[from History of IoM, 1900]

[note that Moore wrote this in 1900 drawing on his friend Professor John Rhys, but much more has been learnt since these times and the reader is referred to more modern texts]



OF the earliest known inhabitants of Europe, the race or races to whom the term palæolithic has been applied, no trace has, as yet, been discovered in the island. Nor, judging from their absence in similar latitudes in the neighbouring countries, is it at all probable that men at this stage of culture ever reached our shores. The earliest tokens of man's presence we have are in the shape of chipped flints, usually rather small in size, which, though rarely showing much finish, are yet definitely of neolithic 1 type. These are most abundant in places where flint pebbles are found, such as on the Ayre beach,2 but they are also common around the shores of the ancient lakes and, more or less, all over the low ground, whilst they are very rare in the mountainous area. Other vestiges of neolithic men are probably the barrows with large stone chambers, the monoliths, some of the stone weapons and implements,3 and some, perhaps, of the forts and fortified camps. 4

The barrows which are supposed to be more especially characteristic of this age 5 contain large stone chambers built of slabs of stone, some with and some without passages leading into them, and some with and some without rude cists, 6 in which the bodies were buried in a crouching position. Instances of these are found at Ballacroak, in Malew, 6 and at Gretch-veg, near Laxey. The tumulus at the latter place, which is distinct in character from any other grave in the island, is known as " King Orry's Grave." 8 Barrows of this kind are comparatively uncommon. None of their chambers contain urns or ashes, and this probably points to interment, not cremation, though it may merely signify that both urns and ashes have disappeared. Flint weapons are but rarely found in them. The monoliths, menhirs, or great upright stones, which still stand up here and there, are only by conjecture assigned to this time, since they afford no clue to assist us in fixing their epoch. The most notable of them are the three in Rushen, called the " Giants' Quoiting Stones," 9 and one in Santon. It will be observed that we have only attributed " some " of the stone weapons and implements to this period. This limitation is necessary, because it seems to be certain that the use of these weapons and implements continued into the bronze age. Similarly, we have assigned to the neolithic period " some " only of the forts and fortified camps, because they belong to all ages, a few being even of comparatively late historical date. The largest, which are usually found on high ground, inland, 10 are capable of accommodating a considerable number of people. Others, which were probably merely used for purposes of "watch and ward," being generally very small, are situated on outstanding promontories, and sometimes even on isolated rocks, or stacks, as they are called. Others again occur in boggy places, often along the sides of streams. They evidently depended on the impassable character of the surrounding ground for their security; but, seeing that they are frequently commanded from a greater elevation close by, their efficacy as defensive posts cannot, according to modern ideas, have been very great. It is possible, too, that some mounds of this character, such as those which are found along the banks of the Lhane trench, adjacent to ancient marshes, may be of the nature of the Irish crannoges, or lake-dwellings. The whole question, in fact, of the date and use of these various erections is very obscure. 11 But, however these matters of detail may be answered, there can be little doubt that neolithic men inhabited the Isle of Man for a very long period,12 and they appear to have left in the present population of the island distinct traces of their physical characteristics, which are said to have been small stature, long heads, 13 dark complexions, and black hair and eyes. 14 They are supposed by some authorities to belong to the same non - Aryan section of mankind as the Basques, while it has been ably maintained by Professor Rhys that they were also identical with the people known to history as Picts or Cruithm ; and that distinguished scholar has adduced several arguments to show that the Isle of Man was at one time inhabited by this race. In the first place, two personal names, Druian and Ufaac, which occur on inscribed crosses in the island, and which apparently admit of no Celtic etymology, are found elsewhere under circumstances which indicate that they are Pictish 15 men. In the second place Professor Rhys points out that Inis Picht (commonly supposed to be Spike Island in Cork Harbour), the abode of a St. Ruisen, who is mentioned in the martyrology of Donegal, may be the Isle of Man, because St. Ruisen (" Rushen ") has given his name to no fewer than four important places there, one of them being a religious house. 16 It may also be mentioned that, according to Tighernac, Cormac MacArt banished the Pictish tribes of Ulster to Mannann and Insigall (Sodor) in the year A.D. 254. .17 On the other hand, it must be admitted that the conclusions of Professor Rhys are not yet universally accepted by competent scholars, many of whom still maintain that the Picts were, at least in language, Aryan Celts, though the advocates of this view are at variance with regard to their proximate affinities, some regarding them as nearer to the Goidelic, and others to the Brythonic branch. The old notion that the Picts are Teutonic is no longer held by any scholar of repute. At present, then, all that we can state with any confidence about the neolithic inhabitants of Man is that, from the remains found in their burial places, they were herdsmen and farmers, who had all our domestic animals, that they could spin and weave, and that they understood the potter's art.

