3RD SEPTEMBER, 1929.
By P. M. C. KERMODE, M.A., F.S.A.Scot.
I CANNOT address the Cambrian Archaeological Association without first making a reference to their previous visit to the Isle of Man in 1865. In those days little was known of the far past of this or any other district, and such monuments of antiquity as we possessed were neither understood nor appreciated. Your visit was an inspiration, and the results, so well recorded in your Proceedings, awakened our people to a consciousness of the treasures they possessed and aroused local observers to carry on the good work according to their means and opportunity, by making a stronger appeal to the rising generation, stimulating them to yet closer study and more methodical research ; as a result, we have now reached that hopeful stage when we can realize how ignorant we really are and how much still lies before us to be examined, considered, and studied, before the full story can be told of the rise and progress of Man in this region . We owe the conception of a Manx Museum to our distinguished Governor, who, later, became Lord Loch. I believe it is to him we are indebted for the invitation for your first visit, when you elected him your President ; this did more than anything else to awaken local interest , which has grown until now, and, happily, it is in the Manx Museum that this session of your Association is being held.
It may be interesting and of some use to attempt a brief account of the oldest of our Ancient Monuments, suggesting the conditions and the development of mankind from his earliest arrival and his occupation of the Island. The earliest known traces of human occupation in the Isle of Man consist of mans handiwork in the form of implements chipped from flint. Some of the microliths or pygmy flints are of Azilian type, while some have been identified as Tardenoisean. How the AzilioTardenoisean culture reached Britain is uncertain, but deposits have been met with at Victoria Cave, Western Yorkshire, near Kirkcudbright, at Oban, and on Oronsay, so that it is not surprising that traces should be met with also in the Isle of Man. Here, however, only the flints have so far been identified.
No later phase of industry than the Tardenoisean has been brought to light in the Isle of Man until the arrival of that new race which, under more favoured conditions, had attained a much higher level of culture.
It is, however, now recognised that the Neolithic was not a mere continuation of the Old Stone Age, but the beginning of a much higher stage of culture, with, later, the introduction and use of metals. It spread gradually and was picked up by the survivors of the early Hunting race with whom the new arrivals came into contact and finally amalgamated. Little pottery has been found in England and none identified in the Isle of Man, where almost the only trace of the Neolithic people before the introduction of the megaliths consists of the stone implements made by them and, perhaps, in the remarkable discovery made by Canon Quine of a series of boulders, some of which may have been boundary stones, inscribed with symbolic characters. Worked flints are here met with on or near the surface, widely distributed from the 20 ft. level of our raised beaches to heights, as noted by Mr. C. H. Cowley, of 750 ft. at Dalby, 998 ft. on S. Barrule, and even 1,599 ft. at Colden. Such sites are generally at the heads of streams, the banks of former swamps and marshes, and upon ground naturally drained and free from bog and timber. They consist of small nodules, which reached the Island as boulders in the Ice Age and constitute the sole material that our flint workers had for the implements they fashioned, which, consequently, are of small size. We have cores and chips indicating sites of manufacture, flakes, knives, chisels, and scrapers of different forms, including the somewhat rare hollow-scraper or spoke-shave, picks, awls, and fabricators, with some leaf-shaped arrow and javelin-heads, the Antrim type being found among others. Burials consist of ordinary graves with little or no indication on the surface, and of graves covered by mounds of earth ; finally came the elaborate and monumental tombs , of which a few interesting examples occur in the Isle of Man.
