtæ, occupying a transitional place in the history of the human family—at once the earliest known intruders and the latest nomades of Europe. It seems probable, from all the traces we can recover of the original condition of this race, that it was more their deficiency than their excess in the energy which we expect to find in the colonists of new regions, that drove them onward in their north-western pilgrimage, until their course was arrested by the Atlantic barriers. They seem to have fled ever forward, like night before the dawn, carrying with them knowledge sufficient to cope with the savage occupants of the wilds they invaded, yet bearing into these few arts but such as still pertain to the primitive races of mankind. In older literary notices of this people, whose language, manners, and arts are still traceable in our own land, we have only a secondary interest, believing that some records of them are recoverable, noted for us long before they had excited foreign interest. But, still more, we doubt not that similar records also preserve the history of older British tribes, in comparison with which the ancient Celtæ must be regarded as of recent origin. "The antiquities of the earlier periods," says a distinguished English antiquary, "including all remains which bear no evident stamp of Roman origin or influence, claim our most[Pg 20] careful investigation. Exceedingly limited in variety of types, these vestiges of the ancient inhabitants of Great Britain are not more interesting to the antiquarian collector on account of their rarity, than valuable to the historian. They supply the only positive evidence in those obscure ages, regarding customs, warfare, foreign invasions, or the influence of commerce, and the advance of civilisation amongst the earliest races by which these islands were peopled."[19] Perhaps when we have bestowed on these primitive remains the degree of careful investigation which they merit, we shall find the variety of types less limited than is now conceived to be the case. The archæologists of Denmark justly value the absence of all relics of Roman art and civilisation, from the confidence it has given to their researches into the true eras to which their own primeval antiquities belong. Such gratulations, however, can only be of temporary avail. The influence of Roman arts and arms furnishes an element in the civilisation of modern Europe too important not to be worthy of the most careful study. When the distinctive characteristics of Roman and primitive art have been so satisfactorily established as to admit of their separate classification without risk of error or confusion, the British collections, with their ample store of Anglo-Roman relics, will furnish a far more comprehensive demonstration of national history than those northern galleries, which must remain destitute of any native examples of an influence no less abundantly visible in their literature and arts, than in that of nations which received it directly from the source. In this respect the Scottish antiquary is peculiarly fortunate in the field of observation he occupies. While he possesses the legionary inscriptions, the sepulchral tablets, the sculptures, pottery, and other native products of Roman colonists or invaders, he has also an extensive and strictly defined field for the study of primitive antiquities, almost as perfectly free from the disturbing elements of foreign art as the most secluded regions of ancient Scandinavia.


[1] Carlyle's Miscellanies, second edition, vol. v. p. 301.

[2] Archæol. Scot., vol. ii. p. 506; vol. iv. p. 119.

[3] Trans. Camb. Camden Soc., vol. i. pp. 76, 91, 176.

[4] Archæol. Scot, vol. iii. p. 103.

[5] Report by the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries, Copenhagen, 1836, p. 61.

[6] Expostulation.

[7] I should regret if I were thought, by the above remarks, to reflect on the present official staff of the British Museum, including as it does men no less distinguished for their learning than for their intelligent zeal for archæological investigation. One evil attendant on the present defective system of management of the Museum by a body of Trustees, composed, for the most part, of irresponsible ex officio members, is, that the Keepers are converted into mere custodiers, responsible for the safety of the collection, but altogether destitute of the powers of an efficient curatorship, such as in the hands of Councillor C. J. Thomsen of Copenhagen led to the development of the entire system which has given to Archæology the character of a science. Wherever the fault lies, however, it is indisputable that the departments of ethnography and antiquities, in the British Museum, are arranged almost without an attempt at systematic classification: one consequence of which is, that in nearly every town of any importance throughout the kingdom we see local museums established, containing a confused jumble of antiquities, natural history, and foreign curiosities, but without any single characteristic of a scientific collection. The present popular idea of a museum, in this country, differs, indeed, in no degree, from the estimate of an exhibition of giants and dwarfs, or any other vulgar show; nor is this grave error likely to be discarded till the great model museum in London sets the example of a systematic arrangement, devised on some other principle than that of merely pleasing the eye.

[8] One instance, though by no means a solitary one in my own experience, will suffice to shew the pernicious effects of this antiquated relic of feudal claims, even in impeding research. Some considerable space is devoted, in the last section of this volume, to Runic relics; but one of considerable interest is omitted to be noticed,—a bronze finger ring inscribed in Anglo-Saxon Runes with the word Æikhi, probably the name of the original owner. It was found in the Abbey Park, St. Andrews. But its possessor, a gentleman of considerable antiquarian zeal, refused to permit of its being engraved or more distinctly referred to here, on the sole ground of his apprehension of exposing himself thereby to the claims of the Crown.

[9] Sir Thomas Browne. Hydriotaphia, or Urn Burial.

[10] Bacon's Essays, LVIII.

[11] Hugh Miller's First Impressions of England and its People.

[12] Ruskin's Seven Lamps of Architecture, p. 66.

[13] Natural History of the Varieties of Man, by Robert Gordon Latham, M.D., p. 528.

[14] British Association for the Advancement of Science, Report for 1837, p. 31.

[15] Natural History of Varieties of Man, by R. G. Latham, M.D., p. 553.

[16] Primeval Antiquities of Denmark, by J. J. A. Worsaae, translated, and applied to the illustration of similar remains in England, by W. J. Thoms, F.S.A., &c., p. 133.

[17] "An Inquiry into the Expedients used by the Scots before the Discovery of Metals," by W. C. Little, of Libberton, Esq. Archæologia Scotica, vol i. p. 389.

[18] "The Antiquities of Ireland and Denmark; being the substance of two communications made to the Royal Irish Academy at its Meetings, Nov. 30, and Dec. 7, 1846."

[19] Albert Way, on "Ancient Armillæ of Gold."—Archæological Journal, vol. vi. p. 55.

[Pg 21]


"Cum prorepserunt primis animalia terris,
Mutum et turpe pecus, glandem atque cubilia propter,
Unguibus et pugnis, dein fustibus, atque ita porro
Pugnabant armis, quæ post fabricaverat usus;
Donec verba, quibus voces sensusque notarent,
Nominaque invenere."

Horace, Sat. I. 3.


The closing epoch of geology, which embraces the diluvial formations, is that in which archæology has its beginning. In a zoological point of view, it includes man and the existing races of animals, as well as the extinct races which appear to have been contemporaneous with indigenous species. Archæology also lays claim to the still more recent alluvium, with all its included relics pertaining to the historic period. Within the legitimate scope of this department of investigation are comprehended the entire evidence of changes on the geographical features of the country, on its coasts and harbours, its estuaries, rivers, and plains: all properly coming within the limits of Archæology, though too extensive to be embraced in the present review of its elements. This much, however, we learn from an examination of the detritus and its included fossils, that at the period immediately preceding the occupation of the British Islands by their first colonists[Pg 22] the country must have been almost entirely covered with forests, and overrun by numerous races of animals long since extinct. Much has been done in recent years to complete the history of British fossil mammalia; and though less attention has been paid to the question in which we are here most deeply interested, as to what portion of them are to be considered as having been contemporaneous with man, yet on this also some interesting light has been thrown. The most extensive discoveries of mammalian remains and recent shells generally occur along the valleys by which the present drainage of the country takes place, and hence we infer that little change has taken place in its physical conformation since their deposition. These, however, include the mammoth, elephant, rhinoceros, cave tiger, with other extinct species, and are referrible to the earlier portion of an epoch, with the close of which we have alone to deal. They belong to that period in which our planet was passing through its very latest stage of preparation prior to its occupation by man; a period on which the geologist, who deals with phenomena of the most gigantic character, and with epochs of vast duration, is apt to dwell with diminished interest, but which excites in the thoughtful mind a keener sympathy than all that preceded it. The general geographical disposition of the globe was then nearly as it still remains. Our own island was, during a great portion of it, insulated, as it is now. Yet it is of this familiar locality that the palæontologist remarks:—"In this island, anterior to the deposition of the drift, there was associated with the great extinct tiger, bear, and hyæna of the caves, in the destructive task of controlling the numbers of the richly developed order of the herbivorous mammalia, a feline animal, (the Machairodus Latidens,) as large as the tiger, and, to judge by its instruments of destruction, of greater ferocity."[20] It was within the epoch to which these strange mammals belong, and while some of them, and many other contemporaneous forms of being, still animated the scene, that man was introduced upon this stage of existence, and received dominion over every living thing.

It has been supposed by more than one intelligent naturalist, that the gigantic fossil elk (Megaceros Hibernicus) co-existed with the human race. Dr. Hart has produced what he conceived to be conclusive evidence on this subject, derived from the appearance of a rib, pierced with an oval opening near its lower edge, "with the mar[Pg 23]gin depressed on the outer and raised on the inner surface, round which there is an irregular effusion of callus; in fact, such an effect as would be produced by the head of an arrow remaining in a wound after the shaft was broken off." This conclusion Professor Owen has disputed, apparently on satisfactory grounds.[21] By a similar line of argument, however, to which he has yielded his assent,[22] it has been shewn that the north of Europe was occupied by the human race at a time when the Bos primigenius, the Bison priscus, and the Ursus spelæus, existed.[23] Of the Ursus spelæus, or great cave bear, a skeleton is preserved in the museum of Lund, found in a peat-bog in Scania, under a gravel or stone deposit, and alongside of primitive implements of the chase. Though no such direct evidence has yet been observed here, similar conclusions have been arrived at. Mr. Owen, after referring the period of existence of the great cave bear to earlier geological epochs, adds, as the conclusion from present evidence, "that the genus surviving, or under a new specific form reappearing, after the epoch of the deposition and dispersion of those enormous, unstratified, superficial accumulations of marine and fresh-water shingle and gravel, called drift and diluvium, has been continued during the formation of vast fens and turbaries upon the present surface of the island, and until the multiplication and advancement of the human race introduced a new cause of extermination, under the powerful influence of which the Bear was finally swept away from the indigenous fauna of Great Britain."[24] To these native mammals may be added the horse, the roebuck, the red deer, the wild boar, the brown bear, the wolf, and the beaver, all of which have undoubtedly existed as wild animals in this country, and been gradually domesticated or extirpated by man.[25]

The most interesting of all the species for our present inquiry are those adapted for domestication, among which the Bovidæ occupy a prominent place. Of these, the great fossil ox (Bos primigenius) is very frequently found in Scotland. Dr. Fleming describes a skull of one in his possession measuring 27½ inches in length,[26] and a still larger one from Roxburghshire, now in the Scottish Antiquarian Museum, [Pg 24]measures 28 inches in length. No evidence leads us to conclude that any attempt was made by the native Britons to domesticate either of the two kinds of gigantic oxen, the bison or great urus, which the Romans discovered on first penetrating into the north of Europe. But besides these there was also a smaller primitive wild species, the Bos Longifrons, of the domestication of which in Britain we have abundant proof, at least at the period of the Roman invasion. Soon after this it appears to have become extinct, so that we are rather led to assume that it may have been the domesticated ox of the native population prior to the intrusion of the Romans. Mr. Woods refers to the discovery of the skull and horns of the great urus in a tumulus on the Wiltshire Downs, along with bones of deer and boars, and fragments of native pottery, in proof of the existence in this country originally of a "very large race of taurine oxen, although most probably entirely destroyed by the aboriginal inhabitants before the invasion of Britain by Cæsar." Professor Owen has discussed the probable influence of Roman occupation on the wild herds and the breeds of domesticated oxen, with much sagacity, though somewhat too much influenced by the views so generally entertained of the barbarian state of the native Britons prior to the intrusion of Roman colonists.[27] Scarcely less interesting is the evidence which British fossil mammalia furnish of the existence of the horse among the native wild animals of the country, since we find proof, both in the early tumuli and the subterranean dwellings, not only of its domestication, but also of its being used for food.

This very slight glance at the most prominent indications of the primeval state of the country, will suffice to convey some idea of the circumstances under which the aboriginal colonists entered on the possession of the British Isles. Other portions of the same line of argument, derived from the fossil mammalia, and the circumstances under which they are discovered, will come under review in the course of our inquiries. The fossil Cetacea, especially, furnish most interesting and conclusive evidence of the very remote period at which the presence of a human population is discoverable in Scotland, while the beaver, (Castor Europæus,) which is frequently found in a fossil state, is also proved to have existed as a living species, both in Scotland and Wales, down to the twelfth century, and is even referred to so late as the fifteenth century. To the abundance of wild animals[Pg 25] which continued to occupy the moors and forests of Scotland, long after the primitive states of society had entirely passed away, we shall also have occasion hereafter to refer. The same causes which exterminated the huge urus, the cave bear, and others of the largest and most intractable of the wild denizens of the British forests, ultimately led to the extinction of the greater number of those which either supplied objects of the chase, or were inimical to the social progress of man. Thus we observe, in the economy of nature, that one species after another disappears, to make way for newer occupants, until at length the last of those huge preadamite races of being give place, before the gradual advancement of man to assume possession of terrestrial dominion. Yet on this point also those questions in historic chronology, which tend to determine more precisely the lapse of centuries intervening between the Adamic creation and the earliest era of authentic history, exercise an important influence. Geology leaves no room for questioning the fact, that man did not enter upon this earth after some tremendous cosmical revolution, which made way for an entirely new race of beings, but that he was introduced as the lord of an inheritance already in possession of many inferior orders of creation. Contemporary with the most remarkable cave fossils are found the remains of many historic, or still existing species, and the precise line has yet to be drawn which shall determine how many of these were extinct, at the period when the Creator, at length satisfied with his inferior works, said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." The remains, both of the large cave hyæna, (Hyæna spelæa,) and of the great cave tiger, (Felis spelæa,) occur not only in ossiferous caverns, but have also been found in superficial unstratified deposits. Considerable portions of the skeleton of the latter were discovered in 1829, along with remains of the mammoth, rhinoceros, ox, stag, and horse, in a marl-pit near North Cliff, Yorkshire. Under precisely similar geological circumstances the Bos primigenius has very frequently been brought to light in Scotland. It is of this animal that Sir R. I. Murchison remarks, in a letter to Professor Owen, descriptive of an example already referred to, found in a bog in Scania: "This urus is most remarkable in exhibiting a wound of the apophysis of the second dorsal vertebra, apparently inflicted by a javelin of one of the aborigines, the hole left by which was exactly fitted by Nillson with one of the ancient stone javelins.... This instrument fractured the bone, and[Pg 26] penetrated to the apophysis of the third dorsal vertebra, which is also injured. The fractured portions are so well cemented, that Nillson thinks the animal probably lived two or three years after. The wound must have been inflicted over the horns, and the javelin must have been hurled with prodigious force." Of the existence, therefore, of the Bos primigenius within the historic epoch, we can entertain no doubt, and it is accordingly requisite to give full weight to the influence which its presence must have exercised on the general condition of our island. Professor Owen remarks, after showing the erroneous nature of the usually received opinion, that the lion, the tiger, and the jaguar, are peculiarly adapted to a tropical climate:—"A more influential, and, indeed, the chief cause or condition of the prevalence of the larger feline animals, in any given locality, is the abundance of the vegetable feeding animals in a state of nature, with the accompanying thickets or deserts unfrequented by man. The Indian tiger follows the herds of antelope and deer, in the lofty Himalayan chain, to the verge of perpetual snow. The same species also passes that great mountain barrier, and extends its ravages with the leopard, the panther, and the cheetah, into Bocharia, to the Altaic chain, and into Siberia, as far as the fiftieth degree of latitude; preying principally, according to Pallas, on the wild horses and asses."[28] No change, therefore, of climate, nor any remarkable geological revolution is needful to account for the disappearance of the huge British carnivora, the remains of which abound in the ossiferous caves. They pertain to the closing transition-period of the preadamite earth, and, as in other transition-periods which we shall have to consider, some traces of them survived among the inheritors of the new era. It is therefore a legitimate source of interest to the archæologist, to observe the mingling of extinct and familiar species among the fossil mammals found in the superficial deposits, wherein so much of the evidence of his own science must be sought. It discovers to him the precise link by which his pursuits take hold of the great chain of truth, and in a new sense shews man, not as an isolated creation, but as the last and best of an order of animated beings, whose line sweeps back into the far removed shadow of an unmeasured past. "Phenomena like these," says Professor Sedgwick, when referring to the discoveries at the North Cliff, Yorkshire, in 1829, "have a tenfold interest, binding the present order of things to that of older [Pg 27]periods, in which the existing forms of animated nature seem one after another to disappear."[29]

Thus much is apparent from the most superficial glance at the geological evidence of the primeval state of Britain within the historic era, that though corresponding in its great geographical outlines to its present condition, it differed, in nearly every other respect, as widely as it is possible for us to conceive of a country capable of human occupation. A continuous range of enormous forests covered nearly the whole face of the country. Vast herds of wild cattle, of gigantic proportions and fierce aspect, roamed through the chase, while its thickets and caves were occupied by carnivora, preying on the herbivorous animals, and little likely to hold in dread the armed savage who intruded on their lair. The whole of these have existed since the formation of the peat began, and therefore furnish some evidence of the very remote antiquity to which we must refer the origin of some of the wastes that supply, as will be seen in subsequent chapters, an important element in the elucidation of primitive chronology. Upon this singular arena Archæology informs us that the primeval Briton entered, unprovided with any of those appliances with which the arts of civilisation arm man against such obstacles. Intellectually, he appears to have been in nearly the lowest stage to which an intelligent being can sink; morally, he was the slave of a superstition, the grovelling character of which will be traced in reviewing his sepulchral rites; physically, he differed little in stature from the modern inheritors of the same soil, but his cerebral development was poor, his head small in proportion to his body, his hands, and probably his feet, also small; while the weapons with which he provided himself for the chase, and the few implements that ministered to his limited necessities, indicate only the crude development of that inventive ingenuity which first distinguishes the reason of man from the instincts of the brutes. The evidence from which such conclusions are deduced, forms the subject of the following chapters.


[20] Owen's British Fossil Mammals, p. 179.

[21] Owen's British Fossil Mammals, p. 462.

[22] Ibid. Introd. p. xxxiii.

[23] British Association for Advancement of Science, Report for 1847, p. 31; and Owen, Introd. p. xxxiii.

[24] Owen's British Fossil Mammals, p. 107. An interesting account of the discovery of antiquities of human remains in Kent's Hole, one of the most remarkable British ossiferous caves, is given in a subsequent chapter from the narrative of the Rev. J. M'Enery, F.G.S.

[25] Ibid. p. 197.

[26] History of British Animals, p. 24.

[27] British Fossil Mammals, p. 500.

[28] British Fossil Mammals, p. 162.

[29] Anniversary Address to the Zoological Society, 1830.

[Pg 28]


Though we are assured, and cannot doubt, that man was created an intelligent being, capable of enjoying the high faculties with which he alone of all the denizens of earth was endowed, we have no reason to assume that he had any conception of the practical arts by which we are enabled to satisfy wants of which he was equally unconscious. We know on the same authority that there existed a period in the history of our race, ere Zillah, the wife of Lamech, had borne to him Tubal-cain, "the instructor of every artificer in brass and iron," when men tilled the ground, pursued the chase, made garments of its spoils, and constructed tents to dwell in, without any knowledge of the working in metals, on which the simplest of all our known arts depend. Through such a stage of primitive arts most, perhaps all, nations have passed. We detect evidences of it among the Egyptians, old as the date of their civilisation appears, in the stone knives of the embalmers, still frequently found in the catacombs. By such only could the incision be made in the side of the dead, through which to extract the intestines; and when they had been cleansed and replaced, the eye of Osiris, the judge of the dead, was placed as a mysterious seal over the sacred incision. The feeling in which such a custom originated, arising from the veneration which appears to be universally attached to whatever is ancient, is easily understood. While the knife of bronze or iron was freely employed for all ordinary purposes, the primitive stone implement was retained unchanged for the sacred incision in the dead. So also, probably from a like idea directly borrowed from the Egyptians, the stone or flint knife appears to have[Pg 29] been used by the early Hebrews in circumcision. Zipporah, Moses' wife, took a sharp stone, or stone knife, and cut off the foreskin of her son. The like was done when Joshua renewed the same rite at Gilgal in the east border of Jericho; while a still more remarkable community of feeling with the veneration of the ancient Egyptians for the otherwise obsolete implement of stone, is discernible in its retention by the priests of Montezuma as the instrument of human sacrifice.

The substitution of flint, stone, horn, and wood, in the absence of metal weapons and implements, must be abundantly familiar to all, in the customs of society when met with in a rude and primitive condition. The Fins and Esquimaux, the African bushmen, and the natives of such of the Polynesian Islands as are rarely visited by Europeans, still construct knives and arrow-heads of flint or fish-bone, and supply themselves with wooden clubs and stone adzes and hammers, with little consciousness of imperfection or deficiency in such appliances. Examples of such a state of arts and human skill might be multiplied from the most dissimilar sources. It seems, as has been already remarked, to be a stage through which all nations have passed, not without each developing a sufficient individuality to render their arts well worthy of investigation by their descendants. To this primitive era of history we refer under the name of The Stone Period.

In this state were the Scottish, and indeed the whole British aborigines, at an era much more remote than chronologists have been willing to assign for the occupation of the island by a human population, and for a period the duration of which we are also able in some degree to test.

There is one certain point in this inquiry into primitive arts which the British antiquary possesses over all others, and from whence he can start without fear of error, though I am not aware that its importance in this view has heretofore been noted. From our insular position it is unquestionable that the first colonist of the British Isles must have been able to construct some kind of boat, and have possessed sufficient knowledge of navigation to steer his course through the open sea. Contrasting the aboriginal arts to which we have referred with the appliances of later navigators, it seems only reasonable to conclude that the bark of the primeval Columbus, who led the way from the continent of Europe to the untrodden wilds of Britain, differed no less from the caravel of the bold Genoese, than that did from[Pg 30] the British ship that now follows in its course. Can we recover the history of such primitive caravel? It seems not improbable that we may. Time has dealt kindly with the frail fleets of the aboriginal Britons, and kept in store some curious records of them, not doubting but these would at length be inquired for.

It is by no means to be presumed as certain that the early navigators chose the Straits of Dover as the readiest passage to the new world they were to people. Both Welsh and Danish traditions point to a migration from Jutland. Whencesoever the first emigrants came, Providence alone could pilot their frail barks. Successive migrations, the chances of shipwreck, or the like independent causes, may have landed the fathers of the British race on widely different parts of our island coast. It is a well established fact, that at later periods many distinct and rival centres of population were thus established throughout the British Isle.

Lochar Moss, a well-known tract in Dumfriesshire, occupies an area of fully twelve miles in length, by between two and three miles in breadth, extending to the Solway Frith. Its history is summed up in an old popular rhyme, still repeated in the surrounding districts:—

"First a wood, and next a sea,
Now a moss, and ever will be!"

Lying as it does on the southern outskirts of the Scottish kingdom, the track of many successive generations has lain along its margin or across its treacherous surface, beneath which their records have been from time to time engulfed, to be restored in after ages to the light of day. To these we shall have occasion again to refer; but among them our chief attention is meanwhile attracted by its ancient canoes, repeatedly found along with huge trunks of trees, hazel-nuts, acorns, and other traces of the forest, and also, according to the old statist of Torthorwald parish, "anchors, cables, and oars," the no less obvious heirlooms of the sea. During the last century the peats cut from this moss formed almost the sole supply of fuel to the inhabitants of Dumfries and its neighbourhood, nor have they yet ceased to avail themselves of its ready stores.

In 1782 Pennant examined one of these rude barks formed from the trunk of an oak, which he thus describes: "Near a place called Kilblain, I met with one of the ancient canoes of the primeval inhabitants of the country, when it was probably in the same state of nature[Pg 31] as Virginia when first discovered by Captain Philip Amidas. The length of this little vessel was eight feet eight inches, of the cavity six feet seven inches, the breadth two feet, depth eleven inches, and at one end were the remains of three pegs for the paddle. The hollow was made with fire in the very manner that the Indians of America formed their canoes. Another was found in 1736, with its paddle, in the same morass. The last was seven feet long, and dilated to a considerable breadth at one end, so that in early ages necessity dictated the same inventions to the most remote regions."[30] In 1791 the minister of the parish describes another found by a farmer while digging for peats, at a depth of between four and five feet from the surface, and four miles from the highest reach of the tide, resting apparently on the alluvial soil which is there found beneath the moss. Near to the same spot a vessel of mixed metal, and apparently of great antiquity, was recovered, and numerous relics of various kinds, including what are described as anchors, oars, and other naval implements, have been found even at a distance of twelve miles from the present flood-mark—attesting at once the former populousness of the district, and the very remote period to which these evidences of its occupation belong.[31] At a depth of seven or eight feet in the Moss of Barnkirk, in the immediate neighbourhood of Newton-Stewart, Wigtonshire, another canoe of the same character as those already described, was dug up in 1814, and has been preserved, owing to its being converted by the farmer into the lintel of one of his cart-sheds. Mr. Joseph Train mentions having seen "a ball of fat or bannock of tallow, weighing twenty-seven pounds,"[32] found in the moss immediately above the canoe; and which no doubt was a mass of adipocere, indicating the spot where some large animal had perished in the moss: possibly sinking along with the rude British vessel that lay below. On the draining of Carlinwark Loch, Kirkcudbright, in 1765, a stone dam, an ancient causeway constructed on piles of oak, the vestiges of an iron forge, and other remarkable evidences of human industry and skill, were brought to light, including various canoes, described, like those of Lochar Moss and others found in Merton Mere, as apparently hollowed by fire.[33]

The Loch of Doon in Ayrshire, has at different periods furnished [Pg 32]similar relics of ancient naval art. The fall of its waters in 1832, owing to an unusually protracted drought, permitted the recovery of two of these in a perfect state, one of them measuring about twenty-three feet in length, formed of a single oak tree, with the insertion of an upright plank into a broad groove for the stern. Numerous other relics of canoes were found to be imbedded in the same place; and the head of an ancient battle axe, a rude oak club, with other remains, gave further clue to the character of their builders.[34]

Lochwinnoch in Renfrewshire, has furnished similar canoes, accompanied by other relics of various eras—a brass ladle or patera, with an elegant handle terminating with a ram's head, probably Roman; and a very fine brass cannon, marked J. R. S. (5?) an antiquity of comparatively modern date.[35]

Five fathoms deep in the Carse of Falkirk, a complete boat was discovered, not far from the town, and therefore remote from any navigable water.[36] Sir John Clerk, well known as an enthusiastic Scottish antiquary of last century, describes with great minuteness another vessel found in the same locality, more remarkable from its size and construction than any of those yet described, and which he pronounces, from the series of superincumbent strata, to have been an antediluvian boat! In the month of May 1726 a sudden rise of the river Carron undermined a portion of its banks, and exposed to view the side of this ancient boat lying imbedded in the alluvial soil, at a depth of fifteen feet from the surface, and covered by successive strata of clay, shells, moss, sand, and gravel. The proprietor immediately ordered it to be dug out. It proved to be a canoe of primitive form, but of larger dimensions than any other discovered to the north of the Tweed. It measured thirty-six feet long by four feet in extreme breadth, and is described in a contemporary newspaper as finely polished and perfectly smooth both inside and outside, formed from a single oak tree, with the usual pointed stem and square stern.[37] Mingling with such indisputable traces of human art, are deposited the memorials of many successive changes. Among older relics of the same Carse, in the Edinburgh Museum, are the remains of a fossil elephant found in excavating the Union Canal in 1821, at a depth of some twenty feet in the alluvial soil, with the ivory in such perfect [Pg 33]preservation that it was purchased and cut up by a turner, and only rescued in fragments from his lathe.[38]

But at higher levels in the valley of the Forth, and further from the sea, still more remarkable evidences of the primitive occupants of the country have been found. The ingenious operations by which the Blair Drummond moss has been converted into fertile fields have rendered it famous in the annals of modern engineering and agriculture. In the Carse lands, of which it forms a part, there was discovered in the year 1819, at a distance of a mile from the river, and in an alluvial soil, covered with a thin moss, the surface of which stood some twenty-five feet above the full tide of the Forth, the skeleton of a whale, with a perforated lance or harpoon of deer's horn beside it. A few years later another whale was found, and in 1824 a third was disclosed on the Blair Drummond estate seven miles further inland, and overlaid with a thick bed of moss. Beside it also lay the rude harpoon of the hardy Caledonian whaler; in this instance retaining, owing to the preservative nature of the moss, some remains of the wooden handle by which the pointed lance of deer's horn was wielded.[39] This primitive relic is now deposited, along with the fossil remains of the whale, whose death-wound it may have given, in the Natural History Museum of the Edinburgh University. Professor Owen remarks, in referring to this class of fossils,—"Although these depositories belong to very recent periods in geology, the situations of the cetaceous fossils generally indicate a gain of dry land from the sea. Thus the skeleton of a balænoptera, seventy-two feet in length, found imbedded in clay on the banks of the Forth, was more than twenty feet above the reach of the highest tide. Several bones of a whale discovered at Dunmore rock, Stirlingshire, in brick-earth, were nearly forty feet above the present level of the sea.... I might add other instances of the discovery of cetaceous remains in positions to which, in the present condition of the dry land of England, the sea cannot reach; yet the soil in which these remains are imbedded is alluvial or amongst the most recent formation. In most cases the situation indicates the former existence there of an estuary that has been filled up by deposits of the present sea, or the bottom of which has been upheaved."[40] Other relics besides those of the whale and the implement of its hardy assailant, were recovered in the course of [Pg 34]removing the Blair Drummond moss. In the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, a rude querne or hand-mill for pounding grain is preserved, fashioned from the section of an oak tree, which was found in 1831, at a depth of nearly five feet, in this moss. A wooden wheel of ingenious construction is also in the collection, which was dug up at more than double the depth of the querne, in the same locality, accompanied with several well-formed arrow-heads of flint. It measured when complete about two feet in diameter; but it is greatly decayed, having shrunk and cracked since its removal from the moss.[41]

Other relics, though belonging apparently to a later period, may be noticed along with these. In the progress of improvements on the Kincardine moss, the remains of a singular roadway were discovered, after the peat moss had been removed to a depth of eight feet. Seventy yards of the ancient viaduct were exposed to view, formed of trees about twelve inches in diameter, having other trees of half this thickness crossing them, and brushwood covering the whole. This road crossed the moss of Kincardine northward, from a narrow part of the Forth, towards a well-known line of Roman road which has been traced from a ford on the river Teith to Camelon, on the Antonine wall. This singular structure, though so unlike anything usually found on the line of the legionary iters, has been assigned, with great probability, to Roman workmanship, as it appears to be designed to keep up a communication with the well-known station at Ardoch. But if so, we have here evidence of the fact that in the second century of our era the Kincardine moss was an unstable and boggy waste, which the Roman engineer could only pass by abandoning his favourite and durable causeway, for such a road as modern ingenuity has revived in the backwood swamps of America.

Such are some of the ancient chronicles of Scotland garnered for us in the eastern valley of the Forth. The banks of the Clyde have been scarcely less liberal in their disclosures. In 1780, the first recorded discovery of one of the primitive canoes of the Clyde was made by workmen engaged in digging the foundation of Old St. Enoch's Church. It was found at a depth of twenty-five feet from the surface, and within it there lay a no less interesting and eloquent memorial of the simple arts of the remote era when the navies of the[Pg 35] Clyde were hewn out of the oaks of the Caledonian forests. This is a beautifully-finished stone celt, represented in the woodcut—doubtless one of the simple implements of its owner, if not, indeed, one of the tools with which such vessels were fashioned into shape; though it is undoubtedly more adapted for war than for any peaceful art. It measures 5½ inches in length, by 3⅗ inches in greatest breadth; and is apparently formed of dark greenstone. It is now in the possession of Charles Wilsone Brown, Esq., of Wemyss, Renfrewshire, having descended to him from a maternal relative who chanced to be passing at the time of the discovery, and secured the curious relic.[42] The excavations of the following year brought a second canoe to light, at a higher level, and still further removed from the modern river's bed. Close to the site of Glasgow's ancient City Cross, and immediately adjoining what was once the Tolbooth of the burgh—more memorable from the fancied associations with which genius has endowed it, than for the stern realities of human misery which were its true attributes—there stands a quaint, but not inelegant building, adorned with an arcade curiously decorated with grim or grotesque masks on the keystone of each arch. It was erected on the site of older and less substantial tenements, in the year 1781; and in digging for a foundation for it, in a stratum of laminated clay that lies beneath a thick bed of sand, another primitive British canoe was discovered, hollowed as usual out of a single trunk of oak.[43] Another is noted to have been found about 1824, in Stockwell, near Jackson Street, while cutting the common sewer; and a fourth, at a much higher level, on the slope of Drygate Street, immediately behind the prison.[44] In 1825 a fifth canoe was discovered, scarcely an hundred yards from the site of the former at the City Cross, when digging the sewer of London Street—a new thoroughfare opened up by the demolition of ancient buildings long fallen to decay. This boat, which measured about eighteen feet in length, exhibited unusual evidences of labour and ingenuity. It was built of several pieces of oak, though without ribs. It lay, moreover, in a singular position, nearly vertical, and with its prow uppermost, as if it had foundered in a storm.

[Pg 36]

To these older instances recent and large additions have been made. The earlier discoveries seem to point to a period when the whole lower level on the north side of the river, where the chief trade and manufactures of Scotland are now transacted, was submerged beneath the sea. What follows affords similar evidence in relation to the southern bank of the Clyde. Extensive operations have been carrying on there for some years for the purpose of enlarging the harbour of Glasgow, and providing a range of quays on the grounds of Springfield, corresponding to those on the older Broomielaw. There, at a depth of seventeen feet below the surface, and about 130 feet from the river's original brink, the workmen uncovered an ancient canoe, hewn out of the trunk of an oak, with pointed stem, and the upright groove remaining which had formerly held in its place the straight stern. The discovery was made in the autumn of 1847; and the citizens of Glasgow having for the most part a reasonable conviction that boats lose their value in proportion to their age, the venerable relic lay for some months unheeded, until at length the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland made application for it to the Trustees of the River Clyde, and the rude precursor of the fleets that now crowd that noble river is safely deposited in their museum. Meanwhile the excavators proceeded with their labours, and in the following year another, and then a third canoe of primitive form, were disclosed on the southern bank of the Clyde. One of these, which has been since removed to the Hunterian Museum, measures 19⅓ feet long, by 3½ feet wide at the stern, 2 feet 9½ inches wide midway, and 30 inches deep. The prow is rather neatly formed with a small cut-water, near to which is an oblong hole, apparently for running a rope through to anchor or secure the vessel. There had been an outrigger, which was described by the workmen as adhering to it when first discovered, and the holes remain for receiving the pins by which it was fastened. About the centre are small rests inside the gunwale for the ends of a cross seat, and others for a broader seat are at the stern, both being projections formed by leaving the wood when the trunk was originally hollowed out into a boat. In this example the stern remains nearly in a perfect state. It consists of a board inserted in vertical grooves cut in each side, and received into a horizontal groove across, beyond which the bottom and sides project about eight inches.[Pg 37] The other of these two canoes was chiefly remarkable for a circular hole in the bottom, stopped by a plug imbedded in very tenacious clay, evidently designed to admit of water shipped being run off when it was on shore. But the most curious, and indeed puzzling fact in regard to it, is that this plug is not of oak but of cork—a discovery suggestive of inquiries not easily answered satisfactorily.[45]

In the month of September 1849 a fourth canoe was found at Springfield, at a depth of about 20 feet from the surface, and in the same bed of finely laminated clay as those already described. This, too, is hollowed out of the single trunk of an oak, only thirteen feet in length, but on either side of it lay two additional planks of curious construction, each of them pierced with an elongated hole, which appeared to have been made with some sharp tool. They indicate some ingenious contrivance of the ancient seaman, not improbably designed for use when the bold navigator ventured with his tiny barque into the open sea, to be applied somewhat in the way a Dutch lugger fends off the dashing waves from her lee. This boat differs from those previously discovered, in having a rounded bow both fore and aft. In some respects it might seem to be the most ancient of the whole, and could hardly accommodate more than one man. Its workmanship is extremely rude, and it bears obvious marks of having been hollowed by fire. Yet the wooden appendages found alongside of it suffice to prove that its maker was not unprovided with some efficient tools. Thus, within a comparatively brief period, nine ancient canoes have been found within this limited area, affording singular evidence that in the earliest ages in which the presence of a human population is discoverable, we also find abundant proofs of the art of navigation, where now space fails to accommodate the merchant fleets of the Clyde. To these notices may be added the discovery of the remains of an ancient boat of more artificial construction, which was dug up, about the year 1830, at Castlemilk, Lanarkshire. It measured ten feet long, by two broad, and was built of oak, secured by large wooden pins.[46]

Nearly at the same time as the latest disclosures in the valley of the Clyde, workmen cutting a drain on the farm of Kinaven, Aberdeenshire, discovered another ancient boat of the same form as most of those previously described, and measuring eleven feet long, by nearly four broad. It is hewn out of the solid oak, with pointed stem, and at [Pg 38]the stern a projection formed in the piece, and pierced with an eye, as if to attach a mooring cable. Like the Glasgow canoes, it is rudely finished, and exhibits the rough marks of the instrument with which it was reduced to shape. It lay imbedded in the moss, at a depth of five feet, at the head of a small ravine; and near it were found the stumps and roots of several large oaks. The nearest stream, the Ythan, is several miles off, and the sea is distant many more. A few years previous to this discovery, a similar canoe, of still smaller dimensions, was dug up in the moss of Drumduan, in the same county. It is described as quite entire, and neatly formed out of a single block of oak; but being left exposed, it was broken by the rude handling of some idle herd-boys.[47]

Such are a few examples of the aboriginal fleets of ancient Caledonia, found at different dates, and in various localities, yet agreeing wonderfully in every essential element of comparison. With them might also be noted the frequent discovery in bogs, or in alluvial strata, of trees felled by artificial means, and accompanied with relics of the most primitive arts. In 1830, for example, workmen engaged in constructing a sewer in Church Street, Inverness, found at a depth of fourteen feet below the surface, in a stratum of stiff blue clay, numerous large trunks of fossil oak; and along with these several deer's horns, one of which, bearing unmistakable marks of artificial cutting, is now deposited in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.[48] Here surely is common ground for the antiquary and the geologist. The rude harpoon left beside the bones of the stranded whale, far up in the alluvial valley of the Forth: the oaken querne, the wheel and the arrow-heads: the boats beneath the City Cross of Glasgow, the centre of a busy population for the last thousand years: the primitive ship, as we may almost term the huge canoe on the banks of the Carron: and the tiny craft just found near the waters of the Ythan—all speak, in no doubtful language, of the presence of a human population, at a period when the geographical features of the country, and the relative levels of land and sea, must have differed very remarkably from what we know of them at the earliest ascertained epoch of definite history. They point to a time within the historic era, when the ocean tides ebbed and flowed over the carse of Stirling, at a depth sufficient to admit of the gambols of the whale, [Pg 39]where now a child might ford the brawling stream; and when the broad estuary of the Clyde flung its waves to the shore, not far from the high ground where the first cathedral of St. Mungo was founded, A.D. 560. These evidences of population, prior to the latest geological changes which have affected the surface of the country, are indeed all found on old historic ground, according to the reckonings of written chronicles. The first of them, in the south country, have been met with in localities where the traces of Roman invasion in the second century remain uneffaced. The carse of Falkirk is still indented with the vallum of the Antonine wall. Its modern church preserves the old tablet, which assigned to the ancient structure on its site a date coeval with the founding of Scottish monarchy under Malcolm Canmore; and the broad level ground, which has disclosed evidence of such remarkable changes, alike in natural features and in national arts and manners, was the battle-field of Wallace in the thirteenth century, as of Prince Charles Edward and the Highland clansmen in the eighteenth century. Trivet thus refers to the carse of Falkirk, in describing the invasion of Edward I., thereby affording curious evidence of its state at the former period,—"Causantibus majoribus loca palustria, propter brumalem intemperiem, immeabilia esse;" on which Lord Hailes remarks—"The meaning seems to be, that the English could not arrive at Stirling without passing through some of the carse grounds, and that they were impracticable for cavalry at that season of the year."[49] Nor are the historic associations of the broad carse which the Forth has intertwined with its silver links a whit behind those of the vale of Carron. There, in all probability, Agricola marshalled the Roman legions for his sixth campaign, and watched the mustering of the army of Galgacus on the heights beyond. The ever memorable field of Bannockburn adds a sacred interest to the same soil. There, too, are the scenes of James III.'s mysterious death on the field of Stirling, and of successive operations of Montrose, Cromwell, Mar, and Prince Charles. But the oldest of these events, long regarded as the beginnings of history, are modern occurrences, when placed alongside of such as we now refer to. Guiding his team across the "bloody field," as the scene of English slaughter is still termed, the ploughman turns up the craw-foot, the small Scottish horse-shoe, and the like tokens of the memorable day when Edward's chivalry was foiled by the Scottish host. Penetrating [Pg 40]some few feet lower with his spade, he finds the evidences of former changes in the level of land and sea, but with them stumbles also on the relics of coeval population. Lower down he will reach the stratified rocks, including the carboniferous formation, stored no less abundantly with relics of former life and change, but no longer within the historic period, or pertaining to the legitimate investigations of archæological science, unless in so far as they confirm its previous inductions, and prove the slow but well defined progress of the more recent geological changes on the earth's surface. Such reflections are not suggested for the first time in our own day, nor will a shallow part satisfy those who have gone thus far. "Nature hath furnished one part of the earth, and man another. The treasures of time lie high, in urns, coins, and monuments, scarce below the roots of some vegetables. Time hath endless rarities, and shows of all varieties, which reveals old things in heaven, makes new discoveries in earth, and even earth itself a discovery. That great antiquity, America, lay buried for thousands of years, and a large part of the earth is still in the urn unto us."[50]

Some of these historic phenomena which are indicated above required only time to produce them. The beds of sand and loam at Springfield, in which the ancient fleets of the Clyde have lain entombed for ages, are such as the slow depositions of winter floods will for the most part account for, if the chronologist can only spare for them the requisite centuries. Others seem to point to geological changes within the historic era, of a more remarkable and extensive character. These it is not our province to explain. Whether the geologist find it most consistent with the established laws of his science to assume the standing of the whole ocean at higher levels within so recent a period, or adopt the more probable theory of local upheaval and denudation to account for these phenomena, this at least must be conceded, that the lapse of many ages is required for the changes which they indicate, and we can hardly err in inferring that civilisation had advanced but a little way on the plain of Nimroud, or the banks of the Nile, when the tiny fleets of the Clyde were navigating its estuary, and the hardy fishermen were following the whale in the winding creeks of the Forth.


[30] Pennant's Tour, vol. ii. p. 107.

[31] Sinclair's Stat. Acc. vol. i. p. 160.

[32] New Stat. Acc. vol. iv. Wigtonshire, p. 179.

[33] Sinclair's Stat. Acc. vol. viii. p. 305. New Stat. Acc. vol. iv., Kirkcudbrightshire, p. 155.

[34] Archæologia Scotica, vol. iv. p. 299.

[35] Sinclair's Stat. Acc. vol. xv. p. 68.

[36] Beauties of Scotland, vol. iii. p. 419.

[37] Bibliotheca Topog. Britan., No. II. Part III. p. 242.

[38] Wernerian Trans. vol. iv. p. 58.

[39] Wernerian Trans. vol. v. p. 44.

[40] Brit. Fossil Mammals, p. 542.

[41] Vide Wern. Trans. vol. iii. p. 125, for the characteristic remains included in the recent alluvial formation of the valley of the Forth.

[42] For access to this interesting relic, as well as for much other valuable information, I am indebted to John Buchanan, Esq., of Glasgow.

[43] Chapman's Picture of Glasgow, 1818, p. 152.

[44] Chambers's Ancient Sea Margins, pp. 203-209.

[45] MS. Letters of J. Buchanan, Esq.

[46] New Statist. Acc. vol. vi. p. 601.

[47] New Statistical Account, vol. xii. p. 1059.

[48] MS. Letter of Lieut. Claudius Shaw, R.N. Lib. Soc. Antiq. Scot., April 19, 1833.

[49] Annals, vol. i. p. 266.

[50] Sir Thomas Browne's Hydriotaphia.

[Pg 41]


The raising of sepulchral mounds of earth or stone to mark the last resting-place of the loved or honoured dead may be traced in all countries to the remotest periods. Their origin is to be sought for in the little heap of earth displaced by interment, which still to thousands suffices as the most touching memorial of the dead. In a rude and primitive age, when the tomb of the great warrior or patriarchal chief was to be indicated by some more remarkable token, the increase of the little earth-mound, by the united labours of the community, into the form of a gigantic barrow, would naturally suggest itself as the readiest and fittest mark of distinction. In its later circular forms we see the rude type of the great Pyramids of Egypt, no less than of the lesser British moat-hills and other native-earth-works, until at length, when the aspiring builders were rearing the gigantic monoliths of Avebury, they constructed, amid the tumuli of the neighbouring downs, the earth-pyramid of Silbury Hill, measuring 170 feet in perpendicular height, and covering an area of five acres and thirty-four perches of land.

Priority has been given to the primitive relics of naval skill, which the later alluvial strata of Scotland supply, for reasons sufficiently obvious, and pertaining exclusively to the antiquities of our insular home. But for the surest traces of primitive arts and a defined progress in civilisation, the archæologist will generally turn with greater propriety to the grave-mounds of the ancient race whose history he seeks to recover; for, however true be "the words of the preacher," in the sense in which he uttered them, there is both device, and know[Pg 42]ledge, and instruction in the grave, for those who seek there the records of the dead. This fact is in itself an eloquent one in the evidence it furnishes, that in that dim and long forgotten past, of which we are seeking to recover the records, man was still the same, "of like passions with ourselves," vehement in his anger, and no less passionate in unavailing sorrow.

No people, however rude or debased be their state, have yet been met with so degraded to the level of the brutes as to entertain no notion of a Supreme Being, or no anticipation of a future state. Some more or less defined idea of a retributive future is found in the wildest savage creed, developing itself in accordance with the rude virtues to which the barbarian aspires. While the luxurious Asiatic dreams of the sensual joys of his Mohammedan elysium, the Red Indian warrior looks forward to the range of ampler hunting-grounds, and the enjoyment of unfailing victory on the war-path. All, however, anticipate a corporeal participation in tangible joys, and, to the simpler mind of the untutored savage, affection dictates the provision of means to supply the first requisites of this new state of being. Hence the bow and spear, the sword, shield, and other implements of war and the chase, laid beside the rude cinerary urn, or deposited in the cist with the buried chief. Refinement, which added to the wants and acquirements of the warrior, in like manner furnished new means for affection to lavish on the loved or honoured dead. Personal ornaments were added to the indispensable weapons, that the hero might not only stand at no disadvantage amid the novel scenes into which he had passed, but that he might also assume the insignia of rank and distinction which were his right. The feelings prompting to such tributes of affectionate sorrow are innate and indestructible. They manifest themselves under varied forms in every state of social being, and may be readily traced amid the struggle for decorous and costly sepulchral honours, no less universal now than in the long forgotten era of the tumulus and cinerary urn.

From the contents of the tumuli we are able partially to apply to them a relative system of chronology, the accuracy of which appears to be satisfactorily borne out. No archæologist has yet done for any district of Scotland what the intelligent research of Sir Richard Colt Hoare effected for Wiltshire. No other single district, indeed, offers the same tempting field for the study, and few archæologists possess his ample means for carrying out such investigations. He has adopted[Pg 43] a subdivision, which distinguishes fourteen different kinds of barrows, classified according to their shape, and furnishes a systematic nomenclature, which is of general avail. Observations since carried out over a more extensive field enable us in some degree to modify this system, and reduce the number of true barrows, while even of these some are probably only the result of accident, or of the caprice of individual taste. The following are the best defined among the varieties noted by Sir R. C. Hoare:—1. The long barrow, resembling a gigantic grave; 2. The bowl barrow, from its similarity to an inverted bowl; 3. The bell barrow; 4. The twin barrow, consisting of two adjacent tumuli, one of them generally larger than the other, and both inclosed in one fosse or vallum; 5. The Druid barrow, generally a broad and low tumulus, surrounded by a vallum. The last name was given on insufficient evidence by Dr. Stukely, Sir R. C. Hoare's predecessor in investigating the antiquities of Wiltshire. The latter has subdivided the class into three varieties, and there seems some reason to think that such indicate the place of interment of females; but more extensive observation is required to establish so interesting an inference. The remaining distinctions appear to be either accidental, or referring to earth-works, certainly not sepulchral. Among this last are the "pond barrows," hereafter referred to as the remains of primitive dwellings, and the conical mounds or moat-hills, of which Silbury Hill is probably the largest in the world, designed as the lofty tribunal where the arch-priest or chief administered, and frequently executed, the rude common law of the northern races. The laborious excavations carried out under the direction of the Archæological Institute during the Salisbury Congress in 1849, have at least put an end to any ideas of Silbury Hill being a sepulchral mound.

Much similarity is naturally to be expected between the primitive antiquities of England and Scotland, where the imaginary border land that so long formed the marches between rival nations presents no real barrier calculated to interpose an impediment to the free interchange of knowledge or arts. Nevertheless there are many of those distinctive peculiarities observable in Scotland which are well calculated to encourage further investigation, though, for the purposes of a just and logical distinction, the Scottish archæologist ought to include the ancient kingdom of Northumbria within the region of his researches, and draw his comparisons between the antiquities found to the north and the south of the great wall of Severus.

[Pg 44]

The barrows of Scotland, in so far as they have yet been carefully observed, may be described as consisting of the Long Barrow; the Bowl Barrow; the Bell Barrow; the Conoid Barrow; the Crowned Barrow—such as that of Stoneranda in Birsa—with one or more standing stones set upon it; the Inclosed Barrow, a circular tumulus of the usual proportions, and most frequently also conoid in form, but environed by an earthen vallum; and the Encircled Barrow, generally of large proportions, and surrounded by a circle of standing stones. The two latter are of frequent occurrence in Scotland. The evidence of their contents indicates that they belong to a comparatively late era, and their correspondence to some of the most common sepulchral memorials of Norway and Sweden suggests the probability of a Scandinavian origin. The twin barrow, with its enclosing vallum, as described by Sir R. C. Hoare, and still to be seen in Wiltshire, does not, I think, occur in Scotland. But it is not uncommon to find a large and smaller tumulus placed near together, and these pairs occur so frequently, especially in Orkney, that I incline to apply to them meanwhile the term of twin barrows, believing them to have more than an accidental relation to each other. This is a point, however, which can only be satisfactorily settled by the most careful examination of their contents. In the parish of Holm in Orkney, there is a cluster of eight tumuli of different sizes, all inclosed within one earthen vallum. Another group consists of one large and three smaller tumuli, surrounded by a double ditch, with the remains of a third on one side; and occasionally clusters of tumuli, though without any inclosing work, suggest the probability of their vicinity being the result of design. Another arrangement is also deserving of note, where a group of eight or nine of these earth-mounds occur forming a continuous chain, in a nearly straight line, and separated from one another by regular intervening spaces. Whatever appears to indicate design in these primitive structures is worthy of study. Wherever we can trace the motives of their constructors, we recover some clue to the character and history of the race.

The remarkable cluster of monolithic groups and earth-works at Stennis in Orkney, includes a variety of sepulchral mounds, probably belonging to very different periods. Scattered around the great circle, or Ring of Broidgar, as it is commonly called, there are many tumuli differing considerably in size and form, but all known to the peasants under the general title of the Knowes of Broidgar. The dimensions[Pg 45] of some of the largest of these were taken, during the recent Admiralty Survey, by Lieutenant F. W. L. Thomas, R.N., the intelligent officer in command, to whom I am indebted for the use of valuable notes of observations on the antiquities of Orkney:—

"The most remarkable tumulus, which is of elliptical shape, stands at the shore of the north or fresh-water loch. It measures one hundred and twelve feet long by sixty-six feet broad. The level ridge on the top measures twenty-two feet in length, and its height is nearly the same. It has been greatly destroyed by excavators at some former period. Near to it is a small standing stone. No other tumulus of this shape exists in Orkney. A large conoid tumulus, fifty feet in radius and twenty-eight feet in height, stands to the westward of the great circle, also pillaged at some former time; and in the same neighbourhood are ten smaller tumuli of various dimensions. Five of these are of equal size: radius six feet, height three feet, and only from two to three feet apart; four of them in a line."

Besides these, there stands, at a short distance to the northward of the elliptical tumulus, and near the shore, another large earth-work of peculiar form, which can hardly be more definitely described than by comparing it to a colossal plum-cake. It rises perpendicularly five feet, and is nearly flat on the top, assuming the form of a greatly depressed cone, the apex of which is nine feet high. The radius of the whole measures thirty-one feet. This mound, however, is most probably not sepulchral, but rather the platform on which a building of wood had been reared, though its present symmetrical form may render this doubtful. The Ring of Bookan, in the same neighbourhood, appears to be a similar platform, but it is inclosed with an earthen vallum, and exhibits abundant traces of ruined works on its irregular area. Various other, though less regular mounds, of this character, occur in Orkney. The burgh of Culswick is represented as having stood on such a platform, the shape of which nearly corresponded with that of Stennis when drawn in 1774, but the materials of this venerable ruin have since furnished a quarry for the neighbouring cottars.[51] It is exceedingly doubtful if the larger tumuli in the neighbourhood of the great circle of Stennis would now repay the labour of exploring them. They exhibit, as has been observed, abundant traces of former investigation; and there is good reason to believe that most, if not all of them, have already been spoiled of their historic contents.

[Pg 46]

Wallace remarks, in his Description of Orkney:—"In one of these hillocks, near the circle of high stones at the north end of the Bridge of Stennis, there were found nine fibulæ of silver, of the shape of a horse-shoe, but round."[52] Unfortunately the dimensions of these silver relics are not given; but from the engraving of one of them, it seems more likely that they consisted chiefly of gorgets, though, in all probability, including a variety of objects of great interest. But the view of the great circle of Stennis, which accompanies that of the fibula found in its neighbourhood, is sufficient to satisfy the most credulous how little faith can be put in the engravings.

The most numerous and remarkable of all the Scottish sepulchral mounds, both for number and size, are the stone tumuli or CAIRNS, many of which are works of great labour and considerable skill. These singular monumental pyramids are by no means to be accounted for from any local peculiarities furnishing a ready supply of loose stones. They abound in almost every district of the country, and are frequently of much larger dimensions than the earthen tumuli, though the nature of their materials has led to the destruction of many of them in the progress of inclosing lands for agricultural purposes. We learn from the Book of Joshua of the practice of raising heaps of stone over the dead as a mark of indignity or abhorrence. The contents of the Scottish sepulchral cairns, however, prove for them an altogether different origin, as will appear when we come to review them in detail. They are generally designed on a larger scale than the earthen tumuli, and must have ranked at a remote period among the most distinguished honours awarded to the illustrious dead.

Another remarkable, though much rarer sepulchral monument, is the Cromlech, or "Druidical altar," as it was long erroneously termed, until archæologists, abandoning theory for observation, discovered that these huge monolithic structures invariably marked the sites of ancient sepulture. Similar primitive colossal structures are found, not only throughout the whole British Isles, but in many parts of the continent of Europe, and are occasionally discovered, like the slighter cist, entombed beneath the earth-pyramid or tumulus, affording thereby singular evidence of the unostentatious liberality with which the honours of the dead were rendered in the olden time to which they belong.

The Wiltshire of Scotland, in so far as the mere number of sepul[Pg 47]chral mounds, along with monolithic groups and other aboriginal structures, can constitute this distinction, is the mainland of Orkney, with one or two of the neighbouring isles. Few of their contents, however, have proved of the same valuable character as those which have been discovered not only in Aberdeenshire, Fifeshire, and some of the southern Lowland counties, but also in the Western Isles. We are therefore led to infer that the population of Orkney has been little more distinguished for wealth, or great advancement in the arts, during its earlier history than in more recent times. Abundant evidence, however, testifies to the occupation of these islands by a human population at a very remote era, and no Scottish locality ever furnished a greater variety of interesting relics of the primeval period. In the single parish of Sandwick, near Stromness, upwards of an hundred tumuli of different sizes have been observed, many of which have been recently opened, and their contents described. In the parish of Orphir, in like manner, considerable research has been made into the character and contents of these ancient memorials; while throughout nearly the whole of the neighbouring islands, the mosses and moors which have escaped the obliterating inroads of the ploughshare, are covered with similar monumental heaps.

It is not to be doubted that such relics of ancient population were once no less common throughout the whole mainland of Scotland, and especially in the fertile districts of the low country, where the earliest traces of a numerous population may reasonably be sought for. A sufficient number still remain in Fife and the Lothians, as well as in the southern counties, to afford means of comparison with other localities; while numerous discoveries of cists, urns, and ancient implements, leave no room to doubt that the same race once occupied the whole island, and practised similar arts and rites in the long cultivated districts of the low country, as in the remotest of the northern or western isles.

It is not improbable that extended observation may justify a more minute classification of the primitive sepulchral monuments of Scotland than has been attempted above, and may establish a relative chronological arrangement of them on a satisfactory basis. With our present imperfect knowledge, any theoretic system would only embarrass future inquiry. But meanwhile it may assist in forming a basis for further operations, to note the following attempts at systematic arrangement from such data as are available.

[Pg 48]

1. The Scottish long barrow, which is generally somewhat depressed in the centre, and more elevated towards one end than the other, may be assumed with little hesitation as one of the earliest forms of sepulchral earth-works. It is now comparatively rare. As the work of a thinly scattered population, it is probable that examples of it were never very numerous, and of these we may perhaps assume that the greater number have been gradually obliterated by structures of more recent date. So far as I am aware, no metallic implements have ever been found in the Scottish long barrow. Examples of pottery are also of very rare occurrence, and it is doubtful if any of these have furnished instances of the presence of the cinerary urn and its imperfectly burned contents in the primeval sepulchres. It is rather indeed from the absence of traces of art or ingenuity that we may most satisfactorily assign to this class of mounds the priority in point of antiquity. The form of the long barrow seems in itself to suggest the probability of an earlier origin than the circular tumulus, since it is only an enlargement of the ordinary grave-mound which naturally results from the displacement of the little space of earth occupied by the body, and in this respect strikingly corresponds with the most primitive ideas of a distinctive sepulchral memorial—a larger mound to mark that of the chief or priest, from the encircling heaps of common graves. In a long barrow opened in the neighbourhood of Port Seaton, East-Lothian, in 1833, a skeleton was found laid at full length within a rude cist. It indicated the remains of a man nearly seven feet high, but the bones crumbled to dust soon after their exposure to the air.[53] One of the largest Scottish earth-works of this primitive form is that already referred to, situated on the margin of the loch of Stennis, in the vicinity of the celebrated Orcadian Stonehenge. It is the only long barrow on the mainland of Orkney, but its form and proportions differ considerably from those commonly met with. It seems probable that this belongs to a late era, and owes its origin to the same Norwegian [Pg 49]source as the neighbouring conoid earth pyramids that tower above the bowl barrows of the aboriginal Orcadians.

At a very early date, undoubtedly within the primitive era to which we give the name of the Stone Period, but apparently only towards its close, the practice of cremation was introduced. This, however, is one of the many points that must be left for final determination when a greater number of accurate and trustworthy observations have been accumulated. Meanwhile it may be assumed as unquestionable, that simple inhumation is the most ancient of all modes of disposing of the dead, and we possess abundant evidence of its use in this country, apparently by the earliest colonists of whom any definite traces now exist. We are not without proof that there was a long transition-period after the remarkable change consequent on the acquisition of metals, before the stone implements and arts were completely superseded by those of bronze; and it is to this era we shall most probably have to assign the first practice of cremation. Both the introduction of the metallurgic arts and the change of sepulchral rites may indeed be equally supposed to mark the influence, if not the advent, of a new race. In nearly every state of society the burial of the dead is associated with the most sacred tenets of religion, and its wonted rites are among the very last to be affected by change. It accords therefore with all analogy that the source of so remarkable a change should come from without, and accompany other equally important social revolutions. It will be seen in a succeeding chapter, that some of the very rudest and apparently most primitive of cinerary urns yet found in Scotland have been associated with undoubted proofs of their connexion with the bronze period. But it has not hitherto been the prevailing fault of British antiquaries to assign too remote an era to the introduction of the funeral pile. It has rather been one of the endless blunders springing from the too exclusively classical nature of modern education, to assume for it a Roman origin, and to accept the urn as an evidence of Roman influence and example, even where it was owned to be the product of native art. If, however, we make sufficient allowance for the poetical preference of the funeral fire and the inurned ashes, rather than the simple and more common rite, and so decline to receive some of the allusions of Virgil and Ovid as historic evidence of the ancient usage of the former by the Romans, we shall find good reason for inferring that the funeral pile should rank among the later[Pg 50] introductions of Roman luxury, derived in all probability from the Greeks, by whom it was used at a very early period. The oldest accounts indeed which we possess of the sepulchral honours of the funeral pile, the urn, and the monumental tumulus, are the descriptions of the funeral rites of Patroclus and Hector in the Iliad. The whole circumstances are characterized by much simple grace and beauty:—the burning of the body during the night, the libations of wine with which the embers were quenched at the dawn, the inurning of the ashes of the deceased, and the methodic construction of the pyramid of earth which covered the sacred deposit, and preserved the memory of the honoured dead.[54] The testimony of Pliny, on the contrary, is most distinct as to the introduction of a similar practice among the Romans at a comparatively late period.[55]

Independent of the consideration of Roman usage, it is unquestionable that the funeral pile must have been in use in the British Isles for many generations before the era of the Roman Invasion, if not indeed before that of Rome's mythic founder. But the evidence of the Scottish tumuli, while it proves the ancient practice of cremation, shows also the contemporaneous custom of inhumation; nor is it possible, so far as I can see, to determine from the amount of evidence yet obtained, that one of these was esteemed more honourable than the other.[56] It is not, indeed, uncommon for the larger tumuli to contain a single cist, with the inhumed remains untouched by fire, and around it, at irregular intervals, several cinerary urns, sometimes varying in size and style, but all containing the half-burned bones and ashes of the dead. The inference which such an arrangement suggests would seem to point to inhumation as the more honourable rite; but even where either inhumation or cremation has been the sole mode of disposing of the bodies, we still detect obvious [Pg 51]marks of distinction, and of superior honours conferred on one or more of the occupants of the tumulus. In one of the largest of a numerous group of tumuli near Stromness, in Orkney, which was opened by the Rev. Charles Clouster, minister of Sandwick, in 1835, evidences of six separate interments were found, all so disposed on the original soil, and in contact with each other, as scarcely to admit of doubt that the whole had taken place prior to the formation of the earthen mound beneath which they lay. Two large and carefully constructed cists occupied the centre, and contained burnt bones, but without urns; while around these were four other cists, extremely rude, and greatly inferior both in construction and dimensions. In such we probably should recognise the family cemetery,—the two larger and more important cists containing, it may be, the chief and his wife, and the surrounding ones their children, or favourite dependents, or perhaps their slaves.

One of the most interesting examples which have been accurately observed of simple interment accompanied with urns and relics entirely belonging to the primitive period, was discovered on the opening of a small tumulus in the parish of Cruden, Aberdeenshire. Within it was found a cist containing two skeletons nearly entire. One of these was that of an adult, while the other appeared to have been a youth of twelve or thirteen years of age, in addition to which there were also portions of the skeleton of a dog. Beside them stood two rude clay urns, slightly ornamented with encircling lines, but containing no incinerated remains; and within the cist were found seven flint arrow-heads, two flint knives, and a polished stone, similar to one now in the Scottish Museum, which is described in a succeeding chapter. It is slightly convex on one side, and concave on the other, with small holes drilled at the four corners, by which it would seem to have been attached, most probably, to the dress, as an article of personal adornment. These curious relics are now in the collection of Adam Arbuthnot, Esq., of Peterhead.

Cæsar relates of the Gauls that they burned their honoured dead, consuming along with them not only the things they most esteemed when alive, but also their dogs and horses, and their favourite servants and retainers.[57] Without any reference to this remarkable passage, it is scarcely possible to overlook the evidence which suggests the idea of some such Suttee system having prevailed among [Pg 52]the aboriginal Britons, when observing the opening of a large tumulus, as it discloses its group of cists or urns, or of both combined. It seems hardly reconcilable with the general customs or ideas of a primitive community, to suppose that the earthen pyramid was systematically husbanded by its ancient builders like a modern family vault, or disturbed anew for repeated interments, unless by those who had lost all remembrance of its original object. Towards the close of the Pagan era, and in that transition-period which extends in Scotland from the fifth to about the ninth century, during which the rites of the new faith were still blended with older Pagan customs, it was no doubt different, and regular cemeterial tumuli are found, which must have accumulated during a considerable period. These, however, differ essentially from the earlier tumuli; and if we are to suppose the whole group of urns or cists in the latter to have been deposited at once, it is difficult to conceive of any other mode of accounting for this than the one already suggested, which is so congenial to the ideas of barbarian rank, and of earthly distinctions perpetuated beyond the grave. Instances do indeed occur both of cists and urns found in large tumuli near the surface, and so far apart from the main sepulchral deposit as to induce the belief that they may have been inserted at a subsequent period; while the large chambered tumuli and cairns must be supposed to have been the burial-places of a tribe or sept. It must not be overlooked that the tumuli are not, in general, to be regarded as common graves, but as special monumental structures reserved alone for the illustrious dead; among whom, no doubt, were reckoned those who fell in battle, and over whom we may therefore conceive the surviving victors to have erected those gigantic cairns which are occasionally found to cover a multitude of the dead. But some of the Scottish cairns which have been found only to inclose a solitary cist, must have occupied the labour of months, and required the united exertions of a numerous corps of workmen, to gather the materials, and pile them up into such durable and imposing monuments.

The remembrance of how greatly the dead of a few generations outnumber the living, would alone suffice to show that the tumuli could not be common sepulchral mounds. Such a custom universally adopted for a few generations in a populous district, would surpass the effects of deluges and earthquakes, in the changes wrought by it on the natural surface of the ground. The laws of Solon interdicted[Pg 53] the raising of tumuli on account of the extent of land they occupied; and the Romans enacted the same prohibitory restrictions prior to the time of Cicero. We are familiar with the common modes of British sepulture, contemporaneous with the monumental tumulus; both the cist and the urn being very frequently found without any artificial increase of the superincumbent soil to mark the spot where they are deposited. Their inhumation beneath the soil, as well as the frequent occurrence of numbers together, point them out as the common and undistinguished graves of the builders of the tumuli. Where the tumulus was to be superimposed no such interment took place. The cist was constructed on the natural surface of the soil, and over this, earth brought from a distance—or occasionally cut away from the surface immediately surrounding the chosen site, so as thereby to add to its height—was heaped up and moulded into the accustomed form. In its progress the accompanying urns were disposed, frequently with little attention to regularity, in the inclosed area; nor is it uncommon to find along with these the bones of domestic animals. In the later tumuli are occasionally found the bronze bridle-bit and other horse furniture, and sometimes teeth and bones, and even the entire skeleton of the horse. The skeleton of the dog is still more frequently met with: and it is to be regretted that in Scotland the fact has hitherto been recorded without any minute observations being attempted on the skeleton, from which to ascertain its species, and perhaps thereby trace the older birthland of its master.[58] The Rev. Alexander Low, in a communication laid before the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1815, refers to the entire skeleton of a horse discovered interred between two cists, where a large cairn had been demolished in the parish of Cairnie, Aberdeenshire. Other examples will come under our notice, all indicating the prevalence of the custom above referred to, so consonant with barbarian ideas of rank, and with the rude conceptions of a future state which still linger in parts of the Asiatic continent, where the philologist has traced the evidences of a common origin with the wandering tribes that found their way across the continent of Europe and peopled the British Isles. This, however, in passing: the reader will find no difficulty in separating fact from fancy when judging for himself.

[Pg 54]

The Long Barrow has been stated to belong apparently to the rude primeval period; but the number of examples which have been carefully examined are still too few to admit of very positive conclusions being assumed. A remarkable group of Scottish long barrows occurs in the immediate neighbourhood of the Pass of Keltnie, Perthshire. One of them was opened in 1837, and found to contain unburnt bones, along with which were discovered several rude horn lance-heads and pieces of bone artificially cut. The state of preservation in which these were, when compared with the rapid decay of the human remains almost immediately on their exposure to the air, opens up an interesting inquiry in relation to these primitive sepulchral deposits. The very different conditions in which the contiguous bones are found seem at first sight incompatible with the idea of their having been deposited along with the original occupants of the barrow. But the fragile texture of the human skeleton, when compared with that of the lower animals, is well known. Professor Goodsir informs me that his investigations have led him to the direct conclusion that the bones of the lower animals decay much less rapidly than those of man. The state of the skeletons of dogs and horses found in the tumuli confirms this conclusion, which is probably sufficiently accounted for by the greater delicacy of structure characterizing the human osteology. But independently of this, bone implements finished and deposited in a cist or tumulus in a perfect state, would be much less directly exposed to the influences affecting the skeleton amid the decomposition of the vascular tissues. It may be noted along with these observations on early tumuli, that a large conical cairn in the vicinity of the long barrows of Keltnie was demolished in 1836. It contained eleven cists, several of which inclosed cinerary urns, but no metallic relics were found in them.

The change to the circular tumulus is not accompanied with any indications of alteration in the arts of its constructors. Stone weapons and implements are of frequent occurrence in the latter, and particularly in the bowl barrow, though no distinctive evidence has yet been noted in relation to the most common forms of tumuli, sufficiently marked to be resolved into any general rule, save the very natural and obvious one, that the larger ones appear from their contents to be the more important. It is manifest, however, that some art was always exercised in giving to the tumulus an artificial form. Neither the bowl nor the bell shape is that which earth naturally[Pg 55] assumes when thrown up into a heap. The form is therefore a matter worthy of further observation, and may yet prove a legitimate basis of stricter classification in reference to the era or race, than that now attempted. The bell-shaped tumuli are not very common in Scotland, but where they do occur they are generally of the larger class, though not always distinguished by any marked peculiarity in their contents. Such was found to be the case on opening the Black Knowe, which appears from a drawing of it to be a bell-shaped tumulus, and is one of the most remarkable for size in the parish of Rendale, Orkney. It was explored in February 1849 by Mr. George Petrie, a zealous Orkney antiquary, in company with Lieutenant Thomas, R.N., while engaged in the Admiralty Survey. I am informed, however, by the latter, that its shape was by no means uniform, and viewed from some points it differed little from the common bowl barrow, of which it is computed that above two thousand are still to be found scattered over the Orkney Islands alone. In the centre and on a level with the natural surface of the soil, there was found a small chamber or cist of undressed stones, measuring eighteen by twelve inches, and containing only an extremely rude cinerary urn, filled with bones and ashes mixed with clay.

Both the Enclosed and the Encircled Barrows are frequently of large dimensions, and indicate by their contents that they belong to the later era, when the metallurgic arts had been introduced. In various instances the contents of the enclosed barrow, or tumulus surrounded with an earthen vallum, clearly prove it to belong to the Roman era. In one, for example, in the neighbourhood of Rutherglen, Lanarkshire, which measured 260 feet in circumference, a gallery or long chamber was discovered, constructed of unhewn stones, and containing, among other relics, two brass vessels, which from the description appear to have been Roman patellæ. On the handle of each of them was engraved the name Congallus or Convallus. With these were deposited various native relics, including a perforated stone and three large glass beads, such as are frequently found in earlier British tumuli.[59] Examples, however, are not wanting of the enclosed barrow with contents belonging to an earlier period. One of such formed the largest of a group which occupied the summit of one of the Cathkin hills in the parish of Kilbride. It measured eighteen feet in height, and one hundred and twenty feet in diameter, and bore the name of [Pg 56]Queen Mary's Law, from a popular tradition that the hapless Mary watched from its summit the ebbing tide of her fortunes on the fatal field of Langside. This interesting memorial, thus associated with two widely severed periods of Scottish history, afforded building materials to the district for many years, until in 1792 some workmen while employed in removing stones from it, exposed to view a vault or chamber situated towards the west side of the mound, and containing twenty-five rude cinerary urns. They were placed, as is most usual in the earlier sepulchres, with their mouths downward, and underneath each urn lay a piece of white quartz. Exactly in the centre of the cairn a rude cist was discovered measuring nearly four feet square, and among a quantity of human bones which surrounded it were two rude fibulæ of mixed metal, and an armilla or ring of cannel coal. Another fibula and an equally rude metal comb were found in one of the urns.[60]

The Crowned and the Encircled Barrows closely resemble a class of monuments which abound in Sweden and Denmark, while they are of rare occurrence in England. In the "Samlingar för Nordens Fornälskare,"[61] a variety of examples of both have been engraved; some of which have a second circle of stones placed about half-way up the mound, and a large standing stone on the summit. Such correspondence, however, is not necessarily a proof of Scandinavian origin, nor do they occur most frequently in districts of Scotland where the long residence or frequent incursions of the Norwegians would lead us to expect Scandinavian remains. In a large encircled barrow called Huly Hill, opened in 1830, at Old Liston, a few miles to the west of Edinburgh, a bronze spear-head was found along with a heap of animal charcoal and small fragments of bones, but neither cist nor urn. A solitary standing stone, measuring about nine and a half feet in height, occupies a neighbouring field, a little to the east of it. Another barrow which stood near the Abbey of Newbattle, East-Lothian, was of a conical form, measuring thirty feet in height, and ninety feet in circumference at the base. It formed a prominent and beautiful object in that noble demesne, surrounded at its base with a circle of standing stones, and crowned on the summit with a large fir-tree. On its removal to make way for some additions to the Abbey, it was found to contain a cist nearly seven feet long, enclosing a human skeleton. A remarkable skull preserved in the Edinburgh Phrenological [Pg 57]Museum, and described as found in a stone coffin in a tumulus opened at Newbattle in 1782, appears to belong to this memorial mound.