After them came men of larger stature, broader heads, and fairer complexions, who have been usually identified with the Celts, and who, from their use of weapons made of an alloy 18 of copper and tin, when they first came in contact with their predecessors, have been called the men of the bronze age.19 These men, by the aid of their better weapons, conquered, but did not annihilate, the neolithic race, and it seems probable that the semi-historic legends, whether Irish or Manx, which depict the struggles between light and darkness, valour and art-magic, men and fairies or demons, really relate to the traditional battles between Aryan Goidelic Celts, with weapons of bronze, and non-Aryan neolithic peoples, with weapons of stone. The chief traces which the bronze age men have left are said to be the great stone circles, usually containing rude stone cists or graves of small dimensions; unchambered tumuli, containing cinerary urns and sometimes cists ; the " cup " marks; " dug-out " canoes, and bronze weapons and implements. There are the remains of at least ten circles in the Isle of Man. The most remarkable of them is that on the Meayll, or Mull, the diameter of which, north and south, is 50 feet, and, east and west, 57 feet. It is composed of six sets of cists, arranged in groups of three. Some of these cists contain "pottery, flint implements, calcined bones, ashes, and loose charcoal," 20 from which it may reasonably be inferred that they once held urns which contained the cremated remains of the dead. 21 The unchambered tumuli containing cinerary urns are very numerous, especially in Michael, Ballaugh, Jurby, and Andreas. Vast numbers of urns have been found in them, usually containing charred bones and chips of charcoal, sometimes flint 22 arrows, and, more rarely, bronze weapons. 23 Chaloner, who was governor of the island between 1658 and 1660, had one of these barrows opened, when no less than fourteen urns were found in it; 24 and, during the present century, there have been many similar discoveries 25 It is mainly on account of the tokens of the practice of cremation, both in these urns and in the cists, which are too small to contain a buried body, that the unchambered barrows and stone circles which contain them are ascribed to the bronze age, since it seems to be fairly well established that cremation 26 was usual at this period, though inhumation was not unknown. But the whole question is still an obscure one, and it must be remembered that there is no external difference in the appearance of the barrows of the stone, bronze, and iron ages.27

The urns found both in the tumuli and the circles vary very greatly both in form and size and in the nature of their ornamentation. Some are of the rudest description and are quite plain,28 some have a feeble attempt at ornament on a portion of their surface, while others are decorated all over. 29 But they all probably belonged to various stages of the same period, because even the urns of the most archaic description have been found to contain bronze weapons. The " cup " marks which are found on the stone circles (notably on that at Oatlands 30), on the cists and elsewhere, are commonly supposed to have been made by the bronze age men for the purpose of receiving offerings to the spirits of the dead. 31 The same people laboriously hollowed out canoes with their rude implements, aided by the action of fire. That this was their method of boat-making is clearly shown by the recent (1884) discovery at Ballakaighen,32 in German, of a canoe evidently lying unfinished on the spot where it was being made, and surrounded by numerous pebbles bearing traces of having been calcined by fire.

Of the bronze weapons and implements characteristic of this period we can only say that singularly few have survived to the present day. This, however, may be explained by the fact that nearly all the tumuli of cists have been broken into; .33 the bronze articles being of value would doubtless be stolen.

At some unknown period, but probably, in the Isle of Man, not so very long before the coming of Julius Cæsar to Britain, 34 the use of iron began to supersede that of bronze for arms, axes, knives and the like, though bronze appears to have still continued in use for ornaments and for the handles of arms and implements. There are but few remains of the early iron period in the Isle of Man. 35 Chief among them are the tombs similar to the cists of the bronze age, but long enough to contain a body at full lengthfor inhumation had again come into vogue-which are usually found, not singly, or in the stone circles, but in cemeteries. 36 Some, too, of the barrows, in which neither chambers, cists, nor urns are to be found, probably belong to this period, or to that of the heathen Northmen.

Such is the evidence from archaeology as to the existence of pre-Celtic (non-Aryan) and Celtic men in Man, and it is fully confirmed by an examination of the skulls and countenances of Manxmen at the present day.37 A further confirmation of the presence of non-Aryan people in Man may also be derived from the survivals among the Manx of the worship of animals, stones, trees, and wells, 38 since it seems to be fairly well established that the conditions under which such survivals as these are found " show that they date from a time prior to the arrival of the Celts." 39 It is said to have been in connexion with this cult that a class of persons arose whom we know by the Celtic name of Druids,40 who stood between the people and their deities and so acquired great power, owing to the influence they were supposed to exert over the latter by their sacrifices 41 and magic arts. Into the midst of these non-Aryan people came the conquering Goidelic Celts, who, though they appear to have been polytheists of the Aryan type,42 were evidently greatly impressed by the nature worship of their predecessors and feared them as being gifted with magic powers. It is on this view of the powers of the non-Aryan peoples that much of the legendary history of Ireland and Man is based. Thus the eponymous hero of the smaller island, Mannanan Mac Lir, said to have been a leader of the non-Aryan Tuatha De Danann, was not only a great navigator but a famous magician, who "kept by necromancy the Land of Mann under mists, and, if he dreaded any enemies, he would make of one man to seem an hundred by his art magick." 43 He and his people, according to Manx legend, were routed by St. Patrick, whereupon, being of small stature, they became fairies and lived in the ancient tumuli, using flint arrow heads as the weapons with which they avenged their wrongs on human beings.