These megaliths constitute our earliest structural remains and belong to the type which about the time of the first use of metal came into the British Isles as the result of the great cultural advance in Europe which heralded the use of Bronze. The latest authority on this special subject is Mr. T. D. Kendrick (The Axe Age, 1925, and The Archaeology of the Channel Islands, the first volume of which appeared last year) . In Britain the Long Barrows are now generally accepted as the work of one race and of one period, preceding the appearance of the Beaker-folk , as shown in the case of a late example at Figheldean, Wilts. They arose as a definite cult of the dead from a desire to protect the body from the ravages of wild beasts and, at the same time, to preserve it from being crushed by the weight of earth and stones heaped over it . As regards Britain, Mr. Kendrick points out that the British barrow-builders constructed the monument not for the sake of a single and imposing main chamber (the tomb itself) but merely for the external grandeur of the mound, that is to say, the actual burial-house had become a secondary consideration, a view very far from being in accord with the western tradition, which was the preparation of an honourable and magnificent central chamber for the dead; and he argues that their origin is to be sought not in the western megalithic culture of France or Spain and Portugal, for there they were covered by round mounds, and megalithic tombs under long mounds are a rare feature associated (as in Brittany) with tombs of a type not normal to the area. He shows, on the contrary, a cultural connection between a group of tombs in north-eastern France, in the Paris neighbourhood, and north-western France and the Channel Islands, which must have influenced the formation of our long-barrow culture. These have the peculiar port-hole entrances met with on the Cotswolds and, Mr. Kendrick thinks, may be con-temporary with the final megalithic period of northern Europe and the late passage-grave period of the western civilization. Metal implements have not been found, nor any quantity of other goods of metal ages. Burials in passage-graves were by simple inhumation, and in England, where human remains have been found, they are of the long-headed aboriginal type. These long barrows in Britain are practically confined to the west, namely S.W. England, Wales, Man, S.W. and W. Scotland, and in the extreme north in Caithness. Other occurrences may be otherwise accounted for. Thus, a series in Yorkshire shows radical differences ; they appear to be of later date and may be a local development of the civilization of the round barrows, not really connected with the true long barrows. On the Cotswolds, and in Caithness, a family likeness appears in the horned ends, occasional corbelling, which grows more frequent towards the north, and the port-hole entrance. Pottery has been rarely met with, but two leading wares have been recognized ; 1 , of dark, imperfectly fired paste, with white grit and crushed shell in big particles (Wilts.) , 2, with harder but still gritty paste and usually a black core ; many pieces show impressions of twisted thongs, fingertip pits and ridges, and ragged finger-nail scratches of the type of the round-bottom bowl which is a characteristic production of the British neolithic period.
In the Isle of Man are some monuments which show a connection with those in the S.W. of England. Though ruined, it is possible, from what remains and from the little that has been recorded, to see that the large wedge-shaped mound, the horned ends, and the port-hole . are all represented. They are on a small scale and evidently of late date. The early types in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Wales show burial chambers arranged at the end of a long passage that leads into the tomb from the outside, but the most perfect and, apparently, the earliest examples in the Isle of Man, at Gretch Veg, in the parish of Lonan, and Ballachrink, in the adjoining parish of Maughold, reveal that here the passage itself was used for burial.
The Cairn of Ballachrink, locally known as " the Cashtal," still preserves a portion of its crescentic facade formed by great stones of the local slate, two of which rise over 6 ft. above the surface, while a fallen one measures nearly 9 ft . The extremities of the horns are over 60 ft . apart , and from the middle of this chord to that of the arc would have been a distance of 31 ft . , the monument extending thence eastwards for 72 ft. Two heavy stones in the middle of the arc lean towards one another so as to form a port-hole entrance to the passage, with an opening of 20 ins. to 24 ins., narrowing upwards to a height of over 3-~ ft . The sill-stone crosses the inner face. From this the passage extends S.S.E. for a length of 36 ft., and is formed by large flags on edge and divided into three cist-like chambers, the first, 10 ft., with width of 3 ft. 6 ins. to 4 ft. the next 7 ft. and the third 6 ft. A sketch in the Museum, which appears to have been the original of Cummings Fig. 46, Runic Remains, 1857, gives a view of the south east side of the cairn, which shows a retaining wall of large upright slabs, having the spaces between them filled by flat stones laid in irregular courses. These have been carried away, but the outline of the existing remains indicated their position. There would doubtiess have been a corresponding wall on the north side, and the space between them was heaped up with stones over the passage-chambers, which, of course, were provided with lintels or heavy capstones. On the inner sides of these two walls, at a distance from them of about 8 ft . at the N .W. to 1 1 ft . at the S .E . end, were two converging rows of slabs on edge, of which that on the S.W. can still be traced from a point near the western horn to a line crossing the end of the passage and at right angles to it. Dr. Oswald described what he had seen of this monument in his Vestigia and in the Trans. Soc. Ant. Scot., Vol. II, Part 2. He speaks of " traces of a cross-wall," by which probably he meant the row of upright slabs remembered by Canon Harrison and shown in his sketch-plan of the cairn. Oswald says the S.E. portion was lower than the other, which was about 4 ft. high. In the first (i.e. N.W.) cist, he came across human bones, with portions of a skull of a young person, and pieces of at least two urns, one being about 7 ins. in diameter at the mouth. The S.E. cist also contained bones with fragments of a smaller urn ; and the other chamber black carbonaceous and grey unctuous clay with charcoal and a few pieces of flint. Canon Harrison gave a plan and note of it to the " Reliquary," Jan., 1885.