One other remarkable form of barrow occasionally, though very rarely, found in Scotland, in all probability owes its origin to the Vikings who invaded and colonized our coasts at the close of the Pagan period. This consists of an oblong mound of larger size than the primitive long barrow, and terminating in a point at both ends. Some examples are also inclosed with stones, having one of considerable size at each end; and from their rarity and their remarkable resemblance to the Skibssœtninger, or ship barrow of Sweden, there can be little hesitation in assigning to them a Scandinavian origin. One of these encircled ship barrows was only demolished a few years since, on the farm of Graitney Mains, Dumfriesshire, but no record of its contents has been preserved. A much more celebrated one, and, according to venerable traditions, of undoubted native origin, is the Mound of St. Columba, at Port a Churaich, or the Bay of the Boat, which is believed to mark the spot where the Saint first landed on Iona. It measures about fifty feet in length, and is supposed to be a model of St. Columba's currach, or boat made of wicker and hides, built by him in commemoration of his landing on the sacred isle. An upright stone formerly stood at each end, and near to it is a smaller mound, representing, as is said, the little boat towed astern. In all probability an investigation of the contents of this traditional memorial would prove its sepulchral character, as has been found to be the case in other Scottish ship barrows.[62] These singular tumuli are described by Chalmers as "oblong ridges, like the hulk of a ship, with its bottom upwards." But it appears from the investigations of northern antiquaries, that this sepulchral monument was not only the mimic representation of the Vikings' ship, but that the contents of the Scandinavian Skibssœtninger seem to confirm the assertion of their sagas, that these warriors of the deep were sometimes literally burnt in their ships, and the form of the favourite scene of their triumphs renewed in the earth-work that covered their ashes.[63]

To this class probably belongs a very large earth-work, styled the Hill of Rattray, Perthshire, and perhaps also another of still larger dimensions, called Terrnavie, in the parish of Dunning, in the same county. It is a mound of earth, resembling a ship with the keel uppermost, and occupying several acres of ground. The name ap[Pg 58]pears to be a corruption of terræ navis, or earth-ship, given to it on account of its form. Superstition has conferred a sacredness on it, by the association of legends evidently of primitive character. It is told that a profane hind, having proceeded to cut turfs on the side of the Terrnavie, was suddenly appalled by the vision of an old man, who appeared in the opening he had made, and after demanding, with an angry countenance and voice, why he was tirring (unroofing) his house over his head, as suddenly vanished.[64] Remains of ancient armour were dug up a few years ago, on the farm of Rossie, a little to the east of Terrnavie; of these "two helmets, a small hatchet of yellow metal, and a finger ring, are preserved in Duncruib House."[65]

The barrow was not, in all probability, entirely superseded until some time after the introduction of Christianity into Scotland. Several examples seem to indicate that the Anglo-Saxons were wont to convert an accumulating barrow into the general place of sepulture of a locality, interring the body apparently in its ordinary robes, but without any cist. Such appears to have been the tumular cemetery at Lamel Hill, near York, of which a minute account is given by Dr. Thurnam, in the Archæological Journal; and such also was a large sepulchral mound, levelled near the beach at North Berwick, East-Lothian, in 1847, in preparing a site for new gas-works. The latter was in the immediate vicinity of what appears to have been used as a general burial ground probably till a late medieval era, but its contents were clearly referrible to the Anglo-Saxon period; while in the same neighbourhood many cists and other relics of still older races have been found. This last adaptation of the primitive memorial mound as the cemetery of a whole race, ere it was abandoned along with the creed to which it had been allied, is thus beautifully referred to in the description by Dorban, an ancient Irish poet, of the Relec na Riogh, the place of interment of the kings of the Scotic race, of which the last Pagan monarch was killed in the year 406.

"Fifty mounds, I certify,
Are at Oenach na Cruachna,
There are under each mound of them
Fifty fine warlike men.
Every hill which is at Oenach
Has under it heroes and queens,
And poets and distributers,
And fair fierce women.
"The host of Connaught that was energetic,
A truly warlike host,
Beautiful the valiant tribe,
Buried in Cathair Cruachna.
There is not at this place
A hill at Oenach na Cruachna,
Which is not the grave of a king or royal prince,
Or of a woman or warlike poet."[66]

[Pg 59]

The Cruachna, or Cruithne, are the older Pictish or Celtic race particularly referred to hereafter. They are numbered among the Pagans in the same poetic description of the great regal cemetery of Ireland,—

"The three cemeteries of idolaters are
The cemetery of Tailten, the select;
The cemetery of the ever-fair Cruachan,
And the cemetery of Brugh."

Of all the more remarkable Scottish sepulchral memorials, the Cairn is most frequently found, scattered through many districts, and corresponding in form to nearly every class of the earthen tumuli. So common, indeed, are cairns in many parts of the country, that they give names to the farms on which they stand, the prefix or termination, cairn, being of very frequent occurrence in such designations of property, particularly in Aberdeenshire. The cairn appears to have been completely incorporated with the ideas of the people, from the remotest period of the rude stone implements, to the close of Pagan customs and sepulchral rites, and is justly described as a Celtic monument. Its name, kærn, is a primitive term, literally signifying heaps of stones.[67] Dr. Jamieson traces it back to the Hebrew kern, a horn, also applied to a hill. In the agreement between Jacob and Laban, we see an example of the standing stone and cairn, the "pillar and heap," employed as the memorials of a covenant by the Hebrew patriarch. In the sepulture of Achan and of Absalom we have examples of the cairn as a mark of obloquy and contempt; but no traces of such associations are discoverable in Scotland, unless in very recent times. Occasionally we meet with examples of the pillar and heap united in a memorial cairn, as in one of large dimensions, situated at the junction of two roads, near the village of Fowlis, Perthshire, which is surmounted by a large standing stone, corresponding to the barrows, for which the distinctive appellation of crowned tumuli is suggested. The estimation of the cairn as an honourable memorial of the dead, is proved not only by the valuable contents, more frequently discovered in cairns than in any other Scottish sepulchral mounds, but also by the associations which popular tradition has preserved. A proverbial expression, still in use among the Scottish Highlanders, is Curri mi clach er do cuirn, I will add a stone to your cairn: i.e., I will honour your memory when you are gone. The conical cairn must have been in use in Scotland [Pg 60]during a longer period than any other sepulchral memorial. It undoubtedly belongs to the Stone Period, during which it was frequently constructed of proportions no less gigantic than in later eras, and much greater than any contemporary earthen tumulus. But it appears to have been the favourite and most distinguished sepulchral memorial of the aboriginal races, throughout the whole three periods into which archæologists divide the long era prior to the revolutions effected by Roman civilisation and the introduction of Christianity. Cairns are either still found, or are known to have existed, in nearly every parish of Scotland. Many of these have been works of great labour, being regularly built of stones of considerable size, and approaching more to the character of a constructive pyramid, than of a mere stone tumulus or heap. Their form is most frequently conical, but several varieties occur, including occasionally, though rarely, the primitive shape of the long barrow. Ure describes two of this form, which were situated in the parish of Baldernoch, Stirlingshire, near a large cromlech, which still exists, styled, The auld wives' lift. The largest of these cairns measured sixty yards in length, and only ten yards in breadth. On its demolition it was found to cover a sepulchral chamber of about four feet in breadth, constructed of rows of broad stones set on edge, covered with large flat stones, and containing numerous human remains. In the other long cairn, which was opened in 1792, a similar chamber enclosed both urns and human bones. Various other cairns still remain unopened in the same district; and many of equal magnitude are to be met with in different parts of the country. The well-known antiquary, Mr. Joseph Train, furnishes an interesting account of several remarkable cairns in the parish of Minniegaff, Kirkcudbrightshire. One of these, called Drumlawhinnie, on the moor of Barcly, measures 891 feet in circumference. Another of equal dimensions, called the Boss Cairns, on the moor of Dranandow, which has been partially demolished to construct the neighbouring field inclosures, contains a sepulchral inclosure, similar to the cruciform chambers found in several of the most celebrated gigantic Irish cairns. It measures internally eighty feet in length, from the corresponding limbs of the cross each way, while it is only four feet wide and about three feet high. The stones in the middle of the cairn are very large, and are laid in regular courses, from the bottom to a considerable height, and become gradually smaller as they recede from the centre. The chamber of the[Pg 61] Grey Cairn, on the neighbouring Drum of Knockman, closely resembles this in form and dimensions, and various others occur in the district. In one of them, called the White Cairn—which furnished a safe concealment to the Laird of Glencaird and his two sons, when pursued by Claverhouse for harbouring some of the persecuted Covenanters—some of the stones used in constructing the internal chamber are upwards of a ton weight each.[68] Pennant has preserved a variety of interesting details of the contents of cairns opened towards the close of last century. In one described by him on the hill of Down, near Banff, a chamber was found containing a large ornamented Celtic urn, with three smaller plain ones disposed around it. The whole were filled with ashes and burnt bones, in addition to which were flint arrow-heads, and two bone implements. Thirteen of the arrow-heads, and one of the implements, were found in the large central urn.[69] In two cairns in the parish of Tynron, Dumfriesshire, more recently opened, there were found cists, each of which contained fragments of bone, and a stone hammer.[70] Similar relics have been found in the cairns of Wigtonshire, where these sepulchral monuments are so numerous, that forty-nine have been counted in the small valley of Barnair. There is, indeed, no lack of abundant testimony to prove the erection of some of the largest Scottish cairns during the Stone Period. Others of later eras are equally common.

Sir John Clerk of Pennycuick communicated to Roger Gale, Esq., in 1726, a very interesting account of five cairns, opened and examined by himself or his friends, in different parts of Scotland. One at Bruntone, in the parish of Pennycuick, Mid-Lothian, contained only two cists, each about two feet in length, but without urns or relics. Another in Ayrshire contained human bones, apparently of a number of men, which had been partially subjected to fire, and beside them lay a flint adze, or axe-head. The contents of the third, which was also in the west of Scotland, are thus described:—"Some urns, placed on the top and about the sides of it, as well as some principal urns at the bottom, over which it had been raised. Large bones of horses and oxen, confusedly scattered among the stones and rubbish. The head of a spear, half melted by fire, and several other brass instruments, which had likewise suffered in the fire, and could not be well known."[71] The others, which were situated, one at Pennycuick, Mid-Lothian, and the other in Galloway, appear to have been native cairns, contemporary with the Roman invasion,—thus furnishing a series of examples of the Scottish cairn pertaining to each of the Pagan eras of our national history.

In the year 1828 a remarkable cairn was opened on Airswood [Pg 62]Moss, Dumfriesshire, by a party of labourers, when seeking for stones with which to build a "march dyke," or boundary wall. The cairn consisted, as usual, of a heap of loose stones, surrounded by a ring of larger stones, closely set together. These formed a regular circle, measuring fifty-four feet in diameter. Its form, however, was singular. For about fourteen feet from the inner side of the encircling stones it rose gradually, but above this the angle of elevation abruptly changed, and the centre was formed into a steep cone. Directly underneath this a cist was found, lying north and south, composed of six large unhewn stones, and measuring in the interior four feet two inches in greatest length, with a depth of two feet. It contained only human bones, indicating a person of large stature, laid with the head towards the north. The further demolition of the cairn disclosed a curious example of regular internal construction on a systematic plan. From the four corners of the central cist there extended, in the form of a saltire, or St. Andrew's cross, rows of stones overlapping each other like the slating of a house. At the extremity of one of these, distant about fourteen feet from the central cist, another was found of corresponding structure and dimensions, but laid at right angles to the radiating row of stones. Another is said to have been found at the extremity of one of the opposite limbs of the cross; and it seems most probable that the whole four were originally conjoined to corresponding cists, but a considerable portion of one side of the cairn had been removed before attention was directed to the subject. Between the limbs of the cross a quantity of bones, in a fragmentary state, were strewn about.[72] Such a disposition of a group of cists, under a large cairn, though rare, is not without a parallel, and may perhaps be found characteristic of a class. The Rev. Harry Robertson of Kiltearn describes one in that parish, about thirty paces in diameter, which contained a central cist three and a half feet long, and at the circumference on the east, south, and west sides, three others of similar dimensions. As the cairn was in this case also imperfect, and partly demolished, it is not improbable that a fourth, on the north side, may have been previously destroyed.[73] Here, as in the tumuli with cinerary urns surrounding the central cist, the group of urns in the cairn on the hill of Down, and in numerous other in[Pg 63]stances, we find a singular arrangement, apparently designed as subservient to the honours lavished on some distinguished chief.

One of the most remarkable groups of cairns in Scotland associated with other primitive monuments, occurs on a small plain washed by the River Nairn, about a mile to the east of the field of Culloden. The whole plain, for upwards of a mile in extent, is covered over with large cairns, encircled by standing stones surrounding them at uniform intervals. Numerous circular groups or "Druidical Temples" occur in the same neighbourhood, with single monoliths and detached circles of small stones, scarcely visible amid the thick covering of grass and heath, but indicating, in all probability, the sites of ancient dwellings of the cairn-builders. An interesting natural chronometer is of frequent occurrence in connexion with these rude memorials of primitive habits, furnishing unmistakable evidence of the remoteness of the era to which they belong, and supplying data which may hereafter prove to be reducible to definite computation. The accumulation, not only of alluvium, but of peat-moss over the structures of early art, has already been referred to in describing the ancient boats, harpoons, &c., discovered in various localities. It will repeatedly recur in the course of our inquiry in relation to various classes of memorials of the past. The traveller, in passing from Bunaw Ferry, on Loch Etive, to Beregonium, Argyleshire, passes over an extensive moor, known by the name of the "Black Moss." On this, or rather rising up through it, are several large cairns, with here and there the remains of others which have been demolished for the purpose of inclosing fields or building cottages. In various parts considerable portions of the moss have been cleared away, exposing, at a depth of from eight to ten feet, the original soil upon which these sepulchral mounds have been reared, and bringing to light other interesting memorials of their builders, hereafter referred to. With such evidence of the slow growth of centuries obliterating the traces of primitive occupation, and effecting such changes on the natural features of the country, it is no vague conjecture which refers to an early era the period when this wild and barren moor was the scene of life and intelligence, and, it may be, of many useful arts. Along with these may be mentioned another group of cairns, including one of unusually large dimensions, not inclosed by the gathered moss of ages, but surrounded by the encroaching tide, on the north shore of the Frith of Beauly, Ross-shire,[Pg 64] affording no less striking, though diverse evidence of the remote era to which they belong. In one of these sepulchral urns have been found, leaving no room to doubt of their monumental character. The largest stands about 400 yards within flood-mark; and an ingenious writer in the Philosophical Transactions arrives at the conclusion that an area of fully ten miles square, now flooded by the advancing tide, has once been the site of the dwellings of the ancient cairn-builders. Thus is it, while Time is sweeping away the hoar relics of the past, the traces of his footprints enable us occasionally to return upon his track, and learn how great is the interval that separates our present from the era of their birth-time.

Ure, in his History of Rutherglen and Kilbride, furnishes interesting notices of various large cairns demolished during last century, some of which have already been referred to. One of these, which long served as a quarry for an extensive district of the latter parish, was termed Knocklegoil Cairn,—Knoc-kill-goill, the hill of the cell, or grave, of the strangers. Some thousands of cart-loads of stones were taken from it, in the course of which various cinerary urns were removed or destroyed.

Another, called Herlaw, (the memorial mound,) was of still larger dimensions. "Some thousand cart-loads of stones have, at different times, been taken from it; and some thousands yet remain. Many urns with fragments of human bones were found in one corner of it. It is still about twelve feet in height, and covers a base of seventy feet in diameter; but this must have been far short of its dimensions when entire."[74] The name of this gigantic cairn is still attached to the farm of Harelaw, on which it stood, but the last remains of the pile were removed about the year 1808, and a small group of trees now occupies its site. Such details might be multiplied to almost any amount, but one other remarkable cairn may be noted:—"On the hill above the moor of Ardoch," says Gordon, "are two great heaps of stones, the one called Cairnwochel, the other Cairnlee. The former of these is the greatest curiosity of the kind that I ever met with; the quantity of great rough stones, lying above one another, almost surpasses belief, which made me have the curiosity to measure it; and I found the whole heap to be about 182 feet in length, thirty in sloping height, and forty-five in breadth at the bottom."[75] Since these measurements were made the cairn has been opened, and within it was found a cist, containing, according to the account of the parish minister, the skeleton of a man seven feet long.[76]

As we are reasonably led to conclude that the tumuli and cairns were mostly constructed at one time, as monuments, and not gradu[Pg 65]ally completed as they were filled on the death of successive members of a family or tribe, the large chambered cairns must be considered as a separate class from those first described. It is possible that they may have been designed as the catacombs of a whole tribe; though it is difficult to reconcile such an idea with the improvident habits of a rude people, and with the monumental character usually traceable in these structures. We should rather, perhaps, look upon the chambered cairn as the memorial of the victors on some bloody battle-field. On this supposition the Knoc-kill-goill, or hill of the strangers' graves, would indicate the scene where triumphant invaders had paid the last honours to their dead ere they bore off with them the spoils of victory. Such suppositions, however, are altogether apart from the facts with which we have chiefly to deal. The cromlech, which is now almost universally recognised as a sepulchral monument,[77] formed by far the most laborious and costly memorial which the veneration or gratitude of primitive ages dedicated to the honour of their illustrious dead. It consists of three or four large unhewn columns, supporting a huge table or block of stone, and forming together a rectangular chamber, which is frequently further inclosed by smaller stones built into the intervening spaces. Within this area there is generally found the skeleton, disposed in a contracted position, and accompanied with urns and relics of an early period. As the sepulchral tumulus is justly regarded as only a gigantic grave-mound, so the origin of the cromlech may be traced to the desire of providing a cist for the last resting-place of the chief or warrior, equally distinguished from that which sufficed for common dust—

"A little urn—a little dust inside,
Which once outbalanced the large earth, albeit,
To-day a four-years' child might carry it!"[78]

This class of sepulchral monuments is rare in Scotland when compared with other monolithic structures that abound in almost every district of the country. Some few interesting examples, however, are still found perfect, while partial traces of a greater number remain [Pg 66]to show that the cromlech was familiar to the builders of the Scottish monolithic era. One of the most celebrated Scottish cromlechs is a group styled, The Auld Wives' Lift, near Craigmadden Castle, Stirlingshire. It is remarkable as an example of a trilith, or complete cromlech, consisting only of three stones. Two of nearly equal length support the huge capstone, a block of basalt measuring fully eighteen feet in length, by eleven in breadth, and seven in depth. A narrow triangular space remains open between the three stones, and through this every stranger is required to pass on first visiting the spot, if, according to the rustic creed, he would escape the calamity of dying childless. It is not unworthy of being noted, that though the site of this singular cromlech is at no great elevation, a spectator standing on it can see across the island from sea to sea; and may almost at the same moment observe the smoke from a steamer entering the Frith of Clyde, and from another below Grangemouth, in the Forth.

From the traces of ruined cromlechs which are still visible in various parts of the country, some of them appear to have been encircled, like a class of barrows described above, with a ring of standing stones; and it is exceedingly probable that many of the smaller groups throughout the country, designated temples, or Druidical circles, belong to the class of sepulchral memorials. Such is the case with a monolithic group in the parish of Sandwick, Orkney, and it is still more noticeable in the ring of Stennis, where the cromlech lies overthrown beside the gigantic ruins of the circle which once inclosed it. Various other cromlechs still remain in Orkney. One called the Stones of Vea, situated on the moor about half a mile south of the manse of Sandwick, though overthrown, is otherwise uninjured. The capstone measures five feet ten inches, by four feet nine inches, and still rests against two of its supporters. A group, which stands on the brow of Vestrafiold, appears to have included two if not three cromlechs. There is another remarkable assemblage, in a similarly ruined state, near Lamlash Bay, in the island of Arran; and a single cromlech stood—if it does not still stand—in the centre of a stone circle in the same[Pg 67] island.[79] A fine one also remains, in perfect preservation, on the southern declivity of the hill of Sidla, Forfarshire; another good example has been preserved on the farm of Ardnadam, in the parish of Dunoon, Argyleshire; and others, more or less complete, are to be seen at Achnacreebeg, Ardchattan, and in various districts of the West Highlands, as well as in other parts of Scotland. Some at least of these gigantic structures were buried under a tumular mound, precisely in the same manner as the smaller cists. In 1825 a cromlech was discovered on the removal of a tumulus of unusual size, situated near the west coast of the peninsula of Cantyre. It contained only the greatly decayed remains of a human skeleton, but in the superincumbent soil were found many bones, and the teeth of the horse and cow, also in a state of decay. The capstone of this cromlech measured five by four feet, and its four supporters were each about three feet high.[80] A somewhat larger cromlech was disclosed, under nearly similar circumstances, in the year 1838, on the levelling of a large mound or tumulus, in the Phœnix Park, Dublin.

The whole of these examples are constructed of rough and entirely unhewn blocks. The annexed figure represents a partially ruined cromlech, at Bonnington Mains, near Ratho, Mid-Lothian, which is interesting from some traces which it retains of artificial tooling. Along the centre of the large capstone a series of shallow perforations have been made at nearly regular intervals, and possibly indicate a design of splitting it in two. Such is the idea formed by Mr. F. C. Lukis in a somewhat parallel case, though any indication of artificial formation in such primitive structures is of the very rarest occurrence. Mr. Lukis remarks in a communication to the Archæological Association:—"I send a sketch of the cromlech on L'Ancresse Common, Guernsey, on which we have discovered a string of indentations, probably made with a view to trim the side prop to the required size of the capstone. These are the first appearances of art in any of the primeval monuments, and nowhere have we found anything of the kind excepting on a menhir in the parish of the Forest.... The use of these indents we can only guess at; but as they follow the fracture of the stone, (granite,) the early method of breaking stones would be explained."[81] The Bonnington Mains Cromlech is of large size. The [Pg 68]capstone, which now rests on only two of its supporters, measures 11½ feet in length, and 10½ feet in greatest breadth. It bears the name of The Witch's Stone,[82] in accordance with the rustic legend which ascribes its origin to an emissary of the famed old Scottish wizard, Michael Scot. The term cromlech is probably derived from cromadh (Gaelic) or cromen (Welsh), signifying a roof or vault, and clach or lech, a stone. But the compound word is of ancient use in Scotland. An extensive district in the neighbourhood of Dunblane, Perthshire, which still bears the name of the Cromlix, is remarkable for various large transported blocks scattered over its surface. One of these, which has been supposed to have formed the capstone of a large cromlech, measures 15½ by 10 feet; but it is very doubtful if it owes either its form or position to human hands. According to the proposed derivation the name may be rendered the suspended stone; and its application to a district covered with transported rocks from the neighbouring Ochils, of a date long prior to the historic era, is in no way inconsistent with its more usual application to the primitive monolithic structures. We have no satisfactory evidence that these are Celtic monuments. The tendency of our present researches leads to the conclusion that they are not, but that they are the work of an elder race, of whose language we have little reason to believe any relic has survived to our day. On this supposition the old name of Cromlech is of recent origin compared with the structures to which it is applied; and of this its derivation affords the strongest confirmation. It is just such a term as strangers would adopt, being simply descriptive of the actual appearance of the monument, but conveying no idea of its true character as a sepulchral memorial.

The Witch's Stone, Bonnington Mains, Mid-Lothian

[Pg 69]

Such are the monumental structures belonging to the primitive periods; but examples of the cist and cinerary urn, deposited without any superincumbent mound, are of extremely frequent occurrence. They are most commonly grouped in considerable numbers, indicating the ordinary rites of sepulture contemporary with the monumental tumulus or cairn. In the first of these, as in cists found underneath ancient cairns and tumuli, the body appears to have been generally interred in a contracted posture, with the knees drawn up to the breast; and some examples would even seem to indicate that the limb bones were broken when the body could not otherwise be disposed within the straitened dimensions which custom prescribed for the primitive tomb. The custom may be traced to the idea prevalent long after the Christian era, that it was unworthy of a warrior to die in his bed. The rude Briton was accordingly interred seated, and with his weapons of stone or bronze at his side, ready to spring up when the sound of the war-cry should summon him to renew the strife. It seems probable that some few cists of full proportions belong to a period prior to this custom, but it undoubtedly prevailed for ages, and probably did not disappear till after the introduction of Christianity. The short stone cist has been discovered of late years in the immediate vicinity of some of the most ancient Christian churches in the Orkneys, while examples of a full-sized cist, with the inclosed skeleton extended at length, are met with under circumstances, and with accompanying relics, which leave no doubt that they belong to both of the primitive periods. One singular variation from the custom of burial in the sitting posture has been noted, in which the body has been interred with the knees bent, but laid on the right side. It must, however, be at all times extremely difficult to ascertain the exact position in which the body has been originally laid, from the little crumbling heap of decayed bones lying in the contracted cist; and there is no failing to which antiquarian observers seem at present more liable[Pg 70] than that of seeing too much. An intelligent correspondent writes from Orkney,—

"Graves are frequently found in which the skeletons lie in various positions; in some cases as if the bodies had been huddled into the grave without any care; in others the knees are considerably bent, and the skeletons lie on the right side. Several such examples have been discovered in Sandwick; and in a grave which I recently opened in Westray, the skeleton was found on its right side in a similar posture. I examined it carefully, and it conveyed the impression to my mind that the individual had been slain in battle, and the body had been laid in the grave in the posture it was found on the field of conflict. A similar posture has been observed in skeletons found in different islands. The rude figure of a Calvary cross carved on the stone which formed a side of one of the graves in Sanday, seems to indicate that they were made subsequent to the introduction of Christianity, in the same way that a mallet-head of gneiss, beautifully polished, found at the right hand of a skeleton buried in a sitting posture in a grave in Sandwick, denoted a date prior to that era."[83] It is possible that the body laid on its right side with contracted limbs, may be found to indicate the transition-period prior to its interment at full length. The latter mode of burial appears, in England at least, to have been restored in Anglo-Saxon times, and before the introduction of Christianity.

A very general impression prevails that the primitive cists are invariably found lying north and south. But this is a hasty conclusion, which has been the more readily adopted from the distinction it seems to furnish in contrast to the medieval custom of laying the head towards the west, that the Christian might look to the point from whence he expected his Saviour at his second coming. Abundant evidence exists to disprove the universal use of any particular direction in laying the cists or interring the dead in the primitive period. A few examples will suffice to show this. In 1824 a number of cists were discovered in making a new approach to Blair Drummond House, near the river Teith, Stirlingshire. They were of the usual character, varying in size, but none of them large enough to hold a full-grown body laid at length. Some contained urns of various dimensions, with burnt bones and ashes, while in others the bones had no appearance of having been exposed to fire. The urns were extremely rude and simple in form, and no metallic relics were discovered among them. Here, therefore, we have a primitive place of sepulture, in a locality already noted for some remarkable evidences of very remote population. But the cists lay irregularly in various directions, giving no indication of any chosen mode or prevailing custom.[84] In 1814 several cists were discovered [Pg 71]in the parish of Borthwick, Mid-Lothian, of the ordinary character and proportions, and in some cases containing urns, one of which is now in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Others have since been discovered in the same neighbourhood at various times, but like those on the banks of the Teith, "they were placed without any regard to order."[85] In constructing the new road to Leith, leading from the centre of Bellevue Crescent, Edinburgh, in 1823, several stone cists were found, of the usual circumscribed dimensions and rude construction of the primitive period, but being disposed nearly due east and west, were assumed without further evidence to be "of course since the introduction of Christianity."[86] Another similar relic of the aboriginal occupants of the site of the modern Scottish capital was found in 1822, in digging the foundation of a house on the west side of the Royal Circus. In this case the cist lay north and south, but the head was laid at the south end. The whole skeleton, with the exception of a few of the teeth, crumbled to dust on being touched.[87] In a cist discovered in 1790, under a large cairn in the parish of Kilbride, the skeleton lay with its head to the east. Such was its great age, that it also speedily crumbled to dust.[88] Within the district of Argyleshire, now occupied by the villages of Dunoon and Kilmun, many primitive cists have been exposed, rudely constructed of unhewn slabs of the native schistose slate, and some of them containing lance and arrow-heads of flint, and other equally characteristic relics, but the irregularity of their disposition proved that convenience alone dictated the direction in which the bodies were laid. Other examples of irregular though methodic arrangement of the cists found in cairns have already been noted, and it would be easy to multiply similar instances. One more will suffice. In the neighbourhood of the parish church of Cairnie, Aberdeenshire, various cists have been exhumed of late years, lying in different and apparently quite irregular directions. One found in 1836, by a farm-servant while digging for sand, lay at a depth of about 2½ feet below the surface. Its interior dimensions were four feet by three feet, and it contained a human skeleton with the head laid towards the east end. At the right side was a rude hand-made urn 5¾ inches in height, which is now preserved in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries.

It is obvious, from these examples, that the mere direction in which [Pg 72]the body is laid is not in itself conclusive proof either of Pagan or Christian sepulture. But there does also occur a numerous class of instances, which seem to indicate that at some early period importance was attached to the direction in which the body was laid, and then the cist was placed north and south, or rather north-east and south-west, with the head towards the north, and designed, it may be, to look towards the meridian sun. So many instances of this are familiar to archæologists, that it seems hardly necessary to produce examples: but two of a peculiar character may be deserving of special notice. In March 1826, a farmer on the estate of Wormeston, near Fifeness, in levelling a piece of ground, discovered, at a depth of ten feet from the surface, thirty cists, disposed in two regular rows, at equal distances apart, and with the heads towards the north-east. Their arrangement was peculiar, and obviously the result of some special design. A line drawn along their ends was nearly due east and west, and from this they declined obliquely, in the direction of north-east and south-west. The whole lay parallel, and equidistant from each other, and in the centre of each of the intervening spaces an oblong stone was placed so as to abut against the sides of the adjacent cists.[89] Another group, disposed nearly similarly to this, was brought to light on the levelling of a long barrow of unusually large dimensions, in the parish of Strathblane, Dumbartonshire. Urns were found within the cists full of earth and burnt bones; and alongside of each was a column of about three feet in height, selected from basaltic rocks in the neighbourhood, many of which assume the form of regular quadrangular crystals. The position of the bodies appears to have been north and south, as the barrow, which measured sixty yards in length, lay east and west.[90]

The discovery of any important deviation from the customary rites of sepulture has already been referred to as probable evidence of some unwonted change in the social condition of a people; marking, it may be, the introduction of a new element into the national creed, or the violent intrusion of some foreign race of conquerors, displacing older customs by the law of the sword. In the introduction of the funeral pile and the cinerary urn, we have one important evidence of the adoption of novel rites. In the systematic disposition of the body in a fixed direction, it is probable that we may trace another and [Pg 73]still earlier change. Both practices are deserving of more careful investigation than they have yet received, in the relation they bear to the progressive advances of the primitive races of Scotland. Without the opportunity of comparing more extensive and trustworthy observations than we yet possess, it would be premature to insist upon the inferences suggested by them. But it accords with many other indications that we should find less method or design in the rude sepulchres of the earliest aborigines, than of those who had long located themselves in the glades of the old Caledonian forests, and abandoned nomadic habits for the cares and duties of a pastoral life. The establishment of such a distinction would furnish a valuable chronological guide to the archæologist in the arrangement of his materials for primitive history; meanwhile, it is only suggested for further observation. The early Christian adapted the position of his grave to the aspirations of his faith; and a similar practice among older races, in all probability, bore a kindred relation to some lesson of their Pagan creed, the nature of which is not yet perhaps utterly beyond recall. The question of divers races is, at least, one of comparatively easy solution. On this the investigations of the practical ethnologist may throw much light, by establishing proofs of distinct craniological characteristics pertaining to the remains interred north and south, from those belonging, as I conceive, to a still earlier period,—before the rude Caledonian had learned to attach a meaning to the direction in which he was laid to rest in the arms of death, or to dispose himself for his long sleep with thoughts which anticipated a future resurrection.


[51] Hibbert's Shetland, p. 452.

[52] Account of the Islands of Orkney, by James Wallace, M.D., 1700, p. 58.

[53] Notices of remains found in tumuli and cists, of gigantic stature, frequently occur in the Statistical Accounts and other local records, but the statements are generally too vague to be of any value. Erroneous opinions, I believe, most frequently arise from comparing the femur or thigh-bone with the apparent length of the thigh, by persons ignorant of anatomy. Nothing, however, more readily secures distinction among a rude warlike people than the personal strength accompanying superior stature, if combined with corresponding courage; it need not therefore excite surprise if the larger tumuli should occasionally be found to cover the remains of some primitive chief of gigantic stature.

[54] The account which Tacitus gives of the simpler rites of the ancient Germans probably more nearly accords with those of the primitive Britons: "Funerum nulla ambitio; id solum observatur, ut corpora clarorum virorum certis lignis crementur. Struem rogi nec vestibus, nec odoribus cumulant; sua cuique arma, quorundam igni et equus adjicitur."—Tacit. de Morib. Germ. cap. 27.

[55] Ipsum cremare apud Romanos non fuit veteris instituti, terra condebantur.—Hist. Nat. lib. vii. c. 54.

[56] Cases occur where the original tumulus has been adopted as a place of sepulture long subsequent to its original construction. Care is therefore required to discriminate between superficial interments of late date, and the original cist or urns; but it is rarely difficult to detect the evidences of intrusion. The slight depth at which they are generally interred affords in itself a striking contrast to the labour exercised by the constructors of the sepulchral mound. It is also to be borne in remembrance, that all the urns found in tumuli are not sepulchral, or proofs of cremation.

[57] De Bell. Gall. lib. vi. chap. 19.

[58] Dr. Hodgkin read a paper at the meeting of the British Association, held at York in 1844, on the dog as the associate of man, chiefly with a view to shew how much the study of the inferior animals which, by accident or design, have accompanied man in his diffusion over the globe, is calculated to throw light on the affinities of races.

[59] Ure's History of Rutherglen, p. 124.

[60] Ure's History of Kilbride, pp. 216-219.

[61] By N. K. Sjöborg. Two vols. quarto. Stockholm, 1822.

[62] Graham's Antiquities of Iona, Plate III.

[63] Worsaae's Primeval Antiquities, p. 109.

[64] Sinclair's Statist. Acc. vol. xix. p. 441.

[65] New Statist. Acc. vol. x. p. 717.

[66] Petrie's Eccles. Architect. of Ireland, pp. 103-5.

[67] Add. to Camd. Brit. in Radnorshire.

[68] New Statist. Acc. vol. iv., Kirkcudbright, pp. 132, 133.

[69] Pennant's Tour, vol. i. p. 156.

[70] New Statist. Acc., Dumfriesshire, vol. iv. p. 475.

[71] Itiner. Septen. Append. pp. 171-177.

[72] Dumfries Journal, June 24, 1828. MS. Communication, Soc. Antiq. Scot., Andrew Brown, Esq., read March 9, 1829.

[73] Sinclair's Statistical Account, vol. i. p. 292.

[74] Ure's Kilbride, p. 213.

[75] Itin. Septen. p. 42.

[76] Sinclair's Statistical Account, vol. viii. p. 497.

[77] This point has been conclusively established in the valuable communications of Mr. F. C. Lukis to the Archæological Journal, on the Primeval Antiquities of the Channel Islands, vol. i. pp. 142, 222. The original merit, however, of showing that cromlechs are "sepulchral chambers," and not "Druidical altars," is, I believe, due to a well-known and zealous antiquary, Mr. John Bell, of Dungannon, who published his views in the Newry Magazine, 1816, vol. ii. p. 234, from whence they were copied into various other journals.

[78] E. B. Barrett.

[79] Martin's Western Isles, p. 220.

[80] Archæol. Scot. vol. iii. p. 43.

[81] Journal of Brit. Archæol. Association, vol. iii. p. 342.

[82] While this sheet is passing through the press, I have had an opportunity of exploring this cromlech. The natural rock was laid bare at a very little depth without meeting with the slightest traces of sepulchral remains, and were it not for the remarkable line of perforations along the centre of the capstone, the whole might have been ascribed to a natural origin. It was found impossible, however, to get directly under the great stone, without the risk of overthrowing the whole.

[83] MS. Letter, George Petrie, Kirkwall.

[84] Archæol. Scot. vol. iii. p. 42.

[85] Archæol. Scot. vol. ii. pp. 77, 100.

[86] Archæol. Scot. vol. iii. p. 48.

[87] Archæol. Scot. vol. iii. p. 49.

[88] Ure's Kilbride, p. 213.

[89] MS. Letter, G. W. Knight, Libr. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 1829.

[90] Ure's Rutherglen, p. 223.

[Pg 74]


Before proceeding to examine in detail the varied contents of the Scottish tumuli, it may be well to glance at the evidence we possess of the nature of the habitations reared and occupied by the constructors of such enduring memorials of their dead as have been described in the preceding chapter. Scattered over the uncultivated downs both of England and Scotland, there still remain numerous relics of the dwellings of our barbarian ancestry, which have escaped the wasting tooth of centuries, or the more destructive inroads of modern cultivation. Sir Richard Colt Hoare remarks, in his "Ancient Wiltshire,"—"We have undoubted proofs from history, and from existing remains, that the earlier habitations were pits, or slight excavations in the ground, covered and protected from the inclemency of the weather by boughs of trees and sods of turf." Of these primitive pit-dwellings numerous traces are discernible on Leuchar Moss, in the parish of Skene, and in other localities of Aberdeenshire; on the banks of Loch Fine, Argyleshire; in the counties of Inverness and Caithness; and in various other districts of Scotland still uninvaded by the plough. They are almost invariably found in groups, affording evidence of the gregarious and social habits of man in the simplest state of society. The rudest of them consist simply of shallow excavations in the soil, of a circular or oblong form, and rarely exceeding seven or eight feet in diameter. Considerable numbers of these may be observed in several districts both of Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire, each surrounded with a raised rim of earth, in which a slight break generally indicates the door, and not improbably also the window and chimney of the aboriginal dwel[Pg 75]ling. To this class belong the "pond barrow," already referred to as erroneously ranked among sepulchral constructions. Within a few miles of Aberdeen are still visible what seem to be the remains of a large group, or township, of such rude relics of domestic architecture. These, Professor Stuart suggests, may mark the site of the capital of the Taixali, when the Roman legions passed the river Dee in the second century.[91] They consist of some hundreds of circular walls scattered over more than a mile in extent, of two or three feet high, and from twelve to twenty feet in diameter. Their varying sizes may be presumed to indicate the gradations of rank which, we know, were established among the northern Britons, who were undoubtedly, at the period of the Roman invasion, a race far in advance of the first constructors of the rude pit-dwelling or "pond barrow" previously referred to. Nothing, however, has yet been discovered on this site to indicate any traces of Roman influence. On digging within the area of the pit-dwellings, a mass of charred wood or ashes, mingled with fragments of decayed bones and vegetable matter, are generally found; and their site is frequently discernible on the brown heath, or the grey slope of the hill-side, from the richer growth and brighter green of the grass, within the circle sacred of old to the hospitable rites of our barbarian ancestry, and where the accumulated refuse of their culinary operations have thus sufficed to enrich the soil.

The first indication of a slight advancement in the constructive skill of the primitive architect is discernible in the strengthening of his domestic inclosure with stone. This is not infrequently accompanied with small circular or oblong field inclosures, as if indicating the dawn of civilisation, manifested in the protection of personal property, and the rudiments of a pastoral life, in the folding of sheep and cattle. Still greater social progress would seem to be indicated in those examples, also occasionally to be met with in various districts, where a commanding site appears to have been chosen for the location; and traces still remain of an earthen rampart inclosing the whole, as on the Kaimes Hill, in the parish of Ratho, Mid-Lothian. Such, perhaps, may be the remains of a British camp, or of a temporary retreat in time of war.

With this class also may be grouped the "Picts' kilns," on which Chalmers, Train, Sir Walter Scott, and other antiquaries, have expended much conjecture and useless learning. These are of frequent[Pg 76] occurrence in Wigton and Kircudbright shires, as well as in parts of the neighbouring counties. They consist of elliptical or pear-shaped inclosures, measuring generally about sixteen feet in length and seven or eight feet in breadth. Externally the walls appear to be of earth, sometimes standing nearly three feet high. On removing the surface they are found to be constructed internally of small stones, frequently bearing marks of fire. They are popularly believed to be ancient breweries reared by the Picts for the manufacture of a mysterious beverage called heather ale. Sir Walter Scott suggests, with not much greater probability, that they are primitive lime kilns. They are said by Mr. Train to be invariably constructed on the south side of a hill, close to the margin of a brook, and with the door or narrow passage facing the stream. Future excavations on their sites may perhaps furnish more conclusive evidence of their original purpose.

Greater art is apparent in the relics of another class of ancient Scottish dwellings occasionally met with in different parts of the country. In the Black Moss, already referred to, on the banks of Etive, Argyleshire, at various points where some advance has been made in recovering the waste for agricultural purposes, the progress of cultivation has uncovered rough oval pavings of stone, bearing marks of fire, and frequently covered with charred ashes. These are generally found to measure about six feet in greatest diameter, and are sometimes surrounded with the remains of pointed hazel stakes or posts, the relics, doubtless, of the upright beams with which the walls of the ancient fabric was framed. Julius Cæsar describes the dwellings of the Britons as similar to those of the Gauls;[92] and these we learn, from the accounts both of Strabo and Diodorus Siculus, were constructed of wood, of a circular form, and with lofty tapering roofs of straw. Such apparently were the structures, the remains of which are now brought to light within the limits of the Dalriadic possessions. These ancient Caledonian hearths, now quenched for so many centuries, are discovered beneath an accumulation of from eight to ten feet of moss, under which lies a stratum of vegetable mould about a foot deep, resting upon an alluvial bed of gravel and sand; the original soil upon which the large sepulchral cairns of the same district have been reared.

A discovery made at Dalgenross, near Comrie, in 1823, though de[Pg 77]scribed in a communication to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland as an ancient tomb, manifestly furnishes another example of the same class of primitive dwellings. At Comrie, as in twenty other equally probable localities, antiquaries of the district have pronounced some imperfect and half-obliterated earth-works to be the remains of a Roman camp, and the scene of Agricola's famous victory of Mons Grampius! The writer, learning that workmen were trenching this interesting spot, remarks,—"I hastened to where the men were at work, and found that they had come upon a circle of flat stones set on edge, and at the bottom a paving of large flag-stones. The cavity was filled with a kind of black earth, pieces of charred wood, and also some fragments of iron, but so completely defaced with rust that it is impossible to say to what purpose they have been applied." On pursuing the investigation further, pieces of charcoal and burned wood were found, along with charred wheat, which might possibly suggest its having been a granary; but its general characteristics much more nearly assimilate it to a native dwelling, to which, it may be, the torch of the Roman legionary applied the brand that reduced it to a blackened ruin.

Among the relics of primitive domestic architecture brought to light in later times, no class is more remarkable than the weems, or subterranean dwellings which have been discovered in different parts of Scotland. Of this class are two structures discovered under ground in the parish of Tealing, Forfarshire. One of them consisted of several apartments formed with large flat stones without any cement; and in it were found wood-ashes, several fragments of large earthen vessels, and an ancient stone hand-mill, or querne. The other was a single vault constructed in the same manner, measuring internally about four feet both in height and width, and in which were found a broad earthen vessel, and a stone celt or hatchet.[93] In another opened in the parish of Monzie, Perthshire, a stone celt and bronze sword were found, both of which are preserved at Monzie House. Chalmers supplies a curious list of similar subterranean dwellings discovered at various times in Forfar, Perth, Aberdeen, Ross, Sutherland, and Inverness shires, and in the Orkney Islands.[94] The like structures are noted by Martin, among the antiquities of the islands of Walay, Erisca, and Skye;[95] and by Pennant also in the latter island. They are de[Pg 78]scribed by Martin as "little stone-houses, built under ground, called earth houses, which served to hide a few people and their goods in time of war."

The general name applied in Scotland to these subterranean habitations is Weems, from the Gaelic word uamha, a cave; and as this name is in use in the low countries, where nearly all traces of the Celtic dialect have been lost as a living language, probably since the era of the "Saxon Conquest," it may be accepted as no insignificant evidence of their Celtic origin or use. In Aberdeenshire, where they have been found in greater number than in any other single district, they are more generally known, as in the Hebrides, by the name of eirde (i.e., earth) houses.

An interesting account of a large group of weems discovered in Aberdeenshire, is given by Professor Stuart in the Archæologia Scotica,[96] and since then many more have been brought to light in the same district. Several of these opened of late years in Strathdon are described with great minuteness in the Statistical Account of that parish.[97] On a bleak moor in the adjoining parish, not far from the old castle of Kildrummie—which, from many large fossil trees dug up in it, appears to have once been an extensive forest—the largest assemblage of these singular habitations occurs which has yet been discovered in Scotland. Others have been found about six miles further up the country, at Glenkindrie, at Buchan, and near the source of the Don, one of the wildest districts of the Highlands. They are indeed scarcely less common than the sepulchral cairn. My object, however, is not so much to accumulate numerous examples, as to select a few characteristic types of each class of Scottish antiquities; though these weems appear to possess peculiar claims to minute description, from their very frequent occurrence. In general, no external indication affords the slightest clue to their discovery. To the common observer, the dry level heath or moor under which they lie presents no appearance of having ever been disturbed by the hand of man; and he may traverse the waste until every natural feature has become familiar to his eye, without suspecting that underneath his very feet lie the dwellings and domestic utensils of remote antiquity.

The Aberdeenshire weems are constructed of huge masses of granite, frequently above six feet in length, and though by no means [Pg 79]uniform either in internal shape or dimensions, a general style of construction prevails throughout the whole. Some of them have been found upwards of thirty feet long, and from eight to nine feet wide. The walls are made to converge towards the top, and the whole is roofed in by means of the primitive substitute for the arch which characterizes the cyclopean structures of infant Greece, and the vast temples and palaces of Mexico and Yucatan. The huge stones overlap each other in succession, until the intervening space is sufficiently reduced to admit of the vault being completed by a single block extending from side to side. They have not infrequently smaller chambers attached to them, generally approached by passages not above three feet in height; and it affords a curious evidence of the want of efficient tools in the builders of these subterranean structures, that where these side apartments are only separated from the main chamber by the thickness of the wall, the stones, though placed flush with the walls of the latter, project irregularly into the small cells, giving them a singularly unshapely and ragged appearance. Similar structures, but of smaller dimensions, have been discovered in Lanarkshire, at Cartland Craigs, in the neighbourhood of Stonebyres, and at a place called Cairney Castle. In these last were found quernes, deers' horns, and bones. In one uncovered in the parish of Auchterhouse, Forfarshire, a brass ring was discovered; and both there, and in another in the same parish, were ashes, bones, and quernes.[98] The Rev. Thomas Constable furnishes a very interesting description of one near Lundie House, in the latter county, which was minutely surveyed by the eminent antiquary, Lord Hailes. Its contents were of the usual description, including several quernes about fourteen inches in diameter.[99] So also, in a minute account of similar structures in Caithness and Sutherland, furnished to Pennant by the parish minister of Reay, the writer remarks:—"We found in them nothing but hand-mills, or what the Highlanders call quernes, which were only eighteen inches in diameter, and great heaps of deers' bones and horns, as they (the Picts) lived much more by hunting than any other means."[100] The discovery, indeed, of the primitive hand-mill in these ancient dwellings is so frequent as to be worthy of special notice, and might seem to indicate that their original destination had been for store-houses or granaries, did not the constant occur[Pg 80]rence of the bones of domestic animals, or of those most prized in the chase, and frequently in considerable quantities, leave no room for doubt that they must have been occupied as places of habitation. They agree very nearly with the description furnished by Tacitus of the winter dwellings of the Germans, whom he represents as digging caves in the earth, in which they lay up their grain, and whither they retire in the winter, or on the advance of an enemy to plunder the open country.[101] The entrance to such of these subterranean dwellings as have been found sufficiently perfect to afford indications of their original character, appears to have generally been by a slanting doorway between two long, upright stones, through which the occupant must have slid into his dark abode. Occasionally a small aperture has been found at the further end, apparently to give vent to the fire, the charcoal ashes of which lie extinguished on the long-deserted floor. In some a passage of considerable length has formed the vestibule; but so far as now appears, a solitary aperture served most frequently alike for doorway, chimney, ventilator, and even window, in so far as any gleam of daylight could penetrate into the darkened vault. One is forcibly reminded, while groping in these aboriginal retreats, of Elia's realisations of the strange social state to which they pertain, in his quaint rhapsody on Candle-light, "our peculiar and household planet! Wanting it, what savage unsocial nights must our ancestors have spent, wintering in caves and unilluminated fastnesses! They must have lain about and grumbled at one another in the dark. What repartees could have passed, when you must have felt about for a smile, and handled a neighbour's cheek to be sure that he understood it! This accounts for the seriousness of the elder poetry. It has a sombre cast, derived from the tradition of these un-lanterned nights!" The grave humorist goes on to picture a supper scene in these unlighted halls, rich with truthful imaginings, mingled with his curious but thoughtful jests:—

"Things that were born, when none but the still night,
And his dumb candle, saw his pinching throes."

In truth, these dwellings, constructed with such laborious ingenuity in every district of Scotland, seem to throw a strange light upon that dim and remote era to which they belong, giving us some insight into the domestic habits and social comforts of a period heretofore dark as their own unillumined vaults.

[Pg 81]

Adjoining many of the weems small earthen inclosures are discernible; some of which are square, measuring about fifteen paces each way, with the area somewhat below the surrounding soil, and have probably been constructed for folding sheep or cattle. Others are circular, and so small as to leave little doubt that there must have stood the slight huts, constructed of turf and branches of trees, in which the architect of the cyclopean structure dwelt during the brief warmth of summer, while he sought refuge from the frosts and snows of our northern winter in the neighbouring subterranean retreat. The number of weems frequently found together appears altogether inconsistent with the idea of their construction as mere places of concealment. They are manifestly the congregated dwellings of a social community, though strangely differing from any that have dwelt in the land within the era of authentic history. When we compare these dwellings with the clay huts still common in many a Highland district, or with such humble Lowland biggings as those which have won a new sacredness as the birthplaces of Hogg or Burns, it is impossible to overlook the remarkable differences presented by the two states of society, separated not more widely by time than by variance of habits and ideas. How striking is the contrast between the artlessness of the Ayrshire cottage, that sufficed, with its straw roof, to satisfy the wants of one among the great master-spirits of all times, and the labour and ingenuity expended in producing these retreats of the Scottish aborigines. In rudeness of result perhaps both are on a par. The ingenious and methodic skill, however, entirely belongs to the old builders. Their mode of constructing with huge unhewn stones, frequently brought from a considerable distance, seems to point them out as the architects of that same remote era in which the rude monumental standing stones and circular groups of monoliths were reared, which still abound in so many districts of the Scottish mainland and surrounding isles.

Similar subterranean structures have been discovered at different times in Orkney, some of them of considerable extent, and including various recesses and chambers branching off from the chief central apartment. An unusually minute and interesting account of one in the parish of Shapinshay is given in the Old Statistical Accounts,[102] by the Rev. Dr. George Barry, the historian of Orkney, in which was found a beautiful torquated ring, evidently of primitive workmanship.

[Pg 82]

Structures of the same character, on the mainland of Orkney, were explored by Lieutenant F. W. L. Thomas, R.N., while engaged in the Admiralty Survey in 1848. In the course of his investigation of one of these at Savrock, about a mile to the westward of Kirkwall, and close to the sea-shore, some curious evidence was disclosed, showing the primitive arts of its builders, and their inability to overcome an obstacle requiring unusual skill or effective tools. In excavating the site for this subterranean dwelling they appear to have cleared away the soil till they reached the natural rock, which forms the floor of the vault. Pillars constructed at irregular intervals admit of the whole being covered by immense slabs resting on them, where the width is too great to be overarched at so slight an elevation by converging walls. A long passage leads from this chamber, floored, like it, with the natural rock. In one place, however, an irregular elevation of the strata occurs. Such an obstacle was either beyond the skill of the laborious architects, or at least demanded more exertion than they cared to expend on its removal; and the roof has accordingly been elevated so as to admit of free passage by ascending and descending over the superimposed rock. The passages, as in nearly all the structures of this class which have been carefully explored, are extremely straitened. Unfortunately this primitive dwelling supplied materials for building a neighbouring farm-house and offices before Lieutenant Thomas had an opportunity of exploring it; so that what remained was in a very imperfect and dilapidated state. Portions of the roof still entire, constructed of huge masses of unhewn stone—one of them measuring about five feet long—afforded abundant evidence that no amount of mere physical labour was grudged in the completion of the edifice, and seem to justify the probable assignment of it to a period prior to the introduction of metallic tools. In another of these subterranean buildings, however, situated on the Holm of Papey, Lieutenant Thomas observed some doubtful indications of the use of tools. "On the side wall, near the entrance," he remarks, "and about six feet from the floor, there is a neatly engraved circle, about four inches in diameter; there is also another stone, with the appearance of two small circles touching each other, cut upon it; but it is so common to find geometrical figures upon the Orkney flags, arising from a semi-crystallization of the pyrites which they contain, that I am unable to decide whether these are natural or not." The height of the passage where it remains perfect is only two[Pg 83] feet seven inches; but nearly one-half of it is unroofed, and heaps of large stones lying scattered about afford evidence of the great extent of the building when complete. Within and around the area of this ancient structure abundant indications were discovered of its having been used as a dwelling-place. A large accumulation of wood or peat-ashes shewed that it must have been occupied for a lengthened period; and this was further proved by the great quantity of the bones of domestic animals scattered about the place. Those of sheep, apparently of the small northern breed still found in Orkney, were the most numerous; but besides these, there were skulls and bones of horses and oxen, the skull and portions of the horns of a deer, and a large bone of a whale. A thick layer of the shells of the periwinkle, L. Littoralis, covered the building and the adjacent ground, mixed sparingly with the oyster, the escallop, the common whelk, and other edible mollusca, which had evidently been consumed in great quantities on the spot. Along with these were also found a few extremely rude implements, the relics of the primitive arts of the builders, besides an antler of a deer artificially severed from the complete tyne. These objects were roughly fashioned from the thigh-bone of an ox, and designed apparently as handles for some weapon or cutting implement, most probably of shell or flint. Other Orkney relics of the same interesting class, but exhibiting more completeness of design, and accompanied with attempts at ornament, are described and figured in a subsequent chapter.

This large, though very imperfect example of the dwellings of primitive communities of the ancient population of the Orkneys, may be properly classed with the weems of the Scottish mainland, though it is not entirely subterranean. The floor is nine feet below the natural surface of the ground; and from the mode by which the whole appears to have been in-roofed with immense overlapping stones, it must have projected somewhat above the surface, and was probably covered over with a raised mound of earth. In this respect it approaches, in some degree, to another class of buildings, which appear to be peculiar to Orkney and the neighbouring districts of Caithness and Sutherland, though it is possible enough that they may have been at one time no less common on the whole Scottish mainland. These structures, for which it may be convenient to retain the popular name of Picts' houses, are not strictly speaking, subterranean, but erected generally on the level ground, or, at furthest, excavated in part out of the side of a hill,[Pg 84] so as to admit of a level entrance. Externally they are scarcely distinguishable from the larger tumuli, but on digging into the green mound it is found to cover a series of large chambers, built generally with stones of considerable size, and converging towards the centre, where an opening appears to have been left for light and ventilation. These differ very little from many of the subterranean weems, excepting that they are erected on the natural surface of the soil, and have been buried by means of an artificial mound heaped over them. Barry has minutely described one, which he calls an "ancient Pick house," opened at Quanterness, near Kirkwall.[103] Another relic of the same class was explored during the past year by Mr. George Petrie of Kirkwall, to whose valuable communications on kindred subjects I have already had occasion to refer. Through his kindness I have been favoured with a minute account of the result of his labours, as well as with the plans engraved, drawn from careful measurements taken at the time.

Drawn by Lieut. F. W. L. Thomas R.N. from Plans by George Petrie, Esq.
Published by Sutherland & Knox, Edinburgh.

[Pg 85]

In the month of October 1849, Mr. Petrie's attention was directed to a large tumulus or green knoll, which stands about half-way up the western declivity of Wideford-hill, overlooking the beautiful bay of Frith on the mainland of Orkney, and within a short distance of the Pict's house of Quanterness, described in Barry's History of Orkney. Being on a steep and unfrequented part of the hill, it appears to have almost entirely escaped observation. An opening, however, had been attempted at some former period, but abandoned after an excavation of about a couple of feet in depth had been effected. Mr. Petrie employed men to make a section into the mound, and himself superintended and assisted in the operation, which proved one of considerable time and labour, from the large stones and the quantity of clay used in completing the external mound, as well as in the masonry of the structure found underneath. The building appears to have been constructed in the following manner:—A place for the site having been scooped out of the side of the hill, the cells or apartments were built of large unhewn stones, the walls being made gradually to converge as they rose in height, until they approached to within a foot at top. Externally the work was bounded by a wall of about two feet high. The entire structure was then brought to a conical shape with stones and clay; the stones being disposed with considerable regularity, and over all a thick layer of turf or peat had been laid. The mound which encloses the whole is about one hundred and forty feet in greatest circumference, and forty-five feet in diameter. The work of exploration was commenced by making a cut, six feet in breadth, upon the north side, and clearing away the stones and clay in the direction of the highest part of the mound. On penetrating towards the centre, at about six feet from the top, a stone was exposed placed on edge, about eighteen inches long and nine inches thick, underneath which lay another, which was found to cover a hole of about a foot square, at the top of the chamber marked D in the plan. (Plate I.) On obtaining entrance to this chamber or cell, it proved, like those subsequently opened, to be constructed with walls gradually converging on all sides towards the top, and to measure five feet nine inches in length from north to south, four feet eight inches in breadth, and five feet six inches in height. On the west side of the chamber, the small passage, marked h, was observed appearing to communicate with another apartment, but it was so blocked up with stones and rubbish, that excavation had to be resumed from the exterior. After working for upwards of an hour, the large stone, marked m, was reached, and on removing it an entrance was effected into the central chamber A. This was about three-fourths filled with stones and rubbish, heaped up under the opening marked i, on digging into which bones and teeth of the horse, cow, sheep, boar, &c., were discovered mixed with the rubbish, and also some which were supposed to be those of deer, but not a vestige of human bones.

The general plan will convey the best idea of the form and arrangement of the chambers. The central apartment, A, is an irregular oblong vault, ten feet long, five feet in greatest width, and 7½ feet in height from the bottom to the lower edge of the stones marked o o. Above this extends the opening i, which had no other covering than the outer layer of turf. Mr. Petrie came to the conclusion, after a thorough examination of the whole, that the rubbish found in this large chamber was the debris of some later building erected above the mound, the materials of which must have been precipitated through the narrow opening, as no part of the subterranean structure was found imperfect with the exception of the passage g. From the floor of the chamber to the extreme height of the mound is twelve feet. At the north end of the central chamber the passage e leads to the cell C, measuring five feet seven inches long, four feet wide, and six feet high. From the east side of this a passage extends a considerable way, until it is abruptly terminated by the native rock. The cham[Pg 86]ber D, which was first entered, communicates with the central apartment by a short passage h, directly opposite to which is the long gallery b, which formed the entrance to the building from the western side of the mound. A third passage, a, proceeds in an oblique direction from the central chamber to a cell B, the proportions of which are six feet in length, three feet seven inches in width, and 6½ feet in height. Nothing found in this or any of the previously explored "Picts' houses" gives the slightest countenance to the idea that they were designed as places of sepulture. The most remarkable feature about them, however, and the one least compatible with their use as continuous dwelling-places, is the extremely circumscribed dimensions of the passages. The whole of them measure about fifteen inches in height by twenty-two inches in breadth, so that entrance could only be obtained by crawling on the ground. The arrangement affords a very striking confirmation of the barbarous state of the people, who were yet capable of displaying so much skill and ingenuity in the erection of these cyclopean structures. It is curious indeed that as civilisation progressed, primitive architecture became not only simpler but meaner, the ingenious builder learning to supply his wants by easier methods; while also the gregarious social ties which such laborious and extensive structures indicate were exchanged for the more refined separation into families, with, as we may assume, the gradual development of those virtues and affections which flourish only around the domestic hearth.

The first step in the descending scale indicative of the abandonment of the cyclopean architecture for simpler and less durable modes of construction, appears in a class of dwellings of similar character to the "Picts' houses," but inferior in their masonry, and generally smaller in size and less complete in design. Examples of this class have also been found in various parts of Scotland. They are generally more entirely subterranean than the "Picts' houses," partaking in this respect more of the character of the weems. They occupy, however, an intermediate position, being excavated for the most part in the side of a hill, so as to admit of an entrance level with the ground. They are also found more frequently in groups, and have probably been each the dwelling-place of a single family.

In these, oaken rafters appear to have supplied the place of the more ancient cyclopean arch, and the walls are generally built of smaller stones. Weems of this more fragile character have been[Pg 87] discovered at Prieston, near Glammis, in Forfarshire; at Alyth and Bendochy, Perthshire; and at Pennycuick, Mid-Lothian, as well as in other districts. One in particular, found at Alvie, Inverness-shire, measured sixty feet in length. These may be regarded as works of a later age than the more massive and enduring structures previously described, when the domestic habits of the old builders had survived their laborious arts and monolithic taste. One of the most singular groups of this latter class is a series of contiguous excavations, on the ridge of a hill immediately to the north of Inchtuthill, Inverness-shire, known in the district by the name of "the steed's stalls." Seven circular chambers are cut in the side of a steep bank, separated by partitions of about twelve feet thick. The floors are sunk about twenty feet, and each chamber measures fifteen feet in diameter. A long passage of about four feet wide has formed the original way of ingress, but the rafters, which most probably formed the roof, have long since disappeared, and only a very partial estimate can now be formed of the appearance presented by these singular chambers when complete.

With the same class also may be reckoned certain structures described by Pennant as the repositories of the ashes of sacrifices. One of these, within a few miles of Edinburgh, in the neighbourhood of Borthwick Castle, was brought to light by the plough coming in contact with its rough masonry, at a depth of only a foot below the surface. It may be described as pear-shaped, and with a passage continuing from the narrow end, measuring fifteen feet in length by two and a half in breadth. The masonry was of the rudest description, and nearly the whole space between the walls was filled with a rich black mould, irregularly interspersed with charcoal, fragments of bone, and the teeth of sheep and oxen.[104] A similar building was discovered about the same time in the east of Fife, and one closely corresponding to it has recently been disclosed by railway operations at Newstead, in the neighbourhood of Melrose. In this, as in the example above referred to, the narrow passage pointed nearly north-west; and its masonry was equally rude; but among its contents were various carved stones, apparently corresponding with Roman remains frequently found in that neighbourhood, and one in particular with the cable-pattern, or woollen fillet, so commonly employed by the Anglo-Roman sculptors.

[Pg 88]

Akin to such subterranean dwellings are the natural and artificial caves which, in Scotland, as in most other countries, have supplied hiding-places, retreats for anchorites, and even permanent native dwellings, and may be described along with this class, though belonging to many different periods. Such caves abound in Scotland, and especially along the coast, but in general their interest arises rather from the associations of popular traditions, than from any intrinsic peculiarity of character pertaining to them. Few such retreats are more remarkable, either for constructive art, or historic associations, than the well-known caves beneath the old tower of Hawthornden, near Edinburgh. They have been hewn, with great labour and ingenuity, in the rocky cliff which overhangs the river Esk. No tradition preserves the history or date of their execution, but concealment was evidently the chief design of the excavators. The original entrance is most ingeniously made in the shaft of a very deep draw-well, sunk in the court-yard of the castle, and from its manifest utility as the ordinary and indispensable appendage of the fortress, it most effectually conceals its adaptation as a means of ingress and communication with the rock chambers beneath. These are of various forms and sizes, and one in particular is pierced with a series of square recesses, somewhat resembling the columbaria of a Roman tomb, but assigned by popular tradition as the library of its later owner, Drummond the Scottish poet. Whatever was the purpose for which these were thus laboriously cut, the example is not singular. A large cave in Roxburghshire, hewn out in the lofty cliff which overhangs the Teviot, has in its sides similar recesses, and from their supposed resemblance to the interior of a pigeon-house, the cavern has received the name of the Doo-cave. Authentic notices of the Hawthornden caves occur so early as the reign of David II., when a daring band of Scottish adventurers made good their head-quarters there, while Edward held the newly fortified castle of Edinburgh, and the whole surrounding district. In the glen of the little river Ale, which falls into the Teviot at Ancrum, extensive groups of caves occur, all indicating, more or less, artificial adaptation, as human dwellings; and in many other districts similar evidences may be seen of temporary or permanent habitation, at some remote period, in these rude recesses. Along the coast of Arran there are several caves of various dimensions, one of which, at Drumandruin, or Drumidoon, is noted in the older traditions of the island as the lodging of Fin M'Coul,[Pg 89] the Fingal of Ossian, during his residence in Arran. Though low in the roof, it is sufficiently capacious for a hundred men to sit or lie in it. In this, as in the previous example, we find evidences of artificial operations, proving its connexion with races long posterior to those with whose works we have chiefly to do in this section of archæological inquiry. In the further end a large detached column of rock has a two-handed sword engraved on it, surmounted by a deer, and on the southern side of the cave a lunar figure is cut, similar in character to those frequently found on the sculptured pillars and crosses which abound in Scotland. It is now more frequently styled the king's cave, and described as the retreat of Robert the Bruce, while he lurked as a fugitive in the Western Isles; but like many other traditions of the Bruce this seems to be of very recent origin. Other caves in the same island are also of large dimensions, and variously associated with popular traditions, as, indeed, is generally the case wherever subterranean retreats of any considerable extent occur. Some are the supposed dwellings of old mythic chiefs, whose names still live in the traditional songs of the Gael. Others are the retreats which the primitive confessors of Scotland excavated or enlarged for their oratories or cells. Of the latter class are the caves of St. Molio, on the little island of Lamlash, or the Holy Isle, on the east coast of Arran; of St. Columba and St. Cormac, on the Argyleshire coast; of St. Ninian, in Wigtonshire; of St. Serf, at Dysart, on the Fifeshire coast; and the celebrated "ocean cave" of St. Rule, in St. Andrew's Bay. This last oratory consists of two chambers hewn out of the sandstone cliffs of that exposed coast. The inner apartment is a plain cell, entered from the supposed oratory of the Greek saint. The latter is nearly circular, measuring about ten feet in diameter, and has a stone altar left hewn in the solid rock on its eastern side. Possibly the singular dwarfie stone of Hoy, in Orkney, owes its origin to a similar source. A huge mass of square sandstone rock, which appears to have tumbled from a neighbouring cliff, has been hollowed out into three apartments, with a fire-place, vent, stone-bed, pillow, &c. The traditions of the island preserve strange tales of a giant and his wife who dwelt in this abode, and the "Descriptio Insularum Orchadium," written by Jo. Ben., (John the Benedictine,) in 1592, adds to the account of its internal accommodation the following somewhat whimsical provision for the comfort of the latter,—"Tempore camerationis fœmina gravida fuit, ut lectus testatur; nam ea pars lecti[Pg 90] in qua uxor cubuit effigiem habet ventri gravidi." Others of the Scottish caves and oratories are less artificial in their character. They are especially abundant in the Western Isles, and on the neighbouring coast, where the waves of the Atlantic have wrought out caverns far surpassing in extent and magnificence the largest in the interior of the country. Few of these, however, possess such marked features as to distinguish them from similar relics pertaining to no definite period, which are to be met with on every rocky coast exposed to the rude buffets of the ocean waves. One exception, indeed, may well claim to be singled out as unmatched by any other work of nature or art, though belonging to an older system than the primeval period of the archæologist. Amid scenery unsurpassed in the interest of its historic associations, or its venerable relics of medieval skill, stands the wondrous natural cave which popular tradition has associated with the favourite name of Fingal.

"Nor doth its entrance front in vain
To old Iona's holy fane,
That nature's voice might seem to say—
Well hast thou done, frail child of clay!
Thy humble powers that stately shrine
Tasked high and hard—but witness mine!"[105]

To those who are curious in investigating such ancient relics, Chalmers furnishes a very ample list of "Natural Caves in every part of North Britain, which have been improved into hiding-places by artificial means."[106] The associations with many of these retreats are of the most varied and romantic character; and few districts of the country are without some wild or thrilling legend or historic tradition relating to such caverned shelters of the patriot, the recluse, or the persecuted devotee.


[91] Archæol. Scot. vol. ii. p. 54.

[92] Bell. Gall. lib. v. c. xii.

[93] Sinclair's Statist. Acc. vol. iv. p. 101.

[94] Caledonia, vol. i. p. 97. Vide also New Stat. Acc. vol. vii., Renfrewshire, 502, &c.

[95] Martin's Western Isles, pp. 67, 87, 154.

[96] Archæol. Scot. vol. ii. p. 52.

[97] New Statist. Acc. vol. xii. p. 545.

[98] Sinclair's Statist. Acc. vol. xiv. p. 526.

[99] Sinclair's Statist, Acc. vol. xiii. p. 117.

[100] Pennant's Tour, vol. i. Appendix, p. 339.

[101] De Moribus Germanorum, c. 16.

[102] Sinclair's Stat. Acc. vol. xvii. p. 237.

[103] History of Orkney, p. 99.

[104] Pennant's Tour, vol. iii. p. 454.

[105] Lord of the Isles, Canto iv.

[106] Caledonia, vol. i. p. 97.

[Pg 91]


The ideal associations with the future and the past, which seem to find some outward manifestation even in the rudest state of society, spring from "that longing after immortality" which affords so strong an evidence of its truth. To this principle of the human mind is clearly traceable the origin of the commemorative erections which abound wherever man has fixed his resting-place. The most primitive of these ancient memorials are the rude unhewn columns or standing stones, as they are called, which abound in nearly every district of Scotland. Occasionally they are found in groups of two or three, and even in greater numbers, as the celebrated "standing stones of Lundin," near the Bay of Largo, Fifeshire, the largest of which measures sixteen feet in height above ground. Three only now exist, singularly rude and irregular in form, but the stump of a fourth remained when the account of Largo parish was written in 1792.[107] It has since been destroyed by treasure-seekers, tempted probably by the good fortune of others; for in the vicinity have been discovered, during the present century, some of the most interesting and valuable antiquities ever found in Scotland.

Of single memorial stones examples might be cited in nearly every Scottish parish; nor are they wanting even in the Lothians, and in the immediate vicinity of Edinburgh, where the presence of a busy population, and the unsparing operations of the agriculturist, have done so much to obliterate the traces of older generations. But nearly all are of the same character, differing in nothing but relative size,[Pg 92] and the varying outlines of their unhewn masses. They have outlived the traditions of their rearers, and no inscription preserves to us the long-forgotten name. We are not left, however, to look upon them as altogether dumb and meaningless memorials. The history of a people contemporaneous, it may be, with their builders, reminds us how even the unsculptured obelisk may keep alive the records committed to its trust, and prove faithful to those for whom it was designed. "It came to pass," says Joshua, "when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the Lord spake, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, that when your children ask, in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? then ye shall answer them." Some of these rude memorials still remaining in the districts immediately surrounding the Scottish capital, suffice to show the enduring tenacity of popular tradition. The Hare Stane on the Borough Moor of Edinburgh, celebrated in the lay of Marmion as the support of Scotland's royal banner,

"The massive stone,
Which still in memory is shown,"

affords one example of this. Mr. William Hamper, an ingenious English antiquary, has elaborately elucidated the derivation of the name as applied in England, and the use of the HOAR STONES,[108] the menhars, or bound stones, as stones of memorial, like "the stone of Bohan, the son of Reuben," and other ancient landmarks of Bible story.[109] Probably we shall justly esteem the "Hare Stane" as the memorial of the western boundary of the ancient chase, claimed from time immemorial by the neighbouring capital; but if so, its name has long survived all popular recollection of the meaning which it bore. The same term, hair stanes, is applied to a circular group of stones near Kirkdean, in the parish of Kirkurd, Peeblesshire. It would appear, however, to have been more frequently used in Scotland in the most sacred sense of a memorial, if we judge from the examples of its application as the designation of cairns, some of which, at least, and probably all, are sepulchral monuments. Among these are the Haer Cairns in the parish of Clunie; the Haer Cairns [Pg 93]of Blairgowrie and Kinloch, Perthshire; the Hier Cairns of Monikie, Forfarshire; the Herlaw, a gigantic cairn in the parish of East Kilbride, Lanarkshire; the more celebrated Harlaw of Aberdeenshire; the Harelaw at Lochhore, Fifeshire, and another in the same county, near Burntisland, where were found underneath the cairn a cist containing a skeleton with a bronze spear-head lying beside it.