1 The results of geological and archæological investigation have led to the conclusion that the early history of man in Europe may be divided into three periods, which, from the nature of the material used for weapons and cutting instruments, have been distinguished as the stone, bronze, and iron ages, the first being divided into the palæolithic, or old stone, and the neolithic, or new stone age. It should, however, be carefully noted that these are not divisions of time, but relative conditions of culture. A bronze age people in one country may have been contemporary with a stone age people in another and with an iron age people in the third.

2 Introduction p. 7.

3 Large numbers of polished flint axes of the finest workmanship have been found.

4: In a dissertation on "Phosphate of Iron," by J. Murray (Annals of Philosophy, vol. xii. p. 147, London, 1818), he states that on the farm of Ballatesson, in Ballaugh, he found flint chips in a bed of shell marl, which was overlaid by peat containing elk bones. From this it would appear that neolithic man was contemporaneous with the elk.

5 Chaloner, writing in the middle of the seventeenth century, remarks that some of the barrows were " environ'd with great stones pitched endwayes in the earth " (Manx Soc., vol. x. p. 21). All these have disappeared, having doubtless been found convenient for building fences.

6 The cists found at Port St. Mary in 1882, both from their sizes, the tokens of inhumation, and the presence of numerous flints, are almost certainly of neolithic date (see Yn Lioar Manninagh, vol. i. pp. 137-9) ; but it must be borne in mind that it is unsafe to deduce that tumuli or cists belong to this age merely because they contain a few flints. If they contain a large quantity, it is much more probable that they do so.

7 Manx Archaeological Commissioners' Report, 1877.

8 Yn Lioar Manninagh, vol. i. pt. i. pp. 42-8. Dr. Munroe and Professor Montelius, who saw the so-called " King Orry's Grave " in 1896, consider that it belongs to the transition period between the stone and bronze ages.

9 There are sixteen of these stones altogether in the island, but some of them doubtless originally formed part of stone circles which have been destroyed.

10 The most remarkable of these are Crook Sumark, in Lezayre, Cashtal Lajer, in Ballaugh, and Castleward, in Braddan.

11 It needs some further light to be thrown on it by archaeologists who should be armed with picks and spades, not theories. Attention may be called to the existence in several localities, such as near the Meayll circle, at the Sloc (near Fleshwick), and on the slopes of Snaefell, of shallow excavations, which appear to be the sites of ancient dwellings. Up to the present time there is no clear evidence as to their date.

12 Some caution, however, must be exercised in deducing the vast duration of this epoch from the great difference between the roughly chipped flints and the smooth and well-finished stone ceps, as it is possible that some at least of these last may have been obtained by barter from more advanced races. [For notes about the discoveries of flint and stone weapons and implements, which have been very numerous of late years, see Yn Lioar Manninagh, vol. i. part i., especially pp. 131-2, 137-9, and 212-16, for descriptions of the flint manufactories at Port St. Mary and near Ramsey.]

13 Dolicho-cephalic.

14 Mr. Elton, however, considers the evidence supporting this view, as regards Great Britain and Ireland generally, to be insufficient (Origins of English History, ch. vii.).

15 The former of them is met with in a Pictish inscription in the Orkneys; the latter, under the form Mac ui Fhuifaich, is mentioned in the " Book of the Dun Cow," as that of one of the Cruithni or Picts, described as a "big dark man," who came over from Scotland to Ireland.

16 Ethnology of the British Isles, p. 118. Colgan gives Inis Picht as a plural (" Inse Picht "), and conjecturally identifies it with the Sodor Isles, of which Man was one. Professor Rhys, as will be seen, goes a step further.

17 Skene, vol. iii. p. 111.

18 It is, of course, quite possible that the British islands were inhabited after neolithic times by people of the bronze age who preceded and were quite distinct from the Celts, and the fact that the typical shape of the Celtic skull was dodicho-cephalic, while broad-headed (brachy-cephalic) skulls are found in British barrows, would appear to indicate that this was so. Mr. Elton, Prof. Rolleston (British Barrows, p. 680), and others think that the bronze age folk are perhaps identical with the Finns. Some, too, think they were Belgm, and therefore, perhaps Teutonic, and others that they were a hybrid race. No skulls of prehistoric date have been found in the Isle of Man.