The ruins of Gretch Veg, by the old highway between Laxey and the Dhoon, are similar in respect of the passage, but there is now no trace or remembrance of a facade at its northern end. The passage consists of two chambers in a line 15° N. of E. by compass, the first, or north-eastern one, having sides formed by two heavy slabs on edge, 3 ft. 6 ins. apart and each about 9 ft. long ; the second with sides, each of two smaller slabs, was separated from the first by two flags so shaped as to form an elliptic opening in the middle. The capstones have been carried away. At the S.W. corner stands a tall stone 9 ft. 6 ins. above the surface and 2 ft. 6 ins. wide at the base, having a small slab in front 2 ft. 6 ins. high. The monument is on the bank of a deep hollow, and the western end has been artificially raised in tiers to bring it to a level. Sir Henry Drydens plan (1873) suggests an oval platform with a total length of about 49 ft., but there is ample space at the N.E. for an extension or for a crescentic face. The whole cairn had been covered over with stones, long since removed.
Across the road and about 120 ft. north-eastwards are remains of another cairn, described and figured by A. L. Lewis in 1865 (Journ. Anthro. Inst., Jan., 1872). He found the diameter of the mound to be 58 ft. A line of four stones ran 10° W. of N. by compass, forming, he thought, the north-eastern end of possibly three chambers in a row ; the " centre one " of these, about 5 ft. by 2 ft. 9 ins., appears in Drydens plan (eight years later) as about 6 ft. by 7 ft. About 4 ft. from the N.E. corner stood an upright stone 3½ ft. high. The western chamber is entirely gone, but a line of stones running E.N.E. may still be traced.
The Ballafayle Cairn, Maughold, was in plan a long barrow, but of later date, and presenting certain peculiarities which distinguished it from all others of this type. It lay W.N.W. and E.S.E., and shows at its westerly end remains of a curved facade , which, however, was formed by a low wall of stones and earth with one or two rather large upright slabs. The south-western side and end had long since been quarried into for fence-making, but the other side shows a well-built retaining wall of slabs laid in courses, extending as now seen for a distance of 53 ft., and having a height of about 2 ft. This must have been matched by a similar wall on the other side, the two converging toward the S.E. end. Both ends of the frontal bank have been carried away, but the appearance of the ground suggests that the chord from tip to tip of the horns would have been about 62 ft., the cairn now measuring from the middle of this chord 58 ft. to the S.E. end. The space behind the bank and between these two walls was closely packed with stones of all shapes and at all angles, rising in a slight curve to the middle, about 3 ft. above the original surface, the bank itself reaching a height of 5 ft . , from which it descended abruptly on the northern face to a rudely paved surface with very gentle gradient. Stones large and small, of all shapes and at all angles, with larger and heavier slabs below, constituted, with an abundance of soil, a firm and solid packing from the original undisturbed bed of clay upwards. Towards the E. end, upright stones projected slightly above the surface, and, in a line from that end of the remaining wall, the cairn was crossed by a row of such stones, suggesting that they had marked its original limit. Excavation showed that this had been, in fact, its end. Later, an addition had been made, but it was now found to contain nothing except on its S.W. side, where two large slabs on edge in a line 10 ft. 3 ins. long evidently represented secondary burials. At the front there was no break, and nothing except charcoal and burnt peat was found at the foot of the concave face of the bank. There was, however, a fairly large upright slab and a fallen one near the middle, while 8 ft. to the west were two other uprights ; the space between was specially examined for an opening, of which, however, there was no trace. Within the cairn, and particularly down the middle line, was a very great abundance of peat-ash with some charcoal, while the stones bore signs of great and prolonged heat, some having been actually fused and converted into clinkers, looking as if they had come out of a furnace. About the centre human remains were met with, but they had been cremated, making it impossible to distinguish any racial characteristic. There were no side or covering stones, the bones being crushed and sticking like paste to the stones. The impression given was that the body had been laid on a pyre of peat and wood-branches and burnt on the spot, with further alternate layers of fuel and of stones packed above. White shore pebbles were met with throughout the cairn at different levelsa large one on the clay floor close to the cremated bones.