Not far from the Hare Stone on the Borough Moor of Edinburgh, formerly stood another monolith termed the Camus Stone, but which, though it gave name to a neighbouring estate, and formed the march stone of its eastern bounds, was barbarously destroyed within memory of the present generation, to furnish materials for repairing the road! This name, whatever be its true derivation, is attached to numerous Scottish localities. Both in the example here referred to, in the Camus Stone of Kintore, Aberdeenshire, and in that near the village of Camustown, Forfarshire, vague tradition associated the stones with the name of a supposed Danish chief; but this is more probably the invention of modern topographers, than a genuine heirloom of popular tradition. The name of Combust figures among the list of Pictish kings as a contemporary of Marcus Antoninus Philosophus,[110] but the authority, though older, is not much more trustworthy; and we shall perhaps seek the meaning of the term more correctly in the correspondence of local peculiarities, as in Cambusbarron, Cambuslang, Cambusnethan, &c., where it is understood to indicate a promontory or bank inclosed by a crooked stream, from the Celtic, cam, crooked.[111] These Cambus-stones have all probably served as landmarks, or hoar stones; though answering also, it may be presumed, at times, like Laban and Jacob's Pillar, as the memorial of some high contract between friendly or rival chiefs.

Other stones, however, are associated with a variety of historical and legendary traditions, as the "Witch Stane" near Cairnbeddie, Perthshire, where, according to ancient local belief, Macbeth met by night with two celebrated witches to advise on the fate of his kingdom. It is fully as probable that this tradition may have existed in Shakspeare's time, as that it is derived from the marvellous conception of his great tragedy. When Cairnbeddie Mound was opened partially, about thirty years since, a quantity of very small iron horse [Pg 94]shoes, with fragments of swords, and other weapons of the same metal, were found; so that it, doubtless, forms the tumulus on the site of some old and hard-fought battle-field, in which, perchance, the great usurper may have played his part. Another stone in the neighbouring parish of Meigle, a huge mass of unhewn trap, bears the name of "Macbeth's Stane," and various local traditions with which his name is associated, add to the probability of some true foundation for popular belief.

Evidence of the use of such rude columns as landmarks is frequently found of a comparatively recent date. The mention of standing stones, or circles, is not uncommon in charters and other deeds relative to the holding of courts and the boundaries of lands. More than one curious example of this occurs in the Registrum Episcopatus Aberdonensis, as in the following, which also suffices to show the ancient application of the term standing stones:—"Thir are the boundis own my lord of Athollis syde, the stannande staine merkit like a horse-sho, and the dik passande fra the samme staine to the burg, and syne be zound the stripe beweste the smedy of Balmany." The Saxum Falconis, or "Hawk Stane," at St. Madoes, Perthshire, which stands on the marches of what is known to have been the ancient possessions of the Hays of Errol, and still bounds the parishes of St. Madoes and Inchture, is referred to by Boece as existing in his day, (1500,) and as having been set up immediately after the defeat of the Danes in the Battle of Luncarthy, fought circa A.D. 990. The victory is ascribed, according to a well-known tradition—still commemorated in the armorial bearings of the Hays—to the timely interference of a Scottish peasant and his two sons:—"Sone efter ane counsal was set at Scone, in the quhilk Hay and his sonnis war maid nobil, and dotad, for thair singular virtew provin in this feild, with sindry landis to sustene thair estait. It is said that he askit fra the King certane landis liand betwix Tay and Arole; and gat als mekil thairof as ane falcon flew of ane mannis hand, or scho lichtit. The falcon flew to ane toun four milis fra Dunde, called Rosse, and lichtit on ane stane, quhilk is yit callit The Falcon Stane; and sa he gat al the landis betwix Tay and Arole, six milis of lenth, and four of breid; quhilk landis ar yit inhabit be his posterite."[112]

The sacredness which naturally attached to landmarks, in early times, and of which we have remarkable evidence in the Old Testament[Pg 95] references to them, was doubtless no less strongly felt in relation to all stones of memorial, the enduring parchments of an unlettered age. They seem accordingly to have been sometimes regarded, like the medieval altar, as the inviolable witness of any agreement. The following curious evidence of this feeling occurs in a deed in the possession of W. H. Fotheringham, Esq., dated at Kirkwall in 1438:—"Till all and synd lele folk in Cryste, to quhais knawledge yir pnt. wris. sal cum, Henry Randall, lawman of Orknay, John Naraldson, balze off Kirkwaw, Jamis off Lask, Greeting in Gode ... make kend that we the forsaide bystude saw and onherde, and for witnesse wes tane quhene yt John off Erwyne and Will. Bernardson swor on the Hirdmane Stein before owre Lorde ye Erle off Orknay and the gentiless off the cuntre, that thay bystude saw and onherde, and for witnesse wes tane quhene that Thos. Sincler, ye son off quhiln Davy Syncler, callit in ye vestre in Sant Mawing Kirk, John of Kirkness," &c. In this comparatively recent transaction we have probably a very accurate illustration of the ceremonial which accompanied the erection of a hoare-stone, or stone of memorial, whether as a landmark or the evidence of some solemn treaty. The document from which it is extracted has a further interest in connexion with early Scottish history. Its date is thirty years prior to the marriage of James III. of Scotland with Margaret of Denmark, when Orkney was first annexed to the Scottish Crown; yet it is written throughout in the Scottish tongue.

Of an entirely opposite character are the Cat Stanes found in various parts of Scotland, apparently deriving their name from the British Cad or the Celtic Cath, signifying a battle, and therefore marking the scene of some ancient conflict. In the immediate neighbourhood of the Camus Stone near Edinburgh, formerly stood two very large conical cairns, styled the Cat-stanes, until demolished by the same irreverent utilitarians who had found covetable materials in the rude memorial stone. Underneath the cairns were cists containing human skeletons and various bronze and iron weapons. Two iron spear-heads found in them are now preserved in the neighbouring mansion of Mortonhall; and according to the description of other relics formerly possessed by a neighbouring farmer, they would appear to have also contained celts and other weapons of bronze. A few yards to the north-west of the site which these cairns occupied, there still stands the Kel or Caiy Stone, a mass of the red sandstone of the[Pg 96] district, measuring above eleven feet in height. On digging in the neighbourhood of this primitive monument a quantity of human bones have been found, irregularly interred, without cists or urns, and not far from it are still visible the rude earth-works of a British camp. Much more extensive intrenchments of an oval form existed in the immediate neighbourhood, prior to the construction of the new road, and are described by General Roy in tracing one of the Roman iters.[113] There is another standing-stone within the Mortonhall grounds, at about half a mile distant from the site of the Cat-stanes, and also two larger masses lying together, which are not improbably the remains of a ruined cromlech. Here, in all likelihood, has been the battle ground of ancient Scottish chiefs, contending, it may be, with some fierce invader. The locality is peculiarly suited for the purpose. It is within a few miles of the sea, and though inclosed in an amphitheatre of hills, it is the highest ground in the immediate neighbourhood, and the very spot on which a retreating host might be expected to make a stand ere they finally betook themselves to the neighbouring fastnesses of the Pentland Hills. A few miles to the westward of this is the oft-noted Catt Stane, in Kirkliston parish, on which the painful antiquary may yet decipher the imperfect and rudely lettered inscription—the work most probably of much younger hands than those that reared the mass of dark whinstone on which it is cut—IN [H]OC TVMVLO IACET VETTA .. VICTR .. About sixty yards to the west of the Cat-stone a large tumulus formerly stood, which was opened in 1824, and found to contain several complete skeletons, but nearly all traces of it have now disappeared.

The Caiy Stone

The rearing of stones of memorial on the scenes of victory is a custom of many early nations, and one which has not even now entirely fallen into disuse. The Bauta-stein of Norway and Denmark corresponds in its signification with the Cat-stane of Scotland, nor are there wanting examples of Scottish monoliths surrounded like[Pg 97] the Danish ones with a pile of small stones at their base. Such is the case with the Clach Stein at Bible in Lewis, and the remarkable Clach an Druidean, or Stone of the Druids, in the same island, which stands above sixteen feet high.

"The Gaelic people," says Chalmers,[114] "did sometimes erect memorial stones; which as they were always without inscription, might as well have not been set up." But independently of the fact that these monuments of the remote past have long since accomplished the original purpose of their erection, it is obvious that some of them can still furnish an intelligible response to those who ask, "What mean these stones?" Many of them, however, it is true, have waxed dumb in the lapse of ages, and hold a more mysterious silence than that which surrounded the long-guarded secrets of Egypt's memorial stones. Some of these are perhaps the last solitary column which marks the site where once the "Druid circle" and its mystic avenue covered the plain. Remote and widely severed stones may thus be parts of the same systematic design, as is rendered sufficiently probable when we remember that that of Avebury numbered even in the days of Stukeley six hundred and fifty stones, though then by no means perfect, and that that of Carnac in Brittany extends over an area of eight miles in length. So common are they still in Scotland that Chalmers dispenses with his usual laborious accumulation of references, and contents himself with this very comprehensive one: "See the Statistical Accounts everywhere!"

Other monoliths are probably the Tanist Stones,[115] where the new chief or king was elected, and sworn to protect and lead his people. One at least, the most famous of Scottish Tanist Stones, still exists, and mingles with the gorgeous rites of coronation services in Westminster Abbey the primitive elements of our most ancient popular elective monarchy. The celebrated Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, is that which, according to Scottish chroniclers, Gathelus, the Spanish King, a contemporary of Romulus, sent with his son when he invaded Ireland; and on equally trustworthy authority it is affirmed to have been the veritable pillow of the patriarch Jacob, which he set up as a memorial stone, on the scene of his wondrous vision!

"A gret stane this Kyng than had,
That fore this Kyngis sete wes made,
And haldyne wes a gret Jowale
[Pg 98] Wytht-in the Kynryk of Spayne hale.
This Kyng bad this Symon ta
That stane, and in-tyl Yrland ga,
And wyn that land and occupy,
And halde that stane perpetually.
Fergus Erc son fra hym syne
Down discendand ewyn be lyne
In to the fyve and fyfty gre,
As ewyne recknand men may se,
Broucht this Stane wytht-in Scotland,
Fyrst quhen he come and wane that land.
      *       *       *       *       *       *       *
Now will I the werd rehers,
As I fynd of that Stane in wers;
Ni fallat fatum, Scoti, quocumque locatum
Invenient lapidem, regnare tenentur ibidem."[116]

The Lia Fail is believed to have served for many ages as the coronation throne of the monarchs of Ireland; and according to Irish bardic traditions, to have borne testimony to the divine right of sovereignty by roaring beneath the legitimate monarch when seated on it at his inauguration! It was removed to Scotland, and deposited at Icolmkil or Iona, for the coronation of Fergus Erc, or Mac Eark, a prince of the blood royal of Ireland;[117] from which it was finally translated to the Abbey of Scone, when the Scottic kings had extended their sovereignty over the ancient kingdom of the Picts. In Scotland it bore the name of the "King's Stone," and was regarded as the national palladium, until Edward I. in 1296, ordered it to be conveyed to Westminster as an evidence of his absolute conquest of Scotland.[118] But the evidence failed, and the older prophecy holds good that wherever that stone rests princes of Scottish blood shall rule the land, though the Lia Fail no longer gives audible testimony to the legitimate heir. It can hardly fail to impress the thoughtful mind, as a singular link between eras so widely severed, not by time only but by every social and political change, that the rude Tanist Stone belonging to a period dimly cognizable in the remotest past, still forms a part of the coronation chair of the British sovereign in Westminster Abbey. The use of the Tanist Stone is, like so many other primitive customs, of Eastern origin, and traceable to a very remote era. Thus when Abimelech was made king, it was by the pillar [Pg 99]which was in Shechem;[119] and when Jehoash was anointed king by Jehoiada, the king stood by a pillar, as the manner was.[120] The standing stone appears indeed to have been the most sacred attestation of every solemn covenant between contracting parties, including that between the elected chief or king and his people; and hence the super-addition of those peculiar virtues supposed to attach to the ancient Scottic Lia Fail.

One other stone is deserving of some note, from the vague records which tradition has preserved of its connexion with the rites of a long extinct creed. Mr. Wakeman remarks, in his Archæologia Hibernica,[121] "Perforated stones, very similar to the ordinary pillar stone, are found in many parts of Ireland, Scotland, and even, as appears from Mr. Wilford's Asiatic Researches, in India. Abroad as well as at home their origin is shrouded in the deepest obscurity, nor is it likely that the subject can ever be elucidated." They are by no means so common, however, as this would imply. At Applecross, in the west of Ross-shire, a perforated stone occupies the centre of a stone circle; and at Tormore, in the parish of Kilmorie, Buteshire, there is a celebrated monolithic circle, styled Siudhe choir Fhionn, or Fingal's cauldron seat, one of the columns of which is perforated, and is commemorated in old Highland traditions as the stone to which the Celtic hero was wont to tie his dog Bran. Immediately adjoining the circle are three huge unhewn columns, about fifteen feet in height above the surface of the moor. Along with these examples may be noted a curious group in the parish of Maddern, Cornwall, consisting of three stones, the centre one of which is pierced with a large circular hole, through which, Borlase informs us,[122] rheumatic patients were wont to crawl as a sovereign remedy for their disease. Perforated stones must once have been common in England, and probably in Scotland also, as the Anglo-Saxon laws repeatedly denounce similar superstitious practices; but they are now of the rarest occurrence. Tradition has preserved some curious associations with one of the most interesting Scottish examples, which may perhaps be thought to throw some doubtful light on the use to which such perforated pillars were devoted at a comparatively late period of our island history. The celebrated Stone of Odin, near the Loch of Stennis, in Orkney, which has had a new interest added to it by being inter[Pg 100]woven with the romantic incidents of the "Pirate," was one of the remarkable monolithic group called The Stones of Stennis. It formed no part, however, either of the Great Ring of Brogar, or of the neighbouring circle of Stennis, but stood apart, to the north-east of the latter group; though it can scarcely be doubted that it bore some important relation to these ancient and mysterious structures. The Stone of Odin is described as standing about eight feet high, and perforated with an oval hole large enough to admit a man's head. A curious, though rudely executed bird's-eye view of the Stones of Stennis is given in the Archæologia Scotica,[123] from a drawing executed by the Rev. Dr. Henry, about the year 1780, and there a man and woman are seen interchanging vows, plighted by the promise of Odin, which Sir Walter Scott refers to as "the most sacred of northern rites yet practised among us." The vow was sworn while the engaging parties joined hands through the perforation in the stone; and though it is difficult to decide how much of the tradition may be ascribable to modern embellishment and the adaptation of a genuine heirloom of primitive superstition to the preconceived theories of local antiquaries, there cannot be a doubt of the popular sacredness attached to this sacramental stone in former times. An illustration of the practice from which this originated is supposed to be traceable in an ancient Norse custom, described in the Eyrbiggia Saga, by which, when an oath was imposed, he by whom it was pledged passed his hand, while pronouncing it, through a massive silver ring sacred to this ceremony.[124]

The solemnity attached to a vow ratified by so awful a pledge as this appeal to the Father of the Slain, the severe and terrible Odin, continued to maintain its influence on the mind till a comparatively recent date. Dr. Henry, writing in 1784, refers to the custom as having fallen into disuse within twenty or thirty years of the time he wrote, and adds, "this ceremony was held so very sacred in those times, that the person who dared to break the engagement was counted infamous, and excluded all society." Principal Gordon, of the Scots College, Paris, who visited Orkney in 1781, thus refers to a curious example, showing probably the latest traces of this venerable traditionary relic of Scandinavian superstition:[125]

[Pg 101]

"At some distance from the semicircle stands a stone by itself, eight feet high, three broad, nine inches thick, with a round hole on the side next the lake. The original design of this hole was unknown, till about twenty years ago it was discovered by the following circumstance: A young man had seduced a girl under promise of marriage, and she proving with child, was deserted by him. The young man was called before the Session; the elders were particularly severe. Being asked by the minister the cause of so much rigour, they answered, You do not know what a bad man this is; he has broke the promise of Odin. Being further asked what they meant by the promise of Odin, they put him in mind of the stone at Stenhouse, with the round hole in it, and added, that it was customary when promises were made, for the contracting parties to join hands through this hole; and promises so made were called the promises of Odin."[126]

It is possible that the awe which the vow of Odin so recently inspired may have originated in the use of the stone for more dreadful purposes than the most solemn contract, sealed with imprecations derived from a barbarous Pagan creed; though little value can be attached to another tradition, described by Dr. Henry as still existing in his time,—that human victims destined for sacrifice were bound to the perforated column, preparatory to their slaughter as an acceptable offering to the terrible god. Another stone, on the north side of the island of Shapinshay, bears the name of the Black Stone of Odin; but no definite associations are now attached to it, and its sole value is as the march stone between the grounds of two conterminous heritors.[127] A more trustworthy tradition ascribed peculiar virtues to the Stennis Stone, manifestly corresponding with those referred to by Borlase in connexion with one at Maddern, and denounced in ancient Anglo-Saxon laws. According to this a child passed through the hole would never shake with palsy in old age. The practice exhibits a sagacious anticipation of future ills, the hole being too small to admit of the remedy being made available when most required.

A view of this remarkable memorial of ancient manners and superstitious rites, is given in Lady Stafford's "Views in Orkney, and on the North-eastern Coast of Scotland," drawn in 1805, and has been copied as one of the illustrations for the Abbotsford edition of the Pirate. But the stone itself no longer exists. After having survived the waste of centuries, until it had nearly outlived the last traditionary remembrance of the strange rites with which it had once been associated, it was barbarously destroyed by a neighbouring [Pg 102]farmer, in the year 1814, along with two stones of the adjacent semicircle. Had it not been for the interference of Mr. Malcolm Laing, the historian, the whole group of Stennis would have been broken down as building materials for the ignorant Goth's cow-sheds. The act was the less culpable, perhaps, as the perpetrator was a stranger who had only recently taken up his abode in Orkney. It affords proof, however, that the native reverence for the venerable memorial had not entirely disappeared, that its unfortunate destroyer's life was rendered miserable by the petty persecutions with which the natives sought to revenge the destruction of their sacramental stone. So far, indeed, was this manifestation of popular indignation carried, that various conspiracies are said to have been formed to injure him, and two different attempts were made to set fire to his dwelling and property;[128] a sufficiently manifest token that the old spirit of veneration for the stone of Odin was not unknown to the modern Orcadian.

A still more remarkable class of monumental stones remain to be described, including the singular sculptured pillars, peculiar, it is believed, to Scotland. But we have already trespassed on the relics of later eras, and these necessarily belong to a period long posterior to that when the rude aboriginal Caledonian possessed no other tools than the stone hammer and the flint chisel or arrow-head, with which to grave the memorial of his fame and the annals of his race.

In the investigations of the archæologist, even though devoted, as this inquiry is, to the examination of ancient memorials within an extremely circumscribed area, he frequently finds that he is dealing with the evidences of certain phases of progressive civilisation in the history of the race, rather than with mere national peculiarities. The farther research is pursued this becomes the more apparent, and we learn, without much surprise, from the recent invaluable researches in the valley of the Mississippi,[129] that the ancient tumuli of the American continent are found to contain, amid many relics peculiar to the new world, stone celts and hammers, flint and bone arrow and lance heads, and other primitive weapons and implements so precisely resembling those disinterred from the early British barrows, that the most experienced eye could hardly tell the one from the other. To conclude from this that we have found evidence of an affinity of race, or of [Pg 103]mutual intercourse between the rude aborigines of Britain and America in that mysterious period of the long forgotten past, however plausible it might seem at first sight, would be to adopt a theory which the investigation of the arts of modern races, such as the natives of Polynesia, must at once dispel. The same correspondence of primitive weapons is found in the north of Europe, in the steppes of Asia, in the ancient tumuli near the Black Sea, and even mingling with the evidences of earliest civilisation on the banks of the Tigris and the Nile. We must look, therefore, for the means of accounting for such remarkable correspondence of primitive tools, to some cause operating naturally at a certain stage of development in the human mind. It is the first manifestation of man's intelligent instincts as a tool-using animal, and furnishes a singular evidence of the instinctive faculties which belong to him as well as to the lower animals, though few and uncertain traces of these remain distinguishable where civilisation has fostered the nobler faculty of reason, and brought it into healthy and vigorous play.

It is not unworthy of note, in the exhibition of a more advanced stage of the same development of features pertaining to the human mind in its progressive civilisation, that there seems also to have been an epoch in the early history of man, when what may be styled the monolithic era of art has been developed under the utmost variety of circumstances. In Egypt it was carried out, with peculiar refinement, by a people whose knowledge of sculpture and the decorative arts proves that it had its origin in a far deeper source than the mere barbarous love of vast and imposing masses. In Assyria, India, Persia, and throughout the Asiatic continent, this monolithic taste appears to have manifested itself among many independent and widely severed races. In Mexico and the central portions of the American continent, a people parted apparently by impassable oceans from the old world, have left enduring evidences of this psychological phenomenon; and in the north of Europe, under circumstances no less widely different from all these nations, numerous monolithic columns and groups attest the same pervading idea. In our own island, more especially, where now we are content to build a monumental obelisk, just as we do a cotton-mill chimney, with successive tiers of stone, we possess some of the most remarkable remains of this peculiar class. The destructive encroachments of civilisation, and the ruthless assaults of the quarrier and the builder, have done much to obliterate these sin[Pg 104]gularly interesting memorials of primitive antiquity. Already the vast temple of Avebury has all but disappeared, like an old ripple-mark of the tide of time. But there still remain, in the huge cromlechs, circles, and standing stones scattered throughout the land, abundant evidence of the influence of the same peculiar taste on the early races of the British Isles, originating, as I conceive, in an unconscious aim at the expression of abstract power.

The convenient terms of Druid altars and temples have long supplied a ready resource for the absence of all knowledge of their origin or use. The cromlech has at length been restored to its true character as a sepulchral monument by the very simple process of substituting investigation for theory. But after the devotion of many learned and ponderous volumes to the attempted elucidation of Druidism, the subject has lost little of its original obscurity; and we shall follow a safer, if it be a less definite guide, in tracing the peculiar character of the so-called Druidical monuments to feelings which appear to have exercised so general an influence on the human race. The idea of the origin of these monolithic structures from some common source seems to have suggested itself to many minds. Colonel Howard Vyse, when describing the great hypæthral court, surrounded with colossal figures, which stands before the rock temple of Gerf Hossein, the ancient Tutzis, remarks:—"The massive architraves placed upon the top of these figures reminded me, like those at Sabooa, of Stonehenge; and it is not improbable that, together with religious traditions, the art of building temples may have even reached that place from Egypt."[130]

To speak, as some recent writers have done, as if the mechanical and engineering knowledge by which the Egyptians were able to quarry and erect their gigantic monoliths had become even a greater mystery to us than the hieroglyphic legends which they inscribed on them, is manifestly a hasty and altogether unfounded assumption. It is their taste, and not their skill, which is wanting. The modern eye is satisfied with the perfect proportions of the monumental column, without seeking the barbaric evidence of difficulties overcome implied in the lifting of it in one mass upon its pedestal. A few years since the workmen in Craigleith quarry, near Edinburgh, disengaged a mass of the fine sandstone of the district, capable of rivalling the colossal obelisks of Egypt; but the proprietor in vain advertised the feat, in[Pg 105] the hope that some committee of taste would avail itself of the opportunity of once more erecting a British monolith of primitive mass; and he had at last to break it down into cubes adapted to the ordinary wants of the modern builder. When, however, such a feat has to be accomplished as the spanning of the Menai Straits with a railway viaduct, no lack of engineering skill is felt in coping with difficulties which may stand comparison with the most gigantic of the self-imposed feats of the old Egyptian builder.[131] We may fairly presume, therefore, that we have left the monolithic era behind us, not by the oblivion of former knowledge, but by the progress of the human mind beyond that stage of development when it finds its highest gratification in such displays of rude magnificence and vast physical power.

The Stones of Stennis, already referred to as the Orcadian Stonehenge, are unquestionably the most remarkable monolithic group in Scotland, and, indeed, if we except the great temple of Salisbury Plain, in the British Isles. Without entering meanwhile into any investigation of the evidence which various writers have derived from northern mythology or popular traditions, with a view to throw some light on the probable date of their origin, or the character of their builders, it furnishes a rational basis for the classification of such ancient monuments among the remains of the Primeval Period, that they exhibit no indication of having been hewn or shapen with tools. Unless the perforation of the stone of Odin be an exception, the columns have been erected just as they were dislodged from the earth; and we have only to account for their separation from the parent strata and their erection on the site which they still occupy. In this respect they correspond with the more ancient English temple of Avebury rather than with that of Stonehenge, which belongs to an era when efficient metallic tools, whether of bronze or iron, must have supplied the means of hewing the gigantic columns into some degree of uniformity, and fitting the lintels to the upright columns by means of the mortice and tennon still discoverable amid the ruins of that wonderful monument of ancient skill. We are not altogether without some evidence to induce the belief that the early Caledonian did dislodge and cleave into amorphous columns the unquarried rocks with[Pg 106] which his native soil abounded, when armed with no fitter tool than the stone wedge and hammer. The Rev. James Little, in furnishing Sir John Sinclair with an account of the antiquities of the parish of Southwick, in Kirkcudbright, mentions the discovery, on the estate of Southwick, "in the middle of a large granite stone, when blasted with gunpowder, in a socket exactly fitted to it, of a piece of the same kind of substance, smooth and polished, in form somewhat resembling a rude hatchet, about nine inches long. The virtuosi to whose inspection it was submitted did not hesitate immediately to pronounce it to be a hatchet which had been used by the Druids in performing sacrifices; which conjecture they imagined warranted by the vestiges of a Druidical temple very near where it was found."[132] The reverend Statist rather inclines to regard it as a lusus naturæ. A few years later another was found, under similar circumstances, in a cavity of an enormous mass of stone, on the farm of Mains, near Dumfries. It was also of polished granite; and from the outline of it in the Archæologia, no doubt can be entertained of its being a genuine stone wedge or celt.[133] Still it is not meant to assume from this that all such monuments were erected prior to the introduction of metals, but only that they indicate an origin coeval with the state of civilisation in which the use of metallic implements was, at best, but imperfectly known, and when the massive size of these rude unhewn monoliths abundantly satisfied the human mind in its desire for a visible shrine adequate to the awful mysteries shadowed forth in the heathen mythology.

The site of the celebrated Orkney group is perhaps little less remarkable than the venerable monuments to which it owes its name. A long and narrow neck of land separates the Loch of Stennis, a salt-water lake into which the tide rises and falls, from the fresh waters of the Loch of Harray, save at the narrow strait of Brogar, where at times the tidal wave mingles with the tideless waters of Harray; and on this, the great circle or Ring of Brogar, as it is most commonly styled, is reared. Judging from the regularity with which such of the stones as still remain are disposed, the number of columns originally forming the circle appears to have been sixty, on the assumption that they were placed at nearly equal distances apart. Of these sixteen remained in situ in 1792, and eight lay prostrate near their original sites; but now only twenty-three stones remain, ten of which are [Pg 107]prostrate, and the broken stumps of a few more serve to indicate the places they once occupied. The whole is inclosed by a deep trench, except at two opposite points, where a level break occurs, affording the means of entrance and exit. The diameter of the great circle, from the inner edge of the trench, measures 366 feet. From the eastern entrance it is possible that an avenue of stones may have once led to the Bridge of Brogar, as the stepping-stones are styled by which the shallow channel between the Lochs of Harray and Stennis is crossed. On the eastern side of the channel one column still remains, bearing the name of the Watch Stone; derived apparently from its position on the brink of the ford commanding the passage between the great circle and the opposite shore, but which may possibly be the only relic of the avenue once connecting the circles on each side of the loch. The smaller group is now frequently designated, from its crescent form, the temple of the moon, and the larger circle that of the sun; but there can be no doubt that these are quite modern and spurious designations. Stennis Circle, as the smaller group is properly termed, is situated on a nearly level piece of ground, and its semicircular outline is further indicated by an inclosing mound of earth, presenting its opening to the south; whereas the larger circle is environed only by a fosse. This group was composed, at no very remote period, of seven or eight stones, but no doubt can be entertained that the figure was originally a circle, inclosing with its vallum, a large cromlech, the ruins of which still remain within the area. It is described by Wallace in 1700 as "a round set about with high smooth stones or flags;"[134] so that it would appear to have been complete at that comparatively recent period. It stood upon a raised circular platform, part of which still remains about three feet above the surrounding level. Beyond this is the embankment, forming a circle, the radius of which, measured from its outer edge, is 117 feet. The radius of the circle, on the circumference of which the stone columns were placed, is about fifty-two feet; and judging from the space between those still standing, twelve stones may be supposed to have completed the circle. But though so small a group when compared with the Ring of Brogar, its columns are fully double the average height of the great circle, and it must have presented, when perfect, a far more magnificent and imposing aspect. It is painful to think that within our own time these most interesting memorials of an era [Pg 108]far beyond the date of written records have fallen a prey to ignorance, in that dangerous transition state when the trammels of superstition are broken through without being replaced by more elevated principles of veneration. An intelligent native of Orkney, who appears to have left his home about 1789, remarks in his MS. notes accompanying a valuable donation of books relating to the northern islands presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland:—"If Mr. Daniell's sketch of the Stones of Stennis (taken in 1818) be at all accurate, many of them have disappeared, and others fallen to the ground, since I can remember."[135] It was in the immediate neighbourhood of the smaller circle of Stennis that the Stone of Odin stood, completing, along with the adjacent earth-works alluded to in a former chapter, a group of primitive monuments, which, though inferior in magnitude to the vast temples of Wiltshire, or of Carnac in Brittany, are scarcely surpassed in interest even by these remarkable monuments.

I am indebted to Lieutenant Thomas, R.N., to whose liberal communications of the result of his observations in Orkney I have already referred, for careful observations and measurements made by him on the Stones of Stennis, of which the following are the most important results:—

The Great Circle of Stennis, or Ring of Brogar, is a deeply entrenched circular space, containing almost two acres and a half of superficies, of which the diameter is 366 feet. Around the circumference of the area, but about thirteen feet within the trench, are the erect stones, standing at an average distance of eighteen feet apart. They are totally unhewn, and vary considerably in form and size. The highest stone was found to be 13.9 feet above the surface, and, judging from some others which have fallen, it is sunk about eighteen inches in the ground. The smallest stone is less than six feet, but the average height is from eight to ten. The breadth varies from 2.6 to 7.9 feet, but the average may be stated at about five feet, and the thickness about one foot—all of the old red sandstone formation.

The trench around the area is in good preservation. The edge of the bank is still sharply defined, as well as the two foot-banks, or entrances, which are placed exactly opposite to each other. They have[Pg 109] no relation to the true or magnetic meridian, but are parallel to the general direction of the neck of land on which the circle is placed. The trench is twenty-nine feet in breadth, and about six in depth, and the entrances are formed by narrow earth-banks across the fosse.

The surface of the inclosed area has an average inclination to the eastward. It is highest on the north-west quarter; and the extreme difference of level is estimated to be from six to seven feet. The trench has the same inclination, and therefore could never be designed to hold water.


Radius to outer edge of fosse, 212.2 feet.
Radius to inner edge of fosse, 183.2 "
Radius of circle on which the stones are placed, 170.0 "
Distance of pillars from edge of fosse, 13.2 "
Breadth of fosse, 29.0 "
Depth of fosse, average, 6.0 "
Distance of columns apart, average equal to breadth of causeways, 17.8 "
Highest column, 13.9 "
Lowest column, 5.9 "
Average height of columns, 9.0 "
Broadest column, stump only remaining, 7.3 "
Narrowest column, 1.6 "
Average breadth, 5.0 "
Average thickness, 1.0 "

The neighbourhood of Stennis seems to have been consecrated ground to the ancient Orcadians. Within no great distance there are two circles of standing stones, two others all the remaining stones of which are prostrate, and four single standing stones, besides about twenty tumuli of various forms and sizes.

It was long the fashion with antiquaries to receive as an established and altogether incontrovertible position the Druidical origin of all symmetrical groups of standing stones in the British Isles. The more careful researches of later writers into the early history of the Orkney and Shetland Isles, and of their intimate connexion with Scandinavia prior to the Christian era, have led to a revision of this opinion, and to an almost universal abandonment of a Druidical for a Scandinavian origin of the great Temple of Stennis, and the numerous other corresponding structures in the north of Scotland and the Western Isles. Barry, Hibbert, Scott, and Macculloch have each assailed the old Druidical fancies with considerable learning and ability. "Dr. Macculloch," says Dr. Hibbert, "has wielded the hammer of Thor with very signal success in aid of the demolition of the Druidic theory." But notwithstanding so powerful an array of[Pg 110] authorities in support of this newer line of argument, I venture to think, that when the exclusive Scandinavian theory shall have been demolished with equally signal success, we shall be nearer the truth than has been yet attained. The common Gaelic phrase—Am bheil thu dol do'n chlachan,—Are you going to the stones? by which the Scottish Highlander still inquires at a neighbour if he is bound for church, seems in itself no doubtful tradition of ancient worship within the monolithic ring. Yet it has already been shewn that some of these were not temples but sepulchral monuments; nor is their uniformity sufficiently marked to prove a common origin for all. Sir Walter Scott remarks, in his Abstract of the Eyrbiggia Saga:[136]—"The Temple of Thor is described as a circular range of upright stones, within which one more eminent marked the Stone of Thor, where human victims were immolated to the Thunderer, by breaking or crushing the spine. And this description may confute those antiquaries who are disposed to refer such circles exclusively to the Celtic tribes, and their priests, the Druids." Dr. Hibbert has quoted this paragraph as a refutation of those who would contend that the Temples of Orkney had been used by Celtic tribes, before they were occupied and dedicated anew by later Scandinavian worshippers. But it unfortunately happens in this, as in too many other instances, that the "Abstract" furnishes a very partial rendering of the original saga; where the Temple of Thor is described as a vast inclosed edifice, with chambers constructed of wood, and a chancel or sacrarium specially dedicated to the Deity, of which the stone circle formed only one of its complicated features.[137] Doubtless in some at least of the monolithic groups still standing, we see but the skeleton of structures [Pg 111]which have outlived many no less indispensable features of the original plan, formed of more perishable materials. Modern agricultural operations have occasionally brought to light very obvious evidences of this. An intelligent observer who resided on the spot, and closely watched the operations of the workmen employed in trenching and levelling the site of a "Druidical Circle" on Donside, in the parish of Tullynessle, Aberdeenshire, has furnished the following account of their disclosures:—"The upright stones were mostly gone; but it was evident that they had inclosed a circle of about fifty feet diameter. The ground on which the temple stood was sloping, and within the circle it had been levelled by removing the earth on the upper side, so as to present a bank, nearly perpendicular, of not less than five feet, gradually decreasing to the east or lower part, when it became level. The upright stones were on the top of the bank. From the circle, in a south-east direction, a paved road could be traced to the distance of at least six hundred yards through a bog, which at the farther end was about six yards wide, but nearly twenty yards wide when it approached within fifty yards of the circle, and here the paving was covered with ashes. The stones were not squared, but very neatly fitted into each other."[138] In the course of these operations two curious stone vessels were found, hereafter described, one of which is now in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries. But the differences are so striking among many of the Scottish monolithic groups, that we look in vain for evidences of uniformity of faith or object in their builders. Some are single circles, others several concentric circles. There are ovals, ellipses, and semicircles, and even cruciform groups, which a hasty generalizer might accept as an evidence of primitive Christian art. But one thing is common to the whole, and is found to characterize similar structures throughout Europe and Asia—and that is the huge unhewn monolithic columns, the evidence not of one creed, but of one remarkable phase of the human mind, the influence of which has long since disappeared. Diverse as were the Celtic and Scandinavian creeds, their temples were probably of similar character; and the rude Norsemen who possessed themselves of the Orkney Islands in the ninth century, found far less difficulty in adapting the Temple of Stennis to the shrine of Thor, than the Protestants of the sixteenth century had to contend with when they appropriated the old Cathedral of St. Magnus to the [Pg 112]rites of Presbyterian worship. It is unquestionably opposed to all probability that the Great Circle of Stennis, with its grand but rude monoliths, was the work of the Norse rovers of the ninth century, seeing we have good reason to believe that the Christian missionaries of Iona, or the disciples of St. Servanus, had long before waged successful war with the Pagan creed of the native Orcadians. But the question of Scandinavian origin is fortunately put to rest, at least in the case of this the most remarkable of all the Scottish temple groups. Professor Munch of Christiania, who visited this country in 1849, with a view to investigate the traces of Norwegian intercourse with Scotland, was gratified by the discovery that the name of Havardsteigr, which was conferred on the scene of Earl Havard's slaughter by his nephew, about the year 970, is still applied among the peasantry to the promontory of Stennis; the Stones of which we may well believe were grey with the moss of centuries ere the first Norwegian prow touched the shores of Pomona.[139] No direct reference to Stennis occurs in the Orkneyinga Saga, but the remarkable passage referred to is to be found in that of Olaf Trygvesson, where it is said:—"Havard was then at Steinsnes, in Rossey. There was meeting and battle about Havard, and it was not long ere the Jarl fell. The place is now called Havardsteigr." So was it called in the tenth century, and so, Mr. George Petrie writes me, it is still occasionally named by the peasantry at the present day.

A few examples of the most remarkable monolithic structures of the Scottish mainland may be noted here. Careful and minute accounts have already been furnished of those of Inverness-shire by Mr. George Anderson in the Archæologia Scotica;[140] and of those of Aberdeenshire, Argyleshire, and various other Scottish districts, in a series of illustrated papers in the Archæologia.[141] The varieties apparent in their grouping and structure are such as may well justify [Pg 113]the conclusion that instead of being the temples of a common faith, they are more probably the ruins of a variety of edifices designed for diverse purposes, and it may be even for the rites of rival creeds. This at least is certain, that the latest if not the only unquestionable evidence of their use which we possess is not as religious temples but as courts of law and battle-rings, wherein the duel or judicial combat was fought, though this doubtless had its origin in the invariable union of the priestly and judicial offices in a primitive state of society. The several concentric circles so frequently characterizing them, add to the probability of their adaptation to the purpose of judicial or deliberative assemblies. Such is one of the most common marks of the Law Tings of Orkney and Shetland, and of the Isle of Man. "Not unfrequently the fences of a ting were concentric; the intent of which was to preserve among the different personages of the ting a proper distinction of rank. The central area was always occupied by the laugman, and 'those who stood with him;' and the outer spaces by the laugrettmen, out of whom the duradom was selected, the contending parties, and the compurgators."[142] Mr. George Petrie has called my attention to several evidences of this in relation to the Orkney circles, and no less remarkable proofs appear in various chartularies and other authentic records, showing at how early a period all ideas of association with the rites of Pagan superstition had been lost. Thus in the Aberdeen Chartulary a notice occurs of a court held "apud stantes lapides de Rane en le Garuiach," on the 2d May 1349, when William de St. Michael was summoned to answer for his forcible retention of certain ecclesiastical property;[143] and again in the Chartulary of Moray the Bishop of Moray is summoned, in the year 1380, to attend the court of Alexander, Lord of Regality of Badenoch, and son of Robert II., to be holden "apud le standand stanys de la Rathe de Kyngucy estir." Part of the business of the court was to inquire into the titles by which the Bishop held certain of his lands, and as he is summoned as a vassal, and had to protest against the proceedings, he is described as standing "extra circum."[144]

The temple group at Leuchar, in the parish of Skene, Aberdeenshire, consists of a circle measuring internally thirty-four feet in diameter, composed of eight large stones disposed at regular intervals. In the centre of this another circle is formed of smaller stones, mea[Pg 114]suring about thirteen feet in diameter, and around it six smaller stone circles are disposed, two of them touching one another, and the remainder separated by regular intervals. At a short distance from this group, nine other circles occur, similar to the smaller ones, and two large cairns occupy commanding sites in the neighbourhood. Other examples of combinations of circles somewhat resembling this have been noted; and many of the larger ones have a stone laid flat-ways in the circumference of the circle, which is usually designated the altar stone. Concentric circles are still more common. The great temple or Clachan of Inches, situated about two miles south of Inverness, is the largest and most entire in that part of the country. It consists of two circles, the inner one of which is composed of twenty-eight stones, and measures about forty feet in diameter. The outer circle is now only partially traceable. Fifteen stones remain, including one nine feet in height above ground, and the diameter measures above seventy feet. Another remarkable group occurs about half-a-mile eastward from a stone avenue near the farm of Milltown of Culloden, which may possibly have been once connected with it. Three concentric circles are nearly united to an adjoining one which incloses a group of five cairns, or what might be more accurately described as one gigantic cruciform cairn. The contents of this singular structure would probably amply repay the archæologist for the labour and cost of exploration. In 1824 Henry Jardine, Esq., King's Remembrancer, exhibited at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, a sceptre or rod of office, dug up in the circle of Leys, Inverness-shire. It consisted of a rod of pure gold, bent at top like an Episcopal crozier or Roman lituus, which it is not unreasonable to imagine may have been borne by some ancient arch-priest or king in the great assemblies of his people. A golden funicular rod made of three pieces twisted together, and with a solid hook at each end, was dug up in County Antrim in 1808.[145]

Monolithic groups abound in many parts of the mainland as well as in the Western Isles, but nearly all characterized by some peculiarity. Some are inclosed by a trench, others by a fosse; and frequently the space between the great stones is filled up by an earthen wall. In several districts in the south of Scotland single and double ovals are found, and fragments of ancient groups, more or less imperfect, are common throughout the country. The woodcut represents[Pg 115] an imposing monolithic group in the neighbourhood of Pitlochrie, Perthshire. One of the great level Highland moors stretches away beneath the eye, like a dark waveless lake, contrasting with the distant heights, among which Benlawers rears its pyramidal summit to an elevation of upwards of 4000 feet above the level of the sea. Amid this wild Highland landscape the huge standing stones, grey with the moss of ages, produce a singularly grand and imposing effect; and from the idea of lofty height which the distant mountains suggest, they convey a stronger impression of gigantic proportions than is produced even by the first sight of the giant monoliths of Salisbury Plain.

Standing Stones at Pitlochrie.

The most remarkable of the Hebridean groups is that of Classernish, near Loch Roag, in the island of Lewis. It consists of a circle sixty-three feet in diameter, with a column in the centre measuring thirteen feet in height, and an avenue of similar stones stretching to the north, while single rows placed towards the other cardinal points complete the cruciform arrangement of the whole. Its greatest length is stated by Logan as 558 feet, and by Macculloch as about 680 feet; but many of the stones are nearly buried in the moss, so that its extreme limits are very imperfectly defined. It appears to have consisted originally of about seventy columns, and smaller circles in the same neighbourhood attest the ancient presence of a numerous population on the long desolate waste, where the grey columns of Classernish are still imposing in their ruins. The magnitude and singularity of this monolithic group have excited the enthusiasm of Celtic antiquaries, some of whom have discovered in it the very hyperborean[Pg 116] temple of the ancients, in which, according to Eratosthenes, Apollo hid his golden arrow![146] But perhaps the most interesting of all the temple groups of the Hebrides, is one which furnishes the same indisputable evidence of remote antiquity to which repeated reference has been made. It may perhaps be thought a more potent weapon even than the hammer of Thor, in demolishing the exclusively Scandinavian theory of their origin. In the same island of Lewis a large stone circle may be seen, which within memory of the present generation was so nearly buried in the moss that the surrounding heather and rushes sufficed to conceal the stones. It has now been cleared out to a depth of fifteen feet, by the annual operations of the islanders, in cutting peats for their winter fuel, and as yet without exposing the bases of any of the columns. My authority for this interesting fact is Dr. Macdonald, a gentleman who resided for some years as a medical practitioner on the island, during which time he was accustomed to watch the progressive exhumation of the long-buried Celtic temple with mingled feelings of interest and curiosity. But this is not a solitary example. On various parts of the mainland monolithic groups still remain partially entombed in the slowly accumulating mosses, the growth of unnumbered centuries. On one of the wildest moors in the parish of Tongland, Kirkcudbrightshire, a similar example may be seen, consisting of a circle of eleven stones, with a twelfth of larger dimensions in the centre, the summits of the whole just appearing above the moss. Adjoining the group there stands a large cairn with its base doubtless resting on the older soil beneath. With such evidence at command, it is manifest that however vague many of the speculations may be which have aimed at the elucidation of rites and opinions of the Celtic Druids, and have too often substituted mere theory for true archæological induction, we shall run to an opposite error in ascribing to a Scandinavian origin structures manifestly in existence long prior to the earliest Norwegian or Danish, or even perhaps Celtic, descent on our coasts.

The Scottish cromlech, which belongs to the same period as the standing stones and circular temples, has already been referred to under its true head of Sepulchral Memorials; it need only be added, that some at least of the smaller stone circles appear to belong to the same class, and to have been only the encircling monument that marked out the spot consecrated by the dust of some mighty chief,[Pg 117] or formed subsidiary features of a group in which the ruined cromlech still forms the most prominent object. But the idea of a temple has become so indelibly associated even in the minds of intelligent antiquaries with the circle of standing stones, that even when such circles are found in groups, the convenient name is still retained. "Nearly in a line between East and West Law, Fifeshire," says Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, in his inquiry respecting the site of Mons Grampius, "there are no less than eight Druidical temples." To account for such a state of things we shall next be compelled to assume that old Scottish Druidism was split into even more rival sects than modern Scottish Presbytery, and perhaps be taught to decipher from the symbolism of the rude monoliths, their number, or their orientation, the degree of heresy that characterized each Druidical conventicle! Such speculations cannot, after all, surpass the extravagant and baseless theories of Sabaism, fire-worship, Druidism, astrology, &c., which have been already deduced from the number of stones, the direction of the entrance, or other equally slight and constantly varying elements of argument.

One other and still more remarkable, class of works remains to be noted: These are the Rocking Stones, which are found among the ancient monuments of England and Ireland, as well as on various parts of the Continent, and are no less frequent in Scotland. No evidences of ancient skill or of primitive superstitious rites are more calculated to awaken our astonishment and admiration of their singular constructors. There is so strange a mixture of extreme rudeness and great mechanical skill in these memorials of the remote past, that they excite greater wonder and awe in the thoughtful mind than even the imposing masses inclosing the sacred area of Stonehenge or the circle of Stennis. It would, I imagine, prove a much more complicated problem for the modern engineer to poise the irregular and amorphous mass on its point of equilibrium, than to rear the largest monolithic group that now stands to attest the mechanical power which the old builders could command.

It has indeed been supposed by some that the origin of Rocking Stones is traceable entirely to natural causes, and this opinion is now adopted by Worsaae and other Danish and Norwegian antiquaries.[147] Such a theory, however, seems to stand fully as much in need of proof as that which regards them as stones of ordeal, by which the [Pg 118]Druid or Scandinavian priests were wont to test the guilt or innocence of the accused. Apollonius Rhodius speaks of rocking stones placed on the apex of tumuli, and Mr. Akerman refers, in his Archæological Index, to the famous Agglestone Barrow, in the island of Purbeck, as having been similarly surmounted.[148] One such undoubted example would abundantly suffice to overthrow this geological theory of natural formation. It is a less conclusive, though not altogether valueless argument, that some of the most remarkable logan stones of Scotland are found in the immediate vicinity of other undoubted primitive stone-works. The great rocking stone in the parish of Kirkmichael, Perthshire, for example, has already been referred to as one of a large group of stone circles, cairns, and other monuments of the same class. Its form is that of a rhombus, of which the greater diagonal is seven feet, and the less five feet, and its weight is calculated at about three tons and half a hundredweight. On pressing down either of the extreme corners, a rocking motion is produced, which increases until the arc through which its longest radius moves exceeds a foot. When the pressure has been continued so as to produce this effect, the stone makes from twenty-six to twenty-eight vibrations from side to side after it is withdrawn. A much larger rocking stone is situated on the Hill of Mealyea, in the parish of Kells, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Its weight is estimated at from eight to ten tons, and it is so nicely poised that it can be set in motion with the pressure of the finger. To this the name of the Logan Stone is popularly applied in the Stewartry, therein corresponding with the term used in Cornwall and other districts of England. A second rocking stone formerly existed on the same range of hills, but it was thrown down about thirty years since. Others remain in the parish of Dron, Perthshire, on a hill in the neighbourhood of the manse; in the parish of Abernethy, celebrated for its venerable ecclesiastical relics; and on the north side of the Cuff Hill, in the parish of Beith, Ayrshire; but none of them present any very special peculiarity worthy of note. It is not designed to offer a new theory here concerning the purpose of these singular "Stones of Ordeal;" nor even to pronounce on the certainty of their artificial origin; but I cannot help thinking it opposed to every doctrine of probabilities, that nature in the course of her ceaseless operations of denudation and attrition should in so many instances have chanced [Pg 119]to wear away an amorphous rock so as to leave it poised in its centre of gravity on a single point. So numerous are the examples of rocking stones, that those who assign to them a natural origin would seem justified in anticipating the discovery of some unknown law of nature tending to such a result. But even if this extravagant doctrine of their origin is adopted, the rocking stones will still justly come within the range of archæological studies, as it can hardly admit of a doubt that they were objects of reverent estimation by the old monolithic builders. It is rare to find them far removed from a stone circle or other primitive structure, which may indeed have owed its erection to the prior existence of the rocking stone, but would more naturally suggest the old conclusion that also originated in the same laborious contrivance and skill which reared the ponderous dolmens, cromlechs, and monolithic groups already described.


[107] Sinclair's Statist. Acc. vol. iv. p. 546.

[108] Archæologia, vol. xxv. p. 24. References to such landmarks are not uncommon in ancient charters. Notice of certain bound stones, at Stansfield, Staffordshire, occurs in a deed dated 6 Henry VII., ibid. vol. ii. p. 359, and similar allusions are common in the Scottish chartularies.

[109] Joshua xv. 6; xviii. 17; Deut. xix. 14; Prov. xxii. 28, &c.

[110] Wyntoun's Cronyklis, book v. chap. vii. fol. 88.

[111] Gael. cam; Gr. καμψος; Lat. curvus; Gael. camus, a bay. The prefix cam, or crooked, enters into many Gaelic compounds and proper names.

[112] Bellenden's Boece, b. xi. chap. viii.

[113] Roy's Military Antiquities, p. 103.

[114] Caledonia, vol. iii. p. 233.

[115] Gael. Tanaiste, a thane or lord, the next heir to an estate.

[116] Wyntownis Cronykil, book iii. chap. ix.

[117] Transac. Royal Irish Academy, vol. xviii. p. 159. Dr. Petrie challenges the pedigree of the Scottish Lia Fail, and even goes some length to establish the reputation of a stone at Tara as the genuine one, but the Scottish stone has too faithfully fulfilled its character as the Stone of Destiny to admit of any such unaccredited rival!

[118] Vide Hailes' Annals, note, vol. ii. p. 242.

[119] Judges ix. 6.

[120] 2 Kings xi. 14.

[121] Archæol. Hibern. p. 19.

[122] Borlase, p. 177, Plate XIV.

[123] Archæol. Scot. vol iii. p. 122.

[124] Eyrbiggia Saga. Abstract Illust. of Northern Antiquities, p. 479.

[125] Sir Walter Scott speaks of this ceremony as confined to the lower classes, at the time of his writing the "Pirate;" but this is contradicted by the statement of Dr. Henry, and there is every reason to believe that it had fallen at a much earlier period into disuse.

[126] Archæol. Scot. vol. i. p. 263.

[127] Sinclair's Statist. Acc. vol. xvii. p. 235.

[128] Peterkin's Notes on Orkney, p. 21.

[129] Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, vol. i.

[130] Pyramids of Gizeh, vol. i. p. 54.

[131] The Menai tubes, composed of wrought-iron plates, measure each 1524 feet in length, and the weight of the whole is estimated at 10,540 tons. This enormous structure had to be raised a height of 100 feet, and thrown over an arm of the sea 1100 feet in width, and navigable by the largest ships.

[132] Sinclair's Stat. Acc. vol. xvii. p. 110.

[133] Archæologia, vol. vii. p. 414.

[134] Wallace's Orkney, p. 53.

[135] A. Z., a native of Orkney, resident in London, who under this title presented to the Society from time to time a curious and valuable collection of books relating to the Orkney and Shetland Islands, accompanied with copious MS. notes, some of which contain touching allusions to the fond recollections cherished by him of his native place.

[136] Illustrations of Northern Antiquities, p. 480.

[137] The following is the passage to which Sir Walter Scott refers:—"Visitur ibi hodiedum circulus concessus judicialis intra quem homines, Diis victima fieri jubebantur. Eminensque in isto circulo Saxum Thoris, in quo hominibus sacrificio destinatis terga confracta sunt, quodque sanguinem adhuc colorem conspiciendum præbet," &c. (Eyrbiggia Saga. G. J. Thorkelin, 1787. P. 27.) But a much more minute account is given in an earlier portion of the Saga, where Thorolf ascertains the destined site of the new temple by casting its wooden pillars into the sea, and accepting as the sacred spot a promontory to which they were borne by the tides. This is the description of the erection, which it will be seen is something different from a mere circle of stones:—"At Hofsvog he caused a temple to be erected, a house of vast magnitude, with doors in the side wall, somewhat near to either extremity. Within the doors were the pillars of the chief seat, secured with nails, and called sacred or divine. In the interior another chamber was constructed in the shape which the chancels of churches now have, in the middle of the pavement of which stood the pulvinar, as well as the altar," &c. Vide Ibid. p. 11.

[138] MS. Letter, John Stuart, Esq., Advocate, Aberdeen, 1888. Libr. Soc. Antiq. Scot.

[139] The name Stennis, of Norwegian origin, was obviously the apposite description suggested to the first Scandinavian voyagers by the appearance of the singular tongue of land, crowned by its monolithic circle; but the death of Earl Havard, as mentioned in the Northern Sagas, conferred on it new associations and a corresponding name. Professor Munch, whose natural bias as a Norwegian might have inclined him to claim for his countrymen the erection of the Great Scottish Circle, remarks, in a recent letter to me:—"Stennis is the old Norn Steinsnes, that is, 'the promontory of the stones;' and that name it bore already when Havard fell, in the beginning of the island, being Scandinavian. This shows that the Scandinavian settlers found the stones already standing;—in other words, that the standing stones belonged to the population previous to the Scandinavian settlement."

[140] Archæol. Scot. vol. iii. p. 211.

[141] Archæologia, vol. xxii. p. 55; vol. xxv. p. 614, &c.

[142] Hibbert on the Tings of Orkney and Shetland. Archæol. Scot. vol. iii. p. 141.

[143] Regist. Episcop. Aberdon. vol. i. p. 79.

[144] Regist. Episcop. Morav. p. 184.

[145] Archæologia, vol. xvi. p. 353.

[146] Logan's Scottish Gael, vol. ii. p. 322; Macculloch's Highlands and Isles, vol. iii. p. 232.

[147] Primeval Antiquities of Denmark, p. 110.

[148] Archæol. Index, p. 34.

[Pg 120]


The singular correspondence between many of the weapons and implements of the Stone Period, in almost every quarter of the globe, has already been referred to; but there are not wanting many others presenting such national and local peculiarities as are worthy of careful noting and comparison. In this respect much still remains to be done for Scottish Archæology. A far more abundant store of materials, and a much larger class of intelligent and educated observers are required, before the subject can be placed in its true light as an elementary basis from whence to deduce the legitimate inferences involved in this branch of science. It will meanwhile help towards the establishment of a fixed nomenclature and the basis of more extended classification, as observers increase, to exhibit at one view the chief known varieties of the weapons and implements of the Scottish Stone Period.

The rude and unshapely fragments of flint known by the name of Flint Flakes, and now recognised as specimens of the first stages of weapon manufacture of the period to which they belong, have only very recently fully attracted the attention of archæologists. The merit in this, as in so many other important elementary principles of the science, is due to the intelligence and sagacity of the antiquaries of Copenhagen, and the admirable facilities afforded by the liberality of the Danish Government. The flakes of flint, which are met with in considerable abundance, appear to have been struck off from a solid mass. They are ordinarily found from about one to six inches long, and frequently present a curved form, it being apparently a property[Pg 121] of flint to flake off in this manner. Sometimes they occur in the simplest state; in other cases they are partially reduced to their intended form. But rude as they are, they are of the utmost value to us, from the insight which is thereby obtained into the process of manufactory of the primitive lance and arrow-head. It is obvious, from the frequent discovery of such among sepulchral deposits, that considerable value was attached to them; nor must we overlook the fact, that while flint is found in the greatest abundance both in Denmark and the south of England, there are many parts of Scotland where it is scarcely to be met with. Here, therefore, we discover the first traces of primitive trading and barter. The flint flakes were, in fact, the raw material, which had to be imported from other districts before the hunter of the Stone Period could supply himself with the indispensable requisites for the chase. A few examples will suffice to shew the abundance of such materials, and the circumstances under which they are found, though it will readily be believed that it is only rarely that their occurrence is noted, or falls under the observation of those who consider them of the slightest value.

In one of the cases in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland there is a skull found in an ancient cist, on the farm of Clashfarquhar, parish of Banchory-Devenich, Aberdeenshire, in 1822. It is chiefly curious from having on the crown of the head a hole nearly circular, and rather more than an inch in diameter, which there can be little doubt was occasioned by the death-blow. The size and cerebral development of the head nearly resembles the usual character of skulls found in the earliest cists; and it is not difficult to conceive of the wound having been inflicted with the narrow end of a stone celt. In each corner of the cist a few flint flakes were carefully piled up into a little heap. Alexander Thomson, Esq. of Banchory, remarks of them, in a letter which accompanied the donation of the skull:—"They are very proper for being made into arrow-heads, but none of them appear to have been wrought."[149] Similar relics of early art have been noted at various times in the same district of the country:—"On the alluvial soil near the sea," remarks the author of the New Statistical Account of Belhelvie, "there is a bed of yellow flints, in which a number of very well formed arrow-heads are frequently found;" and in no part of Scotland are these primitive relics more abundant than in the landward districts of Aberdeenshire. In the large cairn of [Pg 122]Menzie, on Cairn Moor, Buchan, there was found, in a stone cist, "along with earth and bones, a dart-head of yellow flint, most perfectly shaped, and a little block, also of yellow flint, as if intended to furnish the deceased with more darts, should he have occasion for them on the passage."[150] In 1821 several flint flakes, and imperfectly formed flint implements, were found, along with two perfect arrow-heads of the same material, in an urn containing incinerated bones, on the estate of Closeburn, Dumfriesshire. The urn, and several of the half-formed flints, are now in the Scottish Museum. A similar deposit was discovered only last year (1849) by workmen engaged in digging for stones to build a march dyke between the farm of Swinie and an adjoining one on the neighbouring estate of Wells, Roxburghshire. There were four cairns, two of which, on being demolished, disclosed cists containing urns, and beside them a quantity of flint flakes of various sizes, several of which are now in my possession. Similar examples are of frequent occurrence, but one other may be noted from the unusual amount of flint flakes found with it. North of the Mull of Islay, Argyleshire, there is a road which leads from Port Ellen, in a north-easterly direction, towards the shooting lodge of Islay. At a point in this road, where it is cut into the side of the hill, distant about four miles from Port Ellen, some workmen engaged in widening the road exposed a cist in cutting into the sloping ground, within which lay a skeleton with a large quantity of flint flakes and chips beside it. A distinguished artist, who happened fortunately to be in the neighbourhood at the time of this interesting discovery, has furnished me with sketches of the locality. He describes the flint flakes as so numerous, that they formed a heap of from eighteen inches to two feet in height when removed from the cist.[151]

Other and scarcely less interesting evidences of ancient population are still observable in remote nooks of the Western Highlands, where the Dalriadic Scots first effected a settlement in the land which has borne their name for so many centuries. The road from Port Ellen to the site of the ancient cist, above described, passes for a considerable way through a narrow winding valley, studded with huge [Pg 123]boulders and detached masses of rock, preserving evidences of remarkable geological changes many ages anterior to the earliest occurrence within the range of archæological science. Similar evidences are of frequent occurrence along these western shores, where now the restless Atlantic is slowly but unceasingly gnawing the rocky coast into wilder and more picturesque forms, while it strews the stolen debris on its ocean bed, to form new strata and continents for younger worlds than ours. With these evidences of change we have not now to deal. But in various districts of the same neighbourhood, and particularly amid the scenes on which a new interest has been conferred as those in which the poet Campbell passed some of his early years, the curious traveller may descry, amid "the desolate heath" of the poet,[152] indications on the hill-sides of a degree of cultivation having existed at some former period far beyond what is exhibited in that locality at the present day. The soil on the sloping sides of the hills appears to have been retained by dwarf walls, and these singular terraces occur frequently at such altitudes as must convey a remarkably vivid idea of the extent and industry of an ancient population, where now the grazing of a few black cattle alone tempts to the claim of property in the soil. In other districts the half-obliterated furrows are still traceable on heights which have been abandoned for ages to the wild fox or the eagle. Such evidences of ancient population and industry are by no means confined to the remote districts of ancient Dalriada. They occur in many parts of Scotland, startling the believer in the unmitigated barbarism of Scotland prior to the medieval era with evidence of a state of prosperity and civilisation at some remote epoch, the date of which has yet to be ascertained; though there are not wanting periods within the era of authentic Scottish history to which some of these may with considerable probability be assigned. The very simple explanation of such ancient plough-marks which has satisfied the popular mind is apparent in the appellation of elf furrows, by which they are commonly known. The prevalence of these infallible tokens of former industry was noted by the Rev. George Maxwell when drawing up an account of the parish of Buittle, in Galloway, towards the close of last century. The rustic tradition by which the reverend Statist seeks to account for the greater agricultural skill of former ages, though amusing enough, is not without its value to us from the proof it affords of the extent to which such [Pg 124]traces must have existed when they made so great an impression on the popular mind:—

"It is here to be observed," he remarks, "that there are few hills in this part of Galloway, where cultivation is at all practicable, that do not bear distinct marks of the plough. The depths of the furrows, too, plainly declare that this tillage has not been casual, or merely experimental, but frequent and successive. This should set both the ancient population and industry of this part of Scotland in a more favourable light than that in which they are usually held. It also affords probability to a tradition repeated by the country people to this day: that at a time when Scotland was under a Papal interdict, or sentence of cursing from the Pope, it was found that his Holiness had forgot to curse the hills, though he had commanded the land, usually arable, to yield no increase; and that while this sentence remained, the people were necessitated to seek tillage ground in places unusual and improbable!"[153]

Returning, however, from this digression, to the consideration of the rude primitive implements of stone and flint, and the flint flakes out of which the latter were formed,—the flint arrow and lance heads constructed from these furnish evidence of much patient ingenuity, and exhibit considerable variety of form. It is difficult, indeed, to conceive of the process by which workmen, provided with such imperfect tools as we must presume them to have possessed, were able to split the flint into flakes, and reduce these to such regular forms. The remoteness of the period when this primitive art was superseded by the workers in metal, is proved by the incorporation of the ancient flint implements into some of the most prevalent popular superstitions of the north. The terms Elf-bolt, Elf-shot, or Elfin-arrow, are invariably applied to the flint arrow-head throughout the Scottish Lowlands. The Gaelic name, Sciat-hee, is completely synonymous; while in Shetland and Orkney the idea of their supernatural origin is more frequently conveyed by the term thunderbolt, invariably applied to the stone celt. This variation in the popular mode of giving expression to the idea of the supernatural origin of these primitive weapons, among the inhabitants of the mainland and the northern isles of Scotland, is worthy of passing note, from the evidence it affords of one well-defined early date to which we may refer as a known period when the stone weapons were fully as much relics of a remote past, and objects of popular wonder, as now. The name still applied to the Elf-bolt, by the Norwegian peasantry, is Tordenkiler, or thunderstone,[154] so that we can feel little hesitation in assigning to [Pg 125]the old Norse colonists of Orkney, the difference still discernible in these expressions of the same popular idea, and inferring from thence, what all other evidence confirms, that the Scottish Stone Period belongs to an era many centuries prior to the oldest date of her written history. The Elf-bolt is associated with many rustic fancies not yet altogether eradicated from the popular mind. It occupied no unimportant part among the paraphernalia of Scottish witches of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and the occurrence of any sudden disease amongst cattle was ascribed until a comparatively recent period, to their having been shot by the fairies with Elfin arrows. This ancient superstition is not peculiar to Scotland. In Norway similar diseases, not only of cattle but of men, were called by the same name of Alfskot, and in Denmark, of Elveskud, that is, Elf-shot; though the flint arrow-head is not recognised as the bolt which furnishes for such purposes the quivers of the malignant elves. But other, and probably more ancient Scandinavian legends, prove the existence of similar northern associations with the primitive arrow-head of flint. In the "Fornaldar Sögur Nordlanda," or Legends from the primitive period of the North, derived from ancient manuscripts, Orvar Odd's Saga furnishes a curious evidence of this,—

Orvar Odd, who is already furnished with three iron arrows, the gift of Guse, a Fin king possessed of magic power, in the course of his wanderings is hospitably entertained by an old man of singular appearance. On the side where the old man sat he laid three stone arrows on the table near the dish. They were so large and handsome that Orvar thought he had never seen anything like them. He took them up and looked at them, saying, "These arrows are well made." "If you really think them to be so," replied his host, "I shall make you a present of them." "I do not think," replied Orvar, smiling, "that I need cumber myself with stone arrows." The old man answered, "Be not sure that you will not some time stand in need of them. I know that you possess three arrows, called the Guse's gifts, but, though you deem it unlikely, it may happen that the Guse's weapons prove useless, then these stone arrows will avail you." Orvar Odd accordingly receives the gift, and chancing soon after to encounter a foe who by like magic was impenetrable to all ordinary weapons, he transfixes him with the stone arrows, which immediately vanish.[155]

From references to the geographical divisions of Russia, as well as other internal evidence, this version of the legend is believed to have been written not later than the twelfth century. The tradition, however, is doubtless based on a much older belief, so that we cannot err in assuming that at the earliest period of intercourse between[Pg 126] Scotland and Norway, sufficiently frequent to assimilate the popular superstition of the two countries, the Stone Period was only known as a state of society so essentially different from every historic tradition with which the people were familiar, that they referred its weapons and implements to the same invisible sprites by whose agency they were wont to account for all incomprehensible or superhuman occurrences.

The Elf-arrow was almost universally esteemed throughout Scotland as an amulet or charm, equally effectual against the malice of Elfin sprites, and the spells of witchcraft. Dipt in the water which cattle were to drink, it was supposed to be the most effectual cure for their diseases, while sewed in the dress, it was no less available for the protection of the human race; and it is still occasionally to be met with perforated or set in gold or silver, for wearing as an amulet. Like other weapons of Elfin artillery, it was supposed to retain its influence at the will of the possessor, and thus became the most effective talisman against elvish malice, witchcraft, or the evil-eye, when in the hands of man. Such traditional myths of vulgar superstition are not without their value, however humble their direct origin may be. They are frequently only distorted images of important truths, and we shall find more than one occasion to recur to them for aid in reuniting the broken skein of primitive history. To follow out the simile, it may sometimes be said of them with truth, that where all other lines of connexion with the past are broken, these are only ravelled and confused.

Arrow-heads of the Stone Period are found in Scotland in great numbers, and of a considerable variety of forms. They are for the most part made of silex, though also met with of agate, cornelian, and other native pebbles, and are frequently finished with much neatness and care. The woodcut exhibits a very fine one, the full size of the original, which was found in the Isle of Skye, and is now in the collection of Mr. John Bell of Dungannon. Pennant has engraved a large cinerary urn, discovered along with three others, on opening a cairn on the hill of Down, near Banff. They contained, in addition to the incinerated remains, bone implements and flint arrow-heads, the largest of them having in it thirteen of the latter, all of the shape to which the term barbed is most commonly applied. This, indeed, while it appears to be one of the most artificial forms, involving the greatest amount of labour and skill in fashioning the material, is also[Pg 127] one of most frequent occurrence in Scotland. Those already referred to as found, along with an ancient wooden wheel, in the Blair-Drummond Moss, were of the same shape. So also were some obtained on opening a tumulus in the parish of Killearn, Stirlingshire, during the past year; and indeed they have been met with in nearly every district of the mainland, and of the northern and western isles. Lance- and spear-heads of silex are also not uncommon, both in the tumuli and among the objects turned up where the scenes of primitive population are subjected for the first time to the plough. A very fine spear-head of silex, fifteen inches long, and beautifully finished, was discovered a few years since on the demolition of a cairn on the estate of Craigengelt, near Stirling. Another of somewhat smaller dimensions, also found in a cairn, on the estate of John Guthrie, Esq., Forfarshire, about 1796, is figured and described in the Gentleman's Magazine of the following year.[156]

Flint knives, though apparently less abundant than in the different Scandinavian countries, and especially in Denmark, are frequently turned up in the course of agricultural operations. In no instance that has come under my notice have implements been found in Scotland exactly resembling the curious lunar flint knives and saws of such common occurrence in Denmark and Sweden; yet examples of similar form are familiar to American archæologists among the singular contents of the great mounds explored of late years in the valley of the Mississippi, and in other districts of the North American continent. These are generally made of slate, and stone knives analogous to them appear also to have been used in the Scottish primitive periods, to supply similar necessities. In the Shetland and Orkney islands especially stone knives are common, and in other districts knives of flint, though not of the northern lunar shape, are often[Pg 128] met with. It is perhaps of fully as much importance, in the present stage of archæological inquiries, to note the dissimilarity, as the correspondence of relics of the same period in different countries. We have already observed a resemblance so remarkable, in the implements of the Stone Period pertaining to countries alike separated by time and space, as to preclude the possibility of ascribing it to any mutual intercourse or common source of knowledge, that nothing but a correspondence in many minute details will justify the inference of international intercourse or similarity of races. Dissimilarity, however, in these primitive implements, if the means of comparison be sufficiently extensive, may suffice to establish the opposite conclusion, that little or no intercourse had existed between Scotland and those countries, such as Norway and Sweden, at least during the earliest historic periods. Little proof, indeed, is required to establish this—if we set aside the opinion, assumed without any investigation of the evidence, that the natives of ancient Caledonia lagged far behind the other races of Northern Europe in the arts of civilisation—for their primitive arts precluded the construction of fleets fitted for the navigation of the intermediate seas, and shut them up to their own native ingenuity. Still it may be that the discovery of a more complete correspondence with the stone implements of other parts of Europe will yet add to our knowledge of the first colonisation of the British Isles, and help us to follow back the track of these nomadic tribes in their wanderings from the eastern cradle land of the human race.

One of the most curious stone implements of frequent occurrence in the northern islands is what the Shetlanders style a Pech's knife. They have already been referred to as partially resembling the lunar flint knives of Norway and Denmark. But in the Scottish examples the semicircular edge is sharp, while the straight side is thickened like the back of a common knife. Others are oval, or irregular in form, and brought to an edge round the whole circumference. One of the latter, in the Scottish Antiquarian Museum, formed of thin laminæ of madreporite, was found at one of the burghs or round towers of Shetland. It measures 4½ by 4 inches, and does not exceed, in greatest thickness, the tenth of an inch. Similar implements, in the collection of the London Antiquaries at Somerset House, are mentioned by Mr. Albert Way,[157] as probably the ancient stone in[Pg 129]struments transmitted to Sir Joseph Banks by Mr. Scott of Lerwick, in Shetland, and communicated to the Society, March 9, 1820. Sixteen were found by a man digging peats in the parish of Walls, Shetland, placed regularly on an horizontal line, and overlapping each other like slates upon the roof of a house, each stone standing at an angle of 45°. They lay at a depth of about six feet in the peat moss, and the line of stones ran east and west, with the upper edge towards the east. A considerable number of implements, mostly of the same class, were found on the clay under the ancient mosses of Blair-Drummond and Meiklewood. Some of them are composed of slate, and others of a compact green stone. They are from four to six inches long, flat, and well polished. There were also along with them a number of stone celts and axe heads, mostly made of the same hard green stone. In the Scottish collection is a knife of an entirely different form, made of light grey flint, which was found, along with a stone celt of unusual shape, within the area of a "Druidical circle," in Strachur parish, Argyleshire. Two others, recently discovered in ploughing a field in the neighbourhood of Largo, Fifeshire, totally differ from any of the numerous examples found in Denmark or Sweden. They are bent back at the point, finished with great care, have a fine edge, and appear to have been attached to bone or wooden handles. Another example, somewhat resembling these, was found in cutting a drain on the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh, and though simpler, is also peculiar, and apparently unique in form. On showing it recently to an East-Lothian farmer, he remarked that he had frequently seen such things turned up by the plough, but had never thought them worth the trouble of lifting.

Celts[158] and hatchets, or wedges, are among the most abundant of all the relics of the Stone Period. They have been discovered in considerable quantities in almost every part of Scotland, from the remote Orkney and Shetland Isles,[159] to the shores of the Solway and the banks of [Pg 130]the Tweed. They are frequently found rudely executed, with little appearance of labour except at the edge; while other examples are characterized by the highest finish and the utmost degree of polish that the modern lapidary could confer on them. The manner of attaching the stone celt to a handle has been made the subject of some discussion, though sufficiently illustrated by the practice of the modern Polynesians and other savage tribes still using weapons of stone. M. Boucher de Perthes has succeeded in throwing some new light on the subject by researches in the neighbourhood of Abbeville, which point to the conclusion that the French celt has been inserted into the hollow portion of a stag's horn having a perforation in it to receive the handle.[160] Various other methods, however, have been shewn by which this primitive weapon could be hafted, so as to become available for the war axe of the northern warrior. The example found in the earliest ancient canoe of the Clyde, leaves no room to doubt that it was bound to the handle by thongs or portions of the haft passing round the middle. Both ends are highly polished, while the middle remains rough, having evidently been designed to be covered and concealed.[161] One stone celt has been found in Ireland, near Cookstone, in the county of Tyrone, still attached to its wooden handle, the artless rudeness of which could hardly be surpassed.[162] Much more efficient means, however, are frequently seen employed in corresponding weapons brought from the South Sea Islands than any of the ancient examples display; and these may suffice to illustrate the improved methods which experience would suggest to the rude Caledonian aborigines.