19 It should, however, be pointed out that the Continental Celts used iron swords as far back as B.C. 361, the date of the battle of the Anio.

20 Illustrated Archæologist, vol. ii. p. 3.

21 For description of this circle see the Manx Note Book, vol. iii. pp. 157-162; and the Illustrated Archæologist, vol. ii. pp. 1-8 (P. M. C. Kermode). The other more notable circles are at Oatlands (Ballakelly), in Santon ; at Glen Darragh, in Marown ; and Cashtal Ree Goree, in Maughold.

22 There are more urns without than with such weapons and implements. It must not be supposed that the presence of flint weapons necessarily signifies a burial of the neolithic age, for there can be little doubt that the bronze age men used them also. It is probable, too, that, long after they had ceased to be in every-day use, they were buried with the dead as charms, since, even at the present day, they are esteemed for their supposed magical virtues.

23 For explanation of their scarcity see p. 41.

24 " 14 rotten urns, or earthenware pots, placed with their mouths downwards ; and one more neatly than the rest in a bed of fine white sand, containing nothing but a few brittle bones (as having pass'd the fire), no ashes left discernible" (Chaloner, Manx Soc., vol. x. p. 21).

25 Vestigia (Manx Soc., vol. v. pp. 50-1) ; and Yn Lioar Manninagh, vol. i. pt. ii. pp. 88-92, &c.

26 " It is evident, therefore, that, during the bronze age, the dead were generally burnt" (Lubbock, Prehistoric Tunes, p. 103). On the other hand, cremation may, at one time, have been confined to the priestly class, as in China at the present day; also it is possible that cremation and burying have coexisted, as they have done among savage races in recent times.

27 " We are not acquainted with any external differences by which the tumuli of the stone, bronze, and iron ages can, with certainty, be distinguished from one another" (Lubbock, Pre-historic Times, p. 100). On the other hand, Messrs. Greenwell and Rolleston have arrived at the " conclusion that barrows in general belong to a period before bronze was in common use " (British Barrows, p. 49), but this does not seem to have been the case in the Isle of Man at least. It is, in fact, unwise to dogmatize on the age to which these tumuli belong, for they may have been used for many generations. This is shown by the occurrence in Man, as in Yorkshire, of secondary interments in the body of the mounds of altogether later date than the primary interment, which is usually made in an excavated grave over which the mound has originally been heaped.

28 See the Manx Note Book, vol. i. pp. 65 and 68, for cinerary urn found at Port-e-chee, which is now in the Government Office. In this case the superincumbent cist or tumulus, or both, had disappeared.

29 See the Manx Note Book, vol. iii. p. 91, and Yn Lioar Manninagh, vol. i. pt. ii. pp. 52-4 and 88-92.

30 See Sir James Simpson's Archaic Sculpturings (Edinburgh, 1867), p. 378.

31 It is known that similar hollows in stones were used for some such purpose in the north of Scandinavia at quite a recent date.

32 See the Manx Note Book, vol. i. pp. 30 and 148, and Yn Lioar Manninagh, vol. i. pt. ii. pp. 36-40.

33 Notwithstanding the strong superstition which is known to have existed formerly, and still exists, against disturbing them.

34 At this time iron was being worked by the Britons in Sussex.

35 Note that iron would decay more quickly than bronze.

36 Some of these, however, may be of much more recent date.

37 See introduction, pp. 18 and 27, for discussion of this subject. Prof. Rhys (Ethnology of the British Isles, p. 1) says: " Celtic nations of the present day consist, ethnologically speaking, partly of Aryans and partly of the non-Aryan races which the Aryans found inhabiting the countries invaded by them in prehistoric times."

38 Folklore of the Isle of Man (A. W. Moore), pp. 141-53.

39 Gomme, Ethnology in Folklore, p. 173.

40 Irish Druad. It is interesting to note that droata, the genitive of druadh, is found in the Ogam character on a stone near Port St. Mary. " The non-Celtic natives . . . had another religion, namely, druidism, which may be surmised to have had its origin among them " (Rhys, Celtic Britain, p. 60).

41 It should be remembered that "in no tale or legend of the Irish Druids " (with whom the Manx were more likely, to be connected than with the British Druids) " which has come down to our time, is there any mention of their ever having offered human sacrifices" (O'Curry, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, vol. ii. p. 222). In this respect they differed from the British Druids, who did so (see Tacitus, Ann. xiv. 29,30).

42 " Goidelic Celts, devotees of a religion which combined Aryan polytheism with druidism" (Rhys, Celtic Britain, p. 70).

43 Manx. Soc., vol. xii. p. 6. For discussion of the whole question, see Folklore of the Isle of Man, pp. 1-10.


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