The Liaght ny Fawyr, Giants Grave, Kew, a little north of St. Johns, in the parish of German, appears to be the remains of a passage-grave of which the chamber has been destroyed. What can now be seen is an avenue of stones on end, not slabs set edge-wise as in our other passage ways, about 3 ft. 6 ins. high, running N.E. and S.W., and cut off by a modern hedge from a mound. There is no remembrance of a facade or a chamber, the stones having long been carried away.
The ruined monument at Ballakelly, in the parish of Santan, seems to have been of this long-barrow type. Scarcely anything remains but the chamber, which approaches the appearance of those seen in the west of Britain. It is the only instance of a long barrow in the Isle of Man in which the burial has been found in a distinctly formed chamber instead of in a portion of the passage. There is now no trace nor remembrance of a facade, but there remains an oval space about 48 ft . by 30 ft . , with scattered blocks of stone, suggesting a passage running S.E. to N.W., towards which end is a well-formed chamber of three great boulders of the local granite, having flat faces looking inwards, and measuring 5 ft. by 2 ft. 6 ins., with a height of about 4 ft. The capstone is gone, but a fallen stone, 9 ft. by 2 ft. 6 ins., lying to the S.E. would fit this position. This is surrounded by seven rather smaller boulders (with a space from which another has been removed) in horse-shoe form, leaving the entrance open. The large outer boulder at the N.W. end is of special interest to the Cambrians since it was on this, as our Museum Chairman, Mr. Callow, remembers, that a group of cup-marks was found for the first time in this Island, during their former visit in 1865. On examining the inner face of the stone I found more cup-marks, which, from the first, must have been hidden in the ground. Of these I had a cast made, now in our Museum.
In the Mull Circle, on the height to the S. of Port Erin, we find a change in the exterior plan, which is no longer that of a long barrow but of a round barrow. The mound itself has long disappeared, revealing the structure inside, which shows that the old tradition was still in remembrance in regard to the passage, though now greatly reduced in its proportions . The arrangement of chambers is unique. Cases are known of cists or chambers where two are set in line, having a third extending outwards from between them, but at the Mull we have the only instance of such groups arranged in sets to form a complete circle. The original diameter of the mound appears to have been about 62 ft. N. and S. by 68 ft. E. and W. It consists of six sets, each set having two tangential chambers approached by a rudimentary passage from the outside, ~ entering between these two . The chambers are formed by two side-stones on edge of the local grey slate, with an entrance marked by an upright pillar at each side, between which was a sill-stone, and there was an outer end stone ; the average size of the chambers is 5 ft. 9 ins. by 2 ft. 8 ins. The radial passage, 6 ft. by 2 ft. 3 ins., is formed in each case by two pairs of small side-stones and is open at both ends. The floors, at 18 to 24 ins. below the present surface, had remains of pavements of small, flat stones. The covering stones have long gone, and it is only recently that I have heard from Mr. R. Qualtrough, of Castletown, that he and some of his con-temporaries remembered to have seen some of them when, as boys, they made the circle their playground ; he remembers also the remains of a complete circle of upright slabs, about 3 ft . high, surrounding the mound on the line of the broad bank, on which now stands the iron railing. Sir Henry Drydens plan shows what he saw in 1873 and indicates the probable position of the only set of cists with radial passage that had been completely destroyed. Sir William Herdmans and my plan show ~ its condition in 1893, when, having excavated it, we had the advantage of seeing what had been below the sod. We found quantities of very small fragments of pottery, crushed to bits under the heavy tread of the men who raised and carried off the covering stones ; we made out that these must have belonged to over 26 urns. Very few showed decoration and they were of a late period, suggesting a long continued use of the place for burial. Of flint implements we found three arrow-heads, scrapers, knives, and flakes. Scattered at random through the chambers, we found a number of white quartz shore pebbles ; in the outer bank, also, were many such pebbles but of distinctly larger size.