The stone celt must unquestionably be regarded as a weapon of war. With its thick round edge, when wielded at the end of a long handle, similar to those to which we see the stone axes of the Polynesian savages attached, it would prove an effective lethal weapon, [Pg 131]but very few examples of it could be applied to any useful purpose as tools. The flint or stone hatchet was more probably the implement which, with the ever-ready aid of fire, sufficed to hew down the oak, to split and reduce it into requisite forms for domestic uses, or to shape and hollow it out into such rude canoes as have been described in a former chapter. Still it is difficult to draw any very definite line of distinction between the artificer's and the warrior's axe, the same implement having doubtless been often employed in waging war on the leafy giants of the old Caledonian forests, and on rival tribes who found a home within their fastnesses. The most perfect, indeed, of the stone hatchets seem ill adapted for the laborious task of felling the knotty oak, and hollowing it for the primitive canoe. But in all such considerations of savage arts it must be borne in remembrance that time, which forms so important an element in modern estimate, hardly comes into account with the savage. Armed with no better tools, the Red Indian, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, is known to cut an incision in the bark round the root of the tree destined for his canoe; into this he places glowing embers until it is charred to a considerable depth, and by the alternate use of the hatchet and the fire the largest tree is brought to the ground, and by the same ingenious process adapted to bear its owner on the open seas.

[Pg 132]

A very interesting discovery of an example of the use of the stone battle-axe, or celt, is thus described in a letter from Captain Denniston to Mr. Train. About the year 1809, Mr. M'Lean of Mark found it necessary, in the course of some improvements on his farm, to remove a large cairn on the Moor of Glenquicken, Kirkcudbrightshire, which popular tradition assigned as the tomb of some unknown Galwegian king, styled Aldus M'Galdus:—"When the cairn had been removed, the workmen came to a stone coffin of very rude workmanship, and on removing the lid, they found the skeleton of a man of uncommon size. The bones were in such a state of decomposition, that the ribs and vertebræ crumbled into dust on attempting to lift them. The remaining bones being more compact, were taken out, when it was discovered that one of the arms had been almost separated from the shoulder by the stroke of a stone axe, and that a fragment of the axe still remained in the bone. The axe had been of green stone, a species of stone never found in this part of Scotland. There were also found with this skeleton a ball of flint, about three inches in diameter, which was perfectly round and highly polished, and the head of an arrow, also of flint, but not a particle of any metallic substance."[163] Many of the most highly-finished celts and hatchets found in Scotland are made of the same green stone, which is susceptible of a beautiful polish. Other implements of this period are chisels of flint, nearly resembling those of Norway and Denmark. Several examples are in the Scottish Museum; and a curious instance of a perforated chisel, similar to those frequently found in Denmark, was turned up in 1841, in trenching a piece of ground near the Church of Lismore, Argyleshire. It is of the usual square form, measuring four inches long, and is described in the New Statistical Account as a stone needle.[164] Another and larger class of Scottish implements are cylindrical or oval perforated stones, of which no examples, I believe, have yet been found in Denmark or Sweden. The woodcut represents one of these implements, measuring 8¼ inches in length, found in a cist near North Berwick Abbey, East-Lothian, where many primitive remains have been discovered. It is flattened at the end where it is perforated, and is made of a very hard polished stone. Another was found in 1832, in the parish of Lumphanan, Aberdeenshire; and similar implements are occasionally mentioned among the contents of Scottish tumuli. In a cist, discovered under a barrow, in Kirkurd parish, Peeblesshire, there were various weapons of flint and stone, including one described as resembling the head of a halbert, another of a circular form, and the third of a cylindrical shape; in all probability a celt, a spherical flint or stone, and one of the implements now referred to, which may be conveniently designated as flail-stones.[165] On levelling a large tumulus a few years since, at Dalpatrick, Lanarkshire, a cist was discovered inclosing an urn. Two other specimens of fictile ware, one of them supposed to be a lamp, were found imbedded in the surrounding earth, and also a flail-stone made of trap rock. It is described as "a curious whinstone, of a roundish form, about four inches in diameter, perforated with a circular hole, through which the radicle of an oak growing near the spot had found its way."[166] Similar stone implements have been fre[Pg 133]quently met with in Scotland, and were perhaps designed for use as offensive weapons, attached to a leather thong or secured by such means to the end of a shaft, like a modern flail. The Shoshonee Indians, and other North American tribes, used such a weapon under the name of a Pogamoggon; the stone not being perforated, but inclosed in leather, by which it was fastened to the handle. Other tribes of the Mississippi valley had a simpler form of the same weapon, possibly corresponding to the spherical relics of flint or stone occasionally found with these, consisting of a grooved ball attached to a long leather thong, which they wielded, like a slung-shot, with deadly effect.[167] A medieval offensive weapon, constructed on the same principle, bore the quaint name of "The Morning Star," an epithet no doubt suggested by its form; as it consisted of a ball of iron armed with radiating spikes, attached by a chain to its handle. Like the ruder flail-stone, the morning star, when efficiently wielded, must have proved a deadly weapon in the desultory warfare of undisciplined assailants; but whenever the value of combined operations was discovered and acted upon it would have to be thrown aside, as probably more fatal to friends than to enemies. In the Scottish flail-stones the perforation is bevelled off so as to admit of their free use without cutting or fraying the thong by which they were held. We shall not probably greatly err in assuming these to be the first "morning stars" of that old twilight, in the uncertain light of which we are groping for some stray truths of the infancy of history.

A stone implement in my own possession, somewhat similar in general form to these flail-stones, was found beside a group of cists near North Berwick, East-Lothian, but its original destination is obvious. It is made of hard sandstone, of a flattened oval form in section, and is worn on the two alternate sides where it has been used as a whetstone—a use for which the hardness and high polish of the others render them totally unfit.

Not the least curious among the primitive relics in the celebrated museum of northern antiquities at Copenhagen, are the various whetstones, some of which have been found in barrows and elsewhere under ground, with half-finished stone-wedges lying upon them, as if the workman had been suddenly interrupted by death in the midst of his laborious industry, and his unaccomplished task had been deemed the fittest memorial to lay beside him. It formed no part of the old Pagan[Pg 134] creed that "there is no work nor device in the grave." Possibly enough the buried celt-maker was expected to resume his occupation and finish his axe-grinding in the spirits' land. No similar example has yet been noted in Scotland, though smaller hand whetstones, like the one found at North Berwick, are not uncommon. One which is described as very smooth and neat, was obtained among the contents discovered on excavating within the area of the vitrified fort of Craig Phaidrick, near Inverness;[168] several such were found in cists at Cockenzie, East-Lothian; and Barry mentions among the miscellaneous contents of the tumuli or cists in the island of Westray, "a flat piece of marble, of a circular form, about two inches and a-half in diameter, and several stones, in shape and appearance like whetstones that had never been used."[169]

Great as are the numbers and varieties of the stone weapons and implements of Denmark, compared with those found in Britain, they appear to be surpassed in both respects by the corresponding relics of the Mexican Stone Period. Such facts suggest the inference, which history in some degree confirms, that the metallurgic arts were earlier known in Britain than in Denmark, thereby superseding the arts of the stone-workers before they had been elaborated as elsewhere; while in Mexico, Yucatan, and throughout the districts of the North American continent, where a native civilisation is known to have prevailed, iron was totally unknown, and copper had not completely superseded the stone hatchet and arrow-point when Columbus opened a way to that new world. But who shall say how many more curious and noteworthy reminiscences of the past may have been ignorantly destroyed in Scotland, among the thousands of burial-mounds annually invaded by the unlettered peasant in his agricultural labours.

Among the larger implements of this period the most remarkable and varied are the Stone Hammers and Axes. They are of common occurrence, and present a variety of forms, evidently designed to adapt them to a considerable diversity of purposes. They are therefore available as evidence in estimating the degree of inventive talent manifested in the primitive state of society in which they were produced, showing as they do the intelligent savage coping with the untractable materials with which he had to deal, and supplying many deficiencies by his own ingenuity and skill. With these, as with the [Pg 135]elf-bolts of the same period, we find in the reminiscences of early superstition the evidence of their frequent occurrence long after all traces of their origin and uses had been obliterated by the universal substitution of metallic implements. As we find the little flint arrow-head associated with Scottish folk-lore as the Elfin's bolt, so the stone hammer of the same period was adapted to the creed of the middle ages. The name by which it was popularly known in Scotland almost till the close of last century was that of the Purgatory Hammer. Found as it frequently was within the cist and beside the mouldering bones of its old Pagan possessor, the simple discoverer could devise no likelier use for it than that it was laid there for its owner to bear with him "up the trinal steps," and with it thunder at the gates of purgatory till the heavenly janitor appeared, that he might

With humble heart, that he unbar the bolt."[170]

The stone hammer is frequently found in the older cists. In 1832 a farm-servant while ploughing a field on the farm of Downby, in Orkney, struck his ploughshare on a stone which proved to be the cover of a cist of the usual contracted dimensions, in which lay a skeleton that seemed to have been interred in a sitting posture. At the right hand lay a highly polished mallet-head of gneiss, beautifully marked with dark and light streaks.[171]

Stone Hammers and Axes.

The examples figured here furnish a few of the most characteristic varieties of Scottish hammers that have been preserved. They by no means equal in number those found in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. But only a very partial and extremely superficial investi[Pg 136]gation of such relics has yet been made, and we possess no national collection in Scotland, similar to that of the Christiansborg Palace of Copenhagen, to which the whole available financial and legal machinery of the kingdom is employed in gathering the primitive national antiquities so soon as they are discovered. The Old and New Statistical Accounts abound with notices of opened tumuli and cairns, and of their valuable archæological contents; but unfortunately in nearly every case these are either conveniently ascribed to Romans and Danes, or mentioned so vaguely that no use can be made of them as illustrations of the period to which they belong.

The name of Axe is, with sufficient appropriateness, applied to the double-edged stone implements, and to those of a wedge-shape which have the aperture for inserting the handle near the broad end, whereas other examples perforated sufficiently near the centre to admit of the free use of both ends are with equal propriety styled hammers. They are frequently finished with great neatness and art; not made, like the hatchet, of flint, but of a variety of kinds of stone, from the gray granite, of which the largest are generally made, to trap and even sandstone. Several examples have been discovered in an unfinished state, furnishing curious illustration of the laborious process of manufacture. One large one in particular in the Scottish Museum was found in digging the Caledonian Canal. It is made of gray granite, very symmetrically and beautifully formed, and with the hole partially bored on both sides. This was probably effected with water and sand by the tedious process of turning round a smaller stone until the perforation was at length completed. Tried therefore by the standard of value of the Stone Period, the hammer was perhaps a more costly deposit in the tomb of some favourite chief than the golden armillæ of later times. The Danish antiquaries are familiar with examples of unfinished stone implements, and also with a still more curious class, consisting of broken hammers and otherwise mutilated instruments, which have been perforated with another hole or ground to a new edge, affording striking evidence of the value of such implements to their primitive[Pg 137] owners. The example figured here, partaking of the characteristics both of the hammer and axe, was dug up on the farm of Dell, in the parish of Abernethy, and is engraved from a sketch by the late Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Bart. It measures eight inches in length, and was found at a depth of about five feet from the surface, in a soil consisting of two feet of mould lying above peat moss.

The following class of objects includes a variety of stone implements the uses of which are extremely doubtful or altogether unknown, though they are often found along with other relics of the Stone Period. The woodcut represents various examples of perforated stone balls, such as are frequently met with, and to which it may be convenient to apply the name of Bead-stones. Some of them are decorated with a variety of incised lines, and may have been worn as marks of distinction or as personal ornaments held in great esteem, as they are not uncommon among the relics deposited in the cist or cinerary urn. One plausible theory of their use which has been suggested is that they are the stone weights used with the distaff, and they have accordingly received in Germany the name of Spindelstein. The Scottish whorle, or fly of the spinning-rock, however, is still familiar to us, and bears only a very partial resemblance to these perforated balls; consisting generally of a flattened disc, much better adapted for the motion required in the distaff. But independently of this, these rude ornaments have been found alongside of male skeletons, and in such numbers as might rather induce the belief that they had formed the collar of honour of some old barbarian chief, esteemed as no less honourable than the golden links of rue and thistle worn by the knights of St. Andrew at the court of the Scottish Jameses. As such, therefore, they should be classed with the personal ornaments of the same period, but their use is still open to question, and they may therefore meanwhile not unfitly rank with the other objects treated of in this chapter.

[Pg 138]

On demolishing a cairn at Dalpatrick, in Lanarkshire, a few years ago, it was found to cover a cist inclosing an urn, and in the surrounding heap were discovered another urn about six inches high, a smaller vessel of baked clay, and a curious whinstone of roundish form, about four inches in diameter, and perforated with a circular hole.[172] "In one of the Orkney graves," says Barry, "was found a metal spoon, and a glass cup that contained two gills Scotch measure; and in another a number of stones formed into the shape and size of whorles, like those that were formerly used for spinning in Scotland."[173] Two of these bead-stones in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries were discovered in Dumbartonshire, along with various smaller ones, some of them of glass and undoubtedly designed as ornaments. Other examples are more in the form of a truncated cone, and are referred to in a later chapter as perhaps the tablemen for a game somewhat similar to that of draughts, and still called by the Germans Brettsteine. Larger perforated stones have also been found. Mr. Joseph Train describes several obtained in Galloway, five or six inches in diameter, one of which, in his own possession, as black and glossy as polished ebony, had been picked up in the ruins of an old byre, where it had doubtless been used, according to the ideas of that country-side, to counteract the spells of witchcraft.[174] Others formed of slate are of frequent occurrence in the Portpatrick parish, Wigtonshire, and are not unknown in other districts.[175]

Unperforated spherical stones, generally about the size of an orange, have been referred to along with other contents of the Scottish tumulus. It is not always possible to distinguish these from the stone cannon ball which continued in use even in James VI.'s reign. The circumstances under which they occur, however, leave no room to doubt that they ranked among the articles held in esteem by the primitive races of Britain, ages before the chemical properties of nitre, sulphur, and charcoal had been employed to supersede older projectile forces. The distinction is further confirmed by their being occasionally decorated with incised circles and other ornaments, as in the example shewn here, found near the line of the old Roman way which runs through Dumfriesshire on its northern course from Carlisle. Another of highly polished flint has already been described among the remarkable [Pg 139]disclosures of a large cairn on the Moor of Glenquicken, Kirkcudbrightshire, and two of similar form were shewn me recently as a part of the contents of a cist opened in the course of farming operations on the estate of Cochno, Dumbartonshire, one of which was made of highly-polished red granite, a species of rock unknown in that district. Similar balls occur among the relics found in the barrows of Denmark. In the "Report addressed by the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries to its British and American Members," printed at Copenhagen in 1836, a class of primitive objects are described under the name of Corn Crushers. The engraving of one of these represents a rude block of stone flattened on the upper side. In the centre of this is a circular cavity, into which a smooth ball of stone has been made to fit, thereby supplying by a less efficient means the same purpose aimed at in the querne, discovered so frequently under a variety of shapes among the relics of various periods of early Scottish history. The shallow circular stone troughs or mortars so often found in Scottish burghs and weems belong to the same class. A still ruder device consists of a pair of stones which have evidently been employed in rubbing against each other, and it may be presumed with the same object in view, that of bruising the grain for domestic use. They have been occasionally noticed among the chance disclosures of the spade or plough in Scotland, and are of common occurrence in the Irish bogs. The author of the Account of Halkirk Parish, Caithness, thus describes the mortars above referred to, and also the pestles or crushers—manifestly a similar device to the Danish corn crushers—which are found together in the burghs:—"I have seen in them numbers of small round hard stones, in the form of a very flat or oblate sphere, of 2½ inches thick in the centre, and about four inches in diameter; also other round stones, perfectly circular, very plain and level on one side, with a small rise at the circumference, and about a foot in diameter. The intention of both these kinds of stones manifestly was to break and grind their grain."[176] It may reasonably be assumed, however, that neither the old British nor Scandinavian warrior deposited under the barrow of his chief, and alongside of his well-proved celt and spear, the homely corn crusher with which his wives or his slaves were wont to prepare the grain for domestic use. The decoration traceable on some of the stone balls confirms this idea; and it is more probable they were employed as weapons of war, like the pogamoggon of the Chippeway and Shoshonee Indians of America, some of which consisted of a spherical stone, weighing from half a pound to two pounds. This they inclosed in leather, and attached to a thong a yard and a half in length, which was wound round the wrist, the more effectually to secure its hold. Along with these objects may also be noted the roughly-shaped spherical discs of flint occasionally found with other stone relics in Scotland, and much more common in Ireland, where they bear the name of "Sling Stones."

[Pg 140]

Like other of the more remarkable primitive relics, the spherical stones have been associated with popular superstitions of a later period, and have been esteemed, along with crystal-beads, adder-stones, or waterworn perforated pebbles, and the like efficient armory of vulgar credulity, as invaluable amulets or charms.

"The stone arrow-heads," says Pennant, "of the old inhabitants of this island, are supposed to be weapons shot by fairies at cattle, to which are attributed any disorders they have. In order to effect a cure, the cow is to be touched by an elf-shot, or made to drink the water in which one has been dipped. The same virtue is said to be found in the crystal gems and in the adder-stone; and it is also believed that good fortune must attend the owner; so, for that reason, the first is called Clach Bhuai, or the powerful stone. Captain Archibald Campbell showed me one, a spheroid set in silver, for the use of which people came above a hundred miles, and brought the water it was to be dipt in with them; for without that in human cases it was believed to have no effect."[177] That such was no modern superstition he conceives is proved by a variety of evidence, as where Montfaucon remarks that it was customary in early times to deposit crystal balls in urns or sepulchres: thus twenty were found at Rome in an alabastrine urn, and one was discovered in 1653 at Tournai, in the tomb of Childeric, King of France, who died A.D. 480.

It appears to be only natural to the uninstructed mind to associate objects which it cannot explain with some mysterious and superhuman end; and hence the superseded implements of a long extinct race become the charms and talismans of their superstitious successors.

One other class of primitive relics remains to be noted, belonging to the same early period. These are the ornaments, weapons, and tools of horn or bone; such as the lances or harpoons already described as found alongside of the stranded whales in the alluvial valley of the[Pg 141] Forth. Such relics are by no means rare, notwithstanding the perishable nature of the material of which they are constructed. Barry describes among the contents of the Orkney tumuli, "swords made of the bone of a large fish, and also daggers."[178] The woodcut represents what should perhaps be regarded as a bone dagger. It was found in a stone cist near Kirkwall, lying beside a rude urn, and is now in the possession of Dr. Traill. It measures 7½ inches long, and appears to be made of the outer half of the lower portion of the right metatarsal bone of an ox. The notches cut on it are perhaps designed to give a firmer hold, while they also serve the purpose of rude attempts at ornament. Their effect, however, is greatly to weaken the weapon and render it liable to break. The cross may perhaps suggest to some the associations of a later period, but little importance can be attached to so simple and obvious a means of decoration. Possibly indeed so far from its affording any indication of the influence of "the faith of the cross," it should be regarded like the incised patterns hereafter alluded to, wrought on later bronze implements, as suggestive of the use of the poisoned blade by the rude aborigines of the Stone Period. Pennant has engraved an implement of horn, carved and perforated at the thick end, found in a large urn under a cairn in Banffshire, and another, closely corresponding to it, was discovered in 1829, in a large urn dug up in the progress of the works requisite for erecting the Dean Bridge at Edinburgh.[179] A curious relic of the same class was brought to light on removing part of a remarkable cairn which still stands, though in ruins, on the summit of one of the Ochil Hills, on the northern boundary of Orwell parish, Kinross-shire. It bears the name of Cairn-a-vain, and an ancient traditional rhyme thus refers to a treasure believed to be contained in it:—

In the Dryburn well, beneath a stane,
You'll find the key o' Cairn-a-vain,
That will mak' a' Scotland rich ane by ane.

Many hundreds of cart-loads of stones have been carried off by the proprietor from this gigantic pile, for the purpose of building fences, [Pg 142]but no treasure has yet been found, though eagerly expected by the workmen. A rude stone cist occupied the centre of the pile, within which lay an urn full of bones and charcoal, and amongst these a small implement of bone, about four inches long, very much resembling in figure a cricket-bat notched on the edges.[180]

Various weapons of horn and bone are preserved in the Scottish collection, some of them so slender as to be rather pins or bodkins than lances. One of the latter, measuring four inches in length, and perforated at the broad end, was found in the year 1786, in the ruins of one of those ancient buildings in Caithness, popularly but perhaps not erroneously styled "Picts' houses." Alongside of it lay one of the rings of jet or shale, which are also among the more common relics found in Scottish barrows. To these instances may be added the frequent occurrence of deer's horns among the contents of tumuli, not seldom bearing similar marks of artificial cutting. Some years since a quantity of deer's horns which had been sawn asunder were discovered in a bed of charcoal, a few feet below the surface, outside the "Seamhill moat," in the parish of West Kilbride, Ayrshire.[181] A deer's horn of unusually large size, and from which the brow-antler has been cut off, is now in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries. It was obtained with others, on levelling a large sepulchral barrow in the neighbourhood of Elphinstone Tower, East-Lothian. Another of smaller dimensions, in the same collection, was discovered in a cist at Cockenzie, in the same county. Pennant mentions the similar discovery of a deer's horn, "the symbol of the favourite amusement of the deceased," lying beside the skeleton, in a stone cist, on the demolition of a cairn at Craigmills, Banffshire; and on opening the most conspicuous of a group of tumuli, in the parish of Alvie, Inverness-shire, a human skeleton was observed entire, with a pair of large hart's horns laid across it.[182] To these instances may be added the recent discovery of ancient oaken coffins on the Castlehill of Edinburgh, at a depth of twenty-five feet from the surface,—more particularly described in a later chapter,—alongside which lay a deer's skull and horns of unusually large proportions.

Examples of this use of the antlers of the deer are by no means rare. It appears to offer some additional corroboration of the date assigned to those simpler rites of sepulture, which it has been suggested may [Pg 143]probably indicate an era prior to the introduction of the small stone cist and the practice of interment in a sitting or folded posture; that in several examples which have been carefully noted, the body has been found laid at full length, and in one or two instances with the spreading antlers at the feet, like the sculptured lion or stag which reposes on the altar-tomb of our medieval chantries at the feet of the recumbent Christian knight.

It cannot admit of doubt that bone and horn continued to supply the absence of metallic weapons to the very close of the Stone Period. Nevertheless it suggests the probable antiquity of the examples referred to, that notwithstanding the great susceptibility of the material for receiving ornament, they present so few of those incised decorations common not only on the sepulchral pottery, but on the pateræ, bead-stones, and other relics formed of the hardest materials.

One of the most interesting recent discoveries of this primitive class of implements was made by Mr. G. Petrie, during his exploration of a subterranean dwelling or weem at Skara, in the Bay of Scales, Sandwich. A large accumulation of ashes, bones of domestic animals, the tusks of a very large wild boar, scales of fish, &c., indicated the refuse of many repasts of its aboriginal occupants; and alongside of it, apparently in coeval rubbish, was found a stone cist, containing, among other remains, about two dozen oyster shells, each perforated with a hole large enough to admit the finger. Perchance they supplied to their simple owner a collar not less esteemed than the most coveted orders of a modern peer. A curious variety of bone implements were discovered at the same time. The larger of the two objects in the annexed woodcut represents a pin or bodkin, formed from the left metatarsal bone of an ox of small size, in which the natural form of the joint has been turned to account for forming its head. It measures 5-3/10 inches long. The smaller object is also of bone. One side of the head is broken away, but the perforation has not been in the centre; it measures 3½ inches in length. Others of the tools are still more simple—mere flat pieces of bone, roughly rubbed to an edge, and indicating the merest rudiments of art and contrivance. Two other[Pg 144] examples from the same hoard are represented here, the smallest another pin, 2⅘ inches long, formed from the lower end of the metatarsal bone of a sheep, and the larger, perhaps intended as the handle of some implement of delicate structure. It appears to be fashioned from the metatarsal or metacarpal bone of a lamb, and is notched with a rude attempt at ornament, which, however, as in the dagger formerly described, must have greatly impaired its strength.[183] Along with these were also found a number of circular discs of slate, about half an inch thick, roughly chipped into shape, and about the size of a common dessert plate. The most ready idea that can be formed of them is, that they were actually designed for a similar purpose.

These simple relics of the primitive period may not inaptly recall to us the evidences of another class of occupants of the old Caledonian forests. At the very era when the Briton had to arm himself with such imperfect weapons, the wolf was one of his most common foes. Long after the era of the Roman invasion the wild boar was a favourite object of the chase, though the huge Bos Primigenius, whose fossil remains are so frequently found in our mosses and marl pits, had then made way for the Bos Longifrons, (rarely accompanying relics of a later era than the Anglo-Roman period,) and the Urus Scoticus, or Caledonian bull, which still forms so singularly interesting an occupant of the ancient forest of Cadzow, Lanarkshire. The large tusks frequently found among later alluvial deposits attest the enormous size attained by the Caledonian boar; and its repeated occurrence on the sculptured legionary tablets of Antoninus' wall may show that it was pre-eminent among the wild occupants of the forests which then skirted the Roman vallum in the carse of Falkirk, and along the slopes of the Campsie hills; if, indeed, this was not the reason of its adoption as the symbol of the Twentieth Legion. On constructing a new road a few years since, along the southern side of the rock on which Edinburgh Castle stands, deer's horns and boars' tusks of the largest dimensions were found; and in an ancient service-book of the monastery of Holyrood, the ground which some of the oldest buildings[Pg 145] of the Scottish capital have occupied for many centuries, is described as "ane gret forest, full of hartis, hyndis, toddis, and sic like manner of beistis." Thus is it with all that is venerable—an older still precedes it; and the docile student, when, by searching, he has found out all attainable knowledge, still sees behind him as before him an unknown, undiminished by all he has recovered. Meanwhile, it seems to become manifest, that the more minutely we investigate the primitive Scottish era, the further it recedes into the past, and approaches to the period of the first dispersion of the human family amid the strange confusion of tongues; if not indeed to that still earlier time when the sons of Javan were born after the flood, and by these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands—thus leading our thoughts, as Sir Thomas Browne quaintly, but devoutly expresses it, "unto old things and considerations of times before us, when even living men were antiquities, when the living might exceed the dead, and to depart this world could not be properly said, abiit ad plures, to go unto the greater number; and to run up our thoughts upon the Ancient of Days, the antiquary's truest object, unto whom the eldest parcels are young, and earth itself an infant."


[149] Archæol. Scot. vol. iii. p. 46.

[150] Scots Mag., Feb. 7, 1790.

[151] MS. letters, Mr. J. C. Brown, A.R.S.A. An interesting account of the discovery of numerous flint flakes, and weapons in all stages of progress, in the celebrated ossiferous cave of Kent's Hole, near Torquay, is introduced in a subsequent chapter.

[152] Lines written on visiting a scene in Argyleshire.

[153] Sinclair's Stat. Acc. vol. xvii. p. 115.

[154] They are described by this name of thunderstones in Sir Robert Sibbald's Portes Coloniæ et Castellæ, Plate II. Nos. 1-6.

[155] Fornaldar Sögur Nordlanda. Copenhagen, 1829.

[156] Gentleman's Mag. 1797, Part II. p. 200.

[157] Catalogue of Antiquities, Soc. Antiq. Lond. p. 14.

[158] I have retained the name of stone celt, notwithstanding its rejection by Mr. Worsaae and his intelligent English editor, in the "Primeval Antiquities of Denmark applied to the illustration of similar remains in England." The advantage of a fixed terminology cannot be overestimated; but in this case the term is of great value in order to distinguish a peculiar class of stone implements more frequently found in Scotland and Ireland than the stone or flint hatchet, and to which the British antiquary has special grounds for applying it. Both Owen and Spurrel give, as the meaning of the ancient Cambro-British celt, a flint stone. I propose, therefore, to retain it in what is obviously its primary acceptation, applying the name of bronze celt to the metal weapon afterwards substituted for it.

[159] Vide Hibbert's Shetland, pp. 247-250.

[160] Antiquités Celtiques et Antidiluviennes.

[161] Vide ante, p. 35.

[162] Archæological Journal, vol. iv. p. 3.

[163] New Statist. Acc., Kirkcudbrightshire, vol. iv. p. 332.

[164] New Statist. Acc, Argyleshire, vol. vii. p. 243.

[165] Sinclair's Statistical Account, vol. x. p. 186.

[166] New Statist. Acc. vol. vi. p. 734.

[167] Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi, p. 219.

[168] Archæol. Scotica, vol. iv. p. 188.

[169] Barry's Hist. Orkney Islands, p. 206.

[170] Carey's Dante, Canto ix. l. 97.

[171] MS. Soc. Ant. Scot. Rev. Charles Clouston.

[172] New Stat. Acc., Lanarkshire, vol. vi. p 734.

[173] Barry's Orkney, p. 206.

[174] New Stat. Acc., Kirkcudbrightshire, vol. iv. p. 196.

[175] New Stat. Acc., Wigtonshire, p. 143.

[176] Sinclair's Stat. Acc. vol. xix. p. 59.

[177] Pennant's Tour, vol i. p. 116.

[178] Barry's History of the Orkney Islands, p. 206.

[179] Minutes of Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 27th April 1829.

[180] New Statist. Acc. vol. ix. p. 60.

[181] New Statist. Acc. vol. v. p. 256.

[182] Sinclair's Statist. Acc. vol. xiii. p. 383. Vide also vol iii. p. 57. Archæological Journal, vol. ii. p. 80.

[183] The inferior articular surface of the bone has separated, which supplies evidence of its having been a lamb, union not having taken place owing to the youth of the animal.

[Pg 146]


[Pg 147]

Uyea Stone Urns.

A great variety of stone vessels, of different forms and sizes, have been found in Scotland under different circumstances, but in nearly all of them the rudeness of the attempts at ornament, and the whole form and character, suggest the probability of their belonging to the earliest period, coeval with the stone celt and hammer, and the bone and flint spears of the Scottish aborigines. Even sepulchral urns of this durable material are not uncommon, especially in the northern and western isles. Wallace thus describes one found in the island of Stronsa:—"It was a whole round stone like a barrel, hollow within, sharp edged at the top, having the bottom joined like the bottom of a barrel. On the mouth was a round stone."[184] From the engraving which accompanies this description it may be more correctly compared in form to a common flower-pot, decorated with a series of parallel lines running at intervals round it. In the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of London there are two rude stone urns, believed to be the same exhibited to the Society by Captain James Veitch in 1822, which were discovered on the demolition of a cairn in the island of Uyea, Shetland, along with many similar urns, mostly broken, and all containing bones and ashes. They are formed of Lapis ollaris, and are described by Mr. Albert Way, in his valuable Catalogue of the Society's Collection, as two rudely-fashioned vessels of stone, or small cists, of irregular quadrangular form, one of them having a large aperture at the bottom, closed by a piece of stone, fitted in with a groove, but easily displaced. The other has a triangular aperture on one side, and is perforated with several smaller holes regularly arranged. The dimensions of the larger are about 9½ inches by 4, and the other 7 inches by 3½. Dr. Hibbert refers to another of the same class, but probably of superior workmanship, which he saw on his visit to the Island of Uyea. It was found along with various other urns, which he simply mentions as of an interesting description, and is noted as "a well-shaped vessel, that had been apparently constructed of a soft magnesian stone of the nature of the Lapis ollaris. The bottom of the urn had been wrought in a separate piece, and was fitted to it by means of a circular groove. When found it was filled with bones partly consumed by fire."[185] A fragment of another such urn in the Scottish Museum is described by the donor as part of a vase of a steatitic kind of rock, found in 1829 within a kistvaen on the island of Uyea, one of the most northern of the Zetland group. At an earlier period the opening of a barrow in the island of Eigg exposed to view a large sepulchral urn containing human bones. It is described as consisting of a large round stone, which had been hollowed, with the top covered with a thin flag-stone, and was found in a tumulus which tradition assigned as the burial-place of St. Donnan, the patron saint of the isle.[186] The singular stone urn figured here, from the original in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, is believed to have been brought from the Hill of Nowth, in the county of Meath, one of the most remarkable chambered cairns [Pg 148]yet discovered. The urn is decorated with chevron ornaments, and figures supposed to represent the sun and moon. It is not to be imagined that, unless in some very rare and remarkable examples, cinerary urns thus laboriously hewn out of stone can belong to a period anterior to the use of those formed of the plastic clay. In so far, however, as we may judge from the few examples yet noted, they seem to be the work of a very remote era, when such were the rare and distinguished honours reserved perchance alone for the Arch-Druid, or high-priest of the unknown faith, whose strange rites were once celebrated within the Taoursanan, or mournful circles.[187]

Another, and much more common Scottish stone vessel, consists of a small round cup or bowl, with a perforated handle on one side, and generally measuring from five to six inches in diameter. Most of them are more or less ornamented, though generally in an extremely rude style; and they have been found made of all varieties of stone, from the soft camstone to the hardest porphyry and granite. The name by which these singular vessels have been generally designated among Scottish antiquaries, is that of Druidical pateræ; though if we are to assume the idea that they were used in the sacred rites of Pagan worship, they more nearly resemble the form of the Roman patella, than of the sacrificial patera, with which libations were poured out to the gods.

Stone Pateræ

In several instances these singular vessels have been found in the immediate vicinity of the so-called Druidical circles. In 1828 two of them were discovered under an ancient causeway leading from a circle of standing stones on Donside, in the parish of Tullynessle, Aberdeenshire. One of these, the handle of which is imperfect, is now deposited in the Scottish Museum, along with various other similar examples found in different parts of Scotland. The other[Pg 149] had a handle about nine inches long carved out of the same stone, and terminating with a knob at the end. A similar relic was found some time before, when clearing out the area of another stone circle on the farm of Whiteside, in the same county. The frequency of their occurrence, indeed, would suggest their construction for more common use than the worship of the gods, were we not led to assume their designation for some special object, from the very great labour employed in making them.

Some of the rarer forms of the stone vessels found in Scotland are much more suggestive of domestic purposes. One in my own possession, found in Glen Tilt, is neatly formed in native green marble, with two handles, not unlike the more modern Scottish quech. Another, in the Scottish Collection, found in Atholl, looks like a stone soup-ladle; and a third, of oblong form, as shewn here, measuring 12 by 8½ inches, was found at Brough, in Shetland, in excavating the area of one of the large circular buildings of un-cemented stone, styled Pech's Burghs. It can hardly be more fitly described than as a stone tureen with handles carved at either end. Others met with under similar circumstances are wide and shallow, and nearly resemble the large stone basins figured here, found in the chambers of the celebrated cairn of Newgrange, in the neighbourhood of Drogheda.

Stone Basin, Shetland.

Stone Basin, Newgrange.

It is a remarkable fact, that these vessels, thus laboriously hewn or wrought out of stone, should be most frequently found either in the neighbourhood of the rude monolithic structures, or of other apparently contemporary works of the earliest period. The very imperfect nature of many of their decorations, however, suffice to prove that they are the work of men destitute of efficient metallic tools, and who were little likely to attempt the hopeless task of hewing the giant columns of their temples into artificial forms. Many of these[Pg 150] vessels, indeed, notwithstanding the attempts at decoration visible upon them, exhibit much less symmetry or finished workmanship even than the stone hammers and axes of the same period. So far as I am aware, the Druidical patera, so frequently found in Scotland, is peculiar to it, no similar vessel having been discovered among the primitive remains either of England or Ireland. In the remoter districts of Scotland these ancient vessels were regarded till recently with the same superstitious awe and dread which we have already seen attached to other unfamiliar relics of the same remote era. Mr. Colin M'Kenzie, in describing the antiquities of the island of Lewis, from personal observations made towards the close of last century, remarks in reference to the group of standing stones at Classernish, on the west side of that island, with its remarkable large central stone, surrounded by a deep hollow which retains the rain water:—"Were a ditch cut across the circle to a tolerable depth, some utensils, ashes, &c. might be found to throw more light on the subject. I have been told that a stone bowl was found, and afterwards thrown, through a superstitious dread, into the hollow round of the central stone."[188]

Stone Basin, Newgrange.

With this class may also be reckoned the Scottish querne, unquestionably an invention of the remotest antiquity, though it has continued in use down almost to our own day in some of the western isles and other rarely visited Highland districts. A curious allusion to it occurs in the Life of St. Columba, illustrative of its daily use for the preparation of grain for bread. When the Saint studied under St. Finnian, every night on which it fell to his share to grind the corn with the querne he did it so expeditiously that his companions alleged he had always the assistance of an angel in turning the stone, and envied him accordingly.[189] At that period, that is in the early part of the sixth century, there can be little doubt that it was the only mill in use. Even so early as the thirteenth century legal means were employed to compel the people to abandon it for the large water-mills then introduced. In 1284, in the reign of Alexander III., it was provided [Pg 151]that "na man sall presume to grind quheit, maishlock, or rye with hands mylne, except he be compelled be storm, or be lack of mills, quhilk sould grind the samen. And in this case, gif a man grinds at hand mylnes, he sall gif the threttein measure as multer; and gif anie man contraveins this our prohibition, he sall tine his hand mylnes perpetuallie." The prevalence of these simple domestic utensils in the remoter districts of Scotland till the close of the last century proves how ineffectual this law had been in superseding the querne by the public mill.

The commonest form consists simply of two thin circular flat stones, the upper one of which is pierced in the centre, and revolves on a wooden or metal pin inserted in the under one. The upper stone is also occasionally decorated with various ornaments, incised or in relief. In using the querne the grinder dropped the grain into the central hole with one hand, while with the other he made the upper stone revolve by means of a stick inserted in a small hole near the edge. The extreme simplicity of this indispensable piece of household furniture justifies its reference to remote antiquity. It has been already observed that it frequently occurs among the contents of the Scottish weems, or cyclopean underground dwellings of a very primitive state of society. It has also been dug up under a variety of circumstances, all furnishing probable evidence of great antiquity. One upper stone of a querne, now preserved in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, was discovered in 1825, along with the remains of an iron sword, in digging on the summit of a hill called the Camp, near Pitlour House, Fifeshire. Another in the same collection, of still ruder form, was found built into the masonry of an ancient wall of Edinburgh Castle, demolished in 1828.

One type, in which the upper stone is funnel-shaped, with radiating grooves from the centre perforation, is believed to be the portable hand mill of the Roman soldier. It is engraved as such in Stuart's Caledonia Romana, Plate XIII.; and the only one of the same kind in the Scottish Museum seems to corroborate this, in so far as it was found to the south-west of Camelon, on the line of the great wall of Antoninus Pius. It exhibits, as might be expected, more regularity and method in its construction, and is surrounded with an iron band, now greatly corroded, with a loop or ear, to which the handle was attached for turning it.

We shall not, probably, greatly err in assuming as one of the[Pg 152] earliest types of the Scottish hand-mill, the rudely fashioned oaken querne already referred to, which was dug up from a depth of nearly five feet in the Blair-Drummond Moss. It is simply the section of an oak tree, measuring nineteen inches in height by fourteen inches in diameter. The centre has been hollowed out to a depth of about a foot, so as to form a rude oaken mortar; and in this, with the help of a stone or wooden pestle, its primitive possessor was doubtless wont to bruise and pound the grain preparatory to its conversion into food. The circumstances under which the Blair-Drummond querne was found, when compared with the other discoveries in the same locality, scarcely permit us to escape the inference that in it we possess a domestic utensil contemporary with the ancient canoes of the Forth and Clyde, if not with the stranded whales, and the rude harpoons of the carse land from which it was disinterred.

A more artificial, though very ancient form of hand-mill, is what is called the Pot Querne, consisting of a hollowed stone basin, with an aperture through which the meal or flour escapes, and a smaller circular stone fitting into it, and pierced, as in the simpler topstones, with a hole in the centre, through which the grain was thrown into the mill. The woodcut represents one of unusually large size, found on the farm of Westbank, Gladsmuir parish, East-Lothian, and now in the Scottish Museum. It is made of coarse pudding-stone, and measures 17 inches in diameter, and 8½ inches high. It appears to have had two handles attached to it at opposite sides, as the holes in which they were inserted still remain. The iron ring now fastened to it is a modern addition of its last possessor, who used it for securing his horse at the farm-house door. Pot quernes are common in Ireland, though somewhat differing in form from the Scottish examples. They are generally much smaller and shallower than the one described above, and are made with three, or sometimes four feet. They have likewise a cavity in the centre of the under stone, into which the upper one fits by a corresponding projection, so as to preclude the necessity for a metal axis. They are called by the[Pg 153] native Irish Cloch a vrone. It is from the word vro or bro, Gaelic bra, (the v and b in the Irish being commutable,) signifying grindings or bruised grain, that our Scottish word brose is derived, rather than from the French brouet, i.e., pottage or broth, though both are probably traceable to a common Celtic root.

Irish pot quernes have been frequently found at great depths in the bogs, under circumstances indicating a very remote antiquity, though they have scarcely yet fallen into total disuse in some of the remotest districts of the west. Dr. Petrie incidentally furnishes a curious evidence of the antiquity of the querne. He has in his possession the topstone of one of these primitive hand-mills, which appears to have been converted to the unlikely purpose of a tombstone after its original use had been lost sight of. It has been elaborately decorated with sculptured ornaments, part of which are effaced to make way for the name of Sechnasach, which its learned owner conceives is probably the "Priest of Durrow," whose death is recorded in Mageoghegan's translation of the Annals of Clonmacnoise at the year 928, and in the Annals of the Four Masters at the year 931.[190]


[184] Wallace's Orkney, p. 56.

[185] Hibbert's Shetland, p. 412.

[186] Sinclair's Statist. Acc. vol. xvii. p. 287.

[187] This is a name given to circles of standing stones in the Gaelic, from Taoursach or Tuirseach, mournful, and has been supposed to originate in the traditions of human sacrifices believed to have been offered within these inclosures. Vide Archæol. Scot. vol. i. p. 283. In the Journal of the Archæological Association (vol. ii. p. 340) a notice occurs of "a singular bowl-shaped cist and triangular cover of Bethesden limestone, found in Charing Church, Kent."

[188] Archæol. Scot. vol. i. p. 284.

[189] Smith's Life of Columba, p. 60.

[190] Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, 2d edit. p. 342.

[Pg 154]


There only remain to be noted the earliest traces of luxury and personal adornment contemporary with the rude weapons and implements, and the simple habitations of earth or unhewn stone, described in the previous chapters. These are scarcely less abundant than the implements of war and the chase; and some of them possess a peculiar value for us, as presenting the sole surviving memorials of female influence, and of the position woman held in the primitive social state which we desire to trace out as the true and rudimentary chronological beginning of our island history. There must necessarily be some uncertainty in any attempt to assign to the two sexes their just share of the personal ornaments found in the early tumuli, or discovered in the course of disturbing the uncultivated soil. Man, in such a primitive state as we have abundant grounds for believing the Caledonian aborigines of the Stone Period to have been, delights in assuming to himself the personal ornaments with which, in a more advanced stage of social life, he finds a higher gratification in adorning woman. It should not, therefore, excite surprise when we find ornaments which modern civilisation resigns entirely to the fair sex, such as bracelets, hair-pins, neck ornaments, and the like, mingling with the sword and the spear of the rude barbarian chief. Still, there are some ornaments, and especially bead necklaces, bracelets, and some of the smaller and more delicate armillæ, which we can hardly err in classing among female decorations. The subject, however, is well deserving of further attention, and the more so, as the evidence which is available in the case of sepulchral remains is of so satisfactory and decisive a character[Pg 155] when reported on by competent witnesses. There can be no doubt, from the disclosures of numerous tumuli and cists, that the dead were frequently buried "in their habits as they lived," and with all their most prized personal adornments upon them, though time has made sad havoc of their funeral pomp, and scarcely allows a glimpse even of the naked skeleton that crumbles into dust under our gaze.

The rudest class of personal ornaments which are found in the sepulchral mounds, or in the safer chance depository of the bogs, are those formed of bone or horn; but they are necessarily of rare occurrence, not only from the remoteness of the period to which we conceive them to belong, but from the frail nature of the material in which they have been wrought, which, when deposited among the memorials of the dead, yields to decay not greatly less rapid than the remains it should adorn, and crumbles to dust when restored to light and air. Still some few of these fragile relics have been preserved, consisting of perforated beads of bone, horn pins, perforated animals' teeth, and other equally rude fragments of necklaces or pendants; but very few of them present much attempt at artificial decoration by means of incised ornaments or carving, such as is found to have been so extensively practised in a later age. One curious set of bone ornaments in the Scottish Museum includes a piece of ivory pierced with a square perforation, and another with a nut or button fitting into it, the clasp or fibula it may be of some robe of honour worn by a chief of the ancient race.

Ornaments of jet or shale and cannel coal, and large beads of glass and pebble, are of much more frequent occurrence in the Scottish grave-mounds, and furnish extremely interesting and varied evidence of the decorative arts of these remote ages. Many of them, however, are found under circumstances which leave no room to doubt that they belong to a period coeval with the introduction of metals, and the skill acquired in the practice of the metallurgic arts.

[Pg 156]

There is another class of relics, however, which we can feel no hesitation in ranking among the earliest remains of the Stone Period, though it may sometimes be difficult to determine whether we should regard them as mere personal ornaments or as charms employed in the mysterious rites of Pagan superstition, as it is not uncommon to find them used, at a very recent date, by their illiterate inheritors in some of the remoter districts of the Highlands and Isles. One relic, for example, in the Scottish Museum, consists of a flat reddish stone, roughly polished. It measures 4 inches in length, and about 2¾ inches in its greatest breadth, and is notched in a regular form, with two holes perforated through it. It was presented to the Society of Scottish Antiquaries in 1784, as a charm in use among the population of the island of Islay for the cure of diseases. From its correspondence with others of the earliest class of relics, it can hardly admit of a doubt that it belongs to the personal ornaments of the Stone Period, and may have owed the reverence of its more recent possessor to the fact of its discovery within some primitive cist, or in the charmed circle of Taoursanan, the origin of which is commonly ascribed to superhuman powers. It is worthy of note, indeed, that the word Druidheachd is no longer associated with the priesthood of the British groves, but is now only used by the Scottish Highlanders as applicable to sorcery or magic. Another, but much less perfect ornament of perforated reddish stone, in the same collection with the above, was found, along with several flint arrow-heads, in the island of Harris; and a third, still ruder, was discovered, with a similar arrow-head, on the Lomond Hills of Fifeshire. But perhaps the most singular relics of the Stone Period ever discovered in Scotland are two stone collars, found near the celebrated Parallel Roads of Glenroy, and now preserved at the mansion of Tonley, Aberdeenshire. They are each of the full size of a collar adapted to a small Highland horse; the one formed of trap or whinstone, and the other of a fine-grained red granite. They are not, however, to be regarded as the primitive substitutes for the more convenient materials of later introduction. On the contrary, a close imitation of the details of a horse collar of common materials is attempted, including the folds of the leather, nails, buckles, and holes for tying particular parts together. They are finished with much care[Pg 157] and a high degree of polish, and are described as obviously the workmanship of a skilful artist. Mr. Skene, who first drew attention to these remarkable relics, suggests the probability of the peculiar natural features of Glenroy having led to the selection of this amphitheatre for the scene of ancient public games; and that these stone collars might commemorate the victor in the chariot race, as the tripods still existing record the victor in the Choragic games of Athens. But no circumstances attending their discovery are known which could aid conjecture either as to the period or purpose of their construction.[191]

In the year 1832, a large tumulus, on the shore of Broadford Bay, Isle of Skye, was levelled in the progress of some improvements on the estate of Corry, and it was found to cover a rudely vaulted chamber, within which lay a cist inclosing a human skeleton, along with various bones of animals, the species of which were not ascertained. Alongside of the skeleton an ornament of polished pale green stone was discovered, measuring about 2½ inches in length, by 2 inches in breadth. Its form will be best understood by the annexed woodcut. It is convex on the upper side, and concave on the under side, with a small hole drilled at each of the four corners, and an ornamental border of slightly indented ovals along one end. It differs only in dimensions from another previously referred to, in the collection of Adam Arbuthnot, Esq., of Peterhead, which was obtained from a tumulus at Cruden, Aberdeenshire. It measures 4¼ inches in length. Another ornament of polished green stone was afterwards discovered in the neighbourhood of the tumulus at Broadford Bay. It measures about 3½ inches in length, and nearly an inch in breadth at the centre, but tapers to about half an inch in breadth at either end, where a small hole is drilled through. It is only a fifth of an inch in thickness. Simple as are the forms of both of these relics, they represent a class which appear to have been common among the personal decorations of the Stone Period, whether regarded merely as ornaments, or valued for some hidden virtue which may have been supposed to pertain to them. A sepulchral deposit, closely[Pg 158] corresponding to that found in the Isle of Skye, was discovered by some labourers employed in sinking a ditch at Tring, in Hertfordshire, about the year 1763. The relics were entirely of the same rude primitive class, and it furnished an example in confirmation of previous remarks regarding the earliest sepulchral rites, as the skeleton was found laid at full length, with legs and arms extended. Between the legs lay some flint arrow-heads, and at the feet ornaments resembling, both in form and material, those found in the tumulus at Broadford Bay.[192] Sir R. C. Hoare describes objects of similar character, found in the barrows of Wiltshire, some of which were made of blue slate;[193] and small perforated plates of stone or flint, of slightly varying forms, are not uncommon among the contents of the earlier British tumuli. They are not, however, confined to Britain. Simple as are the forms of the two relics figured above, there is a sufficiently marked character about them to excite our surprise when we meet with them in the grave of the ancient native of Skye, and in the cists of Herts or Wiltshire; but ornaments of almost exactly the same forms have been discovered in the mounds of the great valley of the Mississippi,[194] accompanied with celts, stone hatchets, and other primitive implements closely resembling those of the British Stone Period; though also with many more so essentially differing, as to forbid us deducing from such chance coincidences any fanciful community of origin between the Allophylian colonists of Europe and the aborigines of America.

Still ruder are the primitive necklaces, formed of the common small shells of our coasts, such as the Nerita litoralis, and even the Patella vulgata, or common limpet, perforated, apparently, by the simple process of rubbing the point on a stone, and then strung together with a fibre or sinew. It may perhaps be thought by some that sufficient space has already been devoted to this infantile period of the race, yet childish as such decorations seem, they are found among the valued relics of men whose giant monuments have outlived many massive structures destined by later ages to perpetuate the memory of historic deeds, or consecrated to the services of the all-powerful Church of medieval Christendom. Underneath the cromlech discovered on levelling a tumulus in the Phœnix Park at Dublin, in 1838, two male skeletons were disclosed, and beside the skull of each lay the perforated [Pg 159]shells of a necklace which had doubtless been placed around their necks when they were deposited in the simple but grand mausoleum that still attests the veneration of the ancient natives for their chiefs. A portion of the vegetable fibre with which they had been strung together remained through some of the shells, and the only other relics found in the grave were a small fibula of bone, and a knife or lance-head of flint. The common British bivalves are also found used for similar decorations. In a cist discovered on the coast of the Frith of Forth, during the construction of the Edinburgh and Granton Railway, the only relics deposited beside the skeleton which it enclosed were a quantity of the cardium commune, or cockle, of different sizes, rubbed down until they were reduced nearly to rings; while in another cist, opened at Orkney, and more particularly referred to in a previous chapter, about two dozen oyster shells were discovered, each perforated with a hole nearly an inch in diameter.


[191] Archæol. Scot. vol. iii. p. 299.

[192] Archæologia, vol. viii. p. 429. Plate XXX. fig. 6.

[193] Ancient Wiltshire, Plates II. and XII.

[194] Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, vol. i. p. 237.

[Pg 160]


Notwithstanding the zeal with which English archæologists have pursued their investigations among the remains of primitive sepulchral deposits, scarcely anything has yet been done towards obtaining a collection of facts in relation to the size and form of the skulls, and the general characteristics of the skeletons of their constructors. In this, as in so many other respects, the archæologists of Sweden and Denmark have set us an example well deserving of imitation, and have shewn the essential dependence of Archæology on the kindred sciences, with which it has heretofore failed to effect a hearty alliance in Britain. Had Sir Richard Colt Hoare examined the osteology of the tumuli of Wiltshire with the same patient accuracy and precision which he devoted to their archæology, a most important basis would have been furnished for ethnological research. Now, however, that such investigations are recognised as coming within the legitimate scope of archæological inquiry, we may hope ere long to ascertain by such evidence somewhat of the characteristics of the aboriginal race of the Stone Period, and also to obtain an answer to the inquiry,—Was the Bronze Period superinduced on the Primeval one by internal improvement and progression, or was it the result of the intruded arts of a superior race? This, it is manifest, can only be determined by an extensive series of observations, since physiologists are generally agreed in admitting that the physical characteristics of races have been largely modified, and even entirely altered, by a change of circumstances. The nomadic Turkish tribes, for example, spread through central Asia, still exhibit the broad-faced, pyramidal[Pg 161] skulls which Dr. Prichard has assigned to the nomadic races, while the long civilized European Turks have become closely assimilated to other European races, and possess the characteristic oval skull.[195] "The greater relative development of the jaws and zygomata, and of the bones of the face altogether, in comparison with the size of the brain, indicates, in the pyramidal and prognathous skulls, a more ample extension of the organs subservient to sensation and the animal faculties. Such a configuration is adapted, by its results, to the condition of human tribes in the nomadic state, and in that of savage hunters."[196] Two important points, therefore, which remain to be determined in relation to the British tumuli are, whether the forms and proportions of the skulls of their builders indicate the existence of one or of several races? and next, whether the changes in the forms of the crania are sudden and decided, or are gradual, and pass by an undefined transition from the one to the other? It will be found in the succeeding section that archæological evidence clearly points to a transitional state from the Stone to the Bronze Period, such as is at least altogether irreconcilable with the idea of the sudden extermination of the aboriginal race. It at the same time no less distinctly points to the existence of a native population in Britain long anterior to the earliest historic indications of the Arian nations passing into Europe.

To these early races, which we describe loosely as primitive, or as aboriginal or primeval, Dr. Prichard has suggested the application of the conveniently indefinite term "Allophylian," which suffices to characterize them as distinct from the well ascertained primitive races, without meanwhile assuming any hypothetical origin for them. It remains to be seen whether the archæologist may not be able to supply, in a great degree, the desired information in relation to the habits, arts, and social condition of these unknown races:—

"The Allophylian nations," Dr. Prichard remarks, "appear to have been spread, in the earliest times, through all the most remote regions of the old continent,—to the northward, eastward, and westward of the Indo-European tribes, whom they seem everywhere to have preceded; so that they appear, in comparison with these Indo-European colonies, in the light of aboriginal or native inhabitants, vanquished, and often banished into remote and inaccessible tracts, by more powerful invading tribes. The latter, namely, the Indo-European nations, seem to have been everywhere superior in mental endowments. Some tribes, indeed, had retained or ac[Pg 162]quired many characteristics of barbarism and ferocity; but with all these they joined undoubted marks of an earlier intellectual development, particularly a higher culture of language as an instrument of thought, as well as of human intercourse. If we inquire into the degree of improvement in the arts of life which the Indo-European nations had attained at the era of dispersion from their primitive abode, or from the common centre of the whole stock, an investigation of their languages will be our principal guide. It gives us strong grounds for a belief that their advancement in useful arts had been comparatively small. The primitive ancestors of the Indo-European nations were probably ignorant of the use of iron and other metals, since the terms by which these are denoted are different in different languages, and must, as it would appear, have been adopted subsequently to the era of separation. Nothing can be more unlike than gold, χρυσος, and aurum; than silver and argentum; than ferrum and σιδηρος. Other considerations may be advanced to confirm this opinion, that the use of metals was unknown to the earliest colonists of the west.... But though unskilled in many of the most useful arts of life, the Arian people appear to have brought with them a much higher mental culture than the Allophylian races possessed before the Arian tribes were spread among them. They had national poetry, and a culture of language and thought altogether surprising, when compared with their external condition and habits."[197]

The religion which consists in mere fetisses, charms, spells, and talismans is in like manner ascribed by Dr. Prichard to these Allophylian nations; in contradistinction to the Eastern doctrine of metempsychosis, with the coincident belief in a system of retributive justice, and the distinct recognition of a future state, which appear to have been common to all the Arian nations, and to have been further developed by their being confided to a distinct order, caste, or priesthood. Of the former races the modern Fins, Lappes, and Esquimaux still remain as characteristic examples. Of the latter, the historic Celtæ, Scandinavian and German-Teutonic races are sufficiently illustrative, while the modern Hindoos are a living evidence of the south-eastern migration of the same great branch of the human family. But of the degree of civilisation of the Arian nomades when they reached the western shores of Europe, or of the state in which they found the countries which they colonized, we as yet know almost nothing; and it still remains to be determined whether they entered into peaceful possession of unpeopled wastes, or won them from primitive Allophylian nations. On these points archæological observation may be expected to throw some light. The irregular or systematic arrangement of the cist, the provisions for the future occupation and welfare of the deceased, and all the peculiarities of primitive[Pg 163] sepulchral rites, more or less clearly indicate the arts and habits of those by whom they were practised, and still more, the ideas entertained by them in relation to a future state.

Of the Allophylian colonists of Scandinavia, Professor Nillson assigns to the most ancient the short or brachy-kephalic form of cranium, with prominent parietal tubers, and broad and flattened occiput. To this aboriginal race he conceives succeeds another with a cranium of a more lengthened oval form and prominent and narrow occiput. The third race, which Scandinavian antiquaries incline to regard as that of the bronze or first metallic period, is characterized by a cranium longer than the first and broader than the second, and marked by greater prominence at the sides. The last Professor Nillson considers to have been of Celtic origin. To this succeeded the true Scandinavian race, and the first workers of the native iron ore.[198] Professor Eschricht assigns to the crania from the barrows of the oldest Danish series an ample and well-developed form, with the forehead vaulted and tolerably spacious, and the nasal bones prominent. In a skull described by him the zygomata appear large and angular, and the cranium has somewhat of a pyramidal form. The eyes have been deeply set, and the eyebrows are strongly prominent. One of the most remarkable features in these skulls is their round form, approaching to a spherical shape.[199]

The type of the old Celtic cranium is considered by Professor Nillson as intermediate to the lengthened and shortened oval, or the true dolicho-kephalic and brachy-kephalic forms, and in this conclusion Dr. Thurnam coincides. Dr. Morton describes the Celtic head as "rather elongated, and the forehead narrow and but slightly arched; the brow low, straight, and bushy; the eyes and hair light; the nose and mouth large; and the cheek-bones high."[200] Such characteristics differ decidedly from those of the early barrows. Dr. Prichard, however, hesitates to accept the conclusions adopted by Scandinavian ethnologists, attaching it may be too slight importance to the strictly archæological evidence on which they are to some extent based. He remarks in reference to the description of the skulls of the most ancient Scandinavian barrows:—"They are probably the crania of Celtic races; in Denmark of Cimbrians. The tombs containing ornaments of the precious metals are referred to a later age; but it is [Pg 164]uncertain as yet whether they belonged to the same race as the former."[201] One marked difference has hitherto existed between the systems of several of the chief continental ethnologists and those of England, which has somewhat influenced the conclusions of each. While continental investigators into the phenomena of various races have set aside the idea of one primitive stock,—some of them even assuming the primal existence of numerous distinct and independent human races,—British ethnologists, with Dr. Prichard at their head, have held fast by the Adamic history, and in maintaining the origin of all the races of man from one pair, have also given its full force to the influence of external circumstances in modifying the physical peculiarities of each race. That the progress of a people in civilisation must be accompanied with a corresponding improvement in their intellectual faculties and also in their physical conformation is now generally admitted. Long time, however, is required even under the most favourable circumstances, for any very decisive modification affecting the form and features of a whole people, so that the sudden intrusion of a foreign race must be no less readily discernible from their crania than from novel arts or sepulchral rites. Nothing has yet been done by Scottish archæologists with a view to ascertain the physical conformation of the primitive native races; and the small contribution now offered as a beginning, is founded on too limited data to be of very great avail, except perhaps in opening up the subject and leading to more extended observation. Fortunately a few skulls from Scottish tumuli and cists are preserved in the Museums of the Scottish Antiquaries and of the Edinburgh Phrenological Society. A comparison of these with the specimens of crania drawn by Dr. Thurnam from examples found in an ancient tumular cemetery at Lamel Hill, near York, believed to be of the Anglo-Saxon period, abundantly proves an essential difference of races.[202] The latter, though belonging to the superior or dolicho-kephalic type, are small, very poorly developed, low and narrow in the forehead, and pyramidal in form. A striking feature of one type of crania from the Scottish barrows is a square compact form. Though full in the middle-head, these are by no means deficient in the forehead; but it will be observed from the first class of examples in the following table of measurements, that they are generally of small relative size,—a fact which has been frequently noted, even by casual observers, when see[Pg 165]ing them in situ, and contrasting their dimensions with the disproportionate size of the skeleton. The system of measurement employed in the following table is chiefly that adopted by Dr. Morton in his "Crania Americana," and the terms are used in the sense explained by him under the head "Anatomical Measurements," (p. 249.) From the fractured and very fragile state of many of the skulls, it was impossible to attempt the measurement of their internal capacity by the ingenious process employed by Dr. Morton. The last column in the table is accordingly found by adding the longitudinal and vertical diameters and the horizontal periphery. This is not assumed as affording any test of the actual capacity of each cranium, but only as a fair relative approximation and element of comparison. Owing to the undetermined form of the processes in several of the crania and the imperfection or total absence of the facial bones, from their greatly decayed state, the additional measurements marked * are given as less liable to error. Some of them, such as the inter-mastoid arch and inter-mastoid line, taken from the upper root of the zygomatic process instead of from the points of the mastoid processes, are also, perhaps, preferable as more uniform and precise.[203]

The full value of such investigations, and even their precise bearing and the conclusions legitimately deducible from them, may probably be matter of dispute, but there can be no question that a general distinctive cranial conformation is clearly discoverable in modern nations, and is even very markedly observable between the different races of the British Isles. Given a sufficient number of examples of each class, the experienced eye would at once discriminate between the modern European Fin, Germanic Teuton, and British Celt. The conclusion appears therefore inevitable, that if we find in the ancient tumuli like variations in physical form, systematically reducible to two or more classes, we are justified in assuming the existence of diverse primitive races, and of seeking in the accompanying relics for indications of their peculiar arts and customs, as well as of their relative positions as contemporary or successive occupants of the country.

[Pg 166]

No. CRANIA. Longitudinal Diameter. Parietal Diameter. Frontal Diameter. Vertical Diameter. Inter-Mastoid Arch. *
Inter-Mastoid Arch, from Upper Root of Zygomatic Process.
Inter-Mastoid Line. *
Do. from Upper Root of Zygomatic Process.
Occipito-frontal Arch. *
Do. from Occipital Protuberance to Root of Nose.
Horizontal Periphery. *
Relative Capacity.
i. Mexican, 6.8 5.5 4.6 6. 15.6 ... 4.4 ... 14.6 ... 19.9 32.5
ii. " 6.4 5.7 4.5 5.4 14.6 ... 4.5 ... 13.5 ... 20.2 31.10
Primitive Dolicho-kephalic, or Kumbe-kephalic. 1. Cist, Aberdeenshire, 7. 5.4½? 4.9? 4.10 13.11 11.5 3.6½ 4.8½ 13.9 12. 20.4 32.2
2. " Fifeshire, 7. 4.8 4.4 5.3 13.2 11. 4.1 4.10 14. 11.11 19.6 31.9
3. " Cockenzie, East-Lothian, 6.11 5.3 3.11 5. ... 12. ... 4.8½ 14.4 11.4 19. 30.11
4. " " 7. 4.11 4.4 5.3 13.8 11.4½ 4.1 4.10 13.10 11.3 16.7½ 28.10½
5. " " 6.6 4.1? 4.11 4.2? 13.2 11.3 ... 4.8? 13.11 12. 19. 29.6
6. " Stonelaws, East-Lothian, 7.3 5.4 4.6 5.2 14.3 11.9 4.4 5.0½ 14.8 12.3 20.8½ 33.1½
7. Cairn, Fifeshire, 7.5 5.2 4.5 5.2 14.3 12. 3.7 4.10½ 14.3 12.3 20.7½ 33.2½
8. Tumulus, Newbattle, 7.9 5.6 4.9 ... ... 12.3 ... 5.6 15.6 ... 21.3 ...
9. " Montrose, 7.3 5.8 4.3½ 4.9 14. 11.9 3.8½ 5. 14.2 11.9 20.7 32.7
Brachy-kephalic. 10. Cist, Montrose, 7. 6.1 5.3 5.8 15.9 13.1 4.4 5.9½ 15.2 13.3 21. 33.8
11. Moss, Kilsyth, ... 5.7½? 4.4 5.5 14.6? 12.2? 4.1 ... ... ... 21.? ...
12. " Linton, 6.6 5.1 4.1 4.9 13.5 11.3 3.9 4.6 13.6 11.9 18.7½ 29.10½
13. " " 6.7 5. 4.1 4.11 13.4 11.3 3.10 4.6 13.8 11.10 19.7 31.1
14. Cist, Ratho, 6.10 6. 5.1 5.6 15.7 12.11 4.2 5.7 14.11 13. 20. 32.4
15. " Linlithgow, 7.2? 5.6 4.9 ... 14.10 12.7 4.6 5.5 ... ... 20.6 ...
16. Roman Shaft, Roxburghshire, 7.3 5.4 4.6 5.4 14.7½ 12. 5.3½ 5.6 14.4 12.9 20.6 33.1
Celtic. 17. Tarbert, Kintyre, 7.9 5. 4.10 5.6 14.9 11.11 4. 5.4 15.5 13.6 21.3 34.6
18. Sea-Shore, Argyleshire, 7.6 5.1 4.6 5.1 14.8 11.3 3.11 5.3 14.6 12.11 20.4 32.11½
19. Harris, Hebrides, 7.3 5.3 4.5 5.4½ 14.5 12.4 3.11½ 4.9 14.9 12.9 20.10 33.5½
20. Iona, " 7.5 5.6½ 5.0½ 5.6 14.11½ 12.3 4. ... 14.9 12.6 20.10 33.9
21. " " 7.3 5.6½ 4.4 5.6 14.8 12. 4.1 5.3 14.5 12.10 20.2 32.11
22. " " 7.2 5.7 4.5 5.6 14.9 11.10 4.3 5.6 14.4 12.6 20. 32.8
23. " " 7.3½ 5.7 4.6 5.2 15.? 12.4? ... ... 14.8 12.6½ 19.10½ 32.4
24. " " 7.2 5.5 4.6 ... ... ... ... ... ... 12.10 20.7 ...
25. Knockstanger, Caithness, 7.8 5.6 4.3½ 5.3 14.4 11.8 4.7 5.6 14.6 12.7 20.11 33.10
26. Inch Columb Kill, Ireland, 7.9 5.7 5.3 5.6 15.7 13.3 4.0½ 5.4 16.4 14.4 21.11 35.2
27. Celtic Type (?) Edin. Phrenol. Museum, 7.11 5.5 4.9 ... ... 12. ... 5.1 15.5 13.9 21.6 ...
Medieval. 28. Tumular Cemetery, North Berwick, 7.6½ 5.9 4.7 5.6 15.2 12.3 3.11 5.2 15. 12.3 21.5 34.5½
29. " " 7. 5.7 4.0½ 4.8 13.8 11.4 3.6 4.9 ... 12.3 19.9 31.5
30. " " 7.3½ 5.10 4.11 5.7 15.5 12.3 ... 5.9 15. 13. 21.7 34.5½
31. Castle Bank, Edinburgh, 7.6 5.4 4.11 ... 14.3 12. 4.3 5.5 ... 12.6 20.1 ...
32. Flodden Wall, Edinburgh, 7.6 5.4 4.8 5.2 14.6 12.2 4.2 5.1 15.6 ... 20.11 33.7
33. Old St. Giles's, Edinburgh, 7.3 5.6 4.4 5.1 14. 11.9 4.2½ 5.5 14.4 12. 20.2½ 32.6½
34. " " 7.6 5.6 4.7 ... 14.7 12. 4.1½ 5.1 15. 12.10 20.8 ...
35. " " 6.11½ 5.6 4.4 5. 14.5 12. 3.7½ 4.9 14. 11.9 19.10 31.9½
36. " " 6.6 5.3 4.2 4.11 13.3 11.3 3.10½ 4.10 13.3 11. 18.7 30.
37. " " 6.11 5.9 4.9 5.1 15.2 12. 4. 5.7 14. 12.2 20.5 32.5
38. " " 7.3 5.7 4.6 5.4 14.7 12.1 4. 5. 14.7 12.7 20.2 32.9
39. Constitution Street, Leith, 7. 5.9 4.9 5.3 14.6 12.5 3.10½ 5.0½ 14.3 12.5 20.3 32.6
[Pg 167]

There is no primitive race known to us which seems so fit to be selected as a type and standard of comparison in relation to cranial development, as the Aztecs or ancient Mexicans. They were the last dominant race among numerous native tribes, who, progressing from the rudimentary Stone Period, were excluded from influences such as those which in Europe superseded the ages of stone and bronze by the more perfect arts of civilisation. These changes archæologists are now agreed in associating with the introduction of iron. But if in this latter point also the parallel be admissible, then we must less conceive of the more perfect arts of civilisation being superinduced on those of the Archaic Period, than of the Allophylian nations being themselves superseded. More extended observations on the physical characteristics of these races will probably, to a great extent, determine this. Two skulls selected from Morton's Crania Americana are placed at the head of the table, and will afford a very satisfactory comparative estimate of the cranial capacity of the races of the Scottish tumuli. No. i. is figured in Plate XVII. of Dr. Morton's valuable work, from which it will be seen that it decidedly belongs to the Brachy-kephalic class of Retzius, which again nearly corresponds with the pyramidal division of Dr. Prichard. It is thus described by Dr. Morton:—"With a better forehead than is usual, this skull presents all the prominent characters of the American race—the prominent face, elevated vertex, vertical occiput, and the great swell from the temporal bones upward." No. ii. is figured in Plate XVIII. of the same work, and closely corresponds to it in type. It is described as "a remarkably well characterized Toltecan head from an ancient tomb near the city of Mexico, whence it was exhumed, with a great variety of antiques, vessels, masks, ornaments," &c. These, therefore, afford a fair comparative criterion of the capacity of the tumuli builders of Britain for the practice of arts analogous to those in which the later American races so greatly excelled at the epoch of the Spanish Conquest; and it will be seen that the comparison is, upon the whole, in favour of the superior intelligence of the British Brachy-kephalic race, as indicated by the cerebral mass and frontal development. No. 1. is an exceedingly interesting example of a skull of the Stone Period, in the Antiquarian Museum. It was found in 1822 in a rude cist in the parish of Banchory-Devenich, Aberdeenshire. On the top of the head is a hole nearly circular, rather more than an inch in diameter, which there can scarcely be a doubt was caused by the death-blow.[Pg 168] In each corner of the cist lay a small pile of flint flakes.—No. 2 was taken from one of thirty cists found near Fifeness, in 1826, and described in a previous chapter.—Nos. 3, 4, and 5 were obtained from a group of rude cists discovered in the neighbourhood of Cockenzie, East-Lothian, in 1840. Nos. 3 and 4, as well as the two previous examples, are in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries. No. 5 has been obtained from J. M. Mitchell, Esq., who was present when the graves at Cockenzie were opened, and is here figured as a characteristic example of the class. No relics were found along with these remains, but the cists were of the primitive circumscribed dimensions, and presented the rudest characteristics of early sepulture.—No. 6 is a skull in the Edinburgh Phrenological Museum found on the farm of Stonelaws, East-Lothian, where a number of rude primitive cists have been exposed in the course of agricultural operations. Some of these lie east and west, with the heads at the west end, according to Christian practice, but others are irregularly laid; and the example here noted was found with the head at the east end of the grave.—No. 7 was obtained from a cist discovered under a large cairn at Nether Urquhart, Fifeshire, in 1835. An account of the opening of several cairns and tumuli in the same district is given by Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, in his "Inquiry respecting the Site of the Battle of Mons Grampius."[204] Some of them contained urns and burnt bones, ornaments of jet and shale, and the like early relics, while in others were found implements or weapons of iron. It is selected here as another example of the same class of crania.—No. 8 was found in a cist under a tumulus opened at Newbattle, East-Lothian, in 1782. This, there can be little doubt, was the large encircled tumulus in the immediate vicinity of the Abbey, which was found to cover a cist nearly seven feet long. The cranium is well proportioned and of unusually large dimensions, and probably pertained to a chief of gigantic stature.—No. 9 is from a tumulus at Montrose. The whole of these, more or less, nearly agree with the lengthened oval form described by Professor Nillson as the second race of the Scandinavian tumuli. They have mostly a singularly narrow and elongated occiput; and with their comparatively low and narrow forehead, might not inaptly be described by the familiar term boat-shaped. It is probable that further investigation will establish this as the type of a primitive, if not of the primeval native race. Though they approach in form to a superior type, falling under the first or Dolicho-kephalic class of Professor Retzius' arrangement, their capacity is generally small, and their development, for the most part, poor; so that there is nothing in their cranial characteristics inconsistent with such evidence as seems to assign to them the rude arts and extremely limited knowledge of the British Stone Period.