In the same parish of Rushen, at Scholaby, is a mound known as Clagh Ard, i.e. the high stone, which shows the megalithic tradition. Full advantage has been taken of a natural slope to raise a conspicuous mound of earth with large stones, the height of the purely artificial work being now 3 ft . ; this covers a circular area, about 21 ft. by 15 ft. Two blocks of a dark quartzite rock rest parallel to one another on the E. face of the slope, that on the S. 18 ins. thick, on the N. 36 ins. thick, both 4 ft. high, with lengths of 5 ft . 9 ins. and 6 ft . 3 ins . Another block, 5 ft . 6 ins. by 3 ft . 6 ins. and 15 ins. thick, is lying flat between them. In excavating, I found a burial near the centre in a rectangular space, 5 ft. by 2~ ft., which now seems too low to be described as a chamber. The side stones are only 812 ins. high ; it was divided in the middle by a narrow flat stone so as to form two graves. Originally, it must have been higher ; there was no covering slab, but probably there had been a dome of stones including numbers of white pebbles, not sufficiently compact to withstand the weight of soil pressing on them during the centuries that have passed. The W. chamber, about 4 ft. 6 ins. by 18 ins., had partly fallen in. Among the many white shore pebbles I found a large piece of galena. Two, or perhaps more, large stones of the same rock are now set up in the fields below and, no doubt, belonged originally to this interesting monument.
The Cloven Stones at Garwick, south of Laxey, were described and figured by A. L. Lewis. The round mound was 28 ft. N. and S. by 24 ft. E. and W. He mentions a chamber about 6 ft. 6 ins. square, having each of the three remaining sides of two stones, originally about 3 ft. high and wide, and 12 ins. thick. They had gone. Two upright stones about 7 ft. apart and 5 to 6 ft. high (one split down its full length) are still standing on the mound in which the chamber was partly buried.
Of these large round barrows we have two other early examples. At Billown, in Malew, are remains showing great boulders of quartz arranged in groups over an area 35 ft. by 25 ft. There appear to have been five such groups in a ring, each about 9 ft. in diameter, the stones so arranged as to form rectangular chambers with openings towards the centre of the ring. Several stones have fallen and some have been removed. Traces of fire were noted. Adjoining it on the north was a later Bronze-Age burial.
The Meir ny Fawyr, Giants Fingers, Lhergydhoo, German, appears to be a ruined monument of somewhat similar character to the last. It is formed of white quartz boulders, the largest, about 9 ft. by 5 ft. by 5 ft., having a frontage to the west. Three leaning stones may be remains of a chamber.
At S. Johns, in German, by the side of the road north of Tynwald Hill, are remains of a mound seen in section, with the original diameter of 30 to 40 ft. In the middle was a chamber which at this late period had been reduced in appearance to a large stone cist with heavy covering slab, 6 ft. 8 ins. by 5 ft. Burial was by inhumation.
In these twelve monuments we see the introduction into our district of a new ideathat of communal burials under a large and imposing monument. Inhumation is practised at first, but at Ballafayle, under a later influence, when men elsewhere had already come into contact with the civilisation of the workers in metal, it gives place to cremation ; after that we meet with both modes of burial. In its exterior plan we note the curved facade and, within, we see the passage used for burial without a special chamber, save in the Ballakelly barrow. Then the great mound is reduced to a circular form, rudimentary passages still appearing in the remarkable circle at the Mull. In the following round barrows, the passage is reduced to a chamber,which, in our final example, takes the form of a large cist.