No. 5. Cockenzie Cist.

[Pg 169]

No. 7. Nether Urquhart Cairn.

No. 10 is an exceedingly characteristic example of an entirely different type of cranium. It was obtained under very remarkable circumstances, more particularly detailed in a subsequent chapter. On the demolition, in 1833, of the old Town Steeple of Montrose, a building of great antiquity, it was found that at some depth beneath its ancient foundations there lay the sepulchres of a much more remote period. Mr. William Smith of Montrose, remarks in a communication sent to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1834, along with the donation of an urn:—"The accompanying urn or vase is one of four of the same description found about the beginning of April 1833 below the foundation of the Old Steeple in Montrose, beside the skeleton of a human body,—two of them being at each side of the head, and two near the feet.... Exactly below the foundations of the Old Steeple the skeleton was discovered, with the vases[Pg 170] disposed about it as mentioned. It measured six feet in length. The thigh bones, which were very stout, and the teeth, were the only parts in good preservation. The skull was a little wasted, and was given to the Rev. Mr. Liddell, of Lady Glenorchy's Chapel, who intended to present it to Mr. Combe of the Phrenological Society."[205] The skull, of which the measurements are given in No. 10, is the same here referred to, presented to the Phrenological Museum by the Rev. Mr. Liddell. It is a very striking example of the British Brachy-kephalic type; square and compact in form, broad and short, but well balanced, and with a good frontal development. It no doubt pertained to some primitive chief, or arch-priest, sage, it may be, in council, and brave in war. The site of his place of sepulture has obviously been chosen for the same reasons which led to its selection at a later period for the erection of the belfry and beacon-tower of the old burgh. It is the most elevated spot in the neighbourhood, and here his cist had been laid, and the memorial mound piled over it, which doubtless remained untouched so long as his memory was cherished in the traditions of his people.—No. 11 was found in a moss near Kilsyth, Stirlingshire. It is nearly black, and quite firm and sound, from the action of the peat. Its general characteristics clearly belong to this second group, but it has been injured in parts, and apparently subjected to great pressure, so as to render some of the measurements doubtful.—Nos. 12 and 13 are skulls found at different times, at a considerable depth, in a moss at Linton, Peeblesshire.—No. 14 is a very characteristic example of the Brachy-kephalic type of cranium. It was found in a cist under a tumulus in the parish of Ratho, Mid-Lothian, and alongside of the skeleton stood a small rude clay urn, within which lay several bronze rings.—No. 15 is also a good example of the same type. It was obtained, in 1849, from a cist partly hollowed out of the natural trap rock on the farm of East Broadlaw, in the parish and county of Linlithgow. It was covered with two unhewn slabs of stone, and measured internally about six feet long. The skeleton was in good preservation, and lay at full length. Only a few inches of soil covered the slabs with which it was inclosed. No relics were found in the cist, but some time prior to its discovery a bronze celt and spear-head were turned up in its immediate vicinity.

No. 10. Old Steeple, Montrose.

[Pg 171]

No. 15. Linlithgow Cist.

Few as these examples are, they will probably be found, on further investigation, to belong to a race entirely distinct from those previously described. They correspond very nearly to the Brachy-kephalic crania of the supposed primeval race of Scandinavia, described by Professor Nillson as short, with prominent parietal tubers, and broad and flattened occiput. In frontal development, however, they are decidedly superior to the previous class of crania, and such evidence as we possess seems to point to a very different succession of races to that which Scandinavian ethnologists now recognise in the primitive history of the north of Europe. Our data are as yet too few to admit of our doing more than noticing these indications of the evidence that has been produced, in the hope that it may stimulate to the further prosecution of this interesting branch of primitive ethnology.

No. 16 is a cranium chiefly interesting from the circumstances under which it was found. During the construction of the Edinburgh and Hawick Railway, in 1846, extensive Roman remains were brought to light in the vicinity of the village of Newstead, Roxburghshire. These are described in a subsequent chapter. In the progress of the work the excavators exposed a group of circular shafts, or well-like pits, varying from three feet to about twenty feet in depth.[Pg 172] They were filled with black fetid earth, intermixed with bones of animals, Roman pottery, mortaria, amphoræ, Samian ware, &c., whole and in fragments. In one of these shafts was found the entire skeleton of a man, standing upright, with a long iron spear at his side, and various specimens of Roman pottery in the debris with which the pit was filled.[206] Of the period, therefore, to which the cranium belongs, there can be no doubt, though no sufficient evidence exists to determine whether it pertained to a Roman legionary, or a contemporary native Briton. The latter is, perhaps, more probable. The skull is of moderate size, but exceedingly well proportioned, the teeth are in perfect preservation, with the crowns very little worn, and the markings of all the muscles are unusually strong and well defined.

No. 16. Roman Shaft, Newstead.

The succeeding group of crania, Nos. 17-27, afford a fair average criterion of the Celtic type.—No. 17 is a skull dug up in a cave on the sea-coast, at the Mull of Kintyre, Argyleshire, near to where tradition affirms a battle to have been fought between the natives and an invading host of Northmen.—No. 18 is in like manner a memorial of Scandinavian aggression, and is marked in the catalogue of the Phrenological Museum as the skull of a Dane. It was dug out of the sand on the sea-beach, near Larnahinden, Argyleshire, where a party of Danes are believed to have landed and been defeated. It exhibits some remarkable measurements, especially in the small proportion of the vertical diameter; and a comparison of its various dimensions with those of the Roman skull, No. 16, brings out very distinctly the points of disagreement of two essentially different forms of crania. No. 18, however, is not to be accepted as a good Celtic type. The best medium form of the Celtic cranium is No. 20, which appears, in[Pg 173] so far as the present amount of observation admits of such conclusions, to be a fair standard of this important class of crania. It forms one of a very interesting group of skulls in the Phrenological Museum. No. 19 was brought from Harray, near Lewis, and Nos. 20-24 from Iona. The whole of these were presented to the Society, in 1833, by Mr. Donald Gregory, Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and they are each marked by him as the "Skull of a Druid from the Hebrides." They were no doubt obtained during the operations carried on by the members of the Iona Club, thus described in the introduction to the Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis:—

"In order to celebrate the institution of the Club, a meeting was held in the island of Iona, upon the 7th day of September 1833, permission having been obtained from His Grace the Duke of Argyle, the President, to make such excavations in the island as the Club might deem necessary. A search was made in the ancient cemetery called Relig Oran, for such tombstones as might in the process of time have been concealed by the accumulation of rubbish. The result of these operations was, that a considerable number of finely carved tombstones was brought to view, which none of the inhabitants had ever seen before."

The sepulchres of the Scottish kings were also explored, which were used for the last time as a royal cemetery when Macbeth was interred there beside his Queen Gruoch, the daughter of Bodhe,—as a record in the St. Andrew's Chartulary informs us was the unromantic name of Lady Macbeth.[207] Mr. Donald Gregory was secretary of the Iona Club, and one of the ablest Celtic scholars of his day. The designation which he affixed to the crania brought from Iona may be accepted as undoubted evidence of their having been found under circumstances which afforded proof of their high antiquity; though it is not necessary to assume from this that they had pertained to Druids. Most probably nothing more was intended by the epithet which Mr. Gregory applied to them, than to indicate, in the briefest manner, that he believed them to have belonged to the native population prior to the introduction of Christianity in the sixth century, when Columba landed at Innis nan Druidheanach, or the Isle of the Druids, as Iona is still occasionally styled by the native Highlander. The crania thus brought from the venerable centre of Celtic civilisation may not unreasonably be looked upon as furnishing characteristic types of the oldest historical race of the north of Europe.—No. 25 is also [Pg 174]a good Celtic cranium, though less true to the type than No. 20, from its excess in longitudinal diameter. It was dug up at Knockstanger, Caithness, at a spot where a number of the Clan Mackay were interred, after being defeated in a battle fought with the Sinclairs in 1437. To these have been added No. 26, a skull in the Phrenological Museum, brought from an ancient cemetery at Inchmore, or Columb Kill, county of Longford, Ireland; and No. 27, a cast of a skull in the Phrenological Museum, marked as the Celtic type, and described as one of a series of skulls "selected from a number of the same tribe or nation, so as to present, as nearly as possible, a type of the whole in the Society's collection."[208] It is characterized in the printed catalogue as a "Long Celtic Skull," but would not, I think, be accepted by ethnologists as at all typical of the true Celtic cranium. It falls decidedly under the class designated by Professor Retzius as Dolicho-kephalæ, and is introduced in the table of measurements chiefly as furnishing useful elements of comparison. Contrasted with No. 20, it will be seen that it is 7.11 to 7.5, exceeding the latter in longitudinal diameter by 6/12, or half an inch, while in parietal diameter it falls short of it by 3/24. The difference is equally in favour of the true Celtic cranium, No. 20, in other measurements of breadth, including the frontal diameter and the inter-mastoid arch. This mode of comparison is still more remarkable and characteristic when the same skull, No. 27, is placed alongside of No. 10, a good example of the Brachy-kephalic class, the excess in the one set of measurements being fully balanced by a corresponding diminution in the others. The proportions of these Scottish Celtic crania entirely agree with the assumed type already referred to, as recognised by the ablest ethnologists. Professors Nillson and Retzius, and Dr. Thurnam, all concur in describing the type of the old Celtic cranium as intermediate to the true Dolicho-kephalic and Brachy-kephalic forms. Dr. Norton Shaw also recognises the same characteristic proportions, and refers in evidence to a skull in the museum of Dr. Buckland, which was found in a tin mine in Cornwall at a depth of 500 feet.[209]

Returning to the table of measurements.—No. 28 is a skull in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries. It was found in what appears to have been an ancient tumular cemetery, at North-Berwick, East-Lothian, from whence also a specimen of early medieval pottery, [Pg 175]figured in a later chapter, was procured. Many ancient relics have been obtained at the same place, including a circular silver fibula, apparently of the Anglo-Saxon era. A large surrounding area appears to have been used as a burial ground, probably for many centuries, as the encroachments of the sea frequently expose human bones, and the skeletons may be occasionally discerned in the newly exposed strata, after an unusually high tide.—Nos. 29 and 30 are crania in the Phrenological Museum from the same locality. Of these No. 29 is a markedly inferior example of cranial development. While all the measurements are small, the frontal diameter is inferior to that of No. 12, the smallest of all the Brachy-kephalic examples, which it exceeds in longitudinal diameter by half an inch. So extremely poor is the frontal development of this skull, that its diameter at the zygomatic processes is barely 3.5½. It is only introduced here in order to afford a series of examples selected without any reference to theory.

Tower in the Vennel, Edinburgh.

The remaining skulls with which these are classed may be regarded as a fair series of examples of medieval Scottish crania.—No. 31 was found in 1828, in a deep cutting about midway up the south side of the rock on which Edinburgh Castle stands, during the construction of a new approach to the old town. Beside it were several large boars' tusks, and an iron weapon greatly corroded.—No. 32 was obtained in[Pg 176] 1829, in digging the foundations of a school built in the Vennel of Edinburgh, on the site of part of the town wall, erected immediately after the disastrous battle of Flodden in 1513. The woodcut represents the ancient tower, which still remains, almost the last remnant of the civic fortifications reared at that memorable crisis in Scottish history, and the relic which is here associated with these venerable defences is not without features appropriate to the stern memorials of that epoch. The skull has a deep gash, apparently from the blow of a sword or axe, and pertained, we may presume, to some old civic warder of the Scottish capital, slain at his post on the city wall.—Nos. 33-38 were all discovered in the course of excavations made to the south of the old Parliament House at Edinburgh in 1844, for the purpose of building new court-houses, when several ancient oak coffins and other early relics were brought to light.[210] They lay alongside of the earliest city wall, built by James III. in 1450, and within the Nether Kirkyard of St. Giles', which appears to have fallen into disuse in the reign of Queen Mary. To these are added No. 39, a skull found in digging a drain in Constitution Street, Leith, probably within the ancient limits of St. Mary's Church-yard, which was bounded on that side by the ancient town wall, razed to the ground immediately after the siege of Leith in 1560. These crania, it should be added, are apparently all males, with the exception of No. 4, and perhaps also No. 36.

Such are the elements from which it has been attempted to deduce some conclusions of general import in regard to the successive primitive races that have occupied Scotland prior to the era of authentic historic records. The data are much too few to justify the dogmatic assertion of any general inferences, or to admit of positive answers to the questions naturally suggested by the conclusions arrived at by Nillson and Eschricht in relation to the races of Scandinavia. They include, however, all the examples that could be obtained, and are in so far valuable as trustworthy examples of the cranial characteristics of Scottish races, that they have been selected from various localities, by different individuals, with no single purpose in view. It is difficult, however, even after obtaining the proper crania, to determine the most trustworthy elements of relative proportion. Dr. Walter Adam, who had the advantage of studying under both Dr. Barclay and Mr. Abernethy, carried out an extensive series of measurements of crania,[Pg 177] chiefly from examples found in the catacombs of Paris, and preserved in the University Museum there. These I now possess, through the kindness of Dr. Adam, and he remarks in writing to me on the subject:—"So far as appeared, precision could only be obtained by referring every dimension to the compression of the zygoma; the measurement being seven-eighths of what I consider the normal transverse of at least the Caucasian cranium; that is, of half the length of the head—the long-admitted statuary scale." Owing to the imperfect state of the zygomata in the great majority of skulls from the tumuli, this measurement is unfortunately rarely attainable. Next in importance, however, is one of the additional ones in the table, marked as the inter-mastoid line, from the upper root of the zygomatic process. The relative proportions of this and of the parietal diameter, when compared with the longitudinal diameter, afford the most characteristic elements of comparison between the different types. Another interesting element of comparison appears to consist in the relative proportions of the parietal and vertical diameters. So far as appears from the table of measurements, the following laws would seem to be indicated:—In the primitive or elongated dolicho-kephalic type—for which the distinctive title of kumbe-kephalic is here suggested—the parietal diameter is remarkably small, being frequently exceeded by the vertical diameter; in the second or brachy-kephalic class, the parietal diameter is the greater of the two; in the Celtic crania they are nearly equal; and in the medieval or true dolicho-kephalic heads, the parietal diameter is again found decidedly in excess; while the preponderance or deficiency of the longitudinal in its relative proportion to the other diameters, furnishes the most characteristic features referred to in the classification of the kumbe-kephalic, brachy-kephalic, Celtic, and dolicho-kephalic types. Not the least interesting indications which these results afford, both to the ethnologist and the archæologist, are the evidences of native primitive races in Scotland prior to the intrusion of the Celtæ; and also the probability of these races having succeeded each other in a different order from the primitive colonists of Scandinavia. Of the former fact, viz., the existence of primitive races prior to the Celtæ, I think no doubt can now be entertained. Of the order of their succession, and their exact share in the changes and progressive development of the native arts which the archæologist detects, we still stand in need of further proof; and the assumed primeval position of the kumbe-kephalic[Pg 178] race of Scotland is advanced here only interrogatively, and with the view of inducing others to take up the same interesting inquiry. The subject demands much more extended observation before any such conclusion can be dogmatically affirmed concerning the primitive Scottish races. We have also still to obtain the proofs of that abrupt change from the one form to the other, only to be procured as the result of numerous independent observations, but which can alone satisfactorily establish the fact of the intrusion of new races. The same evidence may also be expected to show whether the primitive race was entirely superseded by later colonists. If the Allophylian aborigines were not exterminated, but were admitted to share in the superior arts of their conquerors, some proof may yet be recoverable of the gradual progression in physical conformation as they abandoned the nomadic and wild hunter state for a pastoral life, so that they were not finally extirpated, but interfused into the mixed race which now occupies the country, as we know was to some extent the case, at a later period, with its Celtic population.

Not only in the annual operations of the agriculturist, but also in the deliberate researches of the archæologist, hundreds of tumular crania have been disinterred. Of these, however, scarcely any note has been taken, nor can we hope to obtain sufficient data for the determination of the interesting questions involved in the investigation till its importance is more generally recognised. A few facts, however, have been noted from time to time, some of which, in the absence of more precise observations, may help to throw light on the physical characteristics of the primitive British races. With this view, therefore, the following additional notices are selected.

In 1825 one of the singular northern circular forts usually styled burghs, situated at Burghar, in the parish of Evie, Orkney, was explored by the son of the resident clergyman, when there was found within the area a human skeleton, a rude bone comb of most primitive fashion, and part of a deer's horn. The comb, which is now preserved in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, is figured in another chapter; it measures four inches in length, and could not readily be surpassed in the rudeness of its construction or attempts at ornament. Along with this curious relic, the skull was forwarded to Edinburgh by Alexander Peterkin, Esq., but it is described in his communication as then in fragments, and has not been preserved. Mr. Peterkin remarks of it,—"Although the upper part of the skull be[Pg 179] separated into two parts, you will observe on joining them together that it is of a very singular conformation. The extreme lowness of the forehead and length backward, present a peculiarity which may be interesting to phrenologists."[211] This, therefore, would appear to have belonged to the primitive Kumbekephalæ.

Other observations on the physical characteristics of the remains found in primitive Scottish sepulchres are much less definite. Alexander Thomson, Esq. of Banchory, remarks in a communication to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, describing two urns found in a cist on his estate in Aberdeenshire:—"The skeleton was far from entire, but there were fragments of every part of it found. The teeth are perfectly fresh, and from the appearance of the jaws, the skeleton must be that of a full-grown person, though of small size. I was told that the skeleton lay quite regular when first found."[212] It may be presumed that in this case, as in other examples of the physical conformation of the primitive race, the smallness of the head was not a precise criterion of the dimensions of the skeleton. Another correspondent describes a cist discovered by the plough on the farm of Farrochie, in the parish of Feteress, Kincardineshire, within which was found a small urn and upwards of one hundred beads of polished black shale:—

"The interior of the tomb measured three feet in length, two feet in breadth, and twenty inches in depth. The top, sides, and ends were each formed of one stone, and at each corner the end of a flat-stone, set on its edge, was introduced angularly between the stones of the sides and ends. The slab that formed the cover of the tomb measured three feet eight inches in length, by three feet two inches in breadth. The body had been laid upon its right side, with the face towards the south. The limbs had been bent upwards, and it was observed when the tomb was opened that one of the leg bones had been broken near the middle. The length of the leg bones was eighteen inches, and that of the thigh bones twenty inches, with very strong joints. The skull appeared to be small in proportion to the other parts of the body. In both jaws the teeth were complete and in beautiful preservation. The ribs and other small bones crumbled into dust soon after they were exposed to the air. The urn was lying in the tomb as if it had been folded in the arms of the corpse."[213]

Dr. Prichard remarks in reply to the question,—Was there anything peculiar in the conformation of the head in the British or Gaulish races? "There are probably in existence sufficient means for deciding this inquiry in the skulls found in old British cairns or places of sepulture. I have seen about half a dozen skulls found in different parts of England, in situations which rendered it highly probable [Pg 180]that they belonged to ancient Britons. All these partook of one striking characteristic, viz., a remarkable narrowness of the forehead compared with the occiput, giving a very small space to the anterior lobes of the brain, and allowing room for a large development of the posterior lobes. There are some modern English and Welsh heads to be seen of a similar form, but they are not numerous."[214]

The crania already noticed from the Scottish tumuli, it is obvious, include two greatly differing types, one of which, at least, cannot with strict propriety be described as either remarkably narrow or very small in the forehead, when compared with the occiput. The description of Dr. Prichard will, however, be frequently found applicable to those of the brachy-kephalic type, examples of which, it may be presumed, have fallen under his notice. The peculiar characteristic of the primeval Scottish type appears rather to be a narrow prolongation of the occiput in the region of the cerebellum, suggesting the term already applied to them of boat-shaped, and for which the name of Kumbekephalæ may perhaps be conveniently employed to distinguish them from the higher type with which they are otherwise apt to be confounded. Dr. Thurnam remarks,—"The few crania which I have myself seen from early British tumuli, correspond very much with Dr. Prichard's description. They had, for the most part, a shortened oval form; ample behind, and somewhat narrow and receding in the forehead. The cranium from the undoubtedly British tumulus at Gristhorpe, near Scarborough, has this general form; it is, however, unusually large, and not deficient in frontal development; its form, too, is in some respects fine, particularly as regards the full supra-orbital region, and the high and fully developed middle head."[215] The Rev. Abner W. Brown, vicar of Pitchley, Northamptonshire, furnished to the Archæological Association in 1846 an interesting account of some British Kistvaens found there under very remarkable circumstances. The name of the locality is spelt in Doomsday-book Pihtes-lea and Picts-lei, terms sufficiently suggestive of the Celtic Picts or Ffichti of the north. "The skeleton which we have endeavoured to preserve," the writer remarks, "is that of a muscular well-proportioned young man, probably five feet nine inches high. The teeth are fine; the wisdom teeth scarcely developed. The facial line in some of the skulls appeared to be very fine. This skull exhibits the peculiar lengthy form, the prominent and high [Pg 181]cheek-bones, and the remarkable narrowness of forehead which characterize the Celtic races, and distinguish theirs from the rounder, broader skulls, and more upright facial line, of the Teutonic tribes."[216] It is obvious, however, from the above description, that the ancient crania of Pihtes-lea differ greatly from the true Celtic type, and correspond rather to the Kumbekephalæ. The whole circumstances attendant on their discovery indicate their belonging to a very remote era. The venerable church of Pitchley, an edifice still retaining original work of the beginning of the twelfth century, having begun to exhibit alarming symptoms of decrepitude, was carefully repaired and restored, even to the foundations. In reconstructing one of the principal pillars, the startling fact was brought to light, that the Norman builders had laid the foundation of the pillar in ignorance of a rude hollow cist lying directly underneath, with only about a foot of soil between. Other portions of the edifice were discovered to have been, in like manner, unconsciously founded above the graves of an elder race, and it at length became apparent that the ancient churchyard was entirely superimposed on a still older cemetery. "Below the foundation, though above the level of the kistvaens, there were common graves; in one of them was the skeleton of a beheaded person lying at full length, the head placed upon the breast, one of the neck-bones having apparently been divided." Pitchley Church belonged, even before the Conquest, to the Abbey of Peterborough. It was probably one of the earliest English sites of a Christian church; yet the British or Saxon graves of the upper tier, made in ignorance of the older cists below, had become sufficiently consolidated at the date of the Norman foundation to admit of the building of a solid and durable fabric above them. The cists lay nearly east and west, the bodies at full length, lying on their right sides, with the faces looking to the south, and the arms crossed in a peculiar way—the right arm across the breast, with its hand touching the left shoulder, and the left arm straight across, so that its hand touched the right elbow.[217] Both Norman and Roman coins were found near the surface; [Pg 182]deeper down lay fragments of coarse unglazed British and also of Roman pottery, and close to, or within one of the cists, a rude oblong amethyst, about an inch long, perforated lengthwise. In another were small pieces of charcoal, and a fragment of British pottery; and in a third an unusually large tusk of a wild boar. Mr. Brown, conceiving the position of the bodies to prove the introduction of Christian sepulchral rites, supposes these cists to have belonged to the Christians of Romanized Britain, before the Saxon invasion. It seems more probable that they pertain to that far older era which preceded the singular Pagan rites accompanying the circumscribed cist. The cranial characteristics appear to confirm this idea, and it is only on such a supposition that we can conceive of the establishment of the graveyard upon the site, in entire ignorance of the primeval cemetery buried beneath the accumulated debris of later generations. Another skeleton, found near Maidstone, in a circumscribed cist of peculiar construction, and undoubtedly of Pagan origin, is thus described by the Rev. Beal Post:—"The state of the skull, from the sutures being much obliterated, shewed the individual to have been about seventy years of age; the form of the skull also shewed that he did not belong to the present race which possess the island, but to the Celtic division of the European family. It was very narrow in the front part, and low in the forehead, exhibiting but little development of the intellectual faculties, while the organs of self-preservation, and other inferior organs in the hinder parts of the skull, were strongly developed. The bones seem to be those of a person about five feet seven inches high, the thigh-bone being seventeen inches long, and the other bones in proportion. The teeth, apparently, had been every one in a sound state. None of those found were in a state of decay, even incipiently so."[218] In both of these interesting examples it is obvious that the term Celtic is loosely applied in contradistinction to Saxon or Teutonic, and in accordance with the preconceived idea that the Celtæ are the primeval colonists of Britain. The forms of these crania appear clearly to lead to a different conclusion. Such are some of the observations heretofore made on the physical characteristics of the primitive Briton. Scanty as they are, they possess considerable value to us in the attempt to recover the lost chapters of his history. Imperfect as the development of the intellectual faculties appear to have been, there is sufficient evidence to justify the con[Pg 183]clusion, that the races of the tumuli, whether regarded as Allophylian or Celtic, were abundantly capable of civilisation, and possessed a cerebral capacity fully equal to that of nations which have carried the practical and decorative arts far in advance of a mere archaic period.

One characteristic feature observed in the skulls of various tumuli is the state of the teeth. It is rare to find among them any symptoms of irregularity or decay. Sir R. C. Hoare remarks of those of Wiltshire,—"The singular beauty of the teeth has often attracted our attention; we have seldom found one unsound or one missing, except in the cases of apparent old age. This peculiarity may be easily accounted for. The Britons led a pastoral life, feeding upon the milk of their flocks and the venison of their forests; and the sweets of the West Indies were to them totally unknown." In the tumular cemetery at North Berwick, the teeth of the skulls, though sound, were worn, in most cases completely flat, like those of a ruminating animal. Dr. Thurnam remarks the same to have been the case with the teeth examined by him in those of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Lamel Hill; and it is also observable in an under jaw found along with other remains of a human skull, an iron hatchet, and several large boars' tusks, in a deep excavation on the south bank of the Castlehill of Edinburgh. The jaw, with the accompanying relics, are in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries. The same peculiarity is referred to, as observed in a remarkable discovery of human remains in the Kent's Hole Cave, near Torquay, made by the late Rev. J. MacEnery during his geological researches in that locality. As the account of this discovery, which is accompanied with details of great value to the archæologist, has only been recovered through the zeal of Mr. Edward Vivian, since the death of the author, and printed in a local periodical,[219] it is extracted here at considerable length. It was to Mr. MacEnery's researches that Buckland and others of the earlier modern geologists owed their most valuable data; and some of the rarest palæontological specimens in the British Museum originally belonged to his private collection. Kent's Hole is referred to by Professor Owen, in his History of British Fossil Mammals, as "perhaps the richest cave depository of bears hitherto found in England." The roof is clustered with pendant cones of stalactite, and the floor thickly paved with concretions of stalagmite, the accumulations of many centuries, which have sealed down the floor hermetically, and preserved [Pg 184]the relics both of the geologist and the archæologist safe from disturbance, and protected from decay.

"The floor we found, at our first visit, covered, through its whole extent, with a darkish mould, varying in depth from a few inches to a foot. It only dates since the cavern became a popular place of resort, and the further progress of the stalagmite in open situations was interrupted by the trampling of visitors. In the vestibule were found, deep imbedded in it, those curiously shaped pieces of oak to which the appellation of Druids' sandal was given,[220] together with a quantity of decomposed animal and vegetable matter, the remains of fires and feasts, mingled with rabbit bones....

"At the hazard of unnecessarily charging the thread of my narrative with seemingly frivolous particulars, I proceed to note down the characters presented by its general aspect, no less than its contents, before it was altered by those operations which have since left no part of it in its virgin state. It is only on a just appreciation of all their circumstances that a true estimate can be founded of those facts which should serve as the basis of all reasoning on its nature and history.

"The floor of the entrance, except that it had the appearance of being broken up, offered nothing remarkable to detain us; we shall have occasion to return to it presently. Not so the lateral branch by which it communicates with the body of the cavern on the left. Under a ledge on the left was found the usual sprinkling of modern bones, and, in the mould beneath, which had acquired the consistence of hard clay, were fragments of pottery, calcined bones, charcoal, and ashes; in the midst of all were dispersed arrow-heads of flint and chert. The ashes furnished a large proportion of the mould.

"In the same heap were discovered round slabs of roofing slate of a plate-like form, some crushed, others entire. The pottery is of the rudest description, made of coarse gritty earth, not turned on a lathe, and sunbaked; on its external margin it bears zigzag indentations, not unlike those represented on the urns found by Sir Richard Hoare in the barrows of Wiltshire. These fragments, there seems no reason for doubting, are the remains of cinerary urns which once contained the substances scattered around, and to which the slates served for covers.

"At a short distance, nearer the entrance, were found, in a continuation of the same mould, articles of bone of three sorts; some of an inch long, and pointed at one end, or arrow-heads; others about three inches long, rounded, slender, and likewise pointed. Conjecture was long busy as to their destination—they were thought by some to be bodkins, by others for confining the hair, like those ornaments used by the women in Italy; lastly, they were supposed, with more probability, to be a species of pin for fastening the skin in front which served savages for garments. The third article does not seem so easy to explain; it is of a different shape, quite flat, broad at one end, pointed at the other, the broad part retains the truncated form of a comb, the teeth of which were broken off near their root; whether it was used as a comb, or for making nets for fishing, is not clear. [Pg 185]There was only this solitary one found, and two of the former, but several of the first, with a quantity of bone chips. All three bore marks of polish.

"Nearer the mouth are collected a good number of shells of the muscle, limpet, and oyster, with a palate of the scarus. This, as well as the nacker of oysters which was thickly disseminated through the mould, served, as they do at the present day among savages, most probably for ornament. The shell-fish may have furnished bait for fishing. The presence of these rude articles render it probable that they were collected here by the ancient aborigines, who divided their time between the chase and fishing in the adjacent sea.

"Close to the opposite wall, in the same passage, buried in black mould, I found a stone hatchet, or celt, of sienite, the only one found in the cavern. Another of the same material, but of a different shape, I found shortly after not far from the cavern near Anstis Cove, which labourers engaged in making the new cut had just thrown up with the mould.

"As we advanced towards the second mouth, on the same level, were found, though sparingly, pieces of pottery. The most remarkable product of this gallery were round pieces of blue slate, about an inch and a-half in diameter and a quarter thick. They may have served, like the Kimmeridge coal, for money. In the same quarter were likewise found several round pieces of sandstone grit, about the form and size of a dollar, but thicker and rounded at the edge, and in the centre pierced with a hole, by means of which they seem to have been strung together like beads. Clusters of small pipes or icicles of spar, such as depended from the roof at our first visit, we saw collected here in heaps, buried in the mud. Similar collections we had occasion to observe accompanied by charcoal, throughout the entire range of the cavern, sometimes in pits excavated in the stalagmite. Copper ore—with these various articles in the same stuff was picked up—a lump much oxydized, which the late Mr. Phillips analyzed, was found to be pure virgin ore.

"Having taken a general survey of the surface of the floor, we returned to the point from which we set out, viz., the common passage, for the purpose of piercing into the materials below the mould. Here in sinking a foot into the soil, (for of stalagmite there remained only the broken edges adhering to the sides of the passage, and which appeared to be repeated at intervals,) we came upon flints in all forms, confusedly disseminated through the earth, and intermixed with fossil and human bones, the whole slightly agglutinated together by calcareous matter derived from the roof. My collection possesses an example of this aggregation in a mass consisting of pebbles, clay, and bone, in the midst of which is imbedded a fine blade of flint, all united together by sparry cement.

"The flints were in all conditions; from the rounded pebble as it came out of the chalk, to the instruments fabricated from them, as arrow and spear-heads, and hatchets. Some of the flint blocks were chipped only on one side, such as had probably furnished the axes, others on several faces, presenting planes corresponding exactly to the long blades found by their side, and from which they had been evidently sliced off; other pebbles still more angular and chipped at all points, were no doubt those which yielded the small arrow-heads. These abounded in by far the greatest number. Small irregular splinters, not referrible to any of the above divisions, and which seem to have been struck off in the operation of detaching the latter, not unlike the small chips in a sculptor's shop, were thickly scattered[Pg 186] through the stuff, indicating that this spot was the workshop where the savage prepared his weapons of the chase, taking advantage of its cover and the light.

"I have discovered in this passage precisely similar arrow-heads to those which I detected in an urn from a barrow presented to me by the Rev. Mr. Welland.

"With the exception of the Boar spear [of iron] and a blade of the same metal found not far from it, very much rusted, all the articles in the mould or in the disturbed soil consisted of flint, chert, sienite, and bone—such primitive substances as have been in all countries and down to the present, used by the savage for the fabrication of his weapons, whether for the chase or battle.

"At a still greater depth, near the common entrance in the passage, lay extended lengthwise in the ordinary position of burial, the remains of a human skeleton much decayed; two portions only of the jaw and some single teeth, with the mouldering vertebræ and ribs, were all that remained. As in the case of the flint knife mass, already described, there adhered to the jaw portions of the soil on which it lay, and of the stalagmite which partly covered it.

"The teeth were so worn down that the flat crowns of the incisors might be mistaken for molars,[221] indicating the advanced age of the individual. M. Cuvier, to whom I submitted the fragment in 1831, was struck with the form of the jaw. He pronounced it to belong to the Caucasian race. He promised to bestow particular notice on it, but death, unhappily for science, put a stop to his labours. All the specimens, together with a collection of fossil bones, the third I had presented to the museum of the Jardin des Plantes, I transmitted to him before I quitted the continent, and they may be found among his effects. The skeleton lay about a foot and a half below the surface; from the tumbled state of the earth, the admixture of flags of stalagmite, added to the presence of flint articles and pieces of slate, it was manifest that the floor had been dug up for the reception of the body, and that it was again covered over with the materials thrown up from the excavation. The earthy covering consisted of the red soil, containing fossil bones mixed up with recent mould, the mound of earth outside the mouth, at the right hand, was thrown up from the passage to render it more accessible. It was precisely that which covered the human skeleton, and contained the admixture of human and fossil relics.

"Previous to the disturbance of the floor for the admission of the body, it would appear, from the presence of flags of stalagmite in the rubble, that it was covered with a continuous crust, the edges indeed of which still adhere to the sides. It further appears from the repetition of similar crusts, as indicated by the broken edges at the sides, that there were periods of repose which allowed new floors to form, marking clearly their repeated destruction and renovation at intervals of time.

"With the exception of single teeth and an occasional rib or vertebra in charcoal, which may have possibly belonged to the same subject, there were no other traces of human remains."[222]

[Pg 187]

The peculiarity in the teeth of certain classes of ancient crania above referred to is of very general application, and has been observed as common even among British sailors. The cause is obvious, resulting from the similarity of food in both cases. The old Briton of the Anglo-Roman period, and the Saxon both of England and the Scottish Lothians, had lived to a great extent on barley bread, oaten cakes, parched peas, or the like fare, producing the same results on his teeth as the hard sea-biscuit does on those of the British sailor. Such, however, is not generally the case, and in no instance, indeed, to the same extent in the skulls found in the earlier British tumuli. In the Scottish examples described above the teeth are mostly very perfect, and their crowns not at all worn down. In that marked No. 5, one of those found at Cockenzie, the under jaw has been preserved, and in it the wisdom teeth are only partially developed, indicating the age of the individual. The perfectly formed teeth are not much more worn than those which had never pierced the gums.

The inferences to be drawn from such a comparison are of considerable value in the indications they afford of the domestic habits and social life of a race, the last survivor of which has mouldered underneath his green tumulus, perchance for centuries before the era of our earliest authentic chronicles. As a means of comparison this characteristic appearance of the teeth manifestly furnishes one means of discriminating between an early and a still earlier, if not primeval period, and though not in itself conclusive, it may be found of considerable value when taken in connexion with the other and still more obvious peculiarities of the crania of the earliest barrows. We perceive from it, at least, that a very decided change took place in the common food of the country, from the period when the native Briton of the primeval period pursued the chase with the flint lance and arrow, and the spear of deer's horn, to that comparatively recent period when the Saxon marauders began to effect settlements and build houses on the scenes where they had ravaged the villages of the older British natives. The first class, we may infer, attempted little cultivation of the soil. Improving on the precarious chances of a mere nomadic or hunter life, we have been led to suppose, from other evidence, that the early Briton introduced the rudiments of a pastoral life, while yet his dwelling was only the slight circular earth-pit, in-covered with overhanging boughs and skins. To the spoils of the chase he would then add the milk of his flock of goats or sheep, probably[Pg 188] with no other addition than such wild esculents, mast, or fruits, as might be gathered without labour in the glades of the neighbouring forest. But the social state in the British Isles was a progressive one. Whether by the gradual improvement of the aboriginal race, or by the incursion of foreign tribes already familiar with the fruits of agricultural labour, the wild pastoral or hunter life of the first settlers was exchanged for one more suited to call forth the social virtues. The increase of the population, whether by the ingress of such new tribes, or by the numerical progression of the first settlers, would of itself put an end to the possibility of finding subsistence by means of the chase. Thus it might be from the inventive industry which privations force into activity that new wants were first discovered, new tastes were created, and satisfied by the annual harvests of golden grain. The ploughshare and the pruning-hook divided attention with the sword and the spear, which they could not supplant; and the ingenious agriculturist devised his oaken querne, his stone-rubber, or corn-crusher, and at length his simple yet effective hand-mill, which resisted, during many centuries of change and progress, all attempts to supersede it by more complicated machinery. Dr. Pettigrew, in communicating the results of a series of observations on the bones found in various English barrows, remarks,—"The state of the teeth in all of them indicated that the people had lived chiefly on grain and roots."[223] The dry, hard oaten cake of the Scottish peasant, which may have been in use almost from the first attempt at cultivation of the favourite national grain, would probably prove as effective as any of the presumed vegetable foods for producing such results. We need not, at any rate, evidence to satisfy us that the luxuries which have rendered the services of the dentist so indispensable to the modern Briton were altogether excluded from the regimen of his rude forefathers.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare commences the great work which has secured for him so distinguished a place among British archæologists, with the motto—"We speak from facts, not theory." While seeking to render the facts of Scottish Archæology fully available, it is my earnest desire to follow in the footsteps of a leader so proved. The inferences attempted to be deduced from such facts as have been accumulated here, with a view to discover some elementary principles for the guidance of Scottish archæologists, are such as appear natu[Pg 189]rally and logically to follow from them. Still they are stated apart from the premises, and those who have followed thus far ungrudgingly in exploring the primeval sepulchres of Scotland, will find no difficulty in pausing ere they commit themselves to the same guidance in seeking also some glimpses of the native hearth and pastoral inclosures, and of the evidences of that inventive skill which succeeded to such simple arts. We would fain reanimate the ashes in these long buried urns, and interrogate the rude British patriarch regarding a state of being which for centuries—perhaps for many ages—pertained on these very spots where now our churches, palaces, and our homeliest dwellings are reared, but which seems almost as inconceivable to us as that other state of being, to which we know the old Briton, with all the seed of Adam, has passed.

It may appear to some a service of little value, the unrolling of these "mute inglorious" records. Yet somewhat is surely gained when we reach the beginnings of things, and substitute for the old historic mist-land of myth and fable, a coherent and intelligible, though dry and somewhat meagre array of facts and legitimate deductions. It is no longer needful, however, to defend the object of our research. It is to some extent the same which the ethnologist is pursuing by a different route; though the palæontological investigations of the archæologist have yet to establish their true value in the estimation of men of science by the nature of their results. For this we wait in hope. I would only meanwhile repeat, that we cannot be justified in concluding any knowledge which once existed to be utterly lost beyond recall; and if the geologist has been able to recover so much from annals that seemed to have been folded up and laid aside ere this race was summoned into being to people a renovated world, surely we ought not to despair of being yet able to fill up our meagre outline with many details which shall satisfy the severest demands of inductive philosophy, and rest their claims to acceptance not on theory but on fact.


[195] Prichard's Natural Hist. of Man, 3d edit. p. 108.

[196] Ibid. p. 21.

[197] Natural History of Man, p. 186.

[198] On the Primitive Inhabitants of Scandinavia, by Professor Nillson of Lund.

[199] Natural History of Man, pp. 192, 193.

[200] Morton's Crania Americana, p. 16.

[201] Natural History of Man, p. 193.

[202] Archæol. Journal, vol. vi. pp. 27-39, 123-136.

[203] In taking these measurements I have been efficiently assisted by Mr. John Zaglas, anatomical assistant to Professor Goodsir of Edinburgh University, and by Dr. John Alexander Smith. Nearly all of the measurements have been repeated several times, and may therefore be received as accurate.

[204] Archæol. Scot. vol. iv. pp. 43, 44.

[205] MSS. Library S.A. Scot. Nov. 28, 1834.

[206] Two mortaria, obtained from this shaft, along with the iron spear-head, are now in the possession of John Miller, Esq. of Millfield, C.E. The spear-head will be found figured in a later chapter. The skull is now in the possession of John Alexander Smith, M.D., but it is his intention to deposit it in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries.

[207] Regist. Prior. S. Andree, p. 114. Lulach the Foolish is mentioned by Scottish chroniclers as reigning after Macbeth for four months, when he also was slain, and interred at Iona.—Annals of the Scots, A.D. 1058.

[208] Phrenological Journal, vol. vi. p. 144.

[209] Report of British Association for Advancement of Science. Seventeenth Session, 1848. P. 32.

[210] Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time, vol. ii. p. 110.

[211] Archæol. Scotica, vol. iii. p. 44.

[212] MSS. Letter, Libr. Soc. Antiq. Scot., December 8, 1817.

[213] MSS. Letter, Mr. William Duncan, 13th December 1838.

[214] History of Mankind, vol. ii. p. 92.

[215] Description of tumular cemetery at Lamel Hill, Archæological Journal, vol. vi. p. 129.

[216] Archæological Journal, vol. iii. p. 113.

[217] Minute details, such as are given in the text, of the disposition of the arms and hands, are always open to some doubt. Unless where the cist is filled with earth, the bones must necessarily fall from their original position on the decay of the enveloping tissues; and when so filled, the earth has generally percolated into it long subsequent to the interment. Those who have frequently opened barrows must be well aware how difficult it is to ascertain with any certainty much more than the general relative position of the bones and skull.

[218] Jour. of Archæol. Association, vol. iv. p. 65.

[219] Torquay and Tor Directory, Aug. 14, 1850.

[220] "Discovered in the black mould certain rudely shaped pieces of oak, one of which was immediately shewn me by the finder. It was about the length and form of the human foot, and hollowed in the centre, not unlike a sandal." The name, it should be added, was only meant as a convenient distinctive appellation.

[221] In the original notes from which the memoir appears to have been compiled, the condition of this skeleton is thus described:—"Its teeth, most of which I collected, are with one exception sound and un-discoloured, that they belonged to a robust adult, they and the fragments of the skull and vertebræ abundantly testify. The front or incisor teeth are what are called double teeth."

[222] Cavern Researches, or Discoveries of Organic Remains, and of British and Roman Reliques in the Caves of Kent's Hole, Anstis Cove, &c. By the Rev. J. MacEnery, F.G.S.

[223] Archæological Journal, vol. i. p. 272.

[Pg 190]

[Pg 191]


"In those old days, one summer noon, an arm
Rose up from out the bosom of the lake,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
Holding the sword Excalibur."

Morte D'Arthur.


The evidence adduced in the previous section furnishes the basis of the argument from whence we arrive at the conclusion, that Scotland and the whole British Isles were occupied by a human population many ages prior to the earliest authentic historical notices. Of the character and habits of the barbarian Briton of the primeval period we have also been able to arrive at some knowledge. His dwellings, the remains of which have lain unheeded around the haunts of so many generations, shew his domestic accommodation to have been of the simplest and most humble description. His imperfect tools and weapons furnish no less satisfactory evidence of his scanty knowledge, his privations, and his skill. Searching amid the records of that debateable land to which the geologist and the antiquary lay equal claim, we learn that vast areas of our country were covered at that remote era with the primitive forest; that oaks of giant height abounded where now the barren heath and peat-bog cumber the land; and that even, at a comparatively recent period,[Pg 192] the fierce Caledonian bull, the wolf, and the wild boar asserted their right to the old forest-glades. The primitive Caledonian was, in fact, an untutored savage. The race was thinly scattered along the skirts of the continuous range of forest, occupying the coasts and river valleys, and retreating only to the heights or the dark recesses of the forest when the fortunes of war compelled them to give way before some more numerous or warlike neighbouring tribe. The vast forests which then occupied so large a portion of the soil, while they confined the primitive inhabitants to the open country along the coasts and estuaries, supplied them with more valuable fruits than the unoccupied grounds could have afforded to their scanty numbers and untutored skill. Besides the fiercer natives of the forest, we are familiar with the remains of the elk and the rein-deer, as well as of smaller beasts and birds of chase. In the Anglo-Saxon Ode on Athelstan's Victory, in which—

Scotta leode, The Scottish lads
And scip flotan And the men of the fleets
Fæge feollon. In fight fell,

we have the following curious enumeration from the old MSS. in the British Museum, dated A.D. 937, in Gibson's Chronicle, and supposed to be written by a contemporary bard:[224]

The war screamers
Left they behind;
The hoarse bittern,
The sallow paddock,
The swarth raven
With horned bill,
And the wood-housing heron
Eating white fish of the brooks,
The greedy gos-hawk,
The grey deer,
And wolf wild.

We are not without abundant evidence that the primitive Caledonian waged successful war with the wild natives of the forest. By arrow,[Pg 193] sling, and lance, and also, no doubt, with help of gins and traps, the largest and fiercest of them fell a prey to the wild hunter. The horns especially of the deer supplied him with weapons, implements, ornaments, and sepulchral memorials. His wants were few, his tastes simple and barbarous, his religion probably as unspiritual as the most base of savage creeds. In the long wanderings of his nomade fathers across the continents of Asia and Europe, they had greatly deteriorated from the primal dignity of the race, they had forgotten all the heaven-taught knowledge of Eden, and had utterly lost the antediluvian metallurgic arts. It may perhaps be asked if the annals of so mean a race are worthy of the labour required in dragging them to light from their long-forgotten repositories? The answer is, they are our ancestry, even though we may question our lineal descent; our precursors, if not our progenitors. From them we derive our in[Pg 194]heritance and birthright; nor, amid all the later mingling of races, can we assume that no drop of their blood mingles in our veins.

There can be no question that this aboriginal race continued to occupy their island home, with slow and very slight progression, for many centuries. The disclosures of the latest alluvial deposits have furnished evidence of the appearance which the face of the country presented within the historic era, and leave no room to doubt that vast forests covered so large a portion of the soil as to afford no great area for the occupation of its aboriginal colonists. Taking into account with this the abundance of those rude weapons and implements from whence we give that era the name of the Stone Period, and the general uniformity of the circumstances under which they are discovered, we are furnished with satisfactory evidence of a thinly peopled country, occupied by the same tribes with nearly unchanging habits for many ages.

The elements, however, of a great revolution were at length introduced among this simple race, and, as usual in the history of progressive civilisation, they appear to have come from without. The change by which we detect the close of the long era of barbarism, and the introduction of a new and more advanced period, is the discovery of the art of smelting ores, and the consequent substitution of metallic weapons and implements for those of stone. The former presents us with the helplessness of childhood without its promise; the latter is the healthful infancy of a vigorous and magnificent manhood.

The insular position of Britain has already furnished an indisputable and well-defined base on which to rear the argument of primitive colonization. The valuable mineral wealth of some portions of its soil happily supply no less satisfactory data for those of its early civilisation. Little doubt can now be entertained that Herodotus, in his allusions to the Cassiterides, or Tin Islands, refers to the celebrated districts of Cornwall and the neighbouring isles, which still abound with the same mineral wealth that conferred on them such ancient and wide-spread fame. The era of the father of history dates from B.C. 484—the year assigned as that of his birth—probably to nearly the close of the century. At this early period, then, while the Republic of Rome was only assuming form, and Athens was just rising into importance, the commerce of the British Isles attracted the navies of Tyre and Carthage; nor does it seem improbable that the Phœnicians traded with the miners of Cornwall and the Scilly Islands[Pg 195] at a much earlier period, if indeed we must not look to these ancient Cassiterides as one of the chief sources from whence even the Egyptians and Assyrians derived the tin with which they alloyed and hardened their earliest tools. More definite, and, as it is believed, authentic information regarding the British Isles is derived from the "Ora Maritima" of Festus Avienus, circa B.C. 400, from which we learn that Britain was visited at that early period by Carthaginian voyagers, and that the Albiones occupied the larger island, while the smaller island was possessed by the Gens Hibernorum. In so far as this early writer may be relied upon, his observations appear to sanction the conclusion that a pure Celtic population then possessed the whole British Isles, and that it is in the interval between this epoch and the invasion of Julius Cæsar that we must look for the intrusion of the newer continental races, indiscriminately termed by Cæsar, Britanni. In complete confirmation of this, and of the consequent retreat of the aboriginal Albiones towards the remoter districts, we find the name of Albion afterwards exclusively applied to the northern part of Britain, and all the earliest traditions and writings of both the Welsh and Scottish Celtæ assigning to them the name of Albanich. A Celtic race, however, continued to occupy the primeval districts of Cornwall, and preserved almost to our own day a distinct dialect of the Celtic tongue.

The familiarity of the ancient Britons with tin, though this metal does not occur in a native state, may be readily accounted for from the ore being frequently found near the surface, and requiring only the use of charcoal and a very moderate degree of heat to reduce it to the state of metal. We have no specific mention of any other source from whence the ancients derived the tin which they compounded with the copper found so abundantly in several parts of Asia; with the single and somewhat vague exception made by Strabo, where he calls a certain place in the country of the Drangi, in Asia, by the name of Cassiteron. That tin was known, however, from very early times is proved, not only by the discovery of numerous early Egyptian and Assyrian bronze relics, but also by its being noted by Moses among the spoils of the Midianites which were to be purified by fire;[225] and by Ezekiel among the metals of which Tarshish was the merchant of Tyre.[226] The allusions of Herodotus leave no room to doubt that his information was derived indirectly from others. The Phœnicians [Pg 196]long concealed the situation of the Cassiterides from all other nations; and even Pliny treats as a fable the report of certain islands existing in the Atlantic from whence white-lead or tin was brought. It need not therefore surprise us to learn so little of these islands from ancient writers, even though we adopt the opinion that they continued for many centuries to be the chief source of one of the most useful metals. Antimony is found in the Kurdish mountains, and pure copper ore abounds there, as well as in those of the desert of Mount Sinai, but no tin is known throughout any part of Assyria. It is indeed a metal of rare occurrence, though found in apparently inexhaustible quantities in a very few localities. The only districts, according to Berzelius, where it is obtained in Asia, are the island of Banca, only discovered in 1710, and the peninsula of Malacca, where Wilkinson conceives it possible that tin may have been wrought by the Egyptians. The mines of Malacca are very productive, and may have been the source from whence Tyre derived "the multitude of riches," but we have no evidence in support of such conjectures. Cornwall still yields a larger quantity of the ore than any other locality of the Old or New World where it has yet been discovered, and many thousands of tons have been exported by modern traders to India and China, and to America. Taking all these circumstances into consideration, it seems in no degree improbable, that long before Solomon sent to Tyre for "a worker filled with wisdom, and understanding, and cunning, to work all works in brass," or employed the fleets of Hiram, King of Tyre, to bring him precious metals and costly stores for the Temple at Jerusalem, the Phœnician ships had passed beyond the pillars of Hercules, and were familiar with the inexhaustible stores of these remote islands of the sea which first dawn on history as the source of this most ancient alloy. Strabo's description of the natives of the Cassiterides is not to be greatly relied upon. According to him they were a nomade pastoral race, of peaceful and industrious habits; but he refers especially to their mines of tin and lead, the produce of which they exchanged with the foreign traders, along with furs and skins, for earthenware, salt, and copper vessels and implements.

It is scarcely possible to conceive of such an intercourse carried on for centuries, by nations far advanced in the arts, and familiar with the civilisation and learning of the oldest races of Asia and Africa, without the natives of the Cassiterides acquiring from them some[Pg 197] knowledge of the fruits of ancient civilisation. From them, indeed, it has been supposed that the British miner first learned even to smelt the ores, though we are almost forced to the conclusion that the working of the mines must have originated with natives or new colonists, familiarized in some degree with the nature of the metals, and with metallurgic arts. It seems surprising, however, that relics formed of the most abundant native metal, tin, should not be found in the tumuli. The facility with which it could be wrought rendered it readily convertible into personal ornaments, equally beautiful as those so abundant in copper and bronze. Borlase describes a patera of tin found at Bossens, in the parish of St. Erth, Cornwall, in 1756, rudely inscribed in mixed characters,—λIVIVS . MOδESTVS δηIVλI . F . ΔEO . MARTI.[227] Along with this were two other vessels of the same metal, an uninscribed patera, and a vase or præfericulum. In 1793 a tin cup of singular form was found, along with a circular ornament of bronze, evidently of native British workmanship, in searching for the ore in a stream work called Hallivich, in the same county,[228] so that we are not without some evidence that this metal was employed at an early period in the manufacture of sacred and domestic vessels. Probably, indeed, we should infer, from the great rarity of such relics, that it was only so used before its native workers had learned to mix it with copper and produce the more useful alloy which superseded the pure metals; as bronze and copper appear to have been at first imported, and received in exchange for the pure tin. Barter, however, could not possibly be continued for centuries, exchanging the ore of a metal so readily fusible as tin for wrought materials of copper, whether pure or alloyed—a metal found in the same locality, in a state requiring little smelting to bring it into use-without the British miner and trader learning to turn their own native mineral wealth to account. The facilities of a metallic currency were also little likely to remain unappreciated by the British trader, familiar as these already were to the seamen of the Mediterranean, or the Phœnician colonists of Cadiz, the ancient Gadeira. Independently of the ring-money which was probably derived from these sources, evidence in confirmation of this idea is not wanting. So recently as the year 1833 a bi-frontal bust of the Egyptian Isis [Pg 198]was dug up in South Street, Exeter.[229] According to Mr. W. T. P. Shortt's reading of the hieroglyphics upon it, it is inscribed with the prefix Isis, Lady, Mistress of the World. Beneath this has been a cartouche, the greater portion of which is unfortunately cut away. Mr. Shortt conceives it to have been the cartouche of Cleopatra Tryphæna, of the race of the thirteenth Ptolemy, B.C. 51; but as there is only the fragment of one of the phonetics, this reading is necessarily conjectural. In 1835 some Carthaginian medals were found at Abbeville, in Picardie; and at Noyelles sur Mer, another figure of Isis was discovered in bronze, along with a statuette of the Hawk-headed deity, or elder Horus.[230] Egyptian relics of the era of the later Ptolemies are not unknown as accompaniments of Roman sepulchral deposits, both in Britain and on the Continent; but they must be assumed to belong to an older era when found along with Greek and Carthaginian coins.

But more conclusive evidence exists in proof of early intercourse with the Mediterranean, if not, indeed, of the opinion advocated by a zealous local antiquary, that Exeter had been the seat of a Phœnician colony many centuries prior to the arrival of the Romans.[231] It was long maintained by the great majority of English numismatists, that the Britons had no native coinage prior to the Roman invasion and the mintage of Cunobeline,—the work, as is presumed, of a Roman artist. The evidence against the existence of an early native coinage was, at best, purely negative, and is now giving way before the investigations of our ablest numismatists. The coins peculiar to the Channel Islands are generally acknowledged to be of an earlier character, and it is maintained not only that a native mintage existed prior to the Roman invasion, but that the convex and concave form, which characterizes the earliest British types, affords evidence that they were formed in imitation of Greek coins.[232] The Rev. Beale Post has most ingeniously traced the Gaulish coinage to its primitive Greek type. The conclusions he arrives at are, that about B.C. 600, the Phœnicians colonized Marseilles, subsequent to which coins of that city make their appearance, [Pg 199]their type being that of human heads, birds, beasts, &c. About B.C. 335 the Gauls adopted as their model the gold coinage struck by Philip II. of Macedon, and from that early Greek type, with its reverse of Diana driving her biga, we may trace the original of all the singular and rude representations of the horse on the primitive Gaulish and British native coinage, which have been supposed to involve so many mythological fancies. There is something greatly more characteristic of the imperfect ideas of a native currency likely to be formed by a primitive and partially civilized people, in this arbitrary imitation of a foreign type, than in any abstruse embodiment of the national creed. No precise date has yet been attempted to be assigned for the first native British coinage, but the numerous examples of Gaulish types discovered in Britain leave no room to doubt that the native Britons were familiar with such a circulating medium long prior to the Roman invasion. Nor is this the most primitive form of native currency. Several hoards have been discovered at different times in Scotland, of small gold pellets, marked with a cross or star in relief, and which, there can be little doubt, is the earliest Scottish minted money.[233] Examples of this primitive coinage are more particularly described in a subsequent chapter, among the contents of the later tumuli.

But entirely apart either from this or the coinage derived from the Gauls, very remarkable discoveries of ancient foreign coins, such as those referred to above, suffice to suggest the probability that the primitive Briton had other sources from whence to acquire a knowledge of the convenience and fashion of a coined circulating medium. In the same locality where the bust of the Egyptian Isis was dug up[Pg 200] at Exeter, numerous Greek coins have been found of late years, chiefly belonging to the autonomous Greek colonial cities in Syria and Asia Minor. Many have been discovered pertaining to Alexandria in Egypt, including coins of the Ptolemies of a very early date, frequently met with at great depths, and apparently in older strata than that of the Anglo-Roman period.[234] In making a large drain in the Fore Street of Exeter, in 1810, at a depth of twenty feet below the present pavement, an immense quantity of ancient money was found, including many early coins of the autonomous Greek cities, and along with them two British coins, one bearing the wheel and the other the horse.[235] Coins of Agrigentum, in Sicily, of Hiero I. of Syracuse, B.C. 460; of Ptolemy I. B.C. 323, and many others described and engraved in Mr. Shortt's interesting works, have been found at various times in Exeter and its neighbourhood.

But though these singularly interesting tokens of intercourse with the Phœnician and Greek maritime colonies long prior to the era of the Roman occupation of Britain abound, as might be anticipated, only in the localities where mineral wealth tempted the sojourn of the ancient trader, yet some few remarkable traces of the same communication with the elder empires of the world have been found within our more northern limits. Occasionally Greek coins have been discovered in Scotland; as, for example, a gold didrachm of Philip of Macedon, three Greek silver coins, including one of his son, and a brass of the Brutii in Magna Græcia, found on the estate of Cairnbulg, Aberdeenshire, in 1824; and a very fine gold coin of Alexander the Great, at Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire.[236] In the year 1845 a still more remarkable hoard was discovered on the farm of Braco, in the parish of Shotts, Lanarkshire, only a very small portion of which was rescued from the usual fate of such recovered treasures. I have examined a few of these, in the hands of John Henderson, Esq., Queen's Remembrancer for Scotland. They include of Greek coins: one of Athens, obverse Archaic head of Pallas; reverse: Α Θ, owl in deep indented square, an olive branch behind. One of Phocis, obverse: laureated head of Apollo; reverse: full-faced head of bull. One of Bœotia, obverse: Bœotian shield; reverse: vase. Also one Parthian coin. (Eckhel, vol. i. p. 254. Arsaces XV.) A correspondent from whom I first received information of this important discovery, saw several more of [Pg 201]the Athenian type; some with the Greek scarabæus or tortoise, and others, which from the description appear to have been Parthian coins. But on inquiry being made after them, nearly the whole disappeared, and it is to be feared were immediately consigned to the melting pot. This remarkable hoard, unequalled in historic value, as far as I know, by any discovery of coins yet made in Scotland, may perchance after all have only been the treasure of some Roman auxiliary, as Braco is on the line of the iter which came from the south, towards the station of Castlecarry, on the wall of Antoninus Pius. Only the year after, a most valuable hoard of undoubted Roman treasure was found on the same farm. According to the account of their discoverer—a farm servant—"nearly a barrowful" were recovered, but they were squandered and lost before information of the discovery could reach those who were competent to appreciate their value as anything but old metal. An intelligent correspondent, to whom I am indebted for some particulars of this last discovery at Braco, succeeded in securing a few of the coins, comprehending Vespasian, Titus, both the Antonines, Lucius Verus, both the Faustinas, Trajan, Hadrian, and Commodus. These, however, lay entirely apart from the former hoard, and apparently much nearer the surface, so that we need not necessarily assume the deposition of the former coins, belonging to a period so long prior to the era of Roman invasion, as depending on the Roman iter, which like more recent thoroughfares, may have followed in the line of older pathways through the Caledonian forests.

Along with these examples, suggestive of direct or indirect intercourse between the early Britons and Greek or Phœnician traders, should also perhaps be mentioned two Greek altars in the British Museum, found at Corbridge in Northumberland; the one dedicated to the Syrian Astarte, thus—ΑΣΤΑΡΤΗΣ, ΒΩΜΟΝ Μ'ΕΣΟΡΑΣ ΠΟΥΛΧΕΡ Μ'ΑΝΕΘΗΚΕΝ. On its sides are sculptured the most common sacrificial vessels, the præfericulum and patera, and the top is crowned with the usual thuribulum of the Roman altar. The other, which was discovered in the churchyard of Corbridge, is dedicated to the Tyrian Hercules. It bears on the one side a bull's head, with the secespita beside it, and on the other a laurel crown. In front is the inscription,—ΗΡΑΚΛΕΙ ΤΥΡΙΩ ΔΙΟΔΩΡΑ ΑΡΧΙΕΡΕ, Α.

The curious reader will find by reference to the Archæologia,[237] how [Pg 202]the learned reconcile with previous theories the discovery in this northern region of altars thus dedicated to Phœnician deities, to whom according to Josephus, Hiram king of Tyre, the contemporary of Solomon, erected separate temples. Camden records, on the authority of Solinus, called Polyhistor, that a votive altar was erected in North Britain, in honour of Ulysses, and inscribed in Greek characters.[238] Whatever credit be attached to this, we have no reason to doubt that Greek voyagers traded to the British Isles long before the Roman war galleys touched its shores; though the site of the former altars, near the Roman wall, and their correspondence in form and decorations to the Roman altars so frequently found in Britain, seem to justify the conclusion that they are the work of Greek auxiliaries of the Anglo-Roman era, and indicate a late rather than an early date within that period.

The interest which attaches to the determination of the extent and probable date of the first intercourse of the Britons with traders from the far east, has led to the anticipation of some points not strictly belonging to the present section of our inquiry. This question of the existence of a native coinage, or of the substitution of a foreign metallic currency for the rude process of barter, at a period prior to the introduction of Roman customs by the legionaries of the first and second centuries, well merits the careful study it is now receiving, since no other evidence could furnish equally satisfactory proof of early progress in social civilisation. It cannot admit of doubt, however, that long before even the Greek or Phœnician trader had taught the Cornish miner this ingenious substitute for a direct exchange of commodities, he had learned to fuse and work the rich veins of ore with which his native soil abounded, and to fashion them into a variety of personal ornaments as well as of weapons and implements. The Phœnician sought his tin in order to mix it with the copper which he already possessed, and thereby to produce bronze weapons combining the ductility of copper with that indispensable hardness which could alone fit them to supersede the older implements of stone. How early this interchange first took place, it appears now altogether vain to inquire. The evidence already adduced, however, is at least suffi[Pg 203]cient to justify us in assigning to it a very remote period, while the more abundant and far more useful metal, iron, was little known even to the oldest nations along the Mediterranean coasts. Worsaae remarks, "There are geological reasons for believing that the Bronze Period must have prevailed in Denmark five or six hundred years before the birth of Christ."[239] Denmark, however, had all its metal to import, while the earliest historic allusion to England represents her exporting her abundant metallic ores, and bartering them with the southern merchant for the productions of his superior skill. The metallic riches of England have not escaped the attention of the intelligent Danish archæologist:—"It is highly probable," he remarks, "that the ancient bronze, formed of copper and tin, was diffused from one spot over the whole of Europe; which spot may be supposed to be England, because, not to mention the quantity of copper which that country produces, its rich tin mines have been known from the earliest historic periods to the nations of the south, while in the other parts of Europe there occur only very few and doubtful remains of far less important tin mines which we are justified in believing to have been worked at that time."[240]

When we consider that copper is not only found in a state requiring little smelting to render it fit for manufacture, but that it is even discovered at times so pure that we may conceive of its occasional substitution for stone implements, before the art of smelting had become known, we can feel no hesitation in assuming, a priori, that it was the precursor of iron as a material for the construction of weapons and tools. Iron, on the contrary, bears, in its natural state, little resemblance to a metal, and is smelted by so difficult and tedious a process that, even after its superiority had become known, the older metal would probably be preferred by the natives of a thinly peopled country, where the benefits of mutual cooperation and the division of labour still remained among the unsolved problems of their political economy. The tools and weapons of the ancient Mexicans we know were of copper, and we are not without evidence that even the Egyptians were far advanced in their early developed civilisation before iron had superseded the older copper tools. The architectural monuments of Mexico and Yucatan show how much might be accomplished with such imperfect implements. Both in the magnificent work of the French savans, and in the more accurate delineations of M. Rosellini, [Pg 204]various Egyptian paintings are shewn, in which the implements of the sculptors are evidently of bronze or copper, and workmen are seen cutting blocks of granite and hewing out colossal statues with yellow tools. Numerous bronze weapons, implements, and personal ornaments found in the catacombs, attest the use of this metal by the Egyptians at a comparatively late period. Implements of copper are also among the relics found in some of the ancient and long abandoned mines discovered in Asia. The celebrated tables in the copper mines of Wady Maghara, near Sinai, record the conquest of that part of Asia by Suphis, the builder of the great pyramid, and prove that these mines had been wrought prior to the early date of his reign. Dr. Layard also refers to copper mines still existing in the mountains within the confines of Assyria, worked at a very remote period, probably by the Assyrians, and used not only to supply the material for ornaments, but also for weapons and tools.[241] But there is not wanting abundant direct evidence to prove that Asia had her Bronze Period as well as Europe and Africa. Dr. Prichard remarks, "Silver and golden ornaments of rude workmanship, though in abundant quantity, are found in the Siberian tombs. The art of fabricating ornaments of the precious metals seems to have preceded by many ages the use of iron in the northern regions of Asia."[242] A very interesting account is given in the Archæologia of a tumulus opened in the neighbourhood of Asterabad, on the south-eastern shores of the Caspian Sea, in 1841. It contained several vessels and two small trumpets, all of pure gold; spears, pikes, forks, and other weapons, including a well-shaped hammer and hatchet of copper, but no traces of iron.[243] The descriptions of Homer point out the era of the Iliad and the Odyssey as a bronze period; and Hesiod, as well as later writers, intimate clearly the use of bronze by the Greeks before they had learned to smelt or work the iron ore. The golden age of Saturn, and the succeeding silver, brazen, and iron ages, by which the Greek Sagas figure the gradual decline of mankind from a state of primeval purity and happiness, are not to be regarded as mere poetical images. "In the brazen age," says Schlegel, in his Philosophy of History, "crime and disorder reached their height; violence was the characteristic of the rude and gigantic Titans. Their arms were of copper, and their implements and utensils of brass or bronze. Even in their edifices copper was employed; [Pg 205]for as the Greek poet says, 'black iron was not then known;' a circumstance which must be considered as strictly historical, and as characteristic of the primitive nations."[244]

We have seen, in so far as the imperfect data already referred to afford trustworthy indications of the physical characteristics of the primitive colonists of Britain, that the race of the later era differed greatly from their elder and probably aboriginal precursors of the primeval period. We must depend not only on the united observations of British archæologists for adding to these ethnological data, but also on Continental research for supplying the necessary elements of comparison by which we may hope to trace out the origin of the Brachy-kephalic race of Scotland, to whom it seems probable that the introduction of the primitive metallurgic arts must be ascribed; while it may be that we shall yet be able clearly to associate the full development of these, prior to the working of iron, with the intrusion of the Celtæ upon the elder Allophylian British races.

Whencesoever the first knowledge of the metallurgic arts was derived, it introduced into the British Isles the elements of a change scarcely less momentous than those which later ages trace to letters, the magnet, the printing-press, or these latest applications of the metals—the railway and the electric telegraph. The native Briton was no longer confined to his little clearing on the coast, nor compelled with ingenious toil to fashion the shapeless flint and stone into the weapons and implements that supplied his simple wants. The forests rang with the axe and the wedge; the low grounds were gradually cleared of their primeval forests; and the fruits of patient industry were substituted, in part at least, for the spoils of the chase. Still the change was wrought, as might be anticipated, only by very slow degrees. The weapons and implements would in many localities long precede the knowledge of the arts by which they were formed. The old generation would die out, and be buried with the stone war-hatchet and spear, while the younger race were learning to despise such imperfect arms. Necessity also, arising from their costliness and scarcity, would long confine the majority to the primitive and inefficient tools and weapons of their fathers. Even after the flint lance had been entirely superseded by the bronze sword and spear, the missile weapons would still be made of the old material, and the large stone hammer would be retained in use as too bulky an object to be[Pg 206] constructed of the more costly metal. It is probable, indeed, that stone implements were never entirely abandoned throughout the whole Bronze Period. No large bronze hammers have ever been found in Britain, while those of stone frequently occur along with metallic remains; and the larger hammers and axes, chiefly of granite, are among the most abundant of Scottish primitive relics. So recently as the month of October 1849, an ancient working of great extent was broken into at the Llandudno Copper Mines, at Ormes Head, in North Wales. In this were found a great number of stone hammers or mauls of various sizes, weighing from two to forty pounds, supposed to have been used in crushing the ore or detaching it from the rock. There also lay beside them a number of bones, and the portion of a bronze tool; affording altogether one of the most interesting discoveries yet made illustrative of the arts of the British Bronze Period.[245] Traces of ancient mining operations have also been found in Scotland. Pennant describes trenches in the Island of Jura by which the veins both of lead and copper have been wrought in very early times, and by instruments unknown to the modern miner.[246]

Abundant evidence is found in accordance with these indications, proving the existence of a long transition-period, during which metallic tools and arms were only very partially introduced, and were manifestly esteemed as rare and precious possessions. To this transition-period we should probably assign the formation of the smaller and most carefully wrought varieties of the stone hammer, with which we may presume the ingenious worker in the newly mastered metals to have wrought, and fashioned into shape, many of the rude but massive gold ornaments found in the tumuli. From the number of these relics of the precious metals which have been discovered, we are irresistibly led to the conclusion that gold must have been much more abundant at that remote era than it has been within the period of authentic history. Nor is it difficult to account for such a state of things. Though usually found in very small quantities, gold is well known as one of the most widely diffused of all the metals; and the clay slate which frequently forms the depository of gold, silver, and copper, exists in great abundance throughout the Highlands. In the Leadhills of Scotland considerable quantities of gold have been procured at no very distant period, while numerous allusions suffice to shew its greater [Pg 207]abundance in former times.[247] In the twelfth century the Abbey of Dunfermline received a grant from David I. of the tithe of all the gold produced by the surrounding districts of Fife and Forthrev;[248] and even in the sixteenth century the Laird of Merchiston is said to have wrought gold in the Pentland Hills.[249] In the remoter era, however, to which we now refer, when the rude Caledonian was learning, for the first time, to fashion his weapons and tools of bronze, and to substitute the golden torc and armilla for the necklace of perforated shells or stone and amber beads, we are justified in assuming from analogy that in many of the channels of the Scottish mountain streams,—amid the strata of which the ore has been found,—not only the gold dust, but pure masses of native gold would be occasionally discovered, and wrought with no better tools than the stone hammer and anvil into the personal ornaments of distinguished leaders or priests. Strabo, in referring to the great mineral wealth of Spain, which made it to the ancients what America became to the Spaniards long after their native mineral treasures were exhausted, remarks,—"In no country are gold, silver, copper, and iron, so abundant or of such fine quality; even the rivers and mountain streams bring down gold in their beds, which is found in their sands." Yet such a description is now as little applicable to Spain as to Scotland. But more recent and conclusive evidence exists. Much sensation was excited in 1795 by the discovery of gold dust in the bed of the brook Ballinasloge, a feeder of the Avonmore river, about seven miles west from Arklow, county Wicklow. The stream is formed there at the junc[Pg 208]tion of three ravines; and in this spot John Lloyd, Esq., F.R.S., a correspondent of Sir Joseph Banks,[250] describes upwards of three hundred women, besides men and children, all engaged at one time in searching for the precious metal:—a scene not difficult to parallel in our own day. The searchers, however, were abundantly rewarded for their labour. The gold was found in masses varying from a few grains to five ounces in weight, and one piece, weighing twenty-two ounces, was reserved as a present to His Majesty. A later correspondent,[251] in a communication to the Royal Society, calculates that 800 ounces of gold were collected in the short space of six weeks, at the end of which time the gatherers were dispersed by a body of militia, and the gold area held for behoof of Government. "The gold," says Mr. Mills, "is of a bright yellow colour, perfectly malleable; the specific gravity of an apparently clean piece 19,000. A specimen, assayed here in the moist way, produced from 24 grains 22-58/101 grains of pure gold, and 1-45/101 of silver. Some of the gold is intimately blended with, and adherent to quartz; some, it is said, was found united to the fine grained iron-stone, but the major part was entirely free from the matrix; every piece more or less rounded on the edges, of various weights, forms, and sizes."[252] Specimens were afterwards assayed by the Royal Mint Master at the Tower of London. One piece contained, in 24 carats, 21-6/8 of fine gold, 1⅞ of fine silver, and ⅝ of alloy, which seemed to be copper tinged with a little iron.[253]

Such an example may be reasonably received as supplying one satisfactory clue to the sources of the gold which we find to have been so abundant in early times; though we shall still, perhaps, consistently account for the introduction of some portion of it indirectly by foreign barter, and chiefly in the shape of the ring-money hereafter referred to. But when the fact is borne in remembrance that articles of silver are rarely, if ever, found in connexion with relics of the Bronze Period, it must be acknowledged as most consistent with the geological and mineralogical characteristics of auriferous and argentiferous deposits to look to native sources for the supply of gold. While silver is found only in large quantities by mining, gold has invariably been discovered in largest quantities in the superficial detritus, and accumulated in circumscribed areas. Whenever, therefore, we are enabled to trace [Pg 209]the supply of gold to a foreign, as, for example, to a Phœnician source, we can hardly fail to find accompanying relics of silver; and accordingly, in the succeeding, or Iron Period, the gold becomes of rare occurrence, and the silver abundant. One other argument should not be altogether overlooked. The great purity of very many of the gold ornaments found in the tumuli is such as may perhaps add to the probability of its native origin. This well-known fact has frequently supplied an additional inducement to transfer to the crucible many of the rarest and most valuable relics of this period. Others found alloyed with silver are in no fixed or uniform proportions, but rather in accordance with the accidental mixtures likely to occur in the operations of the primitive miner and metallurgist. But this, though diminishing their bullion value, has not sufficed to save such national heirlooms from destruction. After reposing in the safe muniment chambers of their original owners, with but a foot of earth above them, while ancient races have become extinct and new colonists have risen to mighty nations above their forgotten graves, these treasures have only been restored to light to be immediately destroyed. The barbarity of such proceedings has hardly yet been fully exposed. It is the destruction of national records in the meanest spirit of cupidity, which no wealth could restore, and for which not even the poor excuse can be found that satisfied the fanatic Caliph Omar when he converted the treasures of the Alexandrian Library into fuel for the city baths.

Remote as is the period when the novel arts of the metallurgist broke in upon the simple and unsophisticated habits of the British aborigines, some traces of the memory of this mighty change still linger amid the popular traditions of England. The use which Sir Walter Scott has made of the Berkshire legend of Wayland Smith has sufficed to confer a fictitious interest on, perhaps without exception, the most remarkable of all the mythic traditions common to the nations of northern Europe, and which may be unhesitatingly received as the traditionary memorial of the advent of the Bronze Period among the Teutonic races. True, indeed, in the only definite form in which it is now recoverable from the early and medieval literature of Europe, it is associated with the later age of iron rather than with that of bronze; but little importance can be attached to this. The legend is manifestly of an older date even than the Edda, that venerable collection of the sacred writings of the north. We see in it the [Pg 210]hero-worship of the fierce Norsemen deifying their Scandinavian Vulcan, and assigning to him a superhuman origin as an evidence of their estimate of the divine gift he is supposed to have bestowed. But the mythic legend finds its prototype in the Greek Dædalus, if not in the Mosaic Tubal-Cain. It is incorporated into nearly all the older European tongues with singular uniformity of idea. In the Icelandic the name of the renowned northern metallurgist is Vælund and Vaulundr; in old high German, Wiolant, Wielant; in Anglo-Saxon, Wêland; in old English, Weland and Velond; and in the modern popular dialect, Wayland. In the Latin of the middle ages it becomes Guielandus; and in old French, Galans and Galant. It is probable that Spain, Italy, and the East above all, had analogous traditions, some of which at least may yet be recovered.[254] According to a singular, and seemingly arbitrary caprice of the medieval Germanic traditions, the forge of Weland is supposed to be erected in the Caucasus; and Michel remarks, as a proof that there has been a common origin of these legends of the east and west relating to skilful workers in iron, that some of the traditions still preserved on the banks of the Euphrates present the same traits recorded by the poets of the middle ages on the banks of the Rhine.[255] But Humboldt has justly remarked that "the characteristic features of nations, like the internal construction of plants spread over the surface of the globe, were the impressions of a primitive type." The Aztecks,—to whom we have already referred as a remarkable example of considerable civilisation, and the extensive practice of many useful and ornamental arts, among a people destitute of iron and very partially furnished with metals,—had their mythic metallurgist as well as the older races of Europe and Asia. Quetzalcoath, whose reign was the golden age of the people of Anahuac, was the Weland of the Aztecks, worshipped among them with strange and bloody rites. Their traditions told that he had dwelt among them twenty years, and had taught them to cast metals, ordered fasts, and regulated the intercalations of the Tolteck year.[256] Prominent as the place is which the mythic legend of the smith-god occupied in the popular creed of the middle ages throughout the greater part of Europe, the tradition of a gifted worker in metals is doubtless of eastern origin, and far more fitly impersonates and deifies the restoration of the metallurgic arts in the primitive Bronze Period [Pg 211]than the mere transition from bronze to iron, important as the latter change undoubtedly was.

The remarkable analogy of the mythic legends of the North with the ancient Greek fable of Dædalus, has not escaped the notice of modern critics, and MM. Depping and Michel remark:—"We do not hesitate to believe that it is the history of this Greek artist, altered and disfigured, adapted to the manners and creeds of the people of the north of Europe, which has given rise to the romance of Weland." The resemblance, however, is scarcely less manifest, in many respects, to the lame smith-god Ἡφαιστος, or Vulcan; and the widely-diffused mythic fable is far too complete and unique to have been transferred directly from the Greek to the Teutonic mythology, where scarce another trace of similar correspondence is discernible. Jupiter, Mars, Hercules, Venus, Orpheus, all find their counterparts indeed, but with scarce a shadow of resemblance to Greek prototypes, in the wild Scandinavian and old German pantheon, which may reasonably excite our wonder, if we assume a Greek origin for the Vœlundar Quida contained in the Edda. In the simplest form in which it is still recoverable, it is obviously overlaid with spurious additions of a later age; and when it gets into the monkish chronicles and romances of chivalry compiled in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the wild faith of the Norsemen is outdone by the wilder fictions of the Trouveres, and nearly all the symbolic spirit of the original disappears. Some of these even assign precise periods as the era of the northern smith. Several of the French romances mention Galand as the maker of Charlemagne's famous sword Durendal, while others describe armour forged by him and weapons inscribed with his name. But the most curious notice of this kind occurs in an English manuscript written about the time of Edward I. It contains a description of the sword of Gauvain, one of the most celebrated knights of Arthur's "Round Table," made by Galant, and having the following lines inscribed in canello gladii:—

"Jeo su forth trenchant e dure;
Galaan me fyth par mult grant cure;
Catorse anz [out] Jhesu Cristh,
Quant Galaan me trempa e fyth;"

i.e., "I am very sharp and hard; Galaan made me with very great care; fourteen years old was Jesus Christ when Galaan tempered and made me." Other romances furnish with swords of Galant's[Pg 212] workmanship both Julius Cæsar and Alexander the Great, and by inheritance from the latter, Ptolemy, Judas Maccabæus, and the Emperor Vespasian.[257] Such spurious inventions, however, lack all the value of the original symbolic legend. We read indeed in the romance of Fierabras d'Mixandre, of three famous swords made by Galans and his two brothers; of one of which it is related,—

"Césars li emperères l'ot maint jor en demagne,
Engleterre en conquist, Angou et Alemagne,
Et France et Normendie, Saisone et Aquitaigne,
Et Puille et Hungerie, Provence et Moriaigne."[258]

If this idea stood alone, or was conceived in the simple spirit of the Scandinavian Vœlund-Chaunt, we might imagine it to be designed as a symbolic myth representing the advent of the Iron Period and its irresistible progress over the north; but the general spirit of the romance is characterized by the usual extravagance of medieval poetry.

The Greeks assigned to the history of Dædalus a very high antiquity, carrying him back to somewhere about the thirteenth century before the Christian era; but it may admit of doubt if Greece had then passed her own primitive stage. Among the relics of the European Stone Period preserved in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries are some small flint-flakes and arrow-heads, gathered on the elevated mound of the tomb of the Plateans at Marathon, which it will not greatly outrage the ideas of the critical historian to assume as weapons used by the Greek patriots in repelling the Persian invader. At first the word Dædalus was, among the Greeks, like that of Weland among the Scandinavians, a generic name. Δαιδαλλω signified to work artistically, as Voelundr signified a smith in Islandic; and Dædalus was, like Weland, pre-eminently the artist and the workman. The word became a proper name only because of their attributing to this mythological being all the perfections of the art. For this reason also, it appears equally erroneous to regard the Islandic word voelund, a smith, as derived from Weland: it is the contrary that should be assumed. The word voelund existed before the history of the famous smith Weland had been invented, just as the word δαιδαλλω existed before the personification Dædalus had been adopted into the mythology of the Greeks.[259] This is no new idea. It was obvi[Pg 213]ously from a recognition of it that King Alfred, when translating the De Consolatione Philosophiæ of Boethius into Anglo-Saxon, used the name of the northern Weland as synonymous with Fabricius. Mr. Singer has employed the Greek fable of Dædalus to restore the connexion of the arts of the north with the elder civilisation of Europe, and Dr. Sickler has applied the same classic legend with great ingenuity in his argument of the Phœnician origin of the Greek metallurgic arts.[260] Whencesoever that knowledge may have been immediately derived, we shall adopt the most consistent idea if we turn back to the Eastern cradle-land both of the Hellenic and Scandinavian races, and assume a common origin for the mythic fable which records with corresponding symbolic legends the restoration of the art of Tubal-Cain to the postdiluvian race.

It is a remarkable and interesting fact, that while modern learning and research have brought to light the most ancient literate forms of this northern myth, in the Edda and the Niebelungen Lied, it is in England only that it has survived to our own day as a living popular tradition; and it is due to the somewhat grotesque travesty of its rude Berkshire version inwrought into the tragic tale of Kenilworth, that it has been restored to the favour of modern Europe. Among the old Scandinavian nations, and in Iceland, where the language of their runic literature is still a living tongue, as well as in France, and throughout the whole Germanic races of the Continent, all memory of the restoration of this divine gift of the metals has utterly passed away. In England only—towards which we see the galleys of the elder inheritors of civilisation winging their way in quest of its metallic treasures with the first glimpse we catch of it as it emerges out of the night of time—the mythic legend has retained vitality till now. How the story of our northern Dædalus came to be associated with the monolithic group at the foot of White-Horse Hill, in the vale of Berkshire, it is now equally vain and useless to inquire. There, according to rustic folk-lore, dwelt the invisible smith. No one ever saw him; but he who had the courage to avail himself of his skill had only to deposit a piece of money on one of the stones, and leave his horse beside it. On his return the horse was found to be shod, and the money gone. Such was the last shadowy tradition of the venerable myth. On one of the rarer coins of Cunobeline an armourer or coiner is represented. Some numismatists have supposed it to be Vulcan forging a helmet.

[Pg 214]

May it not more probably be assumed as the northern Weland, whose metallurgic skill was so widely celebrated among the Teutonic nations? Before the great Alfred had won his way to the English throne the symbolic impersonation had assumed a perfect individuality; and in the translation of the De Consolatione Philosophiæ into Anglo-Saxon, he thus paraphrases the passage,—Ubi nunc fidelis ossa Fabricii manent? Quid Brutus, aut rigidus Cato?

"Where are now the bones
Of the wise Weland,
The goldsmith
Formerly most famous?
      *       *       *       *       *       *       *
Who knows now the bones
Of the wise Weland,
Under what mound (or barrow)
They are concealed?"[261]

If little importance be due to the association of Weland's name with the working in iron, not very much more is to be ascribed to the no less frequent depiction of him as a cunning jeweller and goldsmith. Nevertheless, the circumstance is worthy of notice in passing, since it is not impossible that the working in gold may have preceded even the age of bronze, and in reality have belonged, as already hinted, to the Stone Period. If metal could be found capable of being wrought and fashioned without smelting or moulding, its use was perfectly compatible with the simple arts of the Stone Period. Of such use masses of native gold, such as have been often found both in the Old and the New World, are peculiarly susceptible; and some of the examples of Scottish gold personal ornaments fully correspond with the probable results of such an anticipatory use of the metals. One very remarkable example, more particularly referred to hereafter, occurs in a pair of armillæ of pure gold, found in an urn of the rudest and most artless construction in a cist in Banffshire. They are merely hammered into rounded bars and then bent to fit the arm, and they retain the rough marks of the tool, which it is more easy to imagine one of stone than any more delicate or artificial implement. It is not impossible that it may be owing to some faint traditional remembrance of this primitive origin of the working of metals, that the oldest notices of[Pg 215] Weland represent him chiefly as the cunning goldsmith, as in the fifth stanza of the Vœlundar Quida of the Edda:—

"Vœlund alone remained in Ulfdale,
He wrought red gold, with jewells rare,
Securing on a withy rings many."

So it is in all the earliest existing forms of this ancient myth, the working in iron is only superadded to the skill of the famous goldsmith.

No Celtic legend preserves an equally distinct memorial of the introduction of the metallurgic arts among the ancient colonists of the British Isles. Nevertheless the Scottish Highlanders have their native Ἡφαιστος also, personified, like the Teutonic Weland, in many romantic legends. The fame of Luno, the son of Leven, who made the swords of Fingal and his heroes, is preserved in old traditional poems, which figure him as a wild savage clad in a mantle of black hide, and with an apron of similar materials. The additional features of the picture furnish no inapt personification of the classic Vulcan. He is described as lame; going on one leg, with a staff in his hand, yet remarkable for his swiftness.[262] Dr. Macculloch, in demonstrating the affinity between the Celtic and Teutonic superstitions and the Oriental and classic mythology, remarks,—"Fingal is not an absolute original himself. His sword is the sword of sharpness of the Edda, made by Velent or Weyland, the hyperborean Vulcan. It is the wonderful sword Skoffnung, and also Balmung, and it is the Mimmung in Ettin Langshanks. It is equally Tyrsing, the fairy blade of Suafurlami; and it is also the sword which Jack begged of the giant. It is the sword Durandal, with which Orlando cuts rocks in two; and it is Escalibor, the sword of Arthur."[263] Thus common as the metal from which it is forged is some form or other of the mythic legend which commemorates the restoration of old Tubal-Cain's weapon of war. Still the venerable Teutonic myth does not appear to have been preserved by the Scottish medieval chroniclers or romancers, unless in some extremely modified form, or it could hardly have escaped the notice of Dunbar, in his satire of "The Fenyeit Freir of Tungland." The incident which gave rise to this whimsical effusion of our great Scottish poet against the Italian charlatan occurred in 1507, (a year famous for the introduction of the printing[Pg 216]press into Scotland,) and is thus described by Bishop Lesley.[264] Referring to an embassy sent to France in that year, he remarks,—"This tyme thair wes ane Italiane with the king, quha wes maid Abbott of Tungland, and wes of curious ingyne. He causet the king believe that he, be multiplyinge and utheris his inventions, wold make fine golde of uther mettall, quhilk science he callit the quintassence; quhairupon the king maid greit cost, bot all in vaine. This Abbott tuik in hand to flie with wingis, and to be in Fraunce befoir the saidis ambassadouris; and to that effect he causet mak ane pair of wingis of fedderis, quhilkis beand fessinit apoun him, he flew of the Castell wall of Striveling, bot shortlie he fell to the ground and brak his thee bane. Bot the wyt thairof he ascryvit to that thair was sum hen fedderis in the wingis, quhilk yarnit and covet the mydding and not the skyis." The Scottish historian compares him to "ane king of Yngland callit Bladud." The poet's similes are still more pertinent; though since we learn from the Scottish Treasurers' Accounts, that the Abbot of Tungland was paid, in 1513, "to pass to the myne of Crawfurd-moor," which the king was then working for gold: and from the satire, that he sometimes practised the Blacksmith's craft: Dunbar could scarcely have avoided the addition of the Weland legend to his other similes, had it been known to him, since the points of resemblance are such, that, with less historic evidence for the truth of the Abbot's history, we might assume it as the rude Scottish version of the Vœlundar Quida:—

"Sum held he had bene Dedalus,
Sum the Mynataur mervaluss,
Sum Mertis blak smyth Vulcanus,
And sum Saturnus cuk.
And evir the cuchettis at him tuggit,
The rukis him rent, the ravynis him druggit,
The huddit crawis his hair furth ruggit,
The hevin he micht nocht bruke."


[224] Ellis's Specimens. The abundance of wild beasts and game of all kinds in the Caledonian forests is frequently alluded to. Boece describes "gret plente of haris, hartis, hindis, dayis, rais, wolffis, wild hors, and toddis." (Bellenden's Boece. Cosmographe, chap. xi.) The following curious enumeration in Gordon's History of the House of Sutherland, (fol. p. 3,) written about 1630, furnishes a tolerably extensive list of wild natives of Sutherland even in the seventeenth century:—"All these forrests and schases are verie profitable for feiding of bestiall, and delectable for hunting. They are full of reid deir and roes, woulffs, foxes, wyld catts, brocks, skuyrrells, whittrets, weasels, otters, martrixes, hares, and fumarts. In these forrests, and in all this province, ther is great store of partriges, pluivers, capercalegs, blackwaks, murefowls, heth-hens, swanes, bewters, turtledoves, herons, dowes, steares or stirlings, lair-igigh or knag, (which is a foull lyk vnto a paroket or parret, which maks place for her nest with her beck in the oak trie,) duke, draig, widgeon, teale, wildgouse, ringouse, routs, whaips, shot-whaips, woodcok, larkes, sparrowes, snyps, blakburds or osills, meweis, thrushes, and all other kinds of wildfowle and birds, which ar to be had in any pairt of this kingdome. Ther is not one strype in all these forrests that wants trouts and other sorts of fishes.... Ther is vpon these rivers, and vpon all the cost of Southerland, a great quantitie of pealoks, sealghes or sealls, and sometymes whaills of great bignes, with all sorts of shell fish, and dyvers kynds of sea-foull." When we remember that this ample inventory is of a late date, and lacks not only the Caledonian bull, the elk, and "the wild-bore, killed by Gordoun, who for his valour and great manhood was verie intire with King Malcolme-Kean-Moir," but also, in all probability, many more of the older prizes of the chase, we can readily perceive the abundant stores that lay within reach of the thinly-peopled districts of the primitive era. One of the most interesting of the extinct animals of Scotland, on many accounts, is the beaver, (Castor Europæus,) already referred to among the mammals of the primeval transition. Its remains have been discovered under circumstances indicative of equal antiquity with the extinct mammoth, (Owen, p. 191.) But their most frequent situation is at the bottom of the peat-bog; as in the Newbury peat-valley, where they were found twenty feet below the present surface, associated with the remains of the wild-boar, roebuck, goat, deer, and wolf. Fine specimens of a skull, under-jaw, and haunch bone, found in Perthshire, and now in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, have been made the subject of a valuable memoir by Dr. P. Neill, a Fellow of the Society, in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, (vol. i. p. 183, and Wern. Mem. vol. iii. p. 207.) Dr. Neill, Professor Fleming, and subsequent writers, including Professor Owen, in referring to the historical notices of the beaver, remark on the absence of any mention of such an animal in the Scottish public records. This, however, is an error. In an Act of David I. fixing the rate of custom-duties, beavers' skins are mentioned among the Scottish exports, along with those of the fox, the weasel, the martin, the wild cat, the ferret, &c.—"Of Peloure.—Of a tymmyr of skynnis of toddis, quhytredis, mertrikis, cattis, beueris, sable firettis, or swylk vthyr of ilk tymmyr at þe outpassing, iiij ᵭ. Of þe tymmer of skurel, ij ᵭ.," &c., (Act. Parl. Scot. vol. i. p. 303.) Dr. Neill has pointed out the interesting fact, that the Scottish Highlanders still retain a peculiar Gaelic name for the beaver, Dobran losleathan, the broad-tailed otter. By the Welsh it is called Llosdlydan, and Pennant refers to waters in the principality still bearing the name of the Beaver Lake.

[225] Numbers xxxi. 22.

[226] Ezekiel xxvii. 12.

[227] Borlase's Cornwall, vol. i. p. 317. Plate XXVIII.

[228] Archæologia, vol. xvi. p. 137. Plates IX. and X.

[229] Collectanea Curiosa Antiqua Dumnonia, by W. T. P. Shortt, Esq., p. 71.

[230] Mémoires de la Société d'Emulation d'Abbeville, 1844-1848, p. 135.

[231] W. T. P. Shortt, Esq. of Heavitree, near Exeter. Antiqua Dumnonia, Pref. p. iv. Vide also Sylva Antiqua Iscana, pp. 79, 88, 89, 90, 91, 93-105. Gent.'s Mag., Aug. and Sep. 1837, &c., for notices of the discovery of numerous early Greek and Egyptian, and some Phœnician coins.

[232] Numismatic Chronicle, vol. i. p. 3. Vide also the able series of Articles by the Rev. Beale Post, on the coins of Cunobeline, and of the Ancient Britons. Journ. of Archæol. Assoc. vols. i. ii. iii. iv. and v.

[233] Boece assigns the earliest native Scottish coinage to an apocryphal king Donald, circa A.D. 200. This account, however, includes some interesting notices of hoards discovered in his own day: "King Donald was the first king of Scottis that prentit ane penny of gold or silver. On the ta side of this money was prentit ane croce, and his face on the tothir. The Scottis usit na money, bot merchandice, quhen thay interchangeit with Britonis and Romanis, afore thir dayis, except it war money of the said Romanis or Britonis, as may be previt be sindry auld hurdis and treasouris, found in divers partis of Scotland, with uncouth cunye. For in the yeir of God M.DXIX. yeris, in Fiffe, nocht far fra Levin, war certane penneis found, in ane brasin veschell, with uncouth cunye; sum of thaim war prentit with doubill visage of Janus; otheris with the stam of ane schip; otheris had the figure of Mars, Venus, Mercurius, and siclike idolis; on otheris war prentit Romulus and Remus soukand ane wolf; and on the tothir side war prentit S. P. Q. R. Siclike, in Murray-land, beside the see, in the ground of ane auld castill, the yeir of God M.CCCCLX. yeris, was found ane veschell of merbill, full of uncouth money; on quhilkis was prentit the image of ane ganar fechtant with edderis,"—i.e., a goose fighting with adders.—Bellenden's Boece, book iv. chap. xvi.

[234] Sylva Antiqua Iscana, p. 79, Plate VI.

[235] Ibid. p. 90, where a minute account of the coins is given. Also pp. 76, 88, 91, 93, &c.

[236] New Statist. Acco. vol. iv. p. 292.

[237] Archæologia, vol. ii. p. 92; vol. iii. pp. 234, 332. A monumental tablet, dedicated to the memory of Antiochus Lysimachus, now in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, is engraved and described by mistake in Stuart's "Caledonia Romana" as the only Greek inscription which has been met with north of the Tweed. It was found, along with a statue of Esculapius and other fine marbles, near the fountain of Cyrene, on the site of an ancient Greek colony in Africa.

[238] Gibson's Camden, p. 926.

[239] Primeval Antiquities, p. 135.

[240] Primeval Antiquities, p. 45.

[241] Layard's Nineveh, vol. ii p. 418.

[242] Natural History of Man, p. 191.

[243] Archæologia, vol. xxx. p. 248.

[244] Schlegel's Philosophy of History, Lecture II.

[245] Archæol. Journal, vol. vii. p. 68.

[246] Pennant, vol. ii. p. 250.

[247] "It seems our ancestors had more gold than silver, and indeed there are several places in Scotland where there has been much digging for gold. I have had the curiosity to consider the nature of them, and always found them just the same with those the Emperor has on the borders of Hungary, at two places, Nitria and Presburg. Those, like ours, consist of a vein or stratum of sand and gravel, which being brought up some fathoms from below ground, and washed, produce gold in very small particles."—Sir John Clerk to Mr. Gale, August 6, 1732; Biblo. Topog. Brit. vol. ii. p. 299.

In the Miscellanea Scotica, printed in 1710, various notices of the ancient working of gold in Scotland occur. Pieces of gold, mixed with spar and other substances, weighing thirty ounces, are described among the fruits of the Laughain and Phinland mines. See also Pennant's Tour, App. x. vol. iii. for a curious account "of the gold mines of Scotland."

The introduction of the metals into southern Europe in ancient times appears to have borne no analogy to that in the north. Gold was not used in the Roman coinage till B.C. 207, sixty-two years after the adoption of a silver coinage. So, too, in the records of sacred history, Abraham weighed unto Ephron 400 shekels of silver, current money with the merchant. The earliest notice of gold used otherwise than for jewels and ornaments only occurs in the reign of David, when he purchased the threshing-floor of Ornan for 600 shekels of gold by weight; 1 Chron. xxi. 25. Compare this with 2 Samuel xxiv. 24.

[248] Regist. de Dunferm. p. 16.

[249] Miscel. Scot., Napier of Merchiston, p. 228.

[250] "Account of the late discovery of native gold in Ireland." Philosoph. Transac. London, 1796, p. 34.

[251] Ibid. p. 38. "A Mineralogical Account of the native gold lately discovered in Ireland," by Abraham Mills, Esq.

[252] Philosoph. Transac. London, 1796, p. 43.

[253] Ibid. p. 45.

[254] Wayland Smith, by W. S. Singer, from the French of Depping and Michel, Preface.

[255] Ibid. p. lxxvi.

[256] Humboldt's Researches, vol. i. p. 94.

[257] Archæologia, vol. xxxii. p. 321.

[258] MS. de la Bib. Roy. Supplem. Française, No. 540, fol. 33. Singer's Wayland Smith, p. lvii.

[259] Singer's Wayland Smith, p. lxx.

[260] Die Hieroglyphen in dem Mythus des Æsculapius. Meiningen, 1819. Singer, p. lxx.

[261] Vide Thomas Wright on the Legend of Weland the Smith. Archæologia, vol. xxxii. p. 315. Also his article on Alfred, in the Biographia Literaria of the Royal Society of Literature regarding the authorship of this metrical version.

[262] Logan's Scottish Gael, vol. ii. p. 195.

[263] Macculloch's Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, vol. iv. p. 327.

[264] Bishop Lesley's Hist. Bannatyne Club. 4to. Edinburgh, 1830. P. 76.

[Pg 217]


In the earliest glimpse we are able to catch of the British Isles with the dawning light of historic records, we learn of them as already celebrated for their mineral wealth. So long, however, as Britain retained its vast tracts of natural forests, and was only occupied by thinly scattered nomade tribes, the tin mines of Cornwall, and the foreign trade which they invited to the southern shores of the island, might reward the toil and sagacity of the ancient Cornubii or other primitive colonists of Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, without exercising any perceptible influence on neighbouring tribes, or being known to the remoter dwellers beyond the Solway and the Tyne. The spoils of war, more probably than any peaceful interchange of commodities, would first introduce the bronze weapons imported into Cornwall to the knowledge of the northern tribes. But the superiority of the sword and spear of metal over the old lance of flint or bone would speedily be appreciated, and we accordingly find abundant traces of one of the first elements of civilisation, viz., an interchange of commodities and the importation of foreign manufactures, having accompanied the advent of the Bronze Period. The rude aboriginal Briton no longer confined his aim in the chase to the supply of his own table and simple wardrobe. The Phœnicians traded to Britain for its furs as well as its metals, and for these the products of a wider district than the tin country would be required. The Caledonian hunter would learn to hoard up the skins won in the chase, to barter with them for the coveted sword and spear of bronze,—and thus the first[Pg 218] elements of civilisation would precede the direct knowledge of the metallurgic arts.

The advent of the Bronze Period, however, cannot be held to have been fairly introduced until the native Caledonian had learned, at least to melt the metals, and to mould the weapons and implements which he used, if not to quarry and smelt the ores which abound in his native hills. The progress consequent on the indirect introduction of the metals would speedily create new wants and the desire for modifications and improvements on the implements of foreign manufacture. The demands on his sagacity and skill would increase with the gradual progress in intelligence and civilisation consequent on the new impulses brought into operation; and thus would the arts of the smith and the jeweller be superinduced on the originally barbarian devices of the Caledonian. Once introduced, by whatever means, he was not slow to improve on the lessons furnished in the novel art; and while, with a pertinacious adherence to ancient models singularly characteristic of primitive races, we find implements and personal ornaments of the modern Scottish Highlander not greatly differing from those of fully ten centuries ago, we also find the natives of isolated districts, beyond the reach of changing influences, practising the ingenious arts of this remote period when every man was his own armourer and goldsmith.

It needs not either the authority of revelation, or the demonstrations of ethnology, to prove that God has made of one blood all that dwell upon the earth. Man, placed under the same conditions, everywhere exhibits similar results. The ancient Stone Period of Assyria and Egypt resembles that of its European successor, and that again finds a nearly complete parallel in the primitive remains of the valley of the Mississippi, and in the modern arts of the barbarous Polynesians. So, too, with the higher state which succeeds this. The characteristics of the early Bronze Period are long since familiar to us. Milton, who accords equally stinted honours to Mulciber and to Mammon, by whose suggestion taught, men

"Ransack'd the centre, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother earth
For treasures better hid,"—

refers to the introduction of the metallurgic arts as first among those great sources of change which the Archangel Michael makes known to Adam when exhibiting to him the future destiny of his seed. The[Pg 219] knowledge of working in metals is there also introduced in contrast to the simpler arts of the pastoral state, and as the chief source of social progress with all its accompanying development of luxury and crime. On one side Adam sees the shepherds' huts and grazing herds;

"In other part stood one who, at the forge
Labouring, two massy clods of iron and brass
Had melted, (whether found where casual fire
Had wasted woods on mountain or in vale,
Down to the veins of earth; thence gliding hot
To some cave's mouth; or whether washed by stream
From under ground,) the liquid ore he drained
Into fit moulds prepared, from which he formed
First his own tools, then what might else be wrought
Fusil, or graven in metal."

Amid the highly artificial results of modern civilisation we might find some difficulty in conceiving of such a social state, in which considerable taste and ingenuity were displayed in the forging of arms and tools, and in the manufacture of personal ornaments. But not only are we able to compare the results of the division of labour with the fruits of such isolated skill, in races only now beginning to develop these first elements of civilisation; we can also look upon the living representatives of the Caledonian at the dawn of his historic era. Dr. Layard, in describing a visit to an ancient copper mine in the Tiyari Mountains, remarks,—"In these mountains, particularly in the heights above Lizan, and in the valley of Berwari, mines of iron, lead, copper, and other minerals, abound. Both the Kurds and the Chaldæans make their own weapons and implements of agriculture, and cast bullets for their rifles—collecting the ores which are scattered on the declivities, or brought down by the torrents."[265] This affords a parallel modern picture of such a state of society as that we have to conceive of in the early dawn of the British Bronze Period. Martin, in his description of the Western Isles, written at the commencement of the eighteenth century, remarks of the islanders,—"When they travel on foot the plaid is tied on the breast with a bodkin of bone or wood, just as the spina worn by the Germans, according to the description of Tacitus." He then furnishes a detailed account of the ancient dress, even then becoming rare, and of the breast-buckle or brooch, of silver or brass, which appears to have formed, from the very earliest times, the most [Pg 220]favourite personal ornament of both sexes. "I have seen some of the former," says he, "of an hundred marks value: it was broad as any ordinary pewter plate, the whole curiously engraven with various animals, &c. There was a lesser buckle, which was worn in the middle of the larger, and about two ounces weight. It had in the centre a large piece of crystal, or some finer stone, and this was set all round with several stones of a lesser size."[266] The Rev. John Lane Buchanan, visiting these islands nearly a century later, found the same customs unchanged, and the primitive metallurgic arts of the ingenious Hebrideans not greatly in advance of the modern Asiatic Kurds. This writer remarks of the females,—"All of them wear a small plaid, a yard broad, called guilechan, about their shoulders, fastened by a large brooch. The brooches are generally round, and of silver, if the wearer be in tolerable circumstances; if poor, the brooches, being either circular or triangular, are of baser metal and modern date. The first kind has been worn time immemorial even by the ladies. The married women bind up their hair with a large pin into a knot on the crown of their heads."[267] The same writer thus describes the practice of every necessary art and trade by the simple islanders:—"It is very common to find men who are tailors, shoemakers, stocking-weavers, coopers, carpenters, and sawyers of timber. Some of them employ the plane, the saw, the adze, the wimble, and they even groove the deals for chests. They make hooks for fishing, cast metal buckles, brooches, and rings for their favourite females."[268] They were, in fact, at that very recent period practising nearly the same arts as we may trace out at a time when the Phœnician traders were still seeking the harbours of Cornwall, and exchanging the manufactures of Carthage, and perhaps of Tyre, for the products of the English mines. A no less unquestionable proof of the unchanging character of the Celtic arts is to be found in the fact that the ornamentation, not only on many of the old Highland brooches and drinking horns, but invariably employed in decorating the handle of the Highland dirk and knife, down to the last fatal struggle of the clans on Culloden Moor which abruptly closed the tradition of many centuries, is exactly the same interlaced knotwork which we are familiar with on the most ancient class of sculptured standing stones in Scotland. The annexed figure of a Highland powder-horn of the seventeenth century is from one in the possession of Mr. James Drummond, bearing inscribed on it the initials and date, G. R. 1685. The triple knot, so common on early Scottish and Irish relics that it has been supposed to have been used as a symbol of the Trinity, is no less frequently introduced on the Highland targets and brooches of last century, and is shewn along with other interlaced ornaments, on an example of the latter introduced in a subsequent chapter.

Engraved by Wm. Douglas, from Drawings in possession of the Soc. Antiq. Scot.


[Pg 221]

On the theory of the introduction of metallurgic arts assumed here, not altogether without evidence, it is not requisite that we should conceive of the aboriginal Caledonians disturbed by the invasion of foreign tribes armed with weapons scarcely less strange to them than those with which the Spanish discoverers astonished the simple natives of the New World. The changes, however, already noted in the forms and modes of sepulture, the abandonment of the long barrow, the introduction of cremation, of the sitting or folded posture of the dead with the correspondingly abbreviated cist, and of a uniform and defined direction of laying the dead, are all suggestive of the probable intrusion of new races in earlier as well as in later times. The facilities afforded by the more pliable metal tools would speedily work no less remarkable changes on the mansions of the living than on the sepulchres of the dead. The subterranean weem would give place to the wooden structure, which the new arts rendered at once a more convenient and simpler style of architecture; while the inroads on the forests which such changes led to would necessitate the clearing of the neighbouring lands preparatory to the extended labours of the agriculturist. To the same cause also we[Pg 222] may probably trace the origin of many of those extensive tracts of bog and peat-moss which still encumber the limited level areas of Scotland. The wasteful profusion of the natives of a thinly peopled country would lead to the destruction of the forests with little heed to aught but the supply of their own immediate wants. In the extensive mosses of Kincardine and Blair-Drummond, which have yielded such valuable archæological relics, when the surface of the underlying clay was exposed by the removal of the moss, it was in many places covered with trees, chiefly oak and birch, of a great size. These were found lying in all directions beside their roots, which continued firm in the ground in their natural position; and from impressions still visible it was evident that they had been cut with an axe or some similar instrument.[269] The like discoveries in other Scottish mosses prove their origin from the same wasteful inroads of early times.

The occupants of the country at this period were necessarily isolated tribes and clans, with no common interest, and little peaceful intercourse. The arts were therefore practised as in their primeval dawn described by Milton, when the artist formed

"First his own tools, then what might else be wrought."

Among all the varied primitive relics which have been from time to time discovered, both in Scotland and other countries of northern Europe, none exceed in interest the stone and bronze moulds in which the earliest tools and weapons of the native metallurgist were formed. They have been found in Scotland, England, Ireland, and in the Channel Islands, exhibiting much diversity of form, and various degrees of ingenuity and fitness for the purpose in view. Some of them are of bronze, and highly finished, examples of which from the British Museum are engraved in the Archæological Journal, (vol. iv. p. 336,) in Plate VII. vol. v. of the Archæologia, and elsewhere. If the account, however, furnished by Warburton to Stukely may be relied upon, such objects are by no means rare. According to him, a bushel of celts, each inclosed in a brass mould or case, was found in 1719, at Brough, in the Humber. Mr. Worsaae refers to another example of a number of bronzes found in Mecklenburg, accompanied by the moulds in which they were cast, together with pieces of unwrought metal; and similar bronze celt-moulds have been discovered at various times in different parts of France. In the Museum[Pg 223] of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland there are casts of a pair of large and very perfect bronze celt-moulds, of unusual size and peculiar form, found at Theville, Arrondissement de Cherbourg.

Celt-Moulds, Ross-shire.

But still more interesting are the ruder stone moulds, in some of which we may trace the first efforts of the aborigines of the Stone Period to adapt the materials with which they were familiar to the novel arts of the metallurgist. This is particularly observable in a mould-stone preserved in the Belfast Museum. It is polygonal in form, and exhibits upon four of its surfaces indented moulds for axe-heads of the simplest class. In this example there is no reason to believe that any corresponding half was used to complete the mould. The melted metal was simply poured into the indented surface, and left to take shape by its equilibrium on the exposed surface. Weapons formed in this way may frequently be detected, while others, full of air-holes, and roughly granulated on the surface, appear to have been made in the still simpler mould formed by an indentation in sand. Others of the stone moulds have consisted of pairs, like those of bronze. A very curious example of this description was found a few years since in the Isle of Anglesea, and is engraved in the Archæological Journal.[270] It is a cube of hone-stone, nine inches and a quarter in length, by four inches in breadth at its widest extremity. Each of the four sides is indented for casting different weapons: two varieties of spear, a lance or arrow-head, and a celt with two loops. Only the one stone was found, but another corresponding one is obviously requisite, by means of which four complete moulds would be obtained. At the Congress of the Archæological Institute, held at Salisbury in 1849, the temporary Museum contained a mould of serpentine, found in Dorsetshire, designed for casting spear-heads, and another of granite, found near Amesbury in Wiltshire, intended to cast ornamented celts of two sizes. Of the same class are two pairs of celt-moulds recently discovered in the parish of Rosskeen, Ross-shire. The site of this interest[Pg 224]ing discovery is about four miles inland, on the north side of the Cromarty Frith, on a moor which the proprietor is reclaiming from the wild waste, and restoring once more to the profitable service of man. In the progress of this good work abundant evidence demonstrated the fact, that the same area from which the accumulated vegetable moss of many centuries is now being removed, had formed the scene of a busy, intelligent, and industrious population ere the first growth of this barren produce indicated its abandonment to solitude and sterility. Near to the spot where the moulds were discovered there stood till recently a large sepulchral cairn; and in forming a road through the moss several cists were exposed containing human bones and cinerary urns. Amid these evidences of ancient population the two pairs of moulds were discovered, at a depth of only sixteen inches from the surface. They are very perfect, and are composed of a hard and very close-grained stone. One pair is notched and perforated through both moulds, so as to admit of their being exactly fitted and tied together for casting. Close to the spot where they were discovered there was also disclosed the remains of a rude inclosure or building of stone, containing a bed of ashes and scoriæ; so that here no doubt had been the forge of the primitive metallurgist, from whence, perhaps, the natives of an extensive district obtained their chief supplies of weapons and tools. These Scottish moulds give evidence both of taste and ingenuity. In one of them is also a matrix for forming a smaller implement, the use of which is not easy to determine, while both the celts are large and elegant in form. The woodcut represents one of the celts cast from the mould, which measures fully five inches long.

Celt-Moulds, Ross-shire.

In most cases, however, it may be assumed that the earliest weapons of metal were furnished, as the modern sportsman casts his[Pg 225] bullets, by each warrior or craftsman becoming his own smith and founder; and when we consider the slow and tedious process indispensable for the completion of the stone hammer or lance-head of flint, we may readily perceive that it would be from the scarcity of the metals and not from any preference for primitive and more familiar arts, that the Briton of the transition-period continued to use the weapons of his fathers, or intermingled them with the more efficient ones which the new art supplied. Still it was probably long before he overcame the difficulty of casting metal in metal, and learned to model and cast his mould instead of laboriously cutting it from stone.

In these, as in other stages of improvement, we detect, as it were, the old tide-marks in the progress of civilisation. The rude chip-axe improves into the highly polished wedge and celt; this in its turn gives way to the rude sand-cast axe, or to the similar weapon moulded in the indented stone. The celt and spear-head follow, gracefully formed and looped in the double mould of stone or bronze. The taste of the more experienced metallurgist also finds room for the exercise of the decorative arts, and transfers to the bronze implements the incised and chevron patterns which were first introduced on his vessels of unbaked clay. Still further evidences of progress will come under our notice, showing the extent to which civilisation had advanced before the late and more familiar metal superseded the works of bronze.

In the romantic outskirts of the old Scottish capital some of the most remarkable evidences of the abundant remains of this era have been discovered. Reference has been made in a former chapter to the finding of stone cists and cinerary urns as the modern city extended over the suburban fields which lay beyond the old North Loch. Towards the close of the eighteenth century, when the spirit of agricultural improvement, which has been productive of such important results to Scotland, was beginning to take effect, the use of marl as a valuable manure was advocated and practised with a zeal no less wide spread and enthusiastic than has resulted in our own day from the discovery of the Guano Islands of the Pacific. One of the most zealous of these Scottish agriculturists was Sir Alexander Dick of Prestonfield, whose estate is bounded on the north by the romantic Duddingstone Loch, which there separates it from the ancient royal demesne of Holyrood Palace. In 1775 he constructed a canal, and prepared a couple of flat-bottomed boats, with the requisite dredging machinery attached to them. These were set afloat on the loch, and[Pg 226] their projector thus describes some of the most interesting results of his labours in a letter communicated to the Earl of Buchan, the founder of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, shortly after its institution in 1780.

"In the third year of my progress in dragging successfully great quantities of marl, now and then in the middle of the lake I met with large fragments of deer's horns of an uncommon magnitude. As my operations were proceeding northward, about one hundred and fifty yards from the verge of the lake next the King's Park, the people employed in dredging in places deeper than usual, after having removed the first surfaces of fat blackish mould, got into a bed of shell marl from five to seven feet deep, from which they brought up in the collecting leather bag a very weighty substance, which when examined as it was thrown into the marl boat, was a heap of swords, spears, and other lumps of brass, mixed with the purest of the shell marl. Some of the lumps of brass seemed as if half melted; and my conjecture is that there had been upon the side of the hill, near the lake, some manufactory for brass arms of the several kinds for which there was a demand."[271]

Rarely has a more interesting discovery been made, or one on an equally extensive scale, illustrative of the Scottish Bronze Period. Some of the most perfect and beautiful of these ancient weapons were presented to His Majesty George III.; others, doubtless also among the best specimens, were retained as family heirlooms, some of which were afterwards given to Sir Walter Scott;[272] but the remainder, including upwards of fifty pieces of swords, spear-heads, and fragments of other weapons, most of them more or less affected by fire, were presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and formed the very first donation towards the founding of their valuable collection of national antiquities. The royal gifts and nearly all the family heirlooms have disappeared, but the whole of those presented to the Society still remain in their Museum. The swords are of the usual leaf-shaped form, with perforated handles, to which horn or wood has been attached. Some of the larger broken spear-heads have been pierced with a variety of ornamental perforations, and in addition to these there were bronze rings and staples, similar to those found on various occasions with other remains of the same period. The accompanying woodcut represents one of these, measuring three inches in diameter, [Pg 227]along with a larger one in the Scottish Museum, which was found along with several bronze celts and swords, on the estate of Kilkerran, Ayrshire, in 1846, and more closely resembles the examples most frequently met with both in style and dimensions.

Rings and Staples.

The discovery of gigantic deer's horns and fragments of others along with the weapons and masses of melted bronze, would seem to add to the probability that some considerable manufacture of such weapons had been carried on, at some remote period, on the margin of the loch, and that these were collected for supplying them with handles. But other relics besides those which speak to us of the ingenious arts of the metallurgist, were dredged, along with the shell marl, from the bottom of the loch. "There were likewise brought up," says Sir Alexander Dick, "out of the same place with these brass arms, several human skulls and bones, which had been undoubtedly long preserved in the shell marl, which Dr. Monro and I examined very accurately, and by their very black colour we concluded they had been immersed in the marl for an immense time." Unfortunately neither the skulls nor the horns have been preserved. In this, as in a thousand other instances, we seek in vain for the minuter details that would confer so much value on the vague glimpses of archæological truths scattered through old periodicals, Statistical Accounts, and other unsatisfactory sources of information. Here we might say, with tolerable confidence, lay the manufacturer beside his tools. It becomes an interesting question to know if the deer's horns exhibited marks of artificial cutting, as this would go far to prove their use in the completion of the weapons beside which they lay, and might further help us in forming an opinion as to how they were applied. But still more, we would seek to learn if these skulls corresponded with either of the old types of the tumuli, or if they exhibited the later Celtic type intermediate between the lengthened and shortened oval, and were characterized by superior cerebral development such as their progress in the arts might lead us to expect. It is[Pg 228] possible that some record of these facts has been preserved, since the skulls were submitted to one of the most distinguished anatomists of his day; but I have failed to discover any clue to such, after inquiries submitted both to Dr. Alexander Monro, and to Professor Goodsir who now fills the Chair of Anatomy in the University of Edinburgh.

Bronze Sword. Arthur Seat.

Fully seventy years after the marl-dredgers had brought to light the remarkable primitive relics buried beneath the alluvium at the bottom of Duddingstone Loch, the Honourable Board of Commissioners of Her Majesty's Woods and Forests determined on constructing a carriage-way round the neighbouring Royal Park, which includes both Arthur Seat and Salisbury Crags. In the progress of the necessary operations for carrying this plan into execution, and while the workmen were excavating the soil immediately above the singular group of basaltic columns popularly styled "Samson's Ribs," they uncovered a sepulchral deposit containing a cinerary urn, which was unfortunately broken to fragments by a stroke of the workman's shovel. Further to the eastward two, at least, and probably more bronze celts of large size were found, along with a small drinking-cup, engraved on a subsequent page. Still further to the east, almost directly above Duddingstone Loch—where the magnificent "Queen's Drive" is carried along the steep side of the hill at an elevation of nearly 300 feet above the level of the neighbouring loch—two most beautiful and perfect leaf-shaped bronze swords were dug up, in a bed of vegetable charcoal, but with no remains which would indicate its having been a sepulchral deposit. The largest of the two swords measures 26¼ inches long; the other 24¾ inches by 1¾ inches in greatest breadth. In other respects they entirely agree, resembling in figure the usual form of this graceful weapon, as will be observed from the annexed engraving of one of them. The swords and the largest of the bronze celts, figured above, are now in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries. The other[Pg 229] celt and the cup are in my own possession; and as they were obtained from an Irish labourer, who shewed no little reluctance to be questioned, it is extremely probable that these are but a portion of the valuable treasures disclosed in the course of the excavations. How many more may lie interred for the gratification and instruction of future generations covered only by a foot or two of soil!

It naturally becomes a question of considerable interest to us,—Are these weapons, of beautiful and varied forms, the product of native genius and skill? or were they brought hither by foreign conquerors, to remain only as the evidences of national inferiority in arts and arms? The question is one which no Briton can deem worthless; albeit we do not esteem ourselves the pure lineal descendants of the Allophylian aborigines, or of the primitive Celtæ, but, on the contrary, are content to derive our peculiar modern national characteristics as the product of mingled races of Picts, Scots, Romans, Tungrians and other barbarian legionary colonists, Norwegians, Danes, Anglo-Saxons, and Normans.[273] Such are indeed the strange and diverse elements which make up the genealogy of the modern Scot. Nevertheless, his nationality is not the less strong because he derives his inheritance from so many sources; nor is his interest lessened in the aboriginal root. A very simple theory has heretofore sufficed for the classification of all Scottish, and, until very recently, of all British antiquities. Whatever was rude and barbarous, such as unhewn standing stones and monolithic circles, stone hammers and axes, and flint arrows, were native and Druidical; whatever manifested skill, invention, or any progress in the arts, was either Phœnician, Roman, or Danish! Britain, it was tacitly assumed, was sunk in the lowest state of barbarism, until humanized by the bloody missionaries of Roman civilisation. Such ignorant assumption will no longer suffice.

Mr. Worsaae adopts an era extending over about eleven centuries for the continuation of the Danish bronze period. From geological evidence he arrives at the conclusion, which is not improbable, that bronze weapons and implements were in use fully five centuries before the Christian era. But that the Archaic Period continued so long after it, when the neighbouring countries to the south were long[Pg 230] familiar with the common and more useful metal, and when the Norwegians, who, it is acknowledged, appear never to have known a bronze period, were already taking their position among the Scandinavian nations, preparatory to making their piratical descents on the British shores, seems altogether improbable and opposed to established truths.

No description furnished either by Julius Cæsar or any later classical writer, of the weapons used by the native Britons of the first or second century, in any degree corresponds with the familiar form of the bronze sword so frequently found in the earlier tumuli.[274] Tacitus describes the Caledonians as "a powerful warlike nation, using swords large and blunt at the point (sine mucrone) and targets wherewith they skilfully defend themselves against the Roman missiles." The bronze leaf-shaped sword in no respect corresponds with this. It is a short and small, though formidable weapon, and is not only designed for thrusting rather than striking with,—as a heavy, blunt-pointed sword could alone be used,—but was evidently adapted for a warfare in which the chief tactics of the swordsman consisted in the bold thrust; since no example of a bronze sword has ever been found with a guard, that simple and most natural contrivance for defending the hand from the downward stroke of the foe. With such unmistakable evidence before us, the conclusion seems inevitable that the era of the bronze sword had passed away ere the hardy Caledonian encountered the invading legions of Rome. Nevertheless, while there is abundant evidence of the native manufacture of the articles of the Bronze Period, there are no less manifest traces of considerable intercourse throughout Europe during this era, from the near resemblance discoverable in all the bronze articles. The British bronze sword bears a general likeness to those not only of Denmark, but of Gaul, Germany, and even of Italy and Greece; but it has also its peculiar characteristics. It is broader and shorter than the Danish bronze sword, swelling out more towards the middle, so as to suggest the term leaf-shaped, by which it is now distinguished. A very remarkable guide to the probable era of such weapons in the south of Europe is furnished by a comparison of some specimens of Hellenic fictile art with a beautiful vase discovered at Vulci by the Prince of [Pg 231]Canino, and described in the Archæologia[275] by Mr. Samuel Birch. The same subject occurs on three vases, and has been supposed to represent the quarrel of Agamemnon and Achilles. On one, a Vulcian hydria of archaic style, a naked and bearded combatant bears a leaf-shaped sword without a guard. On a second, a cylix of later style from the Canino Collection, the combatants are armed with leaf-shaped swords, but with guards; while on the beautiful vase which Mr. Birch refers to as a specimen of Greek art contemporary with the Orestes of Æschylus, the same scene occurs, but the assailant has substituted for the primitive weapon a straight two-edged sword of modern form. Such comparisons cannot be deemed without their value; but independent of these, the variations in the bronze relics of the same type suffice to prove that neither the British antiquities of bronze were brought from Denmark, nor the Danish ones from Britain. The handles of the British weapon especially appear to have been always of wood or horn, while many are met with in Denmark with bronze handles, ornamented with a peculiar pattern, and even sometimes inlaid with gold, but all invariably without a guard.

Among an interesting collection of bronze weapons discovered near Bilton, Yorkshire, in 1848, parts of two broken swords were found, on which Mr. C. Moore Jessop makes the following observations:—"The portions of swords have each been broken off a few inches down the blade, thus leaving the metallic part of the handle entire; which has been covered on both sides with horn or some similar substance, affixed by rivets, which having become loose have allowed the horn to move slightly each way, thus wearing away the metal. They have left evident traces of the shape of the hilt, and likewise prove the weapons to have been long in use."[276] Gordon engraves a fine bronze sword, twenty-six inches long, which was found near Carinn, on the line of the wall of Antoninus Pius, and deposited in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh. Its most remarkable feature is its handle, which is of brass, but after examining the original, I am satisfied that the latter is a modern addition.[277]

It is especially worthy of note in relation to the makers and owners of these swords, that the handles are invariably small. One of the most marked ethnological characteristics of the pure Celtic race, in [Pg 232]contrast to the Teutonic, is the small hands and feet; a feature so very partially affected by the mingling of Teutonic with the old Celtic blood of Scotland, that many of the older basket-hilted Highland swords will scarcely admit the hand of a modern Scotsman of ordinary size. This has been observed in various primitive races, and is noted by Mr. Stephens as characteristic of the ancient temple builders of Yucatan. In describing the well-known symbol of the red hand, first observed at Uxmal, Mr. Stephens remarks,—"Over a cavity in the mortar were two conspicuous marks, which afterwards stared us in the face in all the ruined buildings of the country. They were the prints of a red hand, with the thumb and fingers extended, not drawn or painted, but stamped by the living hand, the pressure of the palm upon the stone. There was one striking feature about these hands—they were exceedingly small. Either of our own spread over and completely hid them."[278] This is another of the physical characteristics of the earlier races well worthy of further note. While the delicate small hand and foot are ordinarily looked upon as marks of high-breeding, and are justly regarded as pertaining to the perfect beauty of the female form, the opposite are found among the masculine distinctions of the pure Teutonic races,—characteristic of their essentially practical and aggressive spirit,—and are frequently seen most markedly developed in the skilful manipulator and ingenious mechanician.

The spear-heads of this period are also marked by national distinctive features; the exceedingly common British form, for example, with loops to secure it to the shaft, being unknown in Denmark, and a variety of pierced heads common in Scotland and Ireland being rarely or never found in England. So it is with other varieties of weapons, implements, and personal ornaments: some which are common in Denmark are unknown here, or assume different forms; others with which we are familiar are unknown to the Danish archæologist; while both are in like manner distinguished from those of Germany, France, and the south of Europe. The distinctive peculiarities may indeed be most aptly compared to those which mark the various national developments of medieval art, and give to each an individuality of character without impairing the essential characteristics of the style. The extent of international communication was only so much greater and more direct in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, than in those[Pg 233] older centuries before the Christian era, as to produce a more rapid interchange of thought and experience.

This national individuality, accompanying such remarkable correspondence to a common type, may therefore be assumed as justifying the conclusion that some considerable intercourse must have prevailed among the different races of Europe during that remote period to which we refer; and hence we are led to assume an additional evidence of early civilisation, while at the same time no sufficient proof appears to point to such a sudden transition as necessarily to lead to the conclusion that the bronze relics belong entirely to a new people. On the contrary, the evidence of slow transition is abundantly manifest. The metallurgic arts, and the models by which their earliest application was guided, were in all probability introduced by a new race, who followed in the wake of the older wanderers from the same Eastern cradle-land of the human race. But the rude stone moulds, the sand-cast celts and palstaves, and the relics of the primitive forges in which they were wrought, all point to aboriginal learners slowly acquiring the new art, while perhaps its originators were introducing those works of beautiful form and great finish and delicacy of workmanship, which the antiquary of the eighteenth century could ascribe to none but the Roman masters of the world.

Mr. Worsaae remarks, after pointing out the correspondence, in many respects, between the bronze relics of Denmark and those of other countries of Europe, these "prove nothing more than that certain implements and weapons had the same form among different nations."[279] And again, "from these evidences it follows that the antiquities belonging to the Bronze Period, which are found in the different countries of Europe, can neither be attributed exclusively to the Celts, nor to the Greeks, Romans, Phœnicians, Sclavonians, nor to the Teutonic tribes. They do not belong to any one people, but have been used by the most different nations at the same stage of civilisation; and there is no historical evidence strong enough to prove that the Teutonic people were in that respect an exception. The forms and patterns of the various weapons, implements, and ornaments, are so much alike, because such forms and patterns are the most natural and the most simple. As we saw in the Stone Period how people at the lowest stage of civilisation, by a sort of instinct, made their stone implements in the same shape, so we see now, in the first traces of a [Pg 234]higher civilisation, that they exhibit in the mode of working objects of bronze a similar general resemblance."[280] But are the forms and patterns thus natural and simple? This argument, which abundantly satisfies us as to the universal correspondence of the majority of tools and weapons of the Stone Period, entirely fails when thus applied to the works of the Bronze Period. The former are in most cases of the simplest and most rudimentary character: the perforated oblong stone for a hammer, the pointed flint for an arrow-head, and the longer edged and pointed flint for a knife or spear. Human intelligence, in its most barbarous state, suggests such simple devices with a universality akin to the narrower instincts of the lower animals. They are, in truth, mathematically demonstrable as the simplest shapes. But the beauty and variety of form and decoration in the productions of the Bronze Period bring them under a totally different classification. They are works of art, and though undoubtedly exhibiting an indefiniteness peculiarly characteristic of its partial development, are scarcely less marked by novel and totally distinct forms than the products of the many different classic, medieval, or modern schools of design. The form of the leaf-shaped sword, indeed, is unsurpassed in beauty by any later offensive weapon. We are justified, therefore, in assuming that the general correspondence traceable throughout the productions of the European Bronze Period, affords evidence of considerable international intercourse having prevailed; while the peculiarities discoverable on comparing the relics found in different countries of Europe compel us to conclude that they are the products of native art, and not manufactures diffused from some common source. We have already traced them as pertaining to the infantile era of Greece, and may yet hope to find them among the indications of primitive Asiatic population, thereby supplying a new line of evidence in illustration of the north-western migration of the human race, and probably also a means of approximation towards the date of the successive steps by which the later nomades advanced towards the coasts of the German Ocean.

In the former section numerous instances have been referred to of the discovery of canoes belonging, by indisputable evidence, to the Primeval Period. One example, at least, has been recorded of a ship apparently belonging to the succeeding era of bronze, and which, both in size and mode of construction, amply accords with the assumed[Pg 235] characteristics of the more advanced period, and with the idea of direct intercourse with the continent of Europe. "In this town," (Stranraer,)says the old historian of Galloway, writing in 1683, "the last year, while they were digging a water-gate for a mill, they lighted upon a ship a considerable distance from the shore, unto which the sea at the highest spring tides never comes. It was transversely under a little bourn, and wholly covered with earth a considerable depth; for there was a good yard, with kail growing in it, upon the one end of it. By that part of it which was gotten out, my informers, who saw it, conjecture that the vessel had been pretty large; they also tell me that the boards were not joined together after the usual fashion of our present ships or barks, as also that it had nailes of copper."[281] Here we find remarkable evidence of progress. The rude arts of the aboriginal seaman, by which he laboriously hollowed the oaken trunk and adapted it for navigating his native seas, have been superseded by a systematic process of ship-building, in which the metallic tools sufficed to hew and shape the planks as well as to furnish the copper fastenings by which they were secured. Vessels thus constructed were doubtless designed for wider excursions than the navigation of native estuaries and inland seas; nor must we assume, because the records of ancient history have heretofore concentrated our interest on the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, that therefore the German Ocean and the British seas were a waste of unpeopled waters, save, perhaps, when some rude canoe, borne beyond its wonted shelter on the coasts, timorously struggled to regain the shore. Enough has already been advanced to disabuse us of the fallacy, that where no annals of a people have been preserved nothing worth chronicling can have existed.

Much will be gained if faith can be established in the fact, that deeds worth recording were enacted in Britain in these old times when no other chronicler existed but the bard who committed to tradition his unwritten history, and the more faithful mourner who entrusted to the grave the records of his reverence or his love. Faith is required for the honest and zealous study of the subject; but with this we doubt not that many links will be supplied which are still wanting to complete the picture of the past. This much, however, seems already established, that at a period long prior to the first cen[Pg 236]tury of the Christian era the art of working in metals was introduced into Britain, and gradually superseded the rude primitive implements of stone. The intelligent British savage, supplied with this important element of civilisation, wrought and smelted the ores, melted and mixed the metals, formed moulds, and improved on early and imperfect models, until he carried the art to such perfection that even now we look upon his later bronze works with admiration, and are hard to be persuaded that they are not the creations of Phœnician or Roman, rather than of native British civilisation prior to the introduction of letters.

How remote the origin of this transition-period of civilisation dates we cannot as yet presume to say; but with our preconceived notions, derived chiefly from an exclusively classical education, we are more apt to err on the side of too modern than of too remote a date. Mr. Worsaae, after discussing and rejecting the idea of a Roman origin for the bronze relics of Denmark, adds,—"Nor in all probability have these bronzes reached us from Greece, although, both with regard to their form and ornaments, particularly the spiral ornaments, a greater similarity appears to exist between those which occur in the north and those found in the most ancient tombs of Greece. For independently of the fact, that the latter have hitherto occurred but seldom, so that our knowledge of them is extremely imperfect, they belong to so very remote a period—1000 or 1400 years before the birth of Christ—that we can by no means be justified in supposing that any active intercourse then existed between countries so remote from each other."[282] But why not? Active it might be, though indirect; or, what is equally likely, both might derive their models from a common source—perhaps Phœnician, the apparent source of Greek metallurgic art; perhaps from the older regions of central Asia, whence both were sprung. We see, at least, from evidence which appears to me incontrovertible, that at a much more remote period a human population occupied the British Isles; and we shall allow our judgments to be misled by very fallacious reasoning if we conclude that they could not have attained to any degree of civilisation at the period referred to, merely because no notice of them occurs in the pages of classic writers. The Greeks and Romans looked with contempt on all other nations. Partly from this national pride, but still more perhaps from a want of that philological talent peculiar to modern times, they gave little heed to the [Pg 237]languages of their most civilized contemporaries, and looked on their barbarian arts and manners with contempt. Yet among the barbarians of the Greeks we must include the Egyptians, the Phœnicians, and the Hebrews; even as we ourselves rank among the barbarians of the modern Chinese, whose annals at most will tell of us as a roving race who first appeared in history towards the end of the seventeenth century!

The civilisation of the British Bronze Period does not appear to have been of so active a nature as to have produced any very rapid social changes. It did not break up the isolated tribes of Britain, and unite them into kingdoms or associated states. Its material element was never so abundant as to admit of any such great contemporaneous development. It was rather such a change as might slowly operate over many centuries; and that it did so is rendered most probable by the many relics of it which still remain. The Toltecans and Yucatecs of the New World achieved much in their Bronze Period unknown to medieval Europe; nor is it altogether impossible that even now, beyond the vast forests so recently explored by Mr. Stephens, a native race may be found practising arts akin to those of Montezuma's reign. Certain it is that the British Bronze Period was passing away in the transition-state of a later era when the Roman galleys first crossed the English Channel, and from the last century B.C. we must reckon backward up to that remote and altogether undetermined era, when the elder Stone Period passed by slow transition into that of Bronze.


[265] Nineveh and its Remains, vol. i. p. 224.

[266] Martin's Western Isles. Lond. 1703, p. 208. The Glenlyon brooch and the brooch of Lorn—worn according to the tradition of the Macdougals, by Robert the Bruce, and still preserved in that family—beautiful examples of this favourite Celtic ornament, are engraved on Plates II. and III. The Lorn brooch corresponds in some degree to the description in the text; and a common brass one, probably of the seventeenth century, in the Collection of C. K. Sharpe, Esq., figured on a later page, furnishes a good example of native Celtic art.

[267] Travels in the Western Hebrides from 1782 to 1790. London, 1793, p. 87.

[268] Ibid. p. 83.

[269] Kincardine Moss. General Append. Sinclair's Stat. Acc. vol. xxi. p. 154.

[270] Archæol. Jour. vol. iii. p. 257.

[271] MS. Letter Book, vol. i. p. 43, 1780-1781, Libr. Soc. Antiq. Scot. In a subsequent letter, (Ibid. p. 70,) Sir Alexander Dick describes several very large deer's horns, in addition to the fragments previously found. The results of a careful analysis of some of these bronze relics are given in the succeeding chapter.

[272] They are figured in the Abbotsford Edition, vol. ii. p. 103.

[273] A curious illustration of the mixed stock of the Scottish Lowlanders is furnished in a charter of Malcolm IV., which is addressed to the bishops, abbots, priors, barons, and king's lieges in general, whether French, English, Scots, or Galwegians, and describes the inhabitants of the burgh of St. Andrews as Scots, French, Flemings, and Englishmen.—Lib. Cart. Prior. Sancti Andree, p. 193.

[274] Vide Biblio. Topog. Britan. vol. ii. Part 3, for a learned controversy "On brass arms and other antiquities of Scotland," in a series of letters between Sir John Clerk and Mr. Gale.—Reliquiæ Galeanæ, pp. 226-232.

[275] Vol. xxxii. Plates IX. X. XII.

[276] Journal of Archæological Association, vol. v., p. 350.

[277] Itinerar. Septent., p. 118. Sir Robert Sibbald also engraves one with a handle, perfect and more elegant than the former, but he gives no description of it further than naming it a sword of brass.

[278] Stephens' Travels in Yucatan, vol. i. p. 178.

[279] Primeval Antiquities of Denmark, p. 41.

[280] Primeval Antiquities, p. 138.

[281] "A large Description of Galloway, by Mr. Andrew Symson," p. 83. App. vol. ii. Hist. of Galloway from the earliest period to the present time. Kirkcudbright, 1841.

[282] Primeval Antiquities of Denmark, p. 41.

[Pg 238]


Among the various means of arriving at definite truths in relation to primitive works in metal, that of chemical analysis has not been lost sight of, and a number of ascertained results are now on record. Before proceeding to examine in detail the relics of this second period, it will be useful to glance at the bearings of this branch of scientific evidence on the general question.

It may now be received as an established fact, that the manufactures of this period consist entirely of bronze and not of brass—that is, of an alloy of copper and tin, and not of copper and zinc; but also including other metals, and especially a proportion of lead, in some examples exceeding the quantity of tin present. Even among the Romans we have abundant evidence that the alloy of copper and zinc was rarely used, although it is now known to be both more economical, and easier to work into a variety of forms. Mr. Worsaae, after remarking on the resemblance observable among the weapons, implements, and ornaments of bronze found in various countries, both in the north and south of Europe, adds,—"They have all been cast in moulds, and the metal is of the same composition—nine-tenths copper, and one-tenth tin. From this there would be farther reason to suppose that they all originated with one people."[283] This country, as has been already shewn, he elsewhere supposes may be England. From a careful examination and comparison of the antiquities themselves, however, the Danish archæologist is led to the conclusion that the bronze objects were manufactured in the various countries of [Pg 239]Europe, where they are now found, and that only the metal was imported from some common centre. The same idea appears at one period to have been adopted by the Rev. Dr. Robinson, an Irish archæologist still more distinguished for his devotion to astronomical science than for his intelligent elucidation of antiquarian investigations; but the results of more extended observation, communicated by him to the Royal Irish Academy in 1848, shew that he was ultimately led to a different conclusion. Minute examination of the bronzes themselves will be found to throw fully as much doubt on the probability of a common origin for the mixed metal, as for the weapons into which it has been fashioned. The difference even in colour and texture is very great, and in some cases still only imperfectly accounted for. Many of the bronze weapons found both in Scotland and Ireland, are of a bright yellow colour, like brass, or rather resembling gilded metal; it does not tarnish, and, on analysis, is found to contain no zinc. Others are more of a copper colour, also little liable to tarnish or corrode; while a third quality, if polished, rapidly resumes a dark and nearly black colour, and is frequently found covered with verd antique. To the first of these the term Celtic brass is often applied, though it is in common use for all the varieties of primitive bronze. Analysis of these relics by no means bears out the idea of any uniform system of combination of the pure metals, or of their being derived from a single source in the form of bronze. The variations in the proportionate admixture of the metals were indeed necessarily confined within a limited range, especially in the manufacture of weapons. It did not require any mutual intercourse between the old Scandinavian and British armourer to teach them the most useful combinations of the new alloy. If the sword or spear proved either too ductile or too brittle for use, it would be consigned anew to the furnace, with such additions to the mixed metals as experience must soon suggest. The same would hold good even if we suppose that, as Cæsar affirms, the Britons used imported bronze, (ære utuntur importato.) Whether the tin and copper were mixed by Phœnician, Roman, or British metallurgists, similar proportional combinations of the two would necessarily be the result of experience. It will be seen, however, that the "Celtic brass" of British archæologists is neither invariably composed of exactly the same proportions of tin and copper, nor even solely of these two metals.

One of the most elaborate and valuable reports published on this[Pg 240] subject is contained in a communication read to the Royal Society of London, June 9, 1796, and printed in the Philosophical Transactions of that year. It is entitled, "Observations on some metallic arms and utensils, with experiments to determine their composition," by George Pearson, M.D., F.R.S. His experiments were both analytic and synthetic, and consequently enable us to trace the probable experience of the primitive metallurgist, before he had ascertained the most useful proportions of the metals for practical purposes. Copper, we know, is not unfrequently found native in its metallic state, and fit for immediate use. Tin, though never found in this state, occurs in England in the same locality with the copper, and often near the surface. It might, therefore, even accidentally be combined with the former metal. The fact of the two possessing, when in combination, the requisite hardness for domestic or warlike purposes which neither of them has when alone, appears to have been ascertained at a very remote period. In addition to this indispensable property, the combination possesses the valuable qualities of being more readily fusible and continuing longer in the fluid state. Hence the mixture of two of the metals most readily accessible to the native Briton greatly facilitated all his other operations.

The synthetic experiments of Dr. Pearson furnish the following results applicable to the present argument:—The bronze relics submitted to analysis and comparison consisted—1. of a lituus, or musical wind-instrument, found in the river Witham, Lincolnshire, in 1768; 2. A spear-head of the common unperforated form, "made of cast metal, as appears from its rough surface, figure, texture, and grain.... It is open grained almost as copper, and porous, as if made of bad metal, of a blackish-brown or dark-grey colour;" 3. A sauce-pan, (Anglo-Roman patella,) also made of cast metal, open grained, impressed on the handle with a stamp, C. ARAT.; 4. A bronze scabbard, with a sword of iron within it, thought to be Danish; and, 5. Three celts, (Nos. 1 and 3, what we now term axe-heads, No. 2 an axe-shaped palstave,) all found in the bed of the river Witham. In his comparative experiments Dr. Pearson fused fifty grains of tin with 1000 grains of copper; i.e., one part of tin to twenty parts of copper. The result, when polished, differed in shade of colour from that of the celt metals, being much darker—a point not unworthy of note in determining some of the characteristics of primitive bronze relics. Its fracture shewed a colour inclining to the peculiar red of copper. One hundred grains of tin[Pg 241] united by fusion with 1500 grains of copper; i.e., one part of the former to fifteen parts of the latter, resembled the celt metals, Nos. 1 and 2 in colour, polished surface, grain and brown colour of the fracture, the red of the copper being no longer apparent. It was stronger than the celt metals, but not so hard, while it was harder than the spear-head and the patella. No very remarkable differences are observable in the experiments of the combinations of twelve, ten, nine, and eight parts of copper with one of tin. When, however, the copper is reduced to seven parts to one of tin, the increase in hardness and brittleness becomes very apparent, while the alloy is decidedly paler in colour. The same characteristics were still more marked on successively reducing the proportions of copper to seven, six, five, four, and three; and when an alloy was made of two parts of copper with one part of tin, it "was as brittle almost as glass." It is not difficult, from these results, to imagine the process pursued by the old worker in bronze, who, having ascertained that he could harden his copper by alloying it with tin, would not fail to diminish the added quantities of the latter till he had secured an efficient practical admixture for the purposes of his manufacture, in which it is apparent, from the above results, that no very great nicety of apportionment of the ingredients was required. The most fit proportions for the manufacture of weapons and tools Dr. Pearson considers to be one part of tin to nine parts of copper.

The result of a comparison of numerous analyses of primitive bronze relics will, I think, lead to the conclusion that their correspondence is not greater than might be anticipated to arise from the experience acquired by isolated workers, when dealing with the same metals, with similar objects in view, while the frequent presence of other metals besides tin and copper may, in the majority of cases, be accepted as additional proof of the unsystematic processes of the old metallurgist; though in some instances we may trace, in the adaptation to a special purpose, the evidence of design.

The results of Dr. Pearson's analytic experiments are as follows:—

The Lituus contained a little more than twelve per cent. of tin; i.e., about one part of tin to seven and a half parts of copper. Specific gravity, (before melting,) 8.3.

The Spear-head; fourteen per cent. of tin, or somewhat less than one part of tin to six parts of copper; in addition to which it contained the proportion of fifteen grains of silver in a troy pound of the mixed metal. Specific gravity, 7.795.

[Pg 242]

The Patella; a little more than fourteen per cent. of tin, or about one part of tin and six parts of copper. Specific gravity, 7.960.

Bronze Scabbard; a little more than ten per cent. of tin, or about one part of tin to nine parts of copper. Specific gravity, 8.5.

Celts, Nos. 1 and 2; a little more than nine per cent. of tin, or about one part of tin to ten parts of copper. Specific gravity, No. 1, 8.780; No. 2, 8.680; No. 3, a little more than twelve per cent. of tin, or about one part of tin to seven and a half parts of copper. Specific gravity, (after melting,) 8.854.