The knowledge and use of metals and the culture, in the first instance, of the Bronze Epoch appear to have come in very gradually. Unfortunately for our purpose, the general practice of cremation has destroyed the evidence of race, but a change in customs and habits does not necessarily mean that there was a complete change in the population. The new broad-headed race of men, who established themselves in the British Isles, spread in all directions, and, as trade now developed greatly between Ireland and the Continent, and there was a main route across England from the Wash, the Isle of Man made a convenient stepping-stone to the north of Ireland. Traders and a few settlers introduced the new culture, with which also some of the local inhabitants must have come into contact on their excursions to the surrounding lands. But we had no Bronze-Age in the sense of local art and industries. Under these new influences most of the polished-stone implements were brought to the Island, chiefly perhaps by way of barter, for many are of material foreign to this district and not met with even in the form of erratic boulders ; none have been recorded that show them in the course of being manufactured ; nor have any hoards been found, with the single exception of the four from Knockaloe. Of stone axes, the fine collection in our Museum (including a few axe-hammers) numbers about 100, and many have been found which have not yet reached the Museum. They show the typical forms and cover a considerable period of time. The bronze axe was the special and characteristic implement of the Bronze Age, and of these, though our collection is small, we have a most interesting and instructive series. Beginning with the earliest form, namely, the flat, wedge-shaped implement of almost pure copper, we have also examples of the flanged, palstave, and socketed forms, the latter in variety, bringing us to the culmination of the bronze industry in the British Islesthe phase of the leaf-shaped sword, of which we have two typical examples, one from Jurby, on the N.W., and one recently discovered in Santan on the S . The analyses of our Museum specimens are published in the Journal of the Soc. of Ant., 1926.
The only agricultural implement of bronze yet found is the sickle from Balleigh, Lezayre, which is of the Continental flat type, very rare in Britain and only known in Ireland from a mould found in Antrim. It is a grievous loss to us that a bronze spearhead, at one time in the small collection at Peel Castle, has long disappeared. Fortunately it had been described and figured in the Archaeological Journal, vol. ii., p. 187 (1846), and referred to by Sir John
Evans in Ancient Bronze Implements, p. 326. The art of the period had been represented only (except in pottery) by a solitary gold disc found many years ago, but last year Mr.
J. R. Bruce and Mr. W. Cubbon had the good fortune to discover an engraved stone pillar when excavating near Ramsey, which is unlike anything previously known in the British Isles. The original may be seen in the Cast Room of our Museum.
Burials were now in round mounds of earth or of stone. So many of these have been opened and proved to belong to this culture that out of the total, 319, we may safely say that nearly all show the characteristics of the age. Here, however, I must say that in 1927 I was fortunate enough to find one in the extreme north of the Island which most unexpectedly proved to be of our local heathen Scandinavian period, the only example so far known to us ; it is of course possible that one or two more may prove on examination to be of this date. It was of the peculiar Norse type of ship-burial, though on a very small and simple scale, of which only one or two are known in the British Isles in the extreme north. I gave an account of this to the Society of Antiquaries, London, which I expect to appear in the next, or succeeding, number of their journal. Many of these mounds have been found to contain cinerary urns, but these have seldom been preserved. No other structural remains in the Island are known to belong to this period, nor indeed to any other period earlier than historic times, which for the Isle of Man may be said to begin at the close of the fifth century, with our earliest Christian remains.
I have dwelt in some detail on these, the oldest of our Ancient Monuments, because they are not well known, some have not been hitherto described, and they have never been considered as a group or classified and presented in such a way as to show the lessons to be learned from them----their relationship one to another and to those in other lands, with the race, character, movements, and traditions of the people then living, of which they afford almost the only evidence. This, after all, is surely the main reason for and the object of our studies, to gain an insight into the distant past and an understanding of the lives, the struggles, and the difficulties, the development and progress of our own early ancestors. If the knowledge we gain thereby is only of a local character it is just the assemblage of such local knowledge from all districts which will enable us to realize and comprehend the Archaeology of the British Isles as a whole.
I Antiquaries Journal, Oct., 1929, p. 372.