In the month of August 1816, some labourers employed in lowering the road on the top of a small eminence, called Huckeridge Hill, near Sawston, Cambridgeshire, discovered the remains of a human skeleton, at the feet of which stood two large bronze vessels. On the left side of the skeleton were also found an iron sword greatly corroded, and fragments of a very coarse urn, half an inch in thickness. The rim of the largest bronze vessel was ornamented with a row of bosses, indented from the under side. Dr. Clarke, Professor of Mineralogy in the University of Cambridge, subjected portions of the bronze to analysis, and communicated the result to the Society of Antiquaries of London. The conclusion he arrived at was, that they consisted of 88/100 of copper with 12/100 of tin, or about one part of tin to seven and a half parts of copper. Dr. Clarke also assigns exactly the same proportions of copper and tin as constituting the bronze coinage of Antoninus Pius, and of his successor Marcus Aurelius; which it will be seen correspond with those of the lituus and one of the celts analyzed by Dr. Pearson. The process adopted by the former, however, in the chemical analysis of those bronzes is much less satisfactory than that of Dr. Pearson, as he appears to have assumed the absence of all other metals, and sought only for copper and tin.[284] A bronze sword, found in France, proved on analysis to contain 87.47 parts of copper to 12.53 of tin in every 100 parts, with a portion of zinc so small as not to be worth noticing, or capable of affecting the bronze.[285] The analyses of various specimens of antique bronze, including a helmet with an inscription, found at Delphi, and now in the British Museum, some nails from the Treasury of Atreus at Mycenæ, an ancient Corinthian coin, and a portion of a breastplate or cuirass of exquisite workmanship, also in the British Museum, are stated to have afforded about eighty-seven or eighty-eight parts copper to about twelve or thirteen of tin per cent.[286]

[Pg 243]

In the communication of Dr. Robinson to the Royal Irish Academy, previously referred to, he laid before that body a report of a most valuable discovery made about eighteen years since in King's County. It consisted of a large bronze vessel, which contained, in addition to various relics acquired by the late Dean of St. Patrick's and other individuals, thirteen litui or trumpets of bronze, the largest having their seams rivetted; thirty-one bronze celts of different sizes; twenty-nine spear-heads; three gouges; and thirty-one bells, believed to be for sheep or cattle—all of bronze. The account of this remarkable discovery had been reserved for sixteen years, owing to the strange suspiciousness of the Irish peasants by whom it was found, who imposed on the purchaser the promise of keeping the details secret during their lives. The last of them died in the winter of 1848, and then he felt himself at liberty to communicate the particulars which Dr. Robinson laid before the Academy.

"The vessel, which is now in the collection of the Earl of Rosse, was found in the townland marked Dooros Heath, in sheet 30 of the Ordnance Map of King's County, near Whigsborough, in what appears from the description to have been a piece of cut-out bog, about eighteen inches below the surface. It is composed of two pieces neatly connected by rivets. The bronze of which the sheets are formed possesses considerable flexibility, but is harder than our ordinary brass, and it must have required high metallurgic skill to make them so thin and uniform. On the other hand, it is singular that neither in this or any other bronze implements with which I am acquainted, are there any traces of the art of soldering; if it might be supposed objectionable in vessels exposed to heat, yet in musical instruments this would not apply. Such vessels have often been found, but the contents of this are peculiar. When discovered (without any cover) it seemed full of marl, on removing which it was found to contain an assortment of the instruments which may be supposed most in request among the rude inhabitants of such a country as Ireland must have been at that early epoch.... It seems likely that the collection was the stock of a travelling merchant, who, like the pedlar of modern times, went from house to house provided with the commodities most in request, and it is easily imagined that if entangled in a bog with so heavy a load, a man must relinquish it.

"This is connected with another question, the source from which the ancient world was supplied with the prodigious quantity of bronze arms and utensils which we know to have existed. This caught my imagination many years since, and I then analyzed a great variety of bronzes, with such uniform results that I supposed this identity of composition was evidence of their all coming from the same manufactures. Afterwards I found that the peculiar properties of the atomic compound already referred to are sufficiently distinct to make any metallurgist who was engaged in such a manufacture select it. It also appears to me more permanent in the crucible."

[Pg 244]

Dr. Robinson states that this alloy, when used for weapons, is a constant chemical compound containing fourteen equivalents of copper and one of tin, or nearly eighty-eight parts of the former and twelve of the latter by weight. But no account is given by him of the process of analysis, and the results justify the supposition that in these experiments, as in those of Dr. Clarke of Cambridge, he had assumed the absence of all other metals, and sought only for copper and tin.[287] Notwithstanding the opinions quoted above, Dr. Robinson still inclines, on other grounds, to the conclusion that we are justified in tracing the bronze to some common source, and this he conceives to be the Phœnicians. In all the weapons and implements the points are entire and sharp, and the edges unbroken. The spear-heads are the most remarkable as specimens of workmanship. They are of various sizes, and of great diversity of pattern, and also have their points and edges perfect as if they had never been used. They prove, as Dr. Robinson remarks, not only that the workmen who made them were masters of the art of casting, but also that they possessed high mechanical perceptions; their productions shewing a skilful adaptation of the material to the end in view. These indications appear to him to confirm the idea of their derivation from some foreign source. "Yet," he also adds, "in many of them the colour of the bronze is such as, at first sight, to excite a suspicion that they were gilded." This has already been noted as a peculiarity observed hitherto almost exclusively in the primitive bronze relics of Scotland and Ireland, and even there occurring in greatest abundance in certain districts. Dr. Petrie observed, at the meeting of the Academy, that all the bronze relics found in King's County have the characteristic golden tinge referred to, and added that the number of beautiful moulds for hatchets and other implements of warfare found from time to time in Ireland, prove that the ancient Irish understood the art of manufacturing bronze instruments such as those discovered in the vessel found at Dooros Heath.

[Pg 245]

With the desire of testing as far as possible the exact bearing of the chemical evidence on this interesting inquiry in relation to relics of the Scottish Bronze Period, I obtained permission from the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to submit various specimens of bronze in the Society's collection to chemical analysis. The results will be found to differ very remarkably from that ideal uniformity which has been supposed to establish the conclusion of some single common origin for the metal, if not indeed for the manufactured weapons and implements. The experiments have been made in the laboratory and under the directions of my brother, Dr. George Wilson, whose acknowledged experience as an analyst is sufficient guarantee for the accuracy of the results. In these analyses it will be seen that the presence of lead has been detected in every instance in greatly varying quantities, but in two of the examples exceeding the tin.

Five of the examples were selected from specimens in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries, the sixth (No. 4) is an axe in my own possession.[288] They are arranged according to the quantity of copper present in each. No. 1 is a piece of a large bronze cauldron found in the neighbourhood of Lauder, Berwickshire. The chief portions of it, which still remain in the Scottish Museum, appear to have been partially melted by excessive heat, so as to make a large hole in the side of the vessel, and above this a thin plate of metal has been rudely rivetted to repair the injury. No. 2 is a piece of a leaf-shaped sword dredged out of Duddingstone Loch near Edinburgh; No. 3, part of one of the large bronze vessels usually styled Roman camp-kettles, found at Huntly Wood, near West Gordon, Berwickshire; No. 4, an axe-head in my own possession, which was found in draining a field near the village of Pentland, Mid-Lothian. This was of the bright yellow metal so common in the earlier bronze relics of Scotland and Ireland, and of the very rudest workmanship, having apparently been cast in sand. It was full of air-holes, and only ground at the edge like the most primitive axe-heads of flint. Its specific gravity, however, it will be observed, is high, so that it must have been hammered in order to give firmness and consistency to the imperfect results of the crucible and mould. No. 5 is a piece of a bronze cauldron dredged up from Duddingstone Loch, which appears, [Pg 246]like other large vessels of this period, to have had bronze rings attached to it for suspension, one of which has been figured on a previous page, from the original in the Scottish Museum. No. 6 is one of the implements to which the name of Palstave is now given. It was found in the parish of Denino, Fifeshire, and appears to have been very imperfectly cast—probably in loam. Like the axe-head No. 4, it was rough and full of air-holes, while from its peculiar form it could not be subjected to the after-process of hammering. Its specific gravity is accordingly unusually small. The examples, it will be seen, present every requisite of variety, including weapons, implements, and vessels, from Fife, Mid-Lothian, and Berwickshire, selected solely as furnishing a comprehensive diversity in the elements of comparison. The following are the results of the analyses and the description of the process by which they were obtained, nearly the whole of the experiments having been repeated several times:—


No. 1. No. 2. No. 3. No. 4. No. 5. No. 6.
Copper, 92.89 88.51 88.22 88.05 84.08 81.19
Tin, 5.15 9.30 5.63 11.12 7.19 18.31
Lead, 1.78 2.30 5.88 0.78 8.53 0.75
99.82 100.11 99.73 99.95 99.80 100.25
Loss, 0.18 ··· 0.27 0.05 0.20 ···
Gain, ··· 0.11 ··· ··· ··· 0.25
100. 100. 100. 100. 100. 100.
Specific Gravity, 6.37 6.23 6.77 8.27 7.75 6.16

"These bronzes were first carefully qualitatively analyzed, and found to consist of copper, tin, and lead. Zinc, bismuth, antimony, and silver were carefully sought for, but could not be found. It is probable, however, that a minute trace of the last metal, too small to admit of detection, was present, not, however, as an artificial addition to the alloy, but as a natural accompaniment of the lead.

"In the quantitative analysis, a weighed portion of the bronze was digested in nitric acid, which dissolved the copper and lead, and converted the tin into the insoluble white peroxide. This was collected on a filter, carefully washed, dried, and weighed, after the filter had been burned. The filtered solution containing the copper and the lead was then evaporated to dryness along with a portion of sulphuric acid, which converted the lead into the insoluble sulphate of that metal. This was collected on a filter, treated like the oxide of tin, and weighed. The solution of copper which passed through the filter was precipitated by solution of[Pg 247] caustic potass added in excess, and kept at the boiling point till the oxide of copper became dark brown. It was then collected on a filter, washed with boiling water, and weighed after the combustion of the filter.

"The number obtained by adding together the quantities of copper, tin, and lead exceeds that of the quantity of bronze taken in the second and sixth analysis. The increase is marked as excess, and is subtracted from the added numbers, so as to reduce their sum to 100. It should probably be deducted from the copper, which in the state of oxide is not easily deprived of the whole of the potass employed to precipitate it, and is liable, moreover, to retain a little moisture even when it appears quite dry. The presence, accordingly, of potass or water, or both, increases the apparent weight of the copper. As the excess, however, amounts in the one case only to 11/10,000th of the weight of the bronze analyzed, and in the other to 25/10,000th of it, it does not materially influence the result, whether as deducted from the entire alloy, or only from the copper."

To this chemical evidence I am able, through the kindness of Mr. Bell of Dungannon, to add the following results of an analysis recently made for him by Professor Davy of portions of two leaf-shaped bronze swords found in Ireland:—

"No. 1.—Very brittle.

Copper, 88.63
Tin, 8.54
Lead and Iron, 2.83

The lead and iron in this alloy are most likely impurities in copper and tin.

No. 2.—Much more malleable.

Copper, 83.50
Lead, 8.35
Tin, 5.15
Iron, 3.00

The iron in this alloy is probably an impurity in the other metals."

These are not the only instances in which the presence of iron has been ascertained in Irish bronze swords. In 1774 Governor Pownall laid before the Society of Antiquaries of London an account of some Irish antiquities, including two bronze swords found in a bog at Cullen, county Tipperary. In the communication he remarks,—"That the Society might have a precise and philosophic description of the metal, I applied to the Master of the Mint; and by his direction Mr. Alchorn, His Majesty's Assay-master, made an accurate assay of the metal. 'It appears,' he says, 'to be chiefly copper, interspersed with particles of iron, and perhaps some zinc, but without containing either gold or silver. It seems probable that the metal was cast in its present state, and afterwards reduced to its proper[Pg 248] figure by filing. The iron might either have been obtained with the copper from the ore, or added afterwards in the fusion, to give the necessary rigidity of a weapon. But I confess myself unable to determine anything with certainty.'"[289] The analysis here appears to have been merely qualitative; and from the indefinite reference to the possible presence of zinc, it cannot be assumed to have been made with great strictness. The presence of iron, however, may be assumed as undoubted, whether it was the result of accident or design.

One important result which these experiments furnish is, that the composition of the mixed metal of the Bronze Period indicates no such uniformity as might be anticipated in manufactures derived entirely from one source; but, on the contrary, that different examples of it belonging to the same period exhibit all the degrees of variation that might be expected in the work of isolated manufacturers, very partially acquainted with the chemical properties of the standard compound, and guided, for the most part, by the practical experience of the result of their labours. The variations in the proportions of the elements of the bronze are obviously such as to preclude all comparison with any ancient type. In regard to the favourite theory of Phœnician origin for these relics comparison is impossible, as we possess no authentic remains of Phœnician art. An analysis of Egyptian bronze relics, however, would furnish interesting results in regard to the ancient metallurgic arts practised in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean. Such arts, however, were by no means confined to the few ancient historic races, among whom the Tyrians and Phœnicians generally rank the foremost for skill in the working of metals. The Turditani, a tribe occupying the province of Andalusia, in Spain, are described by Polybius as related to the Celtæ, though Dr. Prichard conceives it more probable that they were of Iberian than of Celtic kindred.[290] They are stated to have been the most learned and polished people in Spain. They had books, poems, and laws composed in verse, and boasted of a knowledge of the use of letters for 6000 years. It is said of this people, that when the Carthaginians made an expedition into Spain they found the Turditani possessed of furniture and vessels of silver, and far advanced in wealth and luxury. It is not, therefore, indispensable that Irish antiquaries should trace their metallurgic arts to a Phœnician source, when a country so much nearer their own, and with which many of their his[Pg 249]toric traditions indicate an early intercourse, was in possession of similar arts at so remote a period.

The other point of greatest importance brought out in the above analyses is the uniform presence of lead, though in greatly varying quantities; amounting in the palstave to only 75/10,000; while in the cauldron dredged from Duddingstone Loch, along with leaf-shaped swords, perforated spear-heads, &c., it exceeds the whole tin present in the compound; amounting to 8.53 per cent. of the whole. Lead is known to have been used by the Romans in a similar manner, possibly from motives of economy, as in their brass coinage, in which the antiquary has long been familiar with the presence of this metal.[291] It is also worthy of special note how greatly all the ingredients of No. 2 and No. 5 vary in proportion, though both were found together, and undoubtedly belong to the same period. Possibly the very marked difference in the proportion of the alloys may prove to be the result of design, as the only other example at all resembling the Duddingstone cauldron, No. 5, is the so-called Roman camp-kettle, No. 3, from Berwickshire. The difference between them is considerable, but in both the quantity of lead present is greater than of tin. No such conclusion, however, can by any possibility be assumed in reference to the weapons analyzed by Professor Davy. These were both swords, similar in form, and designed for the same purpose; yet in one the proportion of lead present greatly exceeds that of tin, while in the other it is so small as to suggest the possibility of its presence being accidental. A greatly more limited scale of variations would afford evidence enough to establish the certainty of a local and independent manufacture carried on throughout the Bronze Period, by numerous native metallurgists possessed of just such an amount of crude practical skill as sufficed to render the new material available for their use.


[283] Primeval Antiquities, p. 137.

[284] Archæologia, vol. xviii. p. 343.

[285] Mongez, Mém. de l'Instit.

[286] Article Bronze, Penny Cyclopædia, vol. v. p. 468.

[287] The extracts from Dr. Robinson's interesting communication are copied from a report of the Second Meeting of the Royal Irish Academy, session 1848-9, in Freeman's Dublin Journal. From the length of the report, its minuteness, and explanatory footnotes, it appears to have been furnished by the author; but like all newspaper reports of scientific proceedings, it must be liable to errors for which the author is not responsible. From a personal opportunity courteously afforded me, during the meeting of the British Association at Edinburgh this year, of consulting Dr. Robinson on the subject, I learned that the uniformity of results in his analyses was only comparative, and that lead had not been tested for.

[288] It may be proper to add, that in selecting specimens of native bronze implements from the Scottish collection for the purpose of analysis, no difficulty was found in obtaining broken fragments suitable for the purpose, without destroying any perfect example of primitive art.

[289] Archæologia, vol. iii. p. 355.

[290] Prichard's Hist. of Mankind, vol. ii. p. 92.

[291] Biblio. Topog. Britan. vol. ii. p. 303.

[Pg 250]


The works of the Bronze Period possess an entirely new and distinct source of interest from those which preceded them, in so far as they exhibit not only the skill and ingenuity which is prompted by necessity, but also the graceful varieties of form and decoration which give evidence of the pleasurable exercise of thought and fancy. Were we indeed to select the most perfect and highly finished productions resulting from the knowledge of working in metals, and to place these alongside of the best works of the Stone Period, we could hardly avoid the conclusions, already adopted by northern archæologists, that the works in metal belong to an entirely new and distinct race.[292] A more careful investigation, however, tends greatly to modify such conclusions in regard to the British bronze remains. Independently of the probable presence of Allophylian races in Britain prior to the earliest arrival of the Celtæ—which the evidence already adduced of the very remote period to which the existence of a human population must be assigned seems alone sufficient to determine in the affirmative—there can be no doubt that stone implements were in use even within the Celtic era, and that it was not by an abrupt substitution but by a [Pg 251]gradual transition that they were entirely displaced by those of metal. Reference has already been made to some striking indications of this in the various moulds which have been discovered from time to time in the British Isles. It is still more obvious in the numerous examples of weapons and tools. When classified on the same simple and natural principle which induces us to recognise the Stone Period as prior to that of bronze, we detect the evidences of a slow and very gradual change, and discover the link which unites the two periods as in regular and orderly succession. In the earliest bronze axes the form of their prototype in stone is repeated with little or no variation. Both are equally deficient in any stop-ridge, loop, or perforation to facilitate the securing of them to a handle; and we cannot avoid recognising in the latter the new materials in the hands of the old worker in stone. Another and no less suggestive class of illustrative examples of this transition-period may be detected in the stone implements occasionally discovered, obviously made in imitation of bronze weapons. Mr. G. V. Dunoyer remarks in a valuable article on bronze celts,[293] in referring to a stone axe in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, very closely resembling the simplest form of bronze axe,—"So remarkable is this similarity, that it is possible to suppose this class of weapon to be the last link between the rude wedge-shaped stone celt and that of bronze; or in it we may perceive an attempt to revert to the old material, improving the form after that of the earliest metal implement." It is perhaps still more legitimate to infer from it the scarcity of the metals at this early period compelling the axe-maker, while adopting the newer models, to retain the only material at his command.

Much learned and very profitless controversy has been carried on respecting the weapons of the Bronze Period. The archæological works of last century and of the early years of the present century, abound with elaborate demonstrations of the correspondence of celts and spear-heads to the Roman securis, hasta, and pilum. It may be doubted if some of the more recent attempts to determine the exact purpose for which each variety of bronze implement was designed tend to much more satisfactory results. When it is considered that the most expert and sagacious archæologist would probably be puzzled to determine the purpose of one-half the tools of a modern carpenter or lock-smith, it is surely assuming too much, when he stumbles on the hoarded weapons and implements of the old Briton, who has re[Pg 252]posed underneath his monumental tumulus, with all the secrets of his craft buried with him, for full two thousand years, to pretend to more than a very general determination of their uses. Much mischief indeed is done in the present stage of the science by such attempts at "being wise above that which is written." These relics are our written records of the old ages, and it is well that we should avoid bringing their chroniclings into discredit by forcing on them an interpretation they will not legitimately bear.

The capabilities of the new material introduced to the old workers in stone, were pregnant with all the elements of progress, and one of the most interesting features belonging to the Archaic Period is the gradual development of skill, inventive ingenuity, and artistic decorative fancy, in the series of bronze weapons and implements. The following examples found in Scotland, while they serve to illustrate this feature of progressive improvement, may also in some degree help towards the establishment of a fixed nomenclature; the want of which renders so many "Statistical" and other accounts of important discoveries utterly useless for all practical purposes.

The following is an attempt to define such a system of classification as the Scottish examples naturally admit of, assuming every additional improvement, complexity, or ornamentation as evidence of progress, and therefore of work of a later date.[294]

Class I. consists of bronze implements made apparently in imitation of the older ones of stone, and to which the name of Celt-axes may therefore be very consistently applied. Of these a very primitive specimen in the Scottish Museum is little more than an imperfectly squared oblong piece of yellow bronze, or "Celtic brass," full of air-holes, and evidently cast in sand. It was found in the Moss of Cree, near Wigtown, in Galloway. The analysis of another nearly similar to this, and found a few miles from Edinburgh, has been given in the previous chapter. To this class also have belonged the implements cast in the polygonal stone mould now in Belfast.[295] The simplicity of the mould completely corresponds with the primitive character of the manufactures in which it was employed; the axe-heads having been fashioned [Pg 253]merely by pouring the melted metal into the exposed indentation in the stone, as the previous examples were moulded in an impression in sand.

Class II.—In this group may with considerable propriety be placed a peculiar class of bronze axes, of comparatively rare occurrence in Scotland, and apparently unknown in English collections, though frequently met with in Ireland. To these I would propose to apply the name of Spiked Axe. The accompanying woodcut, which represents one found along with other bronze relics at Strachur, Argyleshire, will convey a better idea of the peculiar characteristics of the second class of axes than any description. It might be taken for the normal type of the medieval battle-axe, which the mail-clad knights of the thirteenth century bore at their saddle-bow. The few examples met with almost invariably exhibit the same uniformity of thickness throughout, accompanied with an imperfect adaptation for hafting, so as to leave us in little doubt as to the true place of the spiked axe, first in order after its simpler prototype.

Class III. consists of axe-heads, not greatly dissimilar in general form to those of the first class, but larger, and exhibiting manifest evidence of the improvements of experienced workmen. For these the term Axe-blades, plain or incised, appears most suitable. They are sometimes finished with a broad flange along the sides, thereby securing at once economy of material with lightness and strength; and are, oftener than any other bronze relics, decorated with incised ornamental patterns corresponding to those which occur on the pottery of the same period. This kind of ornamentation, though frequently executed with considerable taste, presents a striking contrast to the graceful mouldings and perforations of the more advanced period. It appears to have been produced in the most simple manner, by striking the surface with a punch, sometimes (as in an example in the Scottish Museum, which measures 5¾ inches long) with no very marked attempt at a definite pattern. Other, however, are characterized by much more taste and evidences of design. The very fine specimen figured here, from a drawing by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder,[Pg 254] Bart., is like the former, of bright yellow metal. It was discovered in the year 1818, a few inches below the surface on the Moor of Sluie, and not far from the river Findhorn, Morayshire. Various interesting relics have been found in this locality. In the month of March, of the same year, a cist was uncovered on the moor, within which lay a bronze spear-head of the primitive type, 11¼ inches in length, and perforated with four holes for attaching it to a handle. The point is considerably corroded and imperfect, and was apparently above an inch longer when complete: beside it lay two unusually large bronze celt-axes, about half an inch thick, and six inches long. Drawings and a description of these were communicated to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland at the time of their discovery, by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, and are now preserved among the Society's MSS. Various examples of similarly ornamented axe-blades, in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, are engraved in the fourth volume of the Archæological Journal. A very beautiful and unique specimen, found in the county of Tipperary in 1843, and now in the collection of the British Museum, is figured in the sixth volume of the same Journal.[296] An English engraved axe-blade, of analogous type, found near Clare, in Suffolk, along with eighteen others of various sizes, and with several similarly ornamented, is figured in the Archæologia;[297] and a few other examples of this rare class of primitive decorated weapons, from various localities, are preserved in the British Museum. These incised lines are supposed by many to have been designed for use as well as ornament, and several allusions, by ancient Irish writers, to the employment of poisoned weapons by the Celtic natives, are referred to in confirmation of the probability that the indented patterns were wrought on the axe-blade to adapt it for retaining the poison with which it was anointed preparatory to the conflict. The rarity of the occurrence of such incised lines militates in some degree against this theory; but it will be seen hereafter that other devices of more frequent adoption may have answered the same barbarous and deadly purpose.

Class IV. includes a variety of the implements to which archæologists are now generally agreed in applying the old Scandinavian term Paalstab, or its recently adopted [Pg 255]English synonyme, Palstave, originally designating a weapon employed in battering the shields of the foe. Their general characteristics partake more of carpentering tools than of weapons of war, but in this, as in many other instances, it is difficult to draw the distinction with any certainty, where the objects might be of equal avail for both purposes. The palstave consists of a wedge, more or less axe-shaped, having a groove on each side, generally terminating in a stop-ridge, by means of which it was united to a cleft haft, and with projecting lateral ridges, designed still farther to secure its hold on the handle. Various improvements on the primitive form have obviously been suggested by experience. The woodcut represents a fine example in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, found on the farm of Kilnotrie, parish of Crossmichael, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. The original measures 6¾ inches in length. Notwithstanding the axe-like shape of a few of the largest of these implements, I cannot but think that the idea of the mode of hafting them by means of a bent stick, as recently assumed,[298] appears forced and improbable. In all the additions, apparently suggested by experience, for the purpose of more effectually securing it to the handle, no single example has been found with a bent groove, a hollow socket or perforation, or any other of the most simple and obvious adaptations of the metal to such a purpose. It cannot for a moment be supposed that such an improvement was beyond the skill or ingenuity of the metallurgist. In the example figured here, the hole through the end appears to have been produced in the casting. The labour of hewing the mould, or hammering the palstave into the desired shape, with which the old worker in stone was already familiar, would scarcely exceed that involved in the adaptation of each wooden haft. Mr. James Yates has suggested, in an ingenious communication to the Archæological Institute, that one of the most important uses to which bronze celts were applied was in destroying fortifications, entrenchments, and similar military works.[299] In illustration of this the author engraves two examples from the Nimroud Marbles, in which Assyrian soldiers are seen breaking through a wall of brick or small stones, by means of chisels not greatly dissimilar to our bronze celts, but fitted to a straight wooden handle. For such operations many of the larger palstaves would be no less suitable. The one here figured, from the original, measuring 7½ inches in length, in the valuable collection formed by Sir John Clerk at [Pg 256]Penicuick House, seems peculiarly adapted for the purpose. Mr. Yates accordingly arrives at the conclusion, that "wherever we should now use the spade, the crow-bar, or the pick-axe, the ancients used the palstave or the hollow celt, fastened to a straight wooden shaft; and this was the practice, not only of the Romans, but of the Greeks and Macedonians, the Hebrews, Assyrians, and Carthaginians, and of all nations to which they extended the knowledge of their arts, or which were sufficiently advanced in civilisation to dwell in fortified places."[300] This farther conclusion inevitably follows, if we adopt the ingenious theory of Mr. Yates,—that the Britons of the Bronze Period had advanced to a similar state of civilisation; nor is it inconsistent with the ideas we are led to form of their skill and progress in the arts, that they had already reared the ingenious earth-works which still crown the summit of many a height both in England and Scotland. Against such works, however, even the largest of the bronze palstaves would prove but an inefficient implement, whether used as a crow-bar or hatchet, and if employed as a spade, the most of them would be of somewhat less avail than an ordinary tablespoon! It is not always easy to discriminate unhesitatingly between the true axe-head and the palstave. In many examples, where the general shape is completely that of the axe-blade, both the stop-ridge and side flanges are formed, while the narrow palstave no less frequently wants the stop-ridge. In Sir Robert Sibbald's History of Fife and Kinross, one of the latter class of palstaves is engraved, with a broad double flange, evidently adapted for insertion in a cleft handle, and which he has entitled a "brass axe found in a cairn of stones." Numerous other examples have been discovered under similar circumstances, leaving no room to doubt of their native origin, or of the estimation in which they were held by their primitive owners.

Class V. includes an improved variety of palstaves having a loop or ear attached to them, and in many instances the sides overlapping to a considerable extent, occasionally so much so as to meet, and[Pg 257] form a perforation or socket for receiving the handle. In this class the overlapping flange is often only on one side, especially where it is turned over so as to form a socket; but in no example which I have examined is there any adaptation of it properly suggestive of the assumed theory of a bent handle, designed to admit of its use as an axe. If such was its mode of hafting, it exhibits a degree of clumsiness and inefficiency very inconsistent with the numerous traces of inventive skill and ingenuity observable in other relics of the same period. The example figured here is from one found in draining a field to the west of Blackford Hill, near Edinburgh. It is of the most common form, and measures 5¾ inches in length.

Class VI. consists of the un-looped Bronze Celt, which is of comparatively rare occurrence in Scotland, though frequently met with in Denmark. It differs only from the more common celt in the absence of the loop; but it is generally of a small size, and is never found of the proportions of the largest British celts.

Class VII.—The Bronze Celt is the most common of all the relics of this period, found of various sizes and degrees of ornament, from the plain small celt of scarcely an inch and half, to those of five and six inches long, fluted, and encircled with mouldings or cable-pattern borders, and ornamented with incised lines and embossed figures on the blade. In Sir Robert Sibbald's Portes, Coloniæ, &c., a Scottish example of the engraved celt is figured, with its blade decorated with the herring-bone pattern, in the same style, and perhaps with the same object as has been assumed for the origin of the incised axe-blades of the period. Examples of engraved celts are of much rarer occurrence than axe-blades, if indeed this one is not unique.[301] The use of the loop so generally attached to the bronze celt, as well as to one class of the palstaves, has been a subject of scarcely less industrious speculation than the probable purpose of the implement itself. The idea which has been repeatedly [Pg 258]suggested of its design as a means of securing the celt, as an axe-head, to a bent shaft, is scarcely less unsatisfactory than in the previous class of looped palstaves. If it was used with a thong or cord, the fastening would be so readily exposed to injury, while at the same time it so imperfectly accomplished the object in view, that it appears altogether inconsistent with the general manifestation of ingenuity and skill in the workers in metal to conceive of them adhering to this clumsy device. The unique specimen found at Tadcaster, with an oval bronze ring attached to the loop, and a small ring or bead of jet upon it, so far from confirming such a theory, seems much more consistent with its use as a means of suspension or of securing a number together for convenient deportation.[302]

Such is an attempt to assign a consistent classification and nomenclature to a variety of bronze implements, hitherto most frequently described by British archæologists under the general name of Celts,—a matter perhaps of no very great moment, yet at least calculated to give facility and precision to future descriptions of the discovery of similar objects, and thereby to render such observations of greater avail to the archæologist. They are all more or less applicable to a variety of uses, both as mechanical tools and warlike weapons; and it is not improbable that in entering upon any very nice attempts at discriminating between the various purposes for which they were designed, we shall only ingraft on the products of primitive art a subdivision peculiar to modern civilisation. At a period much nearer our own time the same implement sufficed the Scottish border trooper for table-knife, couteau de chasse, and dagger; and it seems most probable that the older Briton carried the same bronze axe with him to battle with which he waged war against the giant oaks of his native forests. It is a matter worthy of note, however, and calculated to excite in us some surprise, that no bronze axe has yet been discovered, if I mistake not, either in Britain or Ireland, with a perforation through it,—the simplest of all means of securing it to a handle, and one which was already familiar to the workers in stone. The following description might indeed lead to a different conclusion, if we could depend on the strict use of the terms employed:—"On the banks of the Cree, in Galloway, there were several tumuli. In some of these, when they were opened in 1754, there were found the remains of weapons of brass, which were very much corroded. One of these was[Pg 259] formed like a halbert; another was shaped like a hatchet, having in the back part an instrument resembling a paviour's hammer. A third was formed like a spade, but of a much smaller size, and each of these weapons had a proper aperture for a handle."[303] Unfortunately the researches of the Scottish archæologist are continually arrested by such tantalizing descriptions, conveyed in vaguest terms, and with no accompanying illustrations to help him to the true character of the objects; leaving him to mourn the apathy of Government, which refuses all aid to those who are striving to arrest such fleeting records of the past, and deposit them, where alone they ought to be, in national museums.

Lever. Pettycur.

Numerous other weapons and implements, of the same metal and character of workmanship, have been found in the Scottish tumuli, or in the chance hoards of bogs or alluvial deposits. Bronze gouges and chisels are among the most common of these, though hitherto apparently less frequently noted in Scotland than in England and Ireland. Of rarer implements of the same era, the bronze crow-bar, or lever, represented in the annexed woodcut, half the length of the original, is, I think, unique. It was found in 1810, in a barrow near Pettycur, Fifeshire, and is now in the collection of the Hon. James Talbot. It is figured in the Archæological Journal, in illustration of Mr. Yates's communication on the use of bronze celts in military operations, and is described as very strong.[304] Its longer end, bent perhaps accidentally, seems intended to be fixed in a stout handle of wood, to which it could be firmly secured by the perforated wings. Mr. Yates adds in describing it:—"The circumstance of its discovery in a barrow is an evidence that it was used for some military purpose, [Pg 260]for barrows were not the tombs of agriculturists, gardeners, masons, or carpenters, but of chiefs and warriors." But in making use of such an argument it may be doubted if we are not applying the results of modern civilisation as the standard of primitive ideas. Most probably the greatest chief of the early Bronze Period was in many cases also the best mason, carpenter, and military engineer, and the most skilful worker in metals,—the literal chief, in fact, and true Teutonic king, or most knowing man of his tribe. Perhaps a better argument is to be found in the frequent decoration of the bronze celt. There is a sense of fitness in all minds, and most surely developed in the primitive stages of civilisation, where it acts intuitively, which teaches man to reserve the decorative arts for objects of luxury and pleasurable enjoyment,—then including war and the chase,—but not to expend them on tools of handicraft and implements of toil.[305]

The variety of lance and spear-heads is no less characteristic of the gradual progress of the primitive worker in bronze, from the imitation of the rude types of his obsolete stone weapons, to the production of the large and beautiful myrtle-leaf spear-heads, finished with the most graceful symmetry, and fully equal in character to the finest medieval workmanship. The earliest examples are mere pieces of hammered metal, reduced to the shape of a rude spear-head, but without any socket for attaching them to a shaft. They manifestly belong to the primitive transition-period, in all probability before the northern Briton had learned to smelt or mould the newly introduced metal. Lance and arrow-heads of the same form, or slightly improved by being made somewhat in the shape of the barbed flint arrow-head, are also preserved in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries; and a curious example of the spear-head of the latter type, measuring 10½ inches in length, is engraved in the Archæological Journal.[306] It was found in 1844 by some workmen while dredging in the bed of the Severn, about a mile and a half below Worcester, and is made, like so many others of the simpler forms, of metal of very bright colour and hard quality, in appearance more nearly resembling brass than bronze. Others of the earlier forms of bronze spear-heads [Pg 261]are perforated with holes at the broad end, and not unfrequently retain the rivets by which they have been attached to the shaft. A spear-head of this class, in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, measuring 14¾ inches in length, has been secured by three large rivets, two of which still remain. A drawing by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, in the collections of the Society, preserves the figure of another of the same type, but with four rivets, found in a cist on the moor of Sluie, Morayshire, in 1818. A third example, closely resembling the last, and found on the Eildon Hills, Roxburghshire, is in the Abbotsford collection.[307] They have been cast, but obviously by workmen chiefly familiar with the older forms of flint and stone. This class of weapons, or Spear-blades, as they may be termed, is by no means rare.

The earlier implements, chiefly constructed in imitation of the primitive stone models, were intended, for the most part, to be secured to the shaft by means of cords or leather thongs. But the worker in the new material soon learned its capabilities. The hollow socket was speedily superadded, generally accompanied with a projecting middle ridge to strengthen the weapon, and admit of its receiving more readily an acute edge and point. To these again were added the double loops, designed apparently for still further securing it to the shaft; and with this addition the merely useful and essential features may be supposed to terminate, though there is considerable variety in the forms which spear-heads of this class display. The most common and graceful shape might seem to be borrowed from the myrtle leaf. Several are engraved in Gordon's Itinerarium Septentrionale, (Plates L. and LI.,) from the collection of Sir John Clerk of Penicuick, including some interesting varieties. One, of very rude form, and which the author of course styles Roman, was found under a cairn in Galloway. Another, curiously incised with alternate chequers of diamond shape, is described as a hasta pura. A spear-head, decorated in the same style, though with a different pattern, was found near Bilton, Yorkshire, along with a quantity of other bronze weapons, in 1848.[308] But the most singular of all the "several sorts of hastæ or Roman spears," as Gordon delights to call them, is one figured on Plate LI., No. 6, of the Itinerarium, and which may be most fitly described as fiddle-shaped.[309] Neither of these remarkable examples is now to be [Pg 262]found in the Penicuick collection. The woodcut represents a spear-head with two loops, which is one of the very commonest forms of the smaller class of Scottish bronze spears, most generally of the bright yellow metal, apparently peculiar to Scotland and Ireland. The other is a singular form of socketed spear, differing from any example I have met with elsewhere. It was found, along with various other bronze weapons and implements, in a moss near Campbeltown, Argyleshire, and is now the property of J. W. Mackenzie, Esq. It measures nearly seven inches in length, by one and a half inch in greatest breadth, and is covered with verd antique.

A very great variety is now discernible in the weapons of the period. The metallurgist had at length mastered the new art, and was rapidly advancing in taste as well as skill. His inventive powers supplied constant novelty in the multiplication of new forms and ornamental devices. The woodcut represents a very fine double-looped spear-head, five and two-fifth inches long, found near the river Dean, Angusshire, and now in the collection of Mr. Bell of Dungannon. Javelin and spear-heads, decorated with similar indented ornaments, have been met with both in Scotland and Ireland. The larger spear-heads also now occur "eyed," as it is termed, or perforated with a variety of ornamental openings, frequently surrounded with a raised border, and otherwise decorated according to the fancy of the designer. Among the broken and half-melted arms dredged out of Duddingstone Loch are numerous fragments of such Eyed Spear-heads, and several very beautiful perfect specimens are preserved in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, as well as at Abbotsford, and in other private collections. They are extremely various in form, exhibiting such a diversity of design even in the simple patterns, as well as of ornamental details in the more elaborate ones, as amply to con[Pg 263]firm the idea suggested by so many remains of the bronze period, that these relics were the products of no central manufactory, much less the importation of foreign traders, but were designed and moulded according to the taste and skill of the local artificer, most frequently for his own use. One remarkable feature in the largest and most elaborate of those in the Scottish Museum, represented in the annexed engraving, abundantly confirms the system of classification which gives it place among the later products of the Bronze Period. It measures fully nineteen inches in length, and was found on the lands of Denhead, in the parish of Cupar-Angus, Perthshire, about the year 1831. The bronze, like that of many other works of the same period, is extremely brittle, and the spear-head is broken and imperfect. One of the fractures near the point of the blade shews that a thin rod of iron has been inserted in the centre of the mould to give additional strength to this unusually large weapon, and suffices to connect it with the second transition-period, when the bronze was giving way to the more useful and abundant metal which now nearly supersedes all others in the useful arts. Of the simpler forms of the eyed or perforated spear, one of the most common is pierced with two segmental openings placed opposite to each other, or more rarely disposed irregularly so as to convey somewhat the appearance of an S or ogee perforation. I am indebted to Mr. Albert Way for a sketch of a very fine example of the former type, found at Ardersier Point, Inverness-shire, about 1750. It measures in length fourteen inches by two and three quarters in greatest breadth. This remarkably fine specimen was discovered in a tumulus lying by the side of a human skeleton. A similar spear was found in Northumberland in 1847, along with a bronze sword and other relics, the whole of which are now in the possession of the Hon. H. Liddell. But the eyed spear-head, which is common both in Scotland and Ireland, appears to be of rare occurrence in England, and is, I believe, unknown among the native antiquities of Denmark, though it has been so long the fashion with Scottish and Irish antiquaries to assign to these relics a Scandinavian origin. The Scottish bronze dagger of the same period is almost invariably found to consist of a two-edged blade, tapering to a point, and perforated with two or more holes for attaching a handle to it by means of rivets, but without the simpler, and, as it would seem, more obvious and secure fastening of a prolongation of the broad end of the blade for inserting into a haft. These weapons are also occasionally found elaborately ornamented, according to the prevailing style of the era. They generally retain the bronze rivets, thereby shewing that the handles had been of wood or horn, and not of metal, as is most frequently the case with the swords and daggers of the same era found in Denmark. The annexed figure represents a fine example of the Scottish bronze dagger, found at Pitcaithly, Perthshire, and now in the valuable collection of Mr. Bell of Dungannon. It measures fully six inches in length, by two inches in greatest breadth.

[Pg 264]

But the most characteristic and beautiful of all the relics of the Bronze Period is the leaf-shaped sword, which has been frequently found with both point and edge as sharp as when it first was used. The examples already referred to, which were found, in 1846, on the south side of Arthur's Seat, near Edinburgh, during the construction of the "Queen's Drive," are equal to any that could be produced. The largest of the two is one of the finest ever found in Scotland, measuring twenty-six and a quarter inches in extreme length, and one and three quarter inches at the broadest part of the blade. The form is exceedingly simple, though graceful and well proportioned; but a small engraving conveys a very imperfect idea of the weapon when held in the hand.[310] The section of the sword shews the art with which it is modelled, so as to secure the indispensable requisite of strength along with a fine edge, the blade swelling in the middle, and tapering off towards the line which runs round the entire blade within the edge. The metal is indeed too soft, apparently, to retain a sharp [Pg 265]edge, or to resist the contact with any hard body; but it has been found that when this alloy has been cast into such forms, if the edge be hammered till it begins to crack, and then ground, it acquires a hardness, and takes an edge not greatly inferior to the ordinary kinds of steel. Several of the bronze swords in the Scottish Museum are broken in two, and some of them imperfect, most of such having been found with sepulchral deposits. One of these was discovered, alongside of a cinerary urn, in a tumulus at Memsie, Aberdeenshire. Another was found, lying beside a human skeleton, in a cist under Carlochan Cairn, one of the largest sepulchral cairns in Galloway, which formerly stood on the top of a high hill on the lands of Chappelerne, parish of Crossmichael. It was demolished in the year 1776 for the purpose of furnishing materials to inclose a plantation. From such discoveries we are led to infer that one of the last honours paid to the buried warrior was to break his well-proved weapon and lay it at his side, ere the cist was closed, or the inurned ashes deposited in the grave, and his old companions in arms piled over it the tumulus or memorial cairn. No more touching or eloquent tribute of honour breaks upon us amid the curious records of ages long past. The elf-bolt and the stone axe of the older barrow, speak only of the barbarian anticipation of eternal warfare beyond the grave: of skull-beakers and draughts of bloody wine, such as the untutored savage looks forward to in his dreams of heaven. But the broken sword of the buried chief seems to tell of a warfare accomplished, and of expected rest. Doubtless the future which he anticipated bore faint enough resemblance to the "life and immortality" since revealed to men; but the broken sword speaks in unmistakable language of elevation and progress, and of nobler ideas acquired by the old Briton, when he no longer deemed it indispensable to bear his arms with him to the elysium of his wild creed.

This graceful custom would appear to have been peculiar to Britain, or it has escaped the attention of northern antiquaries. Mr. Worsaae makes no mention of it in describing corresponding Scandinavian weapons, but rather seems to imply the opposite when thus referring to a later period,—"Skilful armourers were then in great request, and although in other cases the Danish warrior would have thought it unbecoming and dangerous to disturb the peace of the dead, he did not scruple to break open a barrow or a grave, if by such means he could obtain the renowned weapon which had been deposited beside the[Pg 266] hero who had wielded it."[311] Thus we learn that from the remotest times even to our own day, the northern warrior has esteemed his sword the most sacred emblem of military honour. In later ages the leaders of medieval chivalry gave names to their favoured weapons, the Trobadours celebrated their virtues with all the extravagance of Romaunt fable, and still the soldier's favourite sword is laid on his bier when his comrades bear him to his rest.

Associations with these ancient weapons of an altogether different nature have been suggested, chiefly in consequence of some resemblance of the indented mouldings on the bronze swords to the ribs and grooves frequently found on the modern Malay Creess. The design of the latter, it is well known, is to retain poison, and it has been supposed, not without some appearance of evidence, that such practices were not unknown to the ancient Caledonian. This has been already referred to as the purpose which perhaps first suggested those rude incised lines on the earlier axe-blades, afterwards turned to account as a means of tasteful decoration. In the ancient Irish poem on the death of Oscar, printed in the first volume of the Royal Irish Academy's Transactions, the spear of Cærbre is said to be poisoned, seemingly in no figurative sense. The era of the bronze sword is of an earlier date; but notwithstanding the graceful symbolism apparent in some of the sepulchral rites, we have little reason for assuming that there was anything in the degree of civilisation attained by the Briton of that period incompatible with such savage practices.

Fewer primitive relics of armour or of personal covering have been found than of weapons of war, as might naturally be expected among a people whose partial civilisation could not so far have overcome the natural habits acquired in the chase and the sudden foray, as to induce them to cumber themselves with any great amount of defensive accoutrements. Skins and furs no doubt formed their chief articles of clothing and protection, and moreover, abundantly admitted of the degree of ornament which the taste indicated in the decoration of their weapons would lead them to aim at.

Helmets or head pieces of any kind belonging to the native Pagan era are of extremely rare occurrence. In a tumulus at Drimnamucklach, Argyleshire, pieces of a rudely adorned bronze helmet were found, and are now in the possession of Mr. Campbell, the proprietor of the estate. Gordon describes another example found in a cairn,[Pg 267] near the water of Cree, Galloway, but it was so cracked and brittle, and probably also so rudely handled, that it fell to pieces on being removed.[312] There is every reason to believe that this piece of defensive armour was not generally used among the native Britons, nor indeed among the Scandinavian warriors of the Bronze Period. Only one imperfect fragment of a bronze helmet exists in the ample collections of the Christiansborg Palace at Copenhagen. Diodorus refers to the brazen helmet of the Gauls, but both Herodian and Xiphiline speak of the Britons as destitute of this defensive head-piece. Their matted locks, which they decorated with the large and massive hair-pins of gold, silver, or bronze, so frequently found with other relics, sufficed them alike for protection and ornament. This custom was probably common to all the northern races. But the indispensable defensive armour of the old British warrior was his shield, frequently made entirely of bronze or of wood covered with metal, and sometimes adorned with plates of silver and even gold.

Bronze Buckler, Ayrshire.

The ancient bronze shield is of common occurrence both in Britain and Ireland, and forms one of the most ingenious specimens of primitive metallurgic art. In 1780 a singular group of five or six bronze bucklers was discovered in a peat moss, six or seven feet below the surface, on the farm of Luggtonrigge, near Giffin Castle, Ayrshire. The shields were regularly disposed in a circle, and one of them, which passed into the possession of Dr. Ferris, was subsequently presented[Pg 268] by him to the Society of Antiquaries of London. It has a semi-globular umbo, surrounded by twenty-nine concentric rows of small studs, with intervening ribs, and measures 26¾ inches in diameter.[313] Like all the primitive British bucklers, it will be seen that it was designed to be held in the hand, the raised umbo in the centre being hollow to receive and protect the hand where it grasped the cross bar, seen on the under side in the annexed engraving. The central umbo is surrounded with a series of rings of bronze set with small studs, and the two pins seen on the inner side have perhaps secured a strap for suspending it to the neck of the wearer when not in use. In 1837 two remarkably fine bronze shields of this description were exhibited to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland by Mr. George Wauchope of Niddry, which were found near Yetholm, about eight miles from Kelso, at a depth of four feet, by a labourer engaged in digging a drain. Sir Robert Sibbald describes among Scottish antiquities obtained on the sites of ancient camps, "pieces of harness of brass: some for the arms and some for the legs. Shields also are found; some oblong and oval, and some orbicular. Some of these are of brass and some of wood full of brass nails."[314] It is probable that many of the shields of the same period were made chiefly of wood and leather, with the central umbo of bronze; the latter being occasionally discovered alone in barrows. In the circular Highland target, which is still to be met with among collected relics of the clans, we find a curious example of the imitation of the earlier model of the Bronze Period. Though the Roman example of wearing the shield on the arm has been followed by the Scottish mountaineer, rendering the hollow umbo no longer of use, yet it appears to the last in the boss of his target, furnishing another striking proof of the unreasoning tenacity with which the Celtic races are found to cling to ancient customs.

Among the specimens of defensive armour preserved in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, are two pieces of thin copper, decorated with indented ornaments, which were presented to the Society by Sir George Mackenzie of Coull, Bart., in 1828. They are described by the donor as pieces of copper, supposed to be plate armour, or the covering of a shield, found in a cairn, under an oak tree at Craigdarroch, [Pg 269]Ross-shire. Various other portions were found along with these, and their appearance seems fully to justify the supposition of the donor. In the autumn of 1849 a remarkable discovery of bronze arms and other antiquities was made in the Isle of Skye. They included swords, spear-heads, celts, and a bronze pin with a hollow cup-shaped head similar to one figured in the Archæological Journal, a relic of one of the Irish Crannoges, or island strengths.[315] A gold armilla and other ornaments of the same precious metal are also said to have been obtained along with these ancient remains, and beside them lay the fragments of an oaken chest in which the whole appeared to have been deposited. The most of these valuable relics were secured by Lord Macdonald, but one curious and probably unique implement fell into private hands, and has since been deposited in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries. In general appearance it resembles a bent spear-head; but it has a raised central ridge on the inside, while it is nearly plain and smooth on the outer side. It has a hollow socket, and is perforated with holes for securing it to a handle by means of a pin. The most probable use for which it has been designed would seem to be for scraping out the interior of canoes and other large vessels made from the trunk of the oak. But we necessarily reason from very imperfect data when we ascribe a specific purpose to the implements of a period the arts and habits of which must have differed so essentially from our own.

Another class of bronze implements not uncommon in Ireland, and occasionally mentioned among those discovered in Scotland, includes what are generally described as reaping or pruning-hooks. One of these, which was found at a depth of six feet in a bog in the neighbourhood of Ballygawley, county of Tyrone, now preserved in the British Museum, is figured in the Archæological Journal.[316] Another engraved in General Vallancey's Collectanea,[317] is described as "a small securis, called by the Irish a searr, to cut herbs, acorns, mistletoe, &c." About the year 1790, a similar instrument was discovered at Ledberg, in the county of Sutherland, by some labourers cutting peats, and was pronounced by the Earl of Bristol, then Bishop of Derry, to whom it was presented, to be a Druidical pruning-hook, similar to several [Pg 270]found in England.[318] Perhaps among the same relics of primitive agricultural skill ought also to be reckoned a curious weapon or implement of bronze, occasionally found in Scotland, two examples of which are figured here. One of them is from the original in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries. It was found among the remains of many large oak trees, on the farm of Rottenmoss or Moss-side, in the vicinity of Crossraguel Abbey, Argyleshire, and is not inaptly described by its donor as nearly resembling one of the common forms of the Malay Creess. It measures fourteen inches in length. The other and more finished implement of the same kind is in the collection formed by the distinguished Scottish antiquary, Sir John Clerk, at Penicuick House. It is furnished with a hollow shaft or socket for the handle. The same interesting and valuable collection includes other specimens of this primitive implement, constructed like that in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, with only a metal spike for insertion into the haft. Some examples of this relic of old agricultural skill are of extremely small dimensions, measuring only from six to eight inches in the length of the blade, and should perhaps more correctly be described as pruning-hooks or knives. But in this, as in so many other attempts to assign a use to obsolete implements, the most probable suggestions of their original purpose are at best but guesses after the truth.


[292] Mr. Worsaae remarks, (Primeval Antiquities, p. 24,) "We must not by any means believe that the Bronze Period developed itself among the aborigines gradually or step by step out of the Stone Period. On the contrary, instead of the simple and uniform implements and ornaments of stone, bone, and amber, we meet suddenly with a number and variety of splendid weapons, implements, and jewels of bronze, and sometimes indeed with jewels of gold. The transition is so abrupt that from the antiquities we are enabled to conclude that the Bronze Period must have commenced with the irruption of a new race of people, possessing a higher degree of cultivation than the early inhabitants."

[293] Archæological Journal, vol. iv. p. 327, Plate I. fig. 1.

[294] I have to acknowledge obligations in this attempt at classification to Mr. Dunoyer's valuable papers in the Archæological Journal, though adopting a different arrangement and terminology. In the present very imperfect state of the science, it is hardly to be looked for that any single system will satisfy all requirements, and prove of general acceptance. But an important point will have been gained when a fixed nomenclature has been established.

[295] Archæol. Jour. vol. iv. Plate VI. p. 335.

[296] Archæological Journal, vol. iv. p. 328; vol. vi. p. 410.

[297] Archæologia, vol. xxxi. p. 497.

[298] Archæol. Journal, vol. iv. p. 4.

[299] Archæol. Journal, vol. vi. p. 363.

[300] Archæological Journal, vol. vi. p. 392.

[301] Portes, Coloniæ, &c. 1711. Tabula III. fig. 5 et 6.

[302] Vide Note, Archæological Journal, vol. vi p. 376.

[303] Caledonia, vol. i p. 81.

[304] I am indebted for the use of this woodcut to the Council of the Archæological Institute, with the courteous permission of Mr. Yates, by whom it was originally contributed to the Archæological Journal.

[305] Vide Bibliotheca Topog. Brit. vol. ii. Part 3, for an interesting correspondence on the questio vexata of the origin and use of bronze celts, on which so much ink has been spilled to very small profit. The correspondence includes an account of the singular discovery at Alnwick, in 1726, of twenty bronze swords, sixteen spear-heads, and forty-two bronze celts, and anticipates, to very good purpose, much which has been written at greater length since.

[306] Vol. ii. p. 187.

[307] It is figured in the Antiquary, Abbotsford Edition, vol. ii. p. 17.

[308] Journal of the Archæol. Association, vol. v. p. 349.

[309] Itinerar. Septent. p. 117.

[310] Ante, p. 228.

[311] Primeval Antiquities, p. 49.

[312] Itiner. Septent. Appendix, p. 172. Two helmets are said to be preserved by Lord Rollo at Duncruib House, Perthshire, which were dug up in the neighbourhood along with various bronze relics. Vide New Statistical Account, vol. x. p. 717.

[313] Catalogue of Antiquities, &c., Soc. Antiquar. Lond. 1847, by Albert Way, Esq. p. 16. Mr. Way adds in a note, "The description of the shield found in Ayrshire, as given in the minutes, corresponds with the buckler now in the Society's possession in every particular, with the exception of the diameter, which is stated to have been about 15¼ inches, possibly an error of transcript."

[314] Portes, Coloniæ, &c., App. pp. 17, 18.

[315] Vol. iii. p. 48.

[316] Vol. ii. p. 186.

[317] No. 13, Plate X. fig. 4.

[318] Sinclair's Statist. Acco. vol. xvi. p. 206.

[Pg 271]


Along with the weapons and implements of this period there have also been found at various times drinking cups, culinary vessels, horns, and other similar relics calculated to throw some additional light on the manners and domestic habits of the people by whom they were wrought and used. There have not indeed been discovered, or at least preserved, among the sepulchral deposits or the chance disclosures of the Scottish bogs and alluvial strata, anything to be compared with the celebrated Danish golden horns, or the beautiful silver cups of a later era, such as that taken from the grave of Queen Thyre Danebod, at Jellinge in Denmark. There are not wanting, however, undefined but not the less certain traces of the like costly memorials of primitive native art, discovered only to be destroyed. On the lands of Garthland, Wigtownshire, two vessels made of gold, and described as lachrymatories, were discovered in 1783.[319] At the village of Lower Largo, Fifeshire, a treasure was found in a sepulchral deposit, sufficient it is believed to enrich the original finder. The only relics which escaped destruction are two armillæ of pure gold, and remarkable for their elegance and skilful workmanship.[320] In 1839 a tenant engaged in levelling and improving a field on the estate of Craigengelt, near Stirling, opened a large circular cairn, which bore the popular name of "The Ghost's Knowe." It measured exactly 300 feet in circumference, and nearly fifty feet in height, and around its base twelve large stones were disposed at regular intervals. Underneath this cairn a large cromlech or stone chamber was found, [Pg 272]the upright stones of which were about five feet high, and within it lay a skeleton, imbedded in matter which emitted a strong resinous odour, but the bones rapidly crumbled to dust on exposure to the air. The gentleman on whose estate this remarkable cairn stood,[321] and to whom I am chiefly indebted for its description, had given strict orders to send for him if a cist or coffin was discovered; but while operations were delayed in expectation of his arrival, one of the labourers plundered the hoard and fled. Many valuable articles are reported to have been found; among which was a golden horn or cup, weighing fourteen ounces, and ornamented with chased or embossed figures. This interesting relic was purchased from one of the labourers by a gentleman in Stirling, and is believed to be still in existence, though I have failed, after repeated applications, in obtaining access to it. The exact nature or value of the whole contents of this cairn is not likely ever to be ascertained. The only articles secured by the proprietor, and now in his possession, are a highly polished stone axe or hammer, eight inches long, rounded at one end, and tapering at the other; a knife or dagger of the same material, eighteen inches long, which was broken by one of the stones falling on it when opening the cist; and a small gold finger ring, chased and apparently originally jewelled, though the settings have fallen out. Several other large cairns still remain unexplored at Craigengelt, some of them of much larger dimensions than the one which yielded such interesting results. English tumuli and primitive deposits have occasionally furnished still more valuable gold relics; such as the native gold corslet found in Wales, now in the British Museum.[322] Golden vessels have also been found under similar circumstances, as in a cairn near the Cheese Wring, in Linkenhorne parish, Cornwall, which was accidentally broken into in 1818, and a gold cup found lying beside the sepulchral remains. It was opened by some miners, who had selected the mound as an appropriate site on which to erect an engine-house. Within the cairn was a large cromlech, and underneath this lay a flat stone measuring nine feet long by about four broad, which covered the sepulchral deposit. In this chamber a thin slab, placed in a shelving direction against one of the sides, protected its valuable contents from injury. The remains of a skeleton lay extended on the floor of the [Pg 273]cist, and about the position of the breast stood an earthen vessel, within which was placed the gold cup. It is bell-shaped and rounded below, like the Danish gold cups found under similar circumstances and engraved in the "Guide to Northern Archæology." The earthen vessel was unfortunately broken by the fall of the stone that covered it, but its fragments exhibited the usual incised ornamentation of the early British pottery. A bronze spear was likewise found with these remarkable relics. The gold cup was claimed for the Crown as Lord of the Duchy of Cornwall, and it is believed to be still at Windsor Castle.[323] It would find a more appropriate place in the long desiderated British department of the British Museum.

As we cannot doubt but that these buried records of primitive native history have as yet been only very partially disclosed, so also we may hope that the rarer and more curious relics of the precious metals are also unexhausted, and that golden horns and silver beakers, adorned with the well-defined decorations of the Archaic era of native art, may still lie safely garnered in the same store-house and registry from whence so many historic records have been drawn forth, reserved for better times, when their discovery shall no longer involve their destruction. It will be seen from the number and variety of personal ornaments of the same precious metals described in future chapters, that such ideas are not mere chimerical dreams. Whencesoever the metal was derived, gold appears to have been used in Scotland to a very great extent, from the earliest period of the introduction of the metals, and to have been frequently deposited in the sepulchres of the most honoured dead, with no fear that sacrilegious hands would disturb the sacred deposit.

Vessels of bronze are by no means so rare as those of the precious metals. They are not indeed often found in the tumuli, and have obviously been held in less esteem than the weapons and personal ornaments of the same metal. But among the interesting disclosures brought to light by the draining of bogs and lakes, and the ordinary processes of agriculture, no class of relics have been more frequently discovered than the various culinary and domestic utensils of bronze, generally known by the names of Roman tripods and camp-kettles. Some of these do undoubtedly belong to the Anglo-Roman era; but the whole have been much too indiscriminately assigned to the legionary invaders and colonists, whose occupation of Scotland[Pg 274] was equally brief and partial, and whose relics must therefore form a very small proportion even of those of the later period to which they belong.

Bronze Cauldron, Kincardine Moss.

In the "Account of the Dominion of Farney," by Evelyn Philip Shirley, Esq., an engraving is given of a singular cauldron, made with considerable taste and skill, of plates of hammered bronze, rivetted together with pins of the same metal, the heads of which are conical in form, and being regularly disposed, serve to decorate as well as to secure the vessel. Two bronze rings are fastened to the inside of the rim by ornamental staples, and with these it was obviously designed to be suspended over the fire. This remarkable relic, which measures sixty inches in widest circumference, was discovered in the year 1834, at a depth of twelve feet below the surface of a bog, in the barony of Farney, Ulster. Bronze rings and staples, similar to those attached to this ancient cauldron, have been frequently found in Scotland. One of them has been already referred to, which was dredged out of Duddingstone Loch, near Edinburgh, along with a large quantity of bronze arms. Several others are preserved in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, two of which (measuring each 4¾ inches in diameter) were found along with the bronze cauldron here represented. Its dimensions are twenty-five inches in greatest diameter, and sixteen inches in height. No question can exist of its native workmanship. The rings and staples are neatly designed, but rudely and imperfectly cast and finished, and are decorated exactly as those of the Farney cauldron. The circles embossed on the side of the vessel are[Pg 275] in like manner such as have been frequently noted on objects of the Bronze Period, both in Britain and on the Continent. Nevertheless, in accordance with the classical system of designation which is even yet only partially exploded, this remarkable native relic figures in the printed list of donations in the Archæologia Scotica as a Roman camp-kettle. It was dug up in the year 1786, from the bottom of the peat-moss of Kincardine, some miles west from Stirling, where it was discovered lying upon a stratum of clay beneath the moss, which generally ranges from seven to twelve feet deep. Evidence has already been referred to which leads to the conclusion that the moss of Kincardine was in the same state at the period of Agricola's invasion as it continued to be till nearly the close of the eighteenth century. A curious allusion to this locality, in Blind Harry's Life of Sir William Wallace, which refers to the moss as incapable of passage on horseback, leaves us in no doubt as to its condition in the fourteenth century. After Wallace and his adherents had surprised an English garrison in the Peel of Gargunnoch,

"Yai bownyt yaim our Forth for to ryde;
The moss was strang, to ryde yaim was na but,
Wallace was wycht, and lychtyd on hys fute;
Stewyn of Irland he was yair gyd that nycht
Towart Kincardyn, syne restyt thar atright,
In a forest, that was bathe lang and wyde,
Rycht fra the moss grew to the wattir-syde."[324]

Another large shallow vessel of hammered copper, made entirely of one piece, is in the same collection with the above. It bears considerable resemblance to one discovered at Huckeridge Hill, near Sawston, Cambridgeshire, in 1816, and figured with other "Celtic remains" in the Archæologia, (vol. xviii. Pl. XXIV.,) but wants the embossed ornaments which encircle the rim of the latter. It measures fully eighteen inches in diameter by six inches deep, and was found at a depth of eighteen feet below the present level of the Cowgate, Edinburgh. Notwithstanding the difficulty of accounting for so great an accumulation of soil, there is perhaps greater probability in assigning this as part of the curta supellex of some wealthy citizen of the Scottish capital, at a period belonging to the latest epoch of the archæologist.[325] But no doubt can be entertained as to the remote era of another such relic already referred to,—the large bronze cauldron dug up about eighteen years since in a bog in King's County, and now in the collection [Pg 276]of the Earl of Rosse. Among the smaller examples of Scottish bronze vessels, one is specially deserving of notice, which was found by a labourer while cutting turf in Lochar Moss, Dumfriesshire, about two miles north from Cumlongan Castle, accompanied by relics of pure native character. It is a small bowl of graceful form, measuring six and a half inches in diameter and three in depth, formed of thin bronze plate of the bright colour common to many of our primitive relics, and very skilfully wrought. Within it lay one of the curious ornamental collars more particularly described in a later page,[326] to which the name of Beaded Torc is now assigned. Lochar Moss, where these interesting antiquities were discovered, has proved a fertile field for archæological treasures of many different eras,—primitive canoes, native stone and bronze relics, products of Roman civilisation and medieval art; while within it lie embedded the trunks of gigantic oaks and other natives of the forest, which once occupied the area of this ancient and extensive morass.

Of the more usual forms of tripods, kettles, and cauldrons of bronze, which are commonly assigned to the Romans, I must speak with more hesitation, though both the circumstances under which these have been found, and the style of some of their decorations, are sufficient to shew that they have been much too summarily classed among foreign productions. So long as bronze continued to be the rare and precious metal which we find good evidence for concluding it to have been during a transition-period of considerable duration, we may be well assured that neither domestic utensils, nor such implements of common use as the older material could supply, would be manufactured of it. We have abundant proof, however, that the supply of the metals kept pace with the increasing demands of progressive civilisation; and as this gradually displaced the old barbarian habits of the Caledonian savage by more refined tastes, the gratification of the palate would be aimed at along with the simpler desire for the mere supply of animal wants. Hence we may trace in the bronze cauldron and the tripod evidences of native civilisation, though doubtless of a late period, and not improbably, in many cases, coeval with the era of Roman invasion. Bronze vessels, of the description to which we refer, have been frequently found not only in the north of Scotland and in Ireland, but in Denmark and Sweden, where no Roman legions ever established a footing; though we must, of[Pg 277] course, bear in remembrance that Roman culinary implements, like Roman coins, might reach many regions which their makers never visited. But classical writers make special reference to the abundance of such vessels among the Gauls, and even ascribe to the Bituriges the invention of the art of tinning them.[327] In the Samlingar för Nordens Fornälskare, (Plate XXII. vol. ii.,) an ancient Swedish bronze vessel is represented, in no way differing from the common form of what is here invariably designated a Roman camp-kettle, but surrounded with an ornamental belt, decorated with what appear in the engraving somewhat like Runic characters. A still more remarkable medieval example of the bronze kettle is engraved in the Archæologia[328] under the name of an ancient hunting pot. It is of the same common form, but is ornamented in relief with the symbols of the Evangelists, and with various devices, chiefly relating to the chase, and is encircled with the following inscriptions:—Vilelmus Angetel me fecit fieri. And underneath, in smaller characters, this couplet,—

Je sui pot de graunt honhur
Viaunde a fere de bon savhur.

[Pg 278]

Many bronze vessels discovered in Scotland have been found on the draining or cutting of mosses, into which they may be supposed to have been thrown on the sudden flight either of the native Briton or the Roman invader, according as we incline to assign them to the one or the other. I am not aware, however, of such having yet been met with, either at any of the great Scoto-Roman coloniæ, such as Inveresk or Cramond, or on the sites of the legionary stations on the wall of Antoninus, though the remarkable discovery of Roman relics at Auchindavy, in 1771, including five altars and a statue, all huddled together in one pit, furnishes no doubtful evidence of the precipitancy with which the legionary cohorts were compelled to abandon the Caledonian wall.[329] An interesting discovery of such bronze vessels was made a few years since in the grounds immediately adjoining the cloisters of Melrose Abbey, and distant only a few miles from the Roman station, near Eildon. Similar objects have in like manner been frequently discovered in Galloway, Nithsdale, and in the district surrounding Birrenswork Hill, the celebrated Blatum Bulgium, where, among other curious relics of the Roman invaders, was found the winged figure of the goddess Brigantia, a supposed native deity adopted by the complaisant conquerors into the orthodox Pantheon of the Roman world. All these districts, however, abound still more with traces of native occupation, such as the most classical of modern Oldbucks would hesitate to ascribe to a Roman origin. While, however, I feel satisfied that many of these bronze vessels are the products of native art, others are unquestionably Roman, and many more have probably been made after Roman models, so that the attempt to discriminate between them is attended with difficulty. The mere rudeness of workmanship of many of them is not in itself a conclusive argument against their Roman manufacture, since we are hardly justified in looking for all the refinements of classic art in the furniture of the camp kitchen. It may fairly, however, suggest doubts, which receive stronger confirmation when we find it associated with forms peculiar to the northern designer: as in the snake-head with which the spout is frequently terminated. Such is the case with one of the so-called Roman tripods in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, which was found in its present imperfect state at a depth of five feet below the surface, in a moss near Closeburn Hall, Dumfriesshire. It is of a form of very frequent occurrence, and the decoration of the spout, though also not uncommon, is such as an unprejudiced critic would be much more inclined to ascribe to British or Scandinavian than Roman art. It is figured here along with another of rarer form dug up in the neighbourhood of Dundee, and now preserved at Dalmahoy House.[330] The superstitious veneration which ignorance attaches more or less readily to whatever is derived from a remote or unknown origin, has not failed to include these ancient utensils among the objects of its devotion or fear. In Ireland, more especially, this feeling is still powerful in its influence on the peasantry, and not unfrequently throws additional obstacles in the way of anti[Pg 279]quarian research. But in Scotland it was also equally powerful at no very remote date, nor was its influence limited to the unlettered peasant. In the great hall of Tullyallan Castle, near Kincardine, there formerly hung suspended from one of the bosses of its richly sculptured roof an ancient bronze kettle of the most usual form, which bore the name of The Lady's Purse. It was traditionally reputed to be filled with gold; and the old family legend bore, that so long as it hung there the Castle would stand and the Tullyallan family would flourish. Whether the Blackadders of Tullyallan ever had recourse to the treasures of the lady's purse in their hour of need can no longer be known, for the castle roof has fallen, and the old race who owned it is extinct. The ancient cauldron, however, on the safety of which the fate of the owners was believed to hang, is preserved. It was dug out of the ruins by a neighbouring tenant, and is still regarded with the veneration due to the fatal memorial of an extinct race. It measures 8¼ inches in diameter by 5⅛ inches in height as it stands, and is simply what would be called by antiquaries a Roman camp-kettle, and by old Scottish dames a brass kail-pot! This medieval tradition suffices at least to show that the object of its superstitious veneration pertained to an older era than that of the Baron's Hall.

A remarkable discovery of a number of bronze vessels of the class alluded to here, was made in the autumn of 1848, by some labourers engaged in trenching a piece of mossy ground, situated under a peculiar ridge of trap rock about a mile and a half due south of North-Berwick Law, on the Balgone estate, the property of Sir George Grant Suttie, Bart. The whole ground, extending to above twenty acres, was formerly a morass. It has been partially drained of late years, in consequence of which the mean level has sunk three to four feet. In the centre of this morass the relics were found, consisting of a large bronze pot or cauldron, several tripods, goblets, and various fragments of thin plates of bronze, all much corroded. One of the bronze goblets lay within the large cauldron, and the whole were found close together, at a depth of about three feet from the surface, apparently just as they had been thrown into the morass, probably not less than seventeen centuries ago.

Another class of works of ancient art and constructive skill, which come under the notice of the archæologist, admit of much more decided and unhesitating assignment to the native manufacturer. These are the specimens of pottery of such frequent occurrence in the[Pg 280] tumuli and cists, and which present, in every respect, so striking a contrast to the fictile manufactures of the Roman colonists. It is not from any doubt of the use of the sepulchral urn, and of the rites of cremation, during the primitive period, that all notice of native fictile ware has been reserved till now, though both furnish undoubted evidence of some progress attained by the primitive Briton. It is altogether impossible, however, with the very limited amount of accurately observed facts with which the Scottish archæologist has to deal, to pretend to classify into distinct periods the pottery found in the ancient tumuli and cairns. Many of these fictilia are so devoid of art as to furnish no other sign of advancement in their constructors from the most primitive state of barbarism, than such as is indicated by the piety which provided a funeral pyre for their dead, and even so rude a vase wherein their ashes might be inurned.

One obvious distinction is at once apparent between the unsymmetrical hand-made urn and that which has been turned and fashioned into regular shape. Yet even this very marked subdivision will not suffice for chronological arrangement; for the very rudest and most unsymmetrical of all the hand-made urns in the Scottish Museum, devoid of grace, and destitute of the very slightest attempt at ornament, was found to cover a pair of gold armillæ somewhat roughly finished with the hammer, and three smaller rings of the same metal, two of which are neatly ornamented with parallel grooves.[331] It seems, indeed, as if some pious hand may have hastily fashioned the clay into shape while the flames of the funeral pile were preparing the ashes it was to hold.

It is obvious even from this single instance, that any assignment of special examples or classes of native fictilia to the primeval period can only be done on the distinct ground of their being found accompanied solely with the relics of flint and stone. Still, setting aside the idea of a precise chronological arrangement, somewhat may be done as an approximation towards a system of classification. The early British pottery, though at best sufficiently rude, exhibits considerable variety both in form and workmanship, from the coarsest specimens of unshapely sun-dried clay to the graceful and elaborately decorated vases evidently made by workmen who had acquired a knowledge of the potter's wheel. Though the whole of these are found with sepulchral deposits, it is rarely difficult to discriminate between domestic[Pg 281] vessels and cinerary urns, independently of the contents of the latter. The presence of the cup and bowl alongside the weapons and implements deposited with the ashes of the deceased warrior, is readily accounted for. The difficulty which the uncultivated mind experiences in realizing any adequate conception of death, or of a future state, apart from the daily necessities and cravings of the body, has led in many different stages of social progress to the custom of depositing food and drink, unguents, perfumes, and similar necessaries or luxuries of life beside the body of the loved dead, or even along with the cinerary urn. The archæologist has accordingly been long familiar with the fact, that some at least of the fictile vessels found in the tumuli are not sepulchral, and the names of "drinking cups" or "incense cups" have been given to one class of small vases frequently deposited in cists and barrows.

The first and most obvious subdivision which the early British fictile ware admits of, is into hand-made and wheel-made pottery. Notwithstanding the remarkable example above referred to of the discovery of the former along with gold relics, it is most probable that the hand-made pottery will be generally found to belong to the earliest period. The inverse argument is at any rate indisputable, which assigns the wheel-made pottery to the period of partially developed art and tutored skill. Even in the case of the rude example found in Banffshire, the gold armillæ are roughly wrought with the hammer, and may have been fashioned from the native gold by a workman who knew of its ductility, but had yet to learn the use of the furnace, the crucible, and the mould. We know from the most ancient records both of sacred and profane history, that the potter's wheel is among the earliest inventions of primitive art. It is referred to by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah as the most familiar illustration of creative power; and the hieroglyphics and symbolic paintings still visible on the temples of Egypt, prove that the simile is older by many generations than that day when the Hebrew prophet "went down to the potter's house, and behold he wrought a work on the wheels." On the wall of a chamber in the ruined temple of Philæ, which, however, belongs to the era of the Ptolemies, one of the most striking adaptations of the prophetic symbol has been noted. Kneph, the ram-headed god, is represented seated at a potter's wheel, which he turns with his foot, while he fashions the mass of clay on it with his hands. The hieroglyphic inscription which accompanies it is thus[Pg 282] rendered:—"Knum, the Creator, moulds on his wheel the Divine members of Osiris, (the father of men,) in the house of life." It is an old Egyptian version of the simple but sublime language of Isaiah: "O Lord! thou art our Father, we are the clay, and thou our potter." The contents of the earliest Egyptian tombs furnish abundant evidence of the perfection to which the potter's art had been carried; and the recent discoveries at Nimroud and along the banks of the Tigris disclose no less satisfactory proofs of equal skill among the ancient dwellers in the great central plains of Asia, from whence the nomade colonists of Britain have been traced. The ignorance, therefore, of the simple contrivance of the potter's wheel furnishes more conclusive proof of a rude and barbarous state of society even than the stone weapons and implements of the same period. In the one instance we see the intelligent barbarian ingeniously turning to the best account his very limited materials, and effectively supplying the want of metals apparently from the most inadequate resources. In the other we find him fashioning the plastic clay with far less skill or symmetry than the thrush or the common barn-swallow displays in the construction of its nest. It may therefore be assumed as a general rule, that the unsymmetrical hand-made urn belongs to a very early period, and must in most cases be considered the work of an era prior to the introduction of the wheel, or the practice of the decorative arts so abundantly employed in the adornment of later specimens of the same ware.

[Pg 283]

Urns found at Banchory.

The rudimentary form of the cinerary urn is the common flower-pot shape, which the potter still finds the easiest and simplest into which the plastic clay can be fashioned. The later fictile ware, however, which is found deposited in the sepulchres, apparently for the purpose of holding food or preserving other tributes of affection or reverence, is characterized by considerable variety both in shape and decoration. Vases of a peculiar form, and apparently not sepulchral but domestic—in so far as they lay beside unburnt bones, and contained no incinerated remains—were discovered in several stone cists dug up in the years 1833 and 1834, in the parish of Whitsome, Berwickshire. The cists measured internally four and a half feet in length, and lay north and south. "Each chest had also its urn of unglazed earthenware, and of a triangular shape, the original contents of which had been converted into a quantity of black dust."[332] I have in vain attempted to ascertain if any of these singular examples of primitive fictile ware are still in existence. The two urns here represented were found under circumstances which seem in like manner to indicate their original use as domestic rather than sepulchral vessels, though they differ little from shapes of frequent occurrence in cinerary urns. They were found in the year 1817 by a party of men employed in levelling a piece of ground on a farm at Banchory, Aberdeenshire.[333] In the progress of their work their tools struck on a stone, which proved to be the cover of a cist of unusually large dimensions, lying nearly due NE. and SW. It was composed of six stones, so arranged that the skeleton which lay within at full length was bent at the pelvis to fit the angular construction of the cist. It measured internally, in a straight line, six feet, by two and a quarter feet at the north end, where the head lay, and only one foot ten inches at the lower end. The whole was composed of rough undressed mica-slate of from three to five inches thick. Within this the skeleton was disposed in the singular position above described, with the vases on its right side, one opposite the knee and the other at the thigh-joint. Nothing was found in them but some sand which had fallen in on opening the cist. The largest measured six and a half inches, and the other five inches in height. They are described as "composed of the common [Pg 284]stones of the country pounded,—granite, mica-slate, apparently some moss-earth, and a little clay on the outside. They are wonderfully accurately made, and the patterns meet so well that one would think they had been done in a lathe or stamped. They are perfectly circular, and seem to have been only baked in the sun." Several cists have been discovered in the same neighbourhood, but no other example is known to have corresponded to this either in disposition or contents. The whole skeleton crumbled into dust after being exposed for a short time to the air; but it would appear to have exhibited the wonted characteristic of a remarkably small head in proportion to the body. The discoverer remarks: "The teeth are perfectly fresh; and from the appearance of the jaws the skeleton must be that of a full-grown person, though of small stature."

A still more remarkable example of pottery somewhat similarly disposed, was discovered more recently on the demolition of the old town steeple of Montrose. This venerable belfry tower, which was ascribed to the twelfth century, occupied the highest ground in the centre of the ancient burgh. After serving for centuries as clock-tower, belfry, and prison, the fabric at length became so ruinous that it was taken down in 1833. In digging the foundations for the new steeple, which occupies its site, the workmen excavated the ground about nine feet below the surface, and fully three feet below the base of the old tower. Remains of several bodies were found in the new ground: one of which lay with the head towards the west, and had a small pile driven through the skull. In another part, directly underneath the foundations of the old tower, was a skeleton disposed at full length in a rude stone cist, and with four urns beside it: two at the head and two at the feet. The skeleton measured six feet in length, and the skull, which has been already referred to, is now in the Edinburgh Phrenological Museum.[334] Only two of the urns were preserved; one of which is now in the Montrose Museum, and the other in the collection of the Scottish Antiquaries. The latter is a neat vessel of common form, and decorated with the usual style of incised chevron ornaments. There is something peculiarly interesting in the recovery of these memorials of long forgotten generations, over which later builders had reared the massive tower unconscious of their presence. The strong old Gothic masonry, after withstanding the storms of some seven centuries, has decayed and [Pg 285]been swept away, and from beneath its foundations we recover the fragile yet more enduring memorials of primitive skill pertaining to a far older era, when the infant nation was just struggling into intelligent youth.

Among the most remarkable classes of domestic pottery found in the tumuli, are those evidently designed for suspension, and occasionally provided with a cover or lid made of the same material. Some of them are made round on the bottom, so as to be unfitted for setting on the ground, and it seems no improbable inference that in these we possess examples of the earliest artificial cooking vessels manufactured by native skill. They are familiar to continental as well as to British archæologists, and are figured in several works on Scandinavian antiquities. The example engraved here, from the original in the Scottish Museum, measures 4½ inches in height, and about 6½ inches in extreme diameter. It was found in one of a group of cists, under a large cairn, situated at a place called Sheal Loch, in the parish of Borthwick, near Edinburgh, and is minutely described by Dr. Jamieson in the Archæologia Scotica.[335] Five perforated projections are disposed at nearly equal distances around it, and the interior of the vessel bears evident marks of fire. Nothing but clay was found either in it or the inclosing cist, and no urns were discovered in any of the adjoining graves. It appears to be made of fine baked clay, and is of a much harder and more durable consistency than the majority of specimens of Celtic pottery. Urns perforated for suspension, though by no means common, are occasionally found in the British tumuli. The fragments of another, found in Fifeshire, with perforated ears, are preserved in the same collection with the above; and a third example, found in a cairn at Crakraig, Sutherlandshire, in 1818, and engraved in the Archæologia,[336] appears to have been of the same class. Reference has already been made to a small cup discovered during the construction of the "Queen's Drive" round Arthur Seat in 1846, and, as is believed, alongside of the cinerary urn, alluded to in a former chapter, which was broken in pieces by the workmen. The little cup is formed with great regularity, and orna[Pg 286]mented with a uniform pattern, the lines of which seem as if they had been impressed on the soft clay with a fine twisted cord. It measures 1¾ inches in height, 3¼ inches in extreme diameter, and fully half an inch in thickness.[337] Another cup, in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, of still more regular proportions, and a higher style of ornamentation, was dug out of the foundation of an ancient ruin in the island of Ronaldshay, Orkney, and presented to the Society in 1831. Like the larger urns referred to above, it is perforated for suspension. Similar cups are of comparatively frequent occurrence; sometimes devoid of ornament, but generally symmetrical, and finished with a degree of art and skill indicative of their construction, and of the adoption of the ideas which led to their being deposited with the funeral urn, at a considerably later period than that of the rude hand-made pottery of the early tumuli.

In striking contrast to these minute sepulchral relics, many of the Scottish cinerary urns are of an unusually large size. So far as my opportunities of observation extend, it is much more common in Scotland than either in England or on the Continent to meet with urns measuring thirteen, fourteen, and even sixteen inches high. In the cairns, more especially where several urns are grouped together, one is very frequently much larger than the others, though not more ornamented; for the pottery of the largest size is generally comparatively plain. The woodcut represents one, now in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, measuring 11½ inches in height. It was found within the area of the modern Scottish capital, in digging for the foundation of the north pier of the Dean Bridge that spans a deep ravine through which the Water of Leith finds its way to the neighbouring port. Numerous cists and urns have been discovered in the extension of the New Town of Edinburgh towards the sea, attesting the presence of a busy and ingenious native race in ages long prior to the dawn of authentic history, on the same spot which has formed the centre of nearly all the most memorable events in the national annals in more recent centuries. Another urn in the Scottish Museum, measuring 12½ inches in height, was found near Abden House, in the parish of Kinghorn, Fifeshire, in 1848, by workmen[Pg 287] engaged in cutting through the rocks on the sea-shore, preparatory to the formation of the Northern Railway. When discovered it lay in an inverted position on the flat surface of the rock, at a depth of five feet from the surface, and was full of ashes and burnt bones. In examples discovered under similar circumstances, it is not unfrequently observed that the inside of the urn exhibits considerable marks of exposure to heat and smoke. The incinerated remains would appear to have been carefully gathered together in a little heap while yet the glowing embers had only partially consumed the bones, and over this the inverted urn was laid, quenching the last fires that glowed within the ashes once ardent with impetuous life.

None of those examples of primitive Scottish pottery have been accompanied by relics which would enable us to assign them with absolute certainty to the period when the introduction of the metallurgic arts had stimulated native skill and ingenuity into action; unless perhaps in the case of the small cup found on Arthur Seat, alongside of which I have reason to believe the bronze celt now in my possession was found. But most of them, in all probability, do belong to that period; nor is it at all improbable that the practice of cremation may itself be traced to the same source from whence the ingenious workers in stone learned to fuse the metallic ores, and fashion them into every variety of form. There are not wanting, however, numerous examples both of native domestic pottery and of cinerary urns, found along with relics which leave no room to question their belonging to the Bronze Period. The larger of the two vases represented in the annexed woodcut was discovered under a tumulus at Memsie, Aberdeenshire, and beside it lay a bronze leaf-shaped sword, broken in two. It is scarcely a quarter of an inch in thickness, and otherwise exhibits in symmetrical proportions and durable material the evidences of experienced workmanship. In style of ornament it differs little from the ruder specimens of Celtic pottery. But from the well-baked material and the unusual thinness of the ware, it furnishes a good example of the highest perfection attained in the potter's art prior to the introduction of the vitrified glazing which is found[Pg 288] for the first time in connexion with the relics of the latest Pagan era. Some similarity of form may be traced between this vessel and the larger of the two discovered in the cist at Banchory. It is a peculiar shape, and no doubt designed for some special purpose, possibly a pitcher for liquids—the Pictish heather ale, perchance, of vulgar tradition,—while the shallower vase which accompanied the former example would more fitly receive the solid food provided to appease the anticipated cravings of the dead. Alongside of the urn from Memsie another is figured belonging to the same period, which was dug up in the parish of Ratho, a few miles from Edinburgh. It was found filled with ashes and fragments of human bones, mingled with which were the fragments of bronze rings, and the handle of a small vessel of the same metal. Both of these specimens of primitive fictile ware are now in the Scottish Museum. A third, in the same collection, somewhat similar to the last, was discovered in trenching a field near the old castle of Kineff, Kincardineshire. A bronze spear lay beside it, and within it were found, mingled with the ashes of the dead, two large bronze rings, possibly designed to be worn as bracelets, and the broken and corroded fragments of several others of smaller proportions.

The numerous discoveries of cinerary urns and sepulchral pottery of various kinds, which have been made in Scotland, abundantly prove the very extensive and long continued practice of the rite of cremation by the early Britons. It is a just subject of regret that so very limited a number of examples of these curious specimens of native art have been preserved. The statistical accounts of nearly every parish in Scotland report such discoveries, frequently in considerable numbers. Many pass into private hands, to be forgotten and abandoned to neglect and decay, when the transient influence of novelty has passed away; many more are destroyed so soon as discovered. To the casual observer they appear mere rude clay urns characterized by little variety or art. A closer examination of them, however, shews that they are divisible by periods, classes, and the adaptation to various purposes; and it is hardly to be doubted that, with an ample and systematically arranged collection, a much more minute classification might become apparent. A more general diffusion of knowledge on this subject will, it is to be hoped, aid in the accomplishment of so desirable an end. With the hearty cooperation of landed proprietors, clergy, and the educated classes who have in[Pg 289]fluence in rural districts, it might be effected at little cost or trouble; and it is impossible fully to anticipate the important inferences that might become obvious, in relation to the primeval history of our country, by such an accumulation of the productions of native archaic art. Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, Roman, and medieval manufactures, have all been patiently and enthusiastically traced back to their first rude efforts. It is to the study of the infancy of medieval art especially that the sculptors and painters of Germany, France, and England, have now turned in their enthusiastic anticipations of a new revival. Why should the infantile efforts of our own national ancestry be alone deemed unworthy of regard, rude though they be, and little akin to the favourite models of modern schools? They form an important first-link in the history of native design, and manifestly were among the earliest products of skilled labour and inventive ingenuity. It is obvious, moreover, that the art must have been in use for many generations. Amid the evidences of a thinly scattered population, examples of it are still of very frequent occurrence, after all the ravages of the spade and the plough. In these we trace its gradual improvement, and from thence very effectually discover proofs of the progress of their constructors. First in order is the shapeless hand-made urn, merely dried in the sun. To this succeed the imperfect efforts at decoration and symmetrical design, and also the subjection of the moist clay to the process of the kiln. Then comes the important discovery of the potter's wheel, in the train of which many other improvements follow. Taste is displayed in a variety of forms and ornamental patterns. In the source to which it is conceived some of the more complicated of these designs are referrible, we have another evidence of civilizing arts. Among the rarer contents of the British sepulchral mounds, fragments of manufactured clothing have been repeatedly found. These appear to have been invariably wrought with the knitting-needle, and in their texture may be traced the various patterns of herring-bone, chevron, and saltire work, as well as nearly all the more complicated designs employed in ornamenting the contemporary pottery. After a careful examination of the examples within my reach, I have little doubt of this being the source of the earliest imitative ornamentation, in advance of the first simple attempts at combinations of incised lines. The subject will come again under review in a future chapter; but, meanwhile, it may be noted here as suggestive of the possible first source of decoration of the rude cinerary urn, that its fragile texture[Pg 290] may have been strengthened by being surrounded with a platting of cords or rushes, which, in tasteful hands, would assume the same forms as in the work of the knitting needles, and thus lead to the reproduction of such patterns by a more durable process on the clay. Humboldt describes a similar practice which came under his notice at the village of Maniquarez in South America, where the Indian women fashioned their rude vessels out of a decomposed mica-slate, which they bound together with twigs, and baked in the sun. It is certain that very many of the indented patterns on British pottery have been produced by the impress of twisted cords on the wet clay,—the intentional imitation, it may be, of undesigned indentations originally made by the platted net-work on ruder urns,—so simple and yet so natural may be the source to which we must look for the first glimmering dawn of British art. Painters have delighted to picture the Grecian maiden tracing her lover's shadow on the wall. Perchance some British artist may not think it beneath his pencil to restore to us the aboriginal potter marvelling at the unsought beauty which his own hands have wrought.

Along with such evidences of taste and inventive ingenuity as the works of the primitive potter display, the increasing demands of progressive civilisation also become apparent in the adaptation of vessels to the various requirements of domestic convenience or luxury; the clay-made pottery improves from the clumsy, friable, ill-baked urn, into a vessel of light and durable consistency, fitted for all the common purposes of fictile ware. To this extent it was carried during the archaic era of native art to which we give the name of the Bronze Period. It will be seen in a future section that it received further improvements from native skill before it was superseded by more ingenious arts indirectly derived from Roman civilisation.


[319] Sinclair's Statist. Acco. vol. ii. p. 56.

[320] Archæological Journal, vol. vi. p. 53.

[321] John Dick, Esq. of Craigengelt.

[322] Archæologia, vol. xxvi. p. 422. Vide also Walker's Hist. Essay on the Dress of the Ancient Irish, (Dublin, 1788,) for a notice of a gold corslet, found near Lismore, and sold to a goldsmith at Cork for £600.

[323] MS. Letters, W. T. P. Shortt, Esq. of Heavitree, Exeter.

[324] Blind Harry's Wallace, b. iv. l. 272.

[325] Memorials of Edinburgh, vols. ii, iii.

[326] The Bowl and Torc are both engraved on Plate III.

[327] Pliny, xxxvi. 22.

[328] Vol. xiv. p. 278, Plates LI., LII., LIII.

[329] Roy's Military Antiquities, p. 201. Plate XXXVIII.

[330] A group of similar bronze vessels of commoner forms, including an example of the Roman sacrificial patera, preserved in the Abbotsford collection, is engraved among the illustrations to the "Antiquary."—Abbotsford Edit. vol. ii. p. 12.

[331] Archæologia Scotica, vol. iv. p. 298, and Plate XII.

[332] New Statist. Acc. vol. ii. Berwickshire, p. 171.

[333] MS. Letters and Drawings, Alexander Thomson of Banchory, Esq., 1st Nov. 1817. Libr. Soc. Antiq. Scot. The small cup figured along with them is the one found on Arthur's Seat, near Edinburgh. Ante, p. 228.

[334] Ante p. 170, No. 10 of cranial measurements.

[335] Vol. ii. p. 76.

[336] Vol. xix. Plate XLIII.

[337] It is engraved along with the Banchory urns, ante p. 283.

[Pg 291]


In nothing is the singular inequality so characteristic of archaic art more strikingly apparent than in the contrast frequently observable between the rude clay urn of the Scottish tumulus or cairn and the valuable and beautiful relics which it contains. Many of the latter, indeed, are scarcely admissible under any classification of archaic art. They differ more in characteristic peculiarities of style than in inferiority of design when compared with the relics of the Anglo-Roman period. Reference has already been made to the probable sources from whence the abundant supplies of gold were derived by the primitive Caledonian metallurgist. But whencesoever they are assumed to have been procured, the fact is unquestionable, that while silver was exceedingly rare, if not, indeed, entirely unknown, until almost the close of the Bronze Period, gold appears to have been one of the very first metals wrought, and to have been obtained in such abundance as to supply material for numerous personal ornaments of large size and great weight.

But the skill and ingenuity of the primitive artist was not solely confined to ornaments wrought in gold or bronze. The humblest materials assumed new value by the aid of his ingenuity and taste; and not a few of the personal ornaments of a comparatively late stage of progression in the Bronze Period are still formed of stone, or of the more easily wrought jet and bituminous shale. Beads and necklaces of the latter materials are of very frequent occurrence, and while some are characterized by little evidence of taste or ingenuity, many more are the manifest products of experienced mechanical skill. In these[Pg 292] especially we detect the evidence of the use of the turning-lathe, and its ingenious adaptation to the production of a great variety of articles. This we may fairly regard as another important step in advance of the improvements already detected in the native fictile wares by the introduction of the potter's wheel. Some antiquaries, indeed, have been inclined to class those, as well as so many other evidences of native skill, either among the direct products of Roman art, or as the fruits of the civilizing influence resulting from intercourse with the Roman colonists; but if previous evidences of the priority of the early native eras are of the slightest value, the circumstances under which many jet and shale ornaments and relics have been found leave no room to doubt that they are the products of unaided native ingenuity and mechanical skill. These materials, however, continued to be used during the Anglo-Roman period, and to partake of the influences of Italian art in the forms which they assumed. It therefore becomes necessary to exercise the same care in discriminating between the products of native and foreign taste in the relics of jet or shale, as in those of the metals, or of glass and ivory. According to Solinus jet was one of the articles of export from Britain; and Bede speaks of British jet as abundant and highly valued.[338] But from these evidences of its later foreign use we may infer its early adoption for construction of personal ornaments by the native Britons, among whom its fitness for such purposes was very probably first recognised. The style of many of the relics of this class found in the primitive cists and cairns, and especially of those which are presumed to be female ornaments, totally differs from Anglo-Roman or classic remains, and abundantly confirms their native origin, already rendered so exceedingly probable from their discovery in early sepulchral mounds. An interesting discovery of such relics, made in the parish of Houstoun, Renfrewshire, during the latter part of last century, is thus described in the Old Statistical Account:

"When the country people were digging for stones to inclose their farms, they met with several chests or coffins of flag-stones, set on their edges, sides, and ends, and covered with the same sort of stones above, in which were many human bones of a large size, and several skulls in some of them. In one was found many trinkets of a jet black substance, some round, others round and oblong, and others of a diamond shape, &c., all perforated. Probably they were a necklace. There was a thin piece, about two inches broad at one end, and perforated with many holes, [Pg 293]but narrow at the other; the broad end, full of holes, seemed to be designed for suspending many trinkets as an ornament on the breast."[339]

In 1841 a stone cist was discovered on the estate of Burgie, in the parish of Rafford, Elginshire, which measured internally three feet in length by two feet in breadth. It contained a skeleton, believed to be that of a female from the small size of the bones, in a sitting posture, and with the head in contact with the knees. Beside the skeleton stood an urn ten inches high, rudely decorated with incised lines; and alongside of it were found a ring of polished shale or cannel coal, two and a half inches in diameter; four rhomboidal pieces of the same material, the largest pair two inches long; two triangular pieces, and about an hundred large beads, all perforated for the purpose of being strung together for a necklace. Various other cists have been discovered on the same estate, generally containing urns; but this is believed to have been the only example of the ring and necklace of polished shale.

A necklace formed in part of similar ornaments is now in the interesting collection of Adam Arbuthnot, Esq., of Peterhead. It was found a few years since in a tumulus in the parish of Cruden, Aberdeenshire, and consists of alternate beads of jet and perforated but irregular pieces of amber. The largest beads measure about four inches in length, from which they diminish to about an inch. The only other object beside them was a flint hatchet about seven inches long; so that this curious example of primitive personal ornaments may be assumed to belong to the earliest period, or perhaps to that of the transition from stone to metallic weapons and implements.

On opening a cairn on the hill of Auchmacher, Aberdeenshire, about 1790, an urn was exposed, in the mouth of which lay a number of circular perforated beads of black shale.[340] About the same period another urn was dug up in the parish of Ceres, Fifeshire, within which a smaller one was inclosed, and in it, in addition to the incinerated remains, lay a small brass implement, probably a hair-pin, (described as resembling a shoemaker's awl,) and a small black bead cut in diamond form.[341]

[Pg 294]

Jet Necklace, Ross-shire.

Various interesting personal ornaments obtained under similar circumstances, are preserved in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, and one set in particular, found inclosed in an urn within a rude stone cist, on the demolition of a tumulus near the Old House of Assynt, Ross-shire, in 1824, very closely correspond in appearance to the description of the Renfrewshire relics. They include a necklace of irregular oval jet beads, which appear to have been strung together like a common modern string of beads, and are sufficiently rude to correspond with the works of a very primitive era. The other ornaments which are represented here, about one-fourth the size of the original, are curiously studded with gold spots, arranged in patterns similar to those with which the rude pottery of the British tumuli are most frequently decorated, and the whole are perforated with holes, passing obliquely from the back through the edge, evidently designed for attaching them to each other by means of threads.[342] Several other urns were discovered in a large cairn, a few miles distant from the tumulus which contained these interesting and tasteful relics of female adornment, as they are with great probability assumed to be; though it is well known that the modes of personal decoration which modern taste and refinement reserve for the fair sex are very differently apportioned in ruder states of society. The comparative anatomist can alone absolutely determine this question by future observations on the bones discovered along with similar remains. Meanwhile these examples are of peculiar value from the conclusion previously assumed by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, after examination of various sepulchral deposits containing similar relics, that the female barrow very rarely contains urns. Another sepulchral deposit of similar personal ornaments, including two fibulæ or discs of bituminous shale measuring one and a half inches in diameter, found in a grave at Letham, was presented to the Scottish Museum in 1820 by Sir David [Pg 295]Brewster. It probably formed a portion of the contents of a group of cists discovered in a round gravel knoll or tumulus, near the Den of Letham, and described in the New Statistical Account of Dunnichen Parish, Forfarshire. They contained urns of red clay with rude ornaments upon them, and human bones irregularly disposed. "The neck-bones of some were adorned with strings of beads of a beautiful glossy black colour, neatly perforated longitudinally, and strung together by the fibres of animals. They were of an oval figure; large and small ones were arranged alternately, the large ones flat on the two opposite surfaces, the small ones round. They seemed to consist of ebony, or of some fine-grained wood which had been charred and then finely polished. On keeping them some time they split into plates, and the woody fibres separated. In some of these graves rusty daggers were found, which fell in pieces by handling."[343] One is almost tempted to challenge the completeness of this account, and to suspect the position of the necklaces, and perhaps the fibre-strings also, to be creations of the statist's imagination, more especially as the graves contained no perfect skeleton, but only loose bones. The woodcut represents a fibula of the same material, in the possession of James Drummond, Esq. It is drawn one-half the size of the original, which was recently found in a moss at Crawford Moor, near Carstairs, Lanarkshire. Simple as its form is it is not unfamiliar to the British antiquary. Sir R. C. Hoare describes and figures one exactly similar, found on opening a bell-shaped barrow at Blandford, and examples are referred to in the Ancient Wiltshire and other works.[344] Whether we regard this uniformity of type as evidence of the extent of intercourse anciently carried on among the most widely severed tribes, or of some system by which such relics were diffused by the wandering trader throughout the whole British islands, such comparisons cannot fail to interest the student of primitive history, trifling though they may appear, and to stimulate him to further investigation of such analogies.

English antiquaries have long been familiar with relics of this [Pg 296]class, under the local name of ornaments of Kimmeridge Coal, and also with a more mysterious variety formed of the same material, on which the name of "Kimmeridge Coal Money" was conferred, from the idea that these symmetrical pieces of shale were used as a circulating medium before the introduction of the metals. The material of which the whole of this class of relics are composed has obviously been applied to the manufacture of personal ornaments from a very remote era, though the so-called coal money probably belongs to a comparatively late period. Some interesting examples of necklaces and other ornaments, precisely similar in style and character to those found in the Renfrew, Ross, and Fifeshire tumuli, were discovered on opening some Derbyshire barrows in 1846. These "female decorations of Kimmeridge coal," as they are styled in the account of the discovery in the Journal of the Archæological Association,[345] were deposited beside a female skeleton, in a cist formed of large stones. "The other instruments found on this occasion were all of flint, not the least fragment of metallic substance being visible. The ornament appears to have been a kind of necklace, with a central decoration, enriched by bone or ivory plates, ornamented with the chevron pattern so prevalent on articles of presumed Celtic manufacture, terminating with two laterally perforated studs of the coal; the remainder of the ornament consists of two rows of bugle-shaped beads of the same material." A few days later, two more necklaces, of similar design and material, were found in a cist under a barrow in the same county, in like manner accompanied only with implements of flint and bone. Engravings of some of these relics accompany the narrative of their discovery; and their remarkable similarity to those of the early Scottish tumuli, leaves no doubt that both belong to the same period. It is remarked of the Derbyshire relics by their discoverer,—"On the most superficial examination, it is quite evident that these articles have never received their form from the lathe, as the armlets of Kimmeridge coal are clearly proved to have done. This, coupled with the fact that the perforation through the length of the bead is in no instance carried through from one end, but is bored each way towards the centre, (as would be the case if a rude drill of flint were used for the purpose,) bespeaks a far more remote period than the one in which the use of the lathe was prevalent."[346] Both the unsymmetrical form, and the perforation of the [Pg 297]beads found in the Ross-shire tumulus, fully correspond with these in the indications of the imperfect skill and rude instruments of their manufacturers. But the slow progress of native art was first aided, as we have seen, by the introduction of the potter's wheel; and from this, in all probability, originated the more ingenious contrivance of the turning-lathe. Whencesoever derived, its influence is abundantly apparent on the later relics of native art.

The "coal money" of the elder school of English antiquaries is found almost exclusively in two little secluded valleys at Purbeck, on the southern coast of Dorsetshire, known as Kimmeridge and Worthbarrow Bays. Similar relics, however, it will be seen, are not unknown in Scotland, though designated by other names than the local term derived from Kimmeridge Bay. They consist of flat circular pieces of shale, with bevelled and moulded edges, varying in size from 1¼ to nearly 3 inches in diameter, and frequently perforated or indented with one or more holes. The actual purpose for which this coinage of the Kimmeridge Mint was destined, long formed an antiquarian riddle, which baffled the acutest English archæologists; for the popular name was rather adopted as a convenient term, than seriously regarded as properly applicable to articles so fragile and valueless. One ingenious but somewhat fanciful theorist did, indeed, attempt to prove these relics to be the work of Phœnician artists, designed, not as an actual circulating medium, "but as representatives of coin, and of some mystical use in sacrificial or sepulchral rites!" All such ideas, however, are now entirely exploded, and it is no longer doubted that these are the waste pieces produced in the formation of rings from the shale on the turning-lathe. The fragments of pottery, and other relics discovered along with these curious exuviæ of early art, leave little room to doubt that during the Anglo-Roman period a manufacture of amulets, beads, and other personal ornaments of Kimmeridge shale, must have been carried on to a considerable extent in the Isle of Purbeck.[347]

The popular idea of the use of such circular pieces of shale as money is found attached to them in Scotland as well as in England. In the account of the parish of Portpatrick, it is remarked,—"Circular pieces, from two to three inches diameter, cut out of a black slate[Pg 298] not found in the parish, are frequently dug up in the churchyard, along with rings out of which these pieces seem to have been cut. Both of these are supposed by the people here to have been used as money."[348]

Similar relics have been found in Kirkcudbright and other southern shires; and Mr. Joseph Train describes others, not greatly differing in character, found near the large moat or tumulus on the farm of Hallferne, parish of Crossmichael, where also a beautiful Druidical bead was discovered, nearly an inch in diameter, composed of pale-coloured glass, with a waving stripe of yellow round the circumference. In Kirkcudbrightshire, these ornaments of shale have retained nearly to our own day the same rank in popular estimation for their medicinal virtues, or supernatural powers, as we find ascribed to the ornaments and amulets of jet among the Romans.[349] Mr. Train remarks,—

"There have been found, at different times, near the same moat, several round flat stones, each five or six inches diameter, perforated artificially in the centre. Even within the memory of some persons yet alive, these perforated stones were used in Galloway to counteract the supposed effects of witchcraft, particularly in horses and black cattle. 'The cannie wife o' Glengappoch put a boirt stane into ane tub filled with water, and causit syne the haill cattell to pass by, and, when passing, springled ilk ane o' them with a besome dipped in it.' One of these perforated stones, as black and glossy as polished ebony, is also in my possession. It was recently found in the ruins of an old byre, where it had evidently been placed for the protection of the cattle."[350]

Ure remarks in his History of Kilbride, "a ring of a hard black schistous, found in a cairn in the parish of Inchinan, has performed, if we believe report, many astonishing cures. It is to this day preserved in the parish as an inestimable specific."[351] Similar proofs of the superstitious reverence attached to these ancient relics are by no means rare.

From evidence already referred to, it is abundantly obvious that ornaments both of shale and jet were in use at the period of the Roman colonization of Britain, and this is further confirmed by their discovery along with Anglo-Roman sepulchral remains. Most of those, however, exhibit a degree of finish and ornamentation which dis[Pg 299]tinguishes them from works in the same materials of an older date. Still it is the more needful to examine with care the circumstances under which the latter have been found, and to ascertain, if possible, whether they are contemporary works of ruder execution, or really pertain to an earlier era. Relics of this class, it is obvious, are by no means uncommon; and it is with a view to the discrimination of those of native origin from the later products of foreign art, that so many examples are here referred to.

Sir Robert Sibbald thus notices the occurrence of rings or armlets of shale in Scottish sepulchral mounds:—"Some full circles, of a black colour, very smooth, two or three inches in diameter, are found in the cairns or burroughs. They are very light, and when fire is put to them they burn and give a good smell, and seem to be made of odoriferous gums."[352] Mr. Ure appears to have tried the same costly experiment, and remarks as its result, that they burn with a clear flame. There formerly existed in the district of Logie, Forfarshire, a remarkable group of tumuli, called the Three Laws of Logie; which agricultural operations have since nearly obliterated. On opening one of these, it proved to contain four human skeletons, near to which was one of the above relics, described "as a beautiful ring, supposed to be of ebony, as black as jet, of a fine polish, and in perfect preservation. It is of a circular form, flat in the inside, and rounded without. Its circumference is about twelve inches, and its diameter four inches."[353] A large cairn, in the parish of East Kilbride, bore the name of Queen Mary's Mount, from the tradition that the unhappy Queen witnessed from its summit the Battle of Langside, and beheld the sceptre of a kingdom pass for ever from her grasp. But such touching historical associations could not suffice to rescue the venerable memorial from the hands of the destroyer. For years it supplied the whole neighbouring districts with materials for building stone fences, until some workmen employed in removing the remaining stones, in 1792, discovered a chamber containing about twenty-five urns full of earth and human bones. These urns, some of which have been engraved in Ure's History, were of the most primitive shape and character, "rudely formed, seemingly with no other instrument than the hand, and so soft as easily to be scratched with the nail. They were of different sizes, mostly about twelve inches deep, [Pg 300]and six wide at the mouth. None of them were destitute of ornaments; but these were extremely rude, and seem to have been done in a hurry, with a sharp-pointed instrument. They were all placed with their mouths undermost upon flat stones; and a piece of white quartz was found in the centre of the mouth of each, larger and smaller, in proportion to the dimensions of the several urns."[354] A cist of about four feet square was placed exactly in the centre of the cairn, near to which was a bronze fibula of extremely rude form; another, still simpler in design, was found in one of the urns, and a bronze comb, equally characteristic of primitive arts, in a second; while alongside of them lay one of the rings of bituminous shale. The bronze relics are all engraved by Ure, so that a tolerably perfect idea can be formed of their design and workmanship. He pronounces them, according to the fashion of his time, to be Roman, but they bear no resemblance to the rudest specimens of Anglo-Roman art. Similar ornaments of shale have been discovered both in the Northern and Western Isles, furthest removed from Roman arts and influence. One example, which is here engraved one half the natural size, was found in the Isle of Skye, and presented to the Scottish Society of Antiquaries in 1782. It is supposed to be designed for the clasp of a belt. Two rings of the same material, each measuring 3½ inches in diameter, were discovered about two years later on the same island, and added to the Scottish Museum. Another, four inches in diameter, flat on the inside, and rounded without, as is most frequently the case, was obtained from a tumulus in the parish of Logie, Forfarshire, along with an urn full of ashes, and the remains of four skeletons.[355] In 1832, some labourers levelling a sandy field at Dubbs, in the parish of Stevenston, Ayrshire, came upon a paved area five feet under the surface, measuring six yards long and two broad. Across the one end lay a stone of about a ton weight, and at the other there was found a stone cist, measuring three feet in length by two in breadth. Within it were two urns, one of gray and the other of black pottery, both apparently filled only with earth, and beside them lay five studs or buttons of different sizes, formed of highly polished jet. The urns were broken, but the studs were preserved by the late Colonel Hamilton. They are convex on the one side, and concave on the other, with knobs left in the latter, seemingly for attaching them to the dress. The largest is more than an inch in diameter.[356] Two other rings of polished shale, similar to those already described, were discovered in 1786, lying beside a skeleton, on removing a large flat stone within the area of one of those circular towers in Caithness, commonly termed burghs, or Pictish Forts. Beside them lay a bone pin, and two fine oval brooches, (the Skaalformet Spande of Danish antiquaries,) such as have been frequently discovered in the Northern and Western Isles, and are now generally ascribed to the era of the Vikings.

[Pg 301]

Such examples, it is obvious, might be greatly multiplied, but enough have been cited to enable us to trace the use of those ornaments from probably the earliest years of the Bronze Period to the close of the latest Pagan era. The rings, which form the most common articles manufactured of shale, have been usually considered as armlets, but it is very doubtful if such was their real use. Many of them, indeed, are too small to admit of the hand passing through them, and rings of similar size and form are discovered of various other materials. One in the Scottish Museum, apparently of glazed earthenware, and measuring nearly three inches in diameter, was found under a large cairn at Bogheads, Kintore parish, Aberdeenshire, in 1789, and beside it lay four oblong squared pieces of polished shale, the two largest two inches in length, the other two an inch and a half, and an inch broad. Between each pair were three oval beads of the same substance, nearly an inch long. They were described, when presented to the Society, as having been suspended from the ring; but it is more probable that they formed, as in other cases, a separate necklace. A number of cairns, some of them of very large dimensions, still remain on the extensive moor which occupies a considerable area in both the parishes of Kinellar and Kintore. Another ring in the same collection, formed of a white translucent stone, was found on the Flanders Moss, Perthshire; and a third made of hard dark wood, 3½ inches in diameter, and 1¾ inches broad, was discovered near a cairn on the north side of Hatlock, in Tweeddale, on first subjecting the neighbouring heath to the plough in 1784. It has been suggested that these rings formed part of the female head gear, through which the hair was[Pg 302] drawn; and a sculptured female head, found at Bath, is referred to, on which an ornament somewhat resembling them is represented so applied.[357] The discovery of such rings alongside of female ornaments, such as the necklaces and pendants already described, seems to justify the classification of them among objects of mere personal adornment; and where found singly, their supposed use in the arrangement of the long locks of their owners furnishes a very feasible explanation of the purpose for which they were designed. Nevertheless, the frequency of their occurrence, under a great variety of circumstances, suggests the idea that these rings may possess a higher value as the records of long obsolete rites and customs, than pertains to the mere objects of personal adornment. They have been found accompanying female ornaments, and apparently with female remains; but they have also been discovered no less certainly in the sepulchres of warriors and chiefs, and under cairns which seem to mark the last resting-place of those who fell in the grim strife of war. We shall not perhaps greatly err, if we trace in these relics of such frequent occurrence something analogous to the sacramental ring of the Scandinavians, described in the Eyrbiggia-Saga, and referred to in a former chapter in illustration of the perforated stone at Stennis, in Orkney, and the vow of Odin of which it was the seal. Dr. Hibbert has already observed on this subject,—

"In Iceland a less bulky ring for the ratification of engagements was introduced. Within the hof was a division, like a choir in a church, where stood an elevation in the middle of the floor, and an altar. Upon the altar was placed a ring, without any joint, of the value of two oras. These rings (idly named Druidical amulets) are variously formed of bone, of jet, of stone, and even of the precious metals. Some are so wide as to allow the palm of the hand to be passed through them, which rings were used when parties entered into mutual compacts. In a woodcut given in an old edition of Olaus Magnus, the solemnization of a betrothing contract is represented by the bridegroom passing his four fingers and palm through a large ring, and in this manner receiving the hand of the bride. This is similar to the mode practised in Orkney, where contracting parties join hands through the perforation, or more properly speaking the ring, of a stone pillar. In the oath administered to an individual as a test of veracity, it was sufficient that he held in his hand a ring of small size, dipped in the blood of sacrificial victims."[358]

An illustration of the mode of administering such an oath occurs in Viga Glum's Saga. In the midst of a wedding party Glum calls upon [Pg 303]Thorarin, his accuser, to hear his oath, and taking in his hand a silver ring, which had been dipped in sacrificial blood, he cites two witnesses to testify to his oath on the ring, and his having appealed to the gods in his denial of the charge. These customs belong to a more recent era than that to which we refer the Scottish Bronze Period. But it is impossible to say to how remote an era we must look for their origin, or how long before the time of the Vikings, the Scandinavian and Celtic races, as well as their Allophylian precursors, had been familiar in their common cradle-land in the far east, with rites and usages from which the sacredness of this sacramental ring may have sprung.

Viewed in this light the frequent occurrence of such relics in the cist, or under the memorial cairn, may be pregnant with a far higher meaning than the mere ornamental fibula or amulet. When found with the spear and sword, the ring may indicate the grave of the warrior-priest or lawgiver,—a union of offices so consistent with society in a primitive state; while, in the female barrow, amid the bracelets and necklaces which once adorned the primitive British matron, the curious relic may, with no undue indulgence of fancy, be looked upon as the spousal pledge, and the literal wedding-ring. It seems, indeed, most probable, that the little golden ring with which, in these modern centuries, we wed, is none other than the symbolic memorial of the old sacramental ring which witnessed the vows of our rude island fathers, and was made the pledge of their plighted troth. This, however, is perhaps trespassing beyond the pale of legitimate induction into the seductive regions of fancy, where antiquaries have too frequently chosen to wander at their own sweet will.

In some degree akin to the personal ornaments of jet and shale are the large beads of glass or vitreous paste, and amber, so well known among the contents of British tumuli, and associated even in our own day, with the same superstitious virtues ascribed to them in the writings of the philosophic but credulous Pliny. The very same story, in fact, is told of the Adder-stane in the popular legends of the Scottish Lowlands as Pliny[Pg 304] records of the origin of the Ovum Anguinum. The various names by which these relics are designated all point to their estimation as amulets or superstitious charms, and the fact of their occurrence, most frequently singly, in the sepulchral cist or urn, seems to prove that it was as such, and not merely as personal ornaments, that they were deposited along with the ashes of the dead. They are variously known as Adder Beads, Serpent Stones, Druidical Beads, and among the Welsh and Irish by the synonymous terms of Gleini na Droedh, and Glaine nan Druidhe, signifying the Magician's or Druid's glass. Many of them are exceedingly beautiful, and are characterized by considerable ingenuity in the variations of style. Among those in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries there is one of red glass, spotted with white; another of dark brown glass, streaked with yellow; others of pale green and blue glass, plain and ribbed; and two of curiously figured patterns, wrought with various colours interwoven on their surface. The specimens engraved here are selected from these. Among a curious collection of antiquities discovered in a barrow on Barnham Downs, and exhibited by Lord Landesborough at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of London, March 7, 1850, there was a large glass bead, which had been broken and ingeniously repaired with a hoop of bronze,—a significant indication of the great value attached to it.

Beads of amber, stone, clay, and porcelain, as well as of horn and bone, are all more or less common among the early sepulchral deposits, and may be regarded with little hesitation as of native workmanship. Amber, though not indigenous to this country, is of sufficiently frequent occurrence to abundantly account for its use in the manufacture of personal ornaments, without assuming its importation from the Baltic, where it most largely abounds. Both Boece[359] and Camden notice the finding of pieces of extraordinary [Pg 305]size at Buchanness, on the coast of Aberdeenshire. The clergyman of the parish of Peterhead, in the same county, in drawing up an account of his parish for Sir John Sinclair, mentions having in his possession "a pretty large piece of amber," recently found on the sea-beach near the manse; and in 1783, Mr. George Paton presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland two pieces found on the sea-shore in the Frith of Forth, near Queensferry. The fact, indeed, of amber being obtained in the greatest quantities on the southern coasts of the Baltic Sea, is abundantly sufficient to account for its also frequently occurring in smaller quantities on the east coast of Scotland. It appears accordingly to have formed one of the most favourite articles for adorning and setting brooches, hair-pins, and other personal ornaments, from the earliest practice of the jeweller's art, until our native tastes and customs were merged, by increasing intercourse with other nations, into the common characteristics of later medieval art.

The source from whence the "Adder Beads" were derived is more difficult of solution. The most probable means of accounting for their introduction to Britain is by the Phœnicians, or by traders in direct communication with that people, whose early skill in the manufacture of glass is familiar to us, and to whom we in all probability owe the initiative suggestions and examples which originated the most important improvements characteristic of the period now under consideration. Still it must be borne in remembrance, that after all we know extremely little, and almost nothing precise or definite, concerning Phœnician intercourse with Britain. Druids, Picts, and Danes have all been very convenient names which have too often saved Scottish antiquaries, and indeed English antiquaries also, the trouble of reasoning, and helped to conceal the fact, from themselves as well as others, that they really knew nothing about the questions [Pg 306]they undertook to discuss. If we merely substitute for these the name of the Phœnicians little indeed will be gained by the exchange.

Sir William Hamilton has undertaken to prove the Italian workmanship of the glass beads found in Britain, on the very slender evidence of the discovery of one at Naples similar to British examples. They have undoubtedly been found both in England and Scotland accompanied with Roman relics, though much more frequently in native sepulchres apparently long prior to the Anglo-Roman era. Ure describes and engraves one of ribbed blue glass—bearing considerable resemblance to another in the Scottish Museum from the Isle of Skye—which was discovered in a large inclosed tumulus in Rutherglen parish, Lanarkshire, along with what appear to have been two Roman patellæ.[360] But the same relics have been found along the coasts of the Baltic and the Mediterranean; they abound equally in Ireland and the north of Scotland, where the Romans rarely or never were, and in England and Gaul, which they so long occupied and colonized. They have been obtained also not unfrequently in Egyptian catacombs accompanying relics long prior to the Roman era. Raspe, in his introduction to Tassie's Gems, refers to the so-called Druid's beads as belonging to the same class as the "rich coloured glass and enamels found amongst the Egyptian antiquities;" and Colonel Howard Vyse mentions them among the numerous relics found in exploring "Campbell's Tomb" at Gizeh, which appears to have been constructed during the reign of Psammetichus II., about B.C. 600. But indeed the most conclusive and altogether incontrovertible evidence of the remote antiquity to which these singular and widely-diffused relics belong, is to be found in the fact, that their origin and virtues were the subjects of the same superstitious fables in the age of Pliny, as in the British folk-lore of the eighteenth century. We shall not, I think, overstep the limits of fair induction in viewing these beads as affording another proof of the extensive, though probably indirect intercourse, by means of which the races of the north of Europe participated in the reflex of southern civilisation many centuries before we can trace any allusion to them in the world's elder literature; unless where the fond Briton seeks to include his sea-girt home amid "the isles of the Gentiles" of the Hebrew Scriptures, or dimly discerns them in the Cassiterides of Herodotus. It should be noted, in connexion with this subject, that [Pg 307]other glass relics have occasionally been found among the contents of British tumuli, though much too rarely to afford any countenance to the idea of a primitive native manufacture of glass. One imperfect example in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, found in a cist in the island of Westray, Orkney, apparently deposited on the breast of the deceased, is described by its donor as "the only specimen hitherto discovered of glass contained in these cemeteries." It appears to have been a cup, not improbably of Roman manufacture, the bottom of which is marked with concentric circles in relief. The extreme rarity of such articles probably characterizes this as another example of the ungrudging generosity of affectionate reverence for the deceased, no less marked than the more valued sepulchral deposits of the precious metals.

Of the beautiful gold and silver relics exposed from time to time on the opening of Scottish sepulchral tumuli, or brought to light in the course of agricultural operations, only the most trifling moiety has escaped the clutches of ignorant cupidity. But even the few existing specimens are sufficient to excite the deepest sorrow that such works of early native art, frequently characterized by a style altogether unique, and exceedingly beautiful in design and ornament, should be discovered only to be destroyed. Some idea of the great variety of Scottish gold relics may be formed even from the few examples preserved or minutely described; but a much greater number might be noted which are known to have been destroyed, without any opportunity having been afforded even of accurately observing their form, or learning of the circumstances under which they were discovered. The plain gold armillæ from Banffshire, already referred to, and engraved along with the urn in which they lay, in the Archæologia Scotica,[361] furnish sufficiently rude specimens of primitive personal ornaments. Though it can hardly admit of a doubt that they have been designed as armillæ or bracelets, yet the difference in weight, and even more in apparent bulk, sufficiently illustrates the inexperience of their maker. Their respective weights are—1 oz. 5 dwts. 14 grs., and 1 oz. 14 grs. But along with them were examples of one of the simplest yet most interesting class of gold relics discovered in the British Isles. These are described in the Archæologia Scotica as nose and ear-rings, but they are simply formed of bars of gold bent in a circular form, and the extremities left disunited. Two of them are ornamented with parallel grooves along the outer side, but they [Pg 308]are of unequal sizes, and in no degree differ from the numerous class of penannular relics now designated by most antiquaries as "ring-money"; though the idea of their use as nose-rings had been formerly advanced by Colonel Vallancey,[362] and has been more than once revived.[363] In a valuable article by Mr. Albert Way, on the ornaments of gold discovered in the British Islands, examples of British ring-money are engraved, including the simple penannular ornament, the crescent, and beaded and torquated rings.[364] It is not necessary to enter at large on the disputed question of the use of these relics as currency. Many ingenious, and as I think satisfactory arguments, have been adduced in favour of their original purpose as a circulating medium; though this was in no degree incompatible with their use as personal ornaments. That such rings passed for money among the Egyptians is proved by representations of the weighing of gold and silver ring-money on their paintings; as, for example, in one of the grottos in the hill of Shek Abd el Qoorneh, which bears the cartouche of Amunoph II. inscribed on its walls. The same metallic currency is obviously alluded to in the incident of the Hebrew patriarchs on their first visit to Egypt: "Every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight." It was perhaps even better suited than a regular coinage for furnishing an acceptable substitute for barter among a comparatively rude people, and may therefore be assumed with considerable probability as one of the improvements resulting from intercourse with the Phœnician traders. Such a system of exchange will also suffice to account for one foreign source of the abundant supply of gold during this primitive era; thus introduced in a form well suited to the imperfect ideas of a people whose trade probably long retained more of the original character of barter than that of sale and purchase, and who would receive the gold rings only as so much metal. There is reason to believe, however, that both in Scotland and Ireland the ring-money continued in use long after Cunobeline and other British princes had sought to rival the Roman mintage. In the Irish annals there is frequent mention of gold rings of different sizes offered at the shrines of Icolmkill, St. Patrick, &c. The inferior metals appear also to have been current in this simple form. Rings of bronze, exactly corresponding to the gold "ring-money" have been found both in the ruins of Persepolis and of [Pg 309]Carthage, as well as in Egypt. They are well known to Irish antiquaries, and are probably more common in Scotland than is generally supposed. The imperfect bronze rings already referred to among the contents of a cinerary urn dug up in the parish of Ratho, Mid-Lothian, are of this description; and similar relics are occasionally described among the contents of the weems or subterranean dwellings. In 1835 a large tumulus, near the summit of Carmylie Hill, Forfarshire, popularly known as the "Fairy Hillock," was invaded, and among a deposit of half-burnt bones and charcoal several penannular bronze rings were discovered, varying in size from about two inches to two-thirds of an inch in diameter. They are quite plain, as if they had been formed by simply cutting and bending into shape a rod of bronze wire. This ancient and primitive form of currency which we detect along with the first elements of British civilisation, has perhaps never ceased to be used in some parts of the African continent since that remote era when it sufficed for payment of the exactions of the Egyptian Pharaohs. Mr. Way remarks,—"I am indebted to the Duke of Northumberland for the opportunity of examining specimens of African gold money, especially interesting as having been made under his own inspection at Sennaar. His Grace favoured me with the following particulars:—He chanced to notice a blacksmith occupied in forming these rings; and inquiring as to their use, the man replied, that having no work in hand for his forge he was making money. The gold wire being very flexible was bent into rings without precise conformity in regard to weight, and was thus converted into money. It passed current by weight. The gold is so flexible that the rings are readily opened, to be linked into a chain for the convenience of keeping them together, and as readily detached when a payment was to be made."[365] Manillas, as they are now generally termed, are regularly manufactured at Birmingham for the African traders. They are made of copper, or of an alloy of copper and iron, and are sold at the rate of £105 per ton for copper, and £22 for iron rings. The copper ring weighs two and a half ounces, and passes current in Africa at a value equivalent to fourpence sterling. The Banffshire gold relics furnish examples both of plain and grooved ring-money. Of the former class one of about £2 value is described in the Old Statistical Account, found at Tiree, Argyleshire, in 1792.[366] Mr. Paton of Dunfermline possesses a gold torquated ring, obtained [Pg 310]in that neighbourhood. Another, found in one of the weems or subterranean dwellings on the island of Shapinshay, Orkney, "composed, as it were, of three cords twisted or plaited together," is minutely described in the Statistical Account of the parish;[367] and in the London Numismatic Society's Museum, African gold relics, exactly corresponding to these, are preserved among the primitive types of coinage. Plated rings of similar form have also been occasionally discovered both in Scotland and Ireland, which it is more difficult to conceive of as a substitute for current coin, unless we assume the perverse ingenuity of the forger, usually ranked among the vices of modern civilisation, to be even as ancient as the era of British ring-money. One of these composite penannular relics, in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries, was found in the Isle of Skye. It is of copper, covered with a thick plating of pure gold, and when perfect must have bid defiance to detection of its internal inferiority. It is thicker than the usual ring-money, so that the gold has been forced into folds or wrinkles on the inner side in bending it into shape.[368]

[Pg 311]

The most simple gold ornaments of larger size found in the British Islands are the massive rings with dilated ends, disunited, but generally brought nearly in contact, which are of frequent occurrence in connexion with the rarer objects of the Bronze Period. They are generally assumed to have been worn as armillæ, and to have their ends disunited for the convenience of the wearer. One strong objection to this supposition is to be found in the frequent extension of the dilated edges of the two ends to the inner side of the ring, in a way that must have rendered them exceedingly uncomfortable if worn as armlets.[369] This is the case with one of two fine examples preserved in the Scottish Museum, both found in the same cist at Alloa in 1828; and such also appears from drawings in my possession to be the form of several of a remarkable group discovered in January of the present year (1850) at Bowes, near Barnard Castle, Yorkshire. Relics of the same character, though differing in detail, are found under similar circumstances in Denmark. The dilation of the ends in the examples preserved in the palace of Christiansborg, at Copenhagen, is much more conspicuous than in the British type, being in the form of cones attached by the narrow end to the annular bar of gold, and therefore still less adapted for being worn on the arm. Some specimens are found without this peculiarity, the dilation being only outward, as in one found near Patcham, Sussex, engraved in the Archæological Journal,[370] and another almost exactly corresponding in form, but considerably thicker, found in Galloway in 1784, and of which a drawing is possessed by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. These rings are generally much too massive and rigid, notwithstanding the purity and consequent softness of the gold, to admit of their being unbent for the purpose of clasping on the arm, without injuring their form and leaving marks of such a process; in addition to which, another though less conclusive argument against their use as armillæ is, that they are rarely if ever found in pairs. A gold relic, seemingly of this class, was discovered in 1794, on opening a large sepulchral mound at Upper Dalachie, Banffshire, popularly styled the Green Cairn. "About two feet from the surface," says Chalmers,[371] "was found an urn of rude workmanship, which, when the ashes of the dead were shaken out, disclosed a piece of polished gold like the handle of a vase, three inches in diameter, and more than one-eighth of an inch thick." The finder sold this relic for bullion, at the price of thirteen guineas. Where two or more occur together, they generally differ both in size and form, as well as in weight. The two found in the same cist at Alloa,—the largest of which is here represented, half the size of the original,—differ in all [Pg 312]these respects; and the same is the case with those recently discovered at Bowes,—no two of the whole six correspond, though they all lay close together, with what was thought to be the remains of a bag in which they had been inclosed. This will be apparent from the following table of their weights:—

Found at Bowes, near Barnard Castle, Yorkshire, 1850,—
1. Weight 6 oz. 10 dwts. 17 grs.
2. " 5 " 12 " 0 "
3. " 2 " 17 " 12 "
4. " 1 " 10 " 10 "
5. " 1 " 10 " 5 "
6. " 0 " 19 " 15 "
Found at Alloa, Clackmannanshire, 1828,—
1. Weight 3 oz. 4 dwts. 14 grs.
2. " 2 " 7 " 20 "
Found in Galloway, 1784,—
Weight 3 oz. 5 dwts. 5 grs.
Found near Aspatria, in Cumberland,—
Weight 5 oz. 10 dwts. 6 grs.
Found near Patcham, Sussex,—
1. Weight 5 oz. 5 dwts. 12 grs.
2. " 2 " 5 " 6 "

The quality in the metal of the two last, though found in the same locality, greatly differs, the first being largely alloyed with silver. The weights of several other English examples are given by Mr. Way, in his interesting contribution to the Archæological Journal.[372] The record of the precise weights of these curious relics may help to test the theory which has been occasionally advanced, that they also belong to the class of primitive currency; since a uniform rule of subdivision by weight has been thought discoverable in relation to Irish ring-money. The idea, however, seems altogether untenable with reference to these larger rings. The simplicity and gracefulness of the form adhered to, with very slight variations, in a relic of such frequent occurrence, while armillæ, torcs, and even the small penannular rings supposed to have formed the currency of these primitive metallurgists, exhibit so many varieties and modes of decoration, seem rather to point out the former as appropriated to some peculiar and perhaps sacred purpose. What that was we shall probably never know. One example, indeed, found near Aspatria, in Cumberland, in 1828, not only differs in being slightly ornamented [Pg 313]with circular lines and small notches, but certain antiquaries discerned and undertook to read a supposed Runic inscription upon it. It has accordingly been engraved, both in the Archæologia (vol. xxii. p. 439) and in the Archæologia Æliana (vol. ii. p. 268.) But it seems probable that it must rank with the more celebrated Runamo inscription, which, after being proved to be in "the old northern or Icelandic tongue, in regular alliterative verse, of the sort called Fornyrdalag or Starkadarlag;" its precise date assigned, and its historic value as an authentic document admitted by Danish scholars, is once more acknowledged to be neither more nor less than the accidental cracks and fissures in the rock! A golden relic was, however, discovered during the latter part of last century, of the inscription on which no doubt can be entertained. But it differs essentially in form from the curious rings now referred to, and, indeed, appears to be unique. It is engraved in the Archæologia, (vol. ii. Plate III. fig. 4,) and consists of a round bar of pure and very soft and pliable gold, gradually thickening at both ends, which are bent. On the one end is engraved HELENVS F., and on the other, in dotted characters, the letters M. B. It was found about eighteen inches under ground in a moss, on the estate of Mr. Irvine of Cove, near Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire. The author of the communication in which this is noted, adds, that "several of the same sort have been occasionally found in Scotland, but whether with the same impresses is not mentioned." An observation, however, of this indefinite character, can, at most, be received only in further proof of the well-known fact, that numerous gold relics have been discovered in Scotland from time to time, though most frequently described in terms sufficiently vague and obscure. The Dilated Penannular Rings (as I would propose, for the sake of convenience, to call this class of relics) found at Alloa, were discovered, along with two cinerary urns, on the top of a stone cist of the usual circumscribed proportions,[373] in which lay an entire skeleton, of great size, and therefore, it may be presumed, a male. They were accordingly designated by their discoverers Coffin-handles! Other cists, and, in all, twenty-two cinerary urns, some of them of very large size and highly decorated, were found in the same neighbourhood, [Pg 314]chiefly on the line of the old road from Stirling to Queensferry, where it skirts along the base of Mar's Hill. Another such group of cists has been discovered near the point of Largiebeg, on the south-east coast of the Island of Arran; and in one of them, says the parish minister, writing in 1840, in a cist which a labourer discovered a few years ago, in making a fence round his garden, "there was found a piece of gold in the form of a handle of a drawer, with some iron or steel, much corroded, at each end. The man concealed his prize till he got it disposed of to a jeweller in Glasgow, who melted it down into rings and brooches."[374] It would not be difficult to multiply examples, derived from similar sources, of the ignorant and wilful destruction of such relics of primitive native art and skill; but it could answer little other purpose than to excite in every intelligent reader lively but unavailing regrets.

Somewhat analogous to the dilated penannular rings are another class of gold ornaments, which, so far as I am aware, have never yet been discovered except in the British Isles. They consist of a solid cylindrical gold bar, bent into a semicircle or segmental arc, most frequently tapering from the centre, and terminated at both ends with hollow cups, resembling the mouth of a trumpet, or the expanded calix of a flower. One remarkable example of these curious native relics, which is engraved in the Archæological Journal, presents the characteristics of an intermediate type between the simpler forms of the relics last described, and these Calicinated Rings.[375] The cups are formed merely by hollows in the slightly dilated ends; but it is further interesting from being decorated with the style of incised ornaments of most frequent occurrence on the primitive British pottery. It was dug up at Brahalish, near Bantry, county Cork, and weighs 3 oz. 5 dwts. 6 grs. In contrast to this, another is engraved in the same Journal, found near the entrance lodge at Swinton Park, Yorkshire, scarcely two feet below the surface. In this beautiful specimen the terminal cups are so unusually large, that the solid bar of gold dwindles into a mere connecting link between them. The annexed figure of a very fine example found by a labourer while cutting [Pg 315]peats in the parish of Cromdale, Inverness-shire, somewhat resembles that of Swinton Park in the size of its cups. It is from a drawing by the late Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, and represents it about two-thirds the size of the original. Similar relics of more ordinary proportions have been brought to light, at different times, in various Scottish districts. One found in an urn in the north of Scotland, in the year 1731, is described in a letter from Sir John Clerk to Mr. Gale, written shortly after its discovery; and is further illustrated in the Reliquiæ Galeanæ, by an engraved figure the size of the original.[376] Shortly afterwards, Sir John Clerk writes to his correspondent announcing the discovery of several valuable gold relics, including two other calicinated rings, brought to light in consequence of the partial draining of a loch on an estate belonging to the Earl of Stair. "I begin to think," exclaims the astonished antiquary, "that there are treasures of all kinds in Britain; for lately in a loch in Galloway there have been found three very curious pieces of gold: one a bracelet, consisting of two circles, very artificially folding or twisting into one another; now in the hands of the Countess of Stair." The other relics are described as corresponding to an example of the calicinated ring found in Galway, and engraved in the Archæologia. (Vol. ii. Plate III. fig. 1.) One of these must have been an unusually massive and valuable example, as its weight is stated to have been 15 oz. Another smaller one found along with it, and weighing only 1 oz. 4 dwts., more nearly approaches to the type of the dilated penannular ring, the cup or bulb being covered with a flat oval plate of gold. A bronze relic, of the latter shape, formerly in the collection of Dr. Samuel Hibbert, is now in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries. Bronze calicinated rings have occasionally, though very rarely, been found in Ireland. The only example I know of is in the collection of Councillor Waller of Dublin.

[Pg 316]

The most recent discovery in Scotland of gold relics of this singular type, was made in the year 1838, on the estate of the late Walter Campbell, Esq. of Sunderland, on the Island of Islay, Argyleshire. At the period referred to, a large standing stone, which had long been overthrown, and lay prostrate at a little distance from Sunderland House, was blasted with gunpowder, and removed, in the process of levelling and draining the ground for agricultural purposes. The soil immediately underneath the stone consisted of a rich black mould, in which were found a broad fluted gold armilla, and a fine specimen of the calicinated ring, both lying alongside of a stone cist, within which were several rude cinerary urns. The armilla was of a peculiar type, being a broad band of gold beaten out so as to form a convex centre, on each side of which was a fluted ornamental border, and a raised rim returned at the edge. Unfortunately, this interesting relic was carried off by a dishonest servant, but through the kindness of Mrs. Campbell, I am able to give the annexed representation (about one-fourth the size of the original) of the calicinated ring, which is now in that lady's possession. Mrs. Campbell remarks, in a letter with which I have been favoured,—"The bracelet was large enough to encircle a woman's arm above the elbow. Of many specimens which I examined at the British Museum, chiefly Irish, there was none like mine, which makes me the more regret its loss." Various tumuli exist in the neighbourhood of Sunderland House, several of which have been opened, and found to cover cists of the usual limited size, none of them exceeding three feet in greatest internal dimensions. In some of them were found cinerary urns, while others contained the entire skeleton.

Some antiquaries have sought to assign a sacred significance to these singular relics, and to associate them with the mysterious rites of Druidical worship. Vallancey, in particular, supposes them to have been sacrificial pateræ. There is fully as much probability, however, in the simple conjecture that they served as clasps or fastenings for the mantle. The cups, which appear to possess such a mystic significance, were not probably left void in their original state. In the[Pg 317] example first referred to, in the Reliquiæ Galeanæ, Sir John Clerk remarks,—"The parts at the extremities are hollow, like little cups or sockets, and the sides are very thin. There is a small circle within the verge, which has had a red substance adhering to it like cement, as if it had served to fix some kind of body within the sockets." A similar appearance is still more markedly observable in an example in the possession of Thomas Brown, Esq. of Lanfine, Ayrshire. Upon showing it to an experienced jeweller, he assured me it cannot admit of a doubt that the sockets have originally contained pebbles or jewels. If it be indeed the case that in this curious gold relic we have the clasp of the ancient British chlamys, worn by the native chief or by the arch-priest when robed in his most stately pontificals, then we see in it a British personal ornament which may stand comparison with the most costly and elegant Roman fibulæ, while its essential dissimilarity from every known classic type adds to the probability of its belonging to an earlier era than the Anglo-Roman period.

[Pg 318]

Of the commoner British gold ornaments, the torc and armilla, numerous examples have been discovered, though of these the few which have escaped destruction are mostly in private hands, and not very readily accessible. Three beautiful gold torcs, found at Cairnmure, Peeblesshire, in 1806, are figured in the Archæologia Scotica.[377] They were found, along with various other relics, by a herd-boy, who going early in the morning to his sheep, observed something glitter in the sun, and on scraping with his feet, brought the whole valuable treasure to light. It consisted of three gold torcs or collars for the neck; the beautiful gold ornament, supposed to have been the head of a staff or sceptre, engraved here about one-half the size of the original; and a number of flattened circular gold pellets, each marked with a cross in relief. The value of the articles discovered in mere bullion exceeded £100, and it is doubtful if the treasure-finder did not privately dispose of more before his good fortune was known. The staff-head and two of the gold beads or pellets are now in the Museum of the Scottish Antiquaries. The latter are elsewhere referred to, along with other examples, as the primitive type of native minted currency. The defined character, however, of the ornamentation on the sceptre-head adds, along with the presence of these indications of increasing civilisation, to the probability that this valuable hoard belongs to the later transition-period, in which the age of bronze drew to a close. Simple indeed as is the usual style of ornament and workmanship of the funicular torc, it appears to have been retained in use for a very long period, and is reproduced in silver and bronze along with the latest relics of the succeeding iron age. The annexed woodcut represents a remarkably fine example, greatly reduced, of what may be designated the knotted funicular torc. It was found about sixty years ago by a labourer trenching within the area of a circular camp on the summit of a hill in the parish of Penicuick, Mid-Lothian, known by the name of Braidwood Castle. It was of gold, and met with the usual fate of relics of the precious metals, having been sold by the discoverer to a jeweller in Edinburgh for the sum of twenty-eight guineas, as a Roman girdle of brass. It was doubtless worth a much larger sum as mere bullion. A drawing of it, however, had been taken, it is not now apparent by whom, and is preserved in the Library of the Scottish Antiquaries.[378] The history indeed of Scottish gold relics is only a sad commentary on the miserable fruits resulting chiefly from the operation of the law of treasure-trove. A short way to the east of Chesterlees Station, in the parish of Dolphinton, Lanarkshire, an ornament of pure gold was found, which is said to have resembled the snaffle-bit of a horse's bridle.[379] As this is usually a twisted iron rod, there can be little doubt that the Chesterlees relic was a funicular torc. A "gold chain" ploughed up on the glebe lands of Mortlach parish, Banffshire, and described in the Old Statistical Account of the parish, as "like an ornament for the neck of one [Pg 319]of the chiefs;" and another "golden chain" found at Thrumster, in the parish of Wick, Caithness, "which in a year of famine the discoverer sold to a bailie in Wick for a boll of oatmeal," may both be assumed, with little hesitation, to have been golden torcs. The term, indeed, has been used by experienced antiquaries. Gale describes a torc found near Old Verulam in 1748, as "a wreathed or vermicular ornament, being a solid chain of gold." One example, however, is on record of a gold linked chain found in an early Scottish sepulchral deposit. Nearly a mile to the east of Newton of Tillicairn, Aberdeenshire, on the top of a ridge on which are several cairns, there is one of unusually large size, appropriately designated Cairnmore. In 1818 this was partially opened to obtain a supply of stones for building materials, when a quantity of bones were found, among which lay "a small gold chain of four links, attached to a pin of such size as might have been used in a brooch for fastening the Celtic plaid."[380] A relic found towards the close of last century on the farm of Balmae, Kirkcudbrightshire, and sold by the discoverer for about £20, may also be classed among the lost examples of Scottish gold torcs. It is described as "a straight plate of gold, which was somewhat thick at each end and at the middle. It bent easily at the centre, so as to admit the two extremities to meet."[381] It must either have been a solid torc, or an unusually large dilated penannular ring. Amongst the native personal ornaments in the Scottish Museum, is a massive but plain penannular ring of the class to which the name of solid torc is now applied. It appears to be composed of nearly pure copper, and weighs twenty-five and a quarter ounces. It is rudely finished, retaining the rough marks of the hammer.

No less beautiful than the finest examples of gold torcs are the numerous armillæ which have been found in Scotland. Two funicular bracelets, discovered apparently on draining the same lake in Galloway previously referred to, are described and engraved in the Reliquiæ Galeanæ. Sir John Clerk, writing from Edinburgh in 1732, remarks,—"Since my last to you I have seen two other bracelets and a large ring, found on the draining of a lake or part of it. There are no letters or inscription, and the make is very clumsy. Each bracelet is in weight six or seven guineas, and their shape thus,[382] of two pieces of gold twisted. The ring is large, and about a guinea in weight."[383]

[Pg 320]

Another example found about forty years ago in Argyleshire was sold for a trifle to a Glasgow goldsmith, and consigned to the crucible.[384] In 1834, some workmen quarrying stones near the bridge over Douglas Water, Carmichael, Lanarkshire, discovered a pair of armillæ weighing twenty-nine sovereigns, which were destined to the same fate; but fortunately the Marquess of Douglas learned of the discovery in time to repurchase them ere they had been converted into modern trinkets, and they are now safe in that nobleman's possession. Mr. Albert Way illustrates his communication to the Archæological Journal, "On Ancient Armillæ of Gold," &c., with an engraving of one of a very beautiful pair, found in 1848 on the estate of Mr. Dundas of Arniston, at Largo, in Fifeshire, of the same type as those previously discovered in the Loch of Galloway. Mr. Way remarks of them,—"These beautiful ornaments are formed of a thin plate or riband of gold, skilfully twisted, the spiral line being preserved with singular precision. It would be easy to multiply examples of torc ornaments more or less similar in type found in this country, and especially in Ireland; but none that I have seen possess an equal degree of elegance and perfection of workmanship."[385] Mr. Dundas furnishes the following interesting note in relation to the discovery:—"The gold bracelets were found last winter on the top of a steep bank which slopes down to the sea, among some loose earth which was being dug to be carted away. The soil is sandy, and the men had dug about three feet, where the bracelets lay. It was at a place close to the sea-shore, called the Temple, which is part of the village of Lower Largo. An old woman who has lived close to the spot all her days, says that in her youth some coffins were found there, and one man was supposed to have found a treasure, having suddenly become rich enough to build a house." The neighbourhood of Largo Bay is celebrated in the annals of Scottish Archæology for one of the most remarkable hoards ever discovered, described in a later chapter as the "silver armour of Norrie's Law." Only a very small portion of this collection was rescued from the crucible; and the moiety of the Largo Bay relics which escaped the same fate appears to have been even less, if we may credit the extremely probable tradition of the locality. With the wonted perverse modesty of Scottish antiquaries, Mr. Dundas accompanies his account of the latter discovery with a reference to the advantages of the neighbouring bay as a safe anchor[Pg 321]age, and the probability of its having been a favourite landing-place of the northern freebooters. How strange is it, that rather than believe in the possibility of the existence of early native art, this improbable theory should have been fostered and bandied about by intelligent writers without contradiction for upwards of a century. If there were no native arts and costly treasures, what, it may be asked, brought northern freebooters to our shores? Surely some less extravagant hypothesis may be suggested than that they crossed the ocean to bury their own golden treasures in our sands. It would seem, on the contrary, to afford undoubted evidence of a tumulus or sepulchral chamber being the work of natives or of resident colonists when it is found to contain objects of value. Only the confidence inspired by the universal recognition of the sacredness of such deposits could induce the abandonment of them under cover only of a few feet of soil. It was not until a very late period—towards the end of the ninth century—that the northmen established a footing even on the remoter Scottish islands; while their possession of any but a very small portion of the mainland in the immediate vicinity of their Orkney possessions was so brief and precarious, that it might well excite our surprise to discover any traces of their presence on the shores of the Forth.

Largo Armilla.

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A variety of independent proofs, some of which have already been referred to, amply justify the archæologist in assigning the relics of the Archaic Period of British art to an era long prior to that of the Scandinavian Vikings. But there is not wanting evidence to shew that at the latter period also golden armillæ and other native personal ornaments were common in Scotland, and, indeed, frequently furnished the chief attractions not only to the piratical Vikings who first infested our shores, but to the more civilized northmen who supplanted them, and established trading colonies in the northern and western isles. Though the full consideration of the influence of Scandinavian aggression on early Scottish history belongs to a subsequent section, it will not be out of place to glance at some of these proofs here, tending as they do to shew that there is in reality greater probability in favour of some of the gold relics found in Denmark and Norway being of British origin, than that our native relics should be ascribed to a Scandinavian source.

Snorro tells us of two thanes from Fiord-riki, or the kingdom of the bay, as the southern coast of Fife was called, who, dreading the descent of Olave of Norway on their shores, put themselves under the protection of Canute. Snorro's account is literally,—"To Canute came two kings from Scotland in the north, from Fife; and he gave them up his, and all that land which they had before, and therewith received store of winning gifts, (vingiafir.) This quoth Sigvatr—

'Princes, with bowed heads,
Have purchased peace from Canute,
From the coast,
From the midst of Fife, in the north.'"[386]

Ringa eldingham, or bright rings, are frequently mentioned among the spoils of the Norse rovers; but it is not always easy to tell whether they