[From Contributions .., 1909]
Read Jan. 1891.
In August, 1889, a short time before I left the Isle of Man, the Rev. J. Quine, M.A., Principal of the Douglas Grammar School, in accordance with a promise made some time before, asked me to visit a " find " of flints he had made at Glen Wyllin where on former occasions he had picked up several flakes and cores. Arriving at the spot, I observed that the flints (which abounded in considerable numbers) were scattered over a hill overlooking Glen Wyllin and the country around. It was quite apparent that, as the flints lay on the surface of a field which had been under cultivation, they must have been turned up out of their original bed by the action of the plough, and were, therefore, quite useless as evidence, seeing that the implements (which in the Isle of Man are generally of small size) were necessarily broken or destroyed, and that the larger flints, such as Cores, &c., being chipped and damaged from the same cause, were quite worthless. I dug some holes to determine if a "flint-earth" might haply remain, but found none. However, noticing on the other side of the hedge which bounded the field on the south, a stretch of waste land, which, judging by its appearance and the number of clumps of gorse scattered over its surface, had never been under cultivation, I dug in it some small trenches here and there at a distance of about seven feet from the hedge, and found, as I expected, a portion of the original " flint-earth " or " floor " undisturbed. Calling Mr. Quine's attention to the matter, I set to work with him, and in a short time we unearthed hundreds of flints, comprising cores, flakes, etc., and, as I afterwards found, many implements of various types. At the spot examined much of the sod had been removed to cover the adjoining hedge, but we ascertained that the " flint-earth " (No. 2, pl. 2) lay from one foot to eighteen inches beneath the modern level of the ground. Beneath the " flint-earth " (No. 3, pl. 2) lay a thin stratum of mould-perhaps about six inches in thickness and beneath that came sand passing downwards into gravel. Most probably this -was part of the ancient surface of the hill, when the flints were chipped by prehistoric people. The layer of soil above the " flint-earth " is partly due to the accumulation of centuries of decayed vegetable matter, and in part, perhaps, to the action of earth-,worms. On a subsequent visit I found that in one place a " fire-hole " had been dug through the former surface of the soil into the sand beneath (pl. 2, No. 5) ; therefore the lower layer of earth must have at that time been of about its present thickness.(2)
The fire-hole I have mentioned I found to be about three feet in diameter from rim to rim, the sides sloping gradually to the centre, which was about one foot in depth measuring from the top of the " flint earth." It was full of burnt matter-charred twigs, &c., and scattered through it were many flints, some burnt. I found no signs of animal remains. Most likely the hole had been made for a camp fire, around which these scantily clad, or naked, savages sat, and near which, warmed by its comforting blaze, they flaked their flints, and fabricated their rude implements for war or for the chase.(3) On subsequent visits alone, and once when accompanied by my brother, I dug out several thousands of flints, and, when I came to classify them, found among them several hundred implements, many, like old friends, of familiar form. Unlike those from the ancient encampment and tumulus at Port St.Mary, they were not weathered white, but displayed their natural colours, glossy with the unmistakable polish of age. Several were white, but the minute cracks which covered them, and the absence of polish in these cases, showed the whiteness to be clue to the action of fire. The implements, which in general character resemble those from my " find " at Port St. Mary, comprise ordinary flake " scrapers," " slim-scrapers," " used-up flakes," " awls." or " borers,' " hollow scrapers," and many small, carefully ,vorked pointed implements, which, while hardly strong enough for borers, might have served admirably for arrow tips.
Resides these, I vas fortunate enough to find several " hammer-stones," or common round stones, which had evidently been used to break off the flakes froth the nuclei. The types of the implements being so like those found at Port St. Mary, we may conclude that they belong to the same period. Such differences as occur are, however, worthy of notice. At Port St. Mary, and at Glen Wyllin, the small hollow scrapers, which are invaluable as affording evidence that these early people used bows and arrows, occur in about. equal numbers.
But the two sets differ in form. The hollow to the Port St. Mary scrapers is invariably at the end of the flake (see A, PI. 2), while in the Glen Wyllin examples it occurs on the side of the flake, near the end (see C, pl. 2), and consequently the latter implements were easily broken. The occurrence of many curiously shaped flints (D, Pl. 2 Without the dotted line) was puzzling, until I found they were these broken " hollow scrapers". At first sight they might pass for "awls," but the clean unworn fracture at the part marked x. (c and d, pl. 2), precludes this supposition. Among others, was a double hollow scraper, broken. (pl. 2, E.). The " hammerstones" bearing the white bruised marks of repeated concussions, are rounded water-worn stones, picked up, perhaps, from the neighbouring glen. In the modern manufacture of gun-flints, round-faced hammers are always used. In the field I found one remarkably fine "awl". The hill, whereon this ancient camp is situated, would have been admirably adapted for the abode of a tribe or family, which, in those days, might have had to guard against a sudden raid from neighbouring savages. It is very steep on the north and west, and the east and south sides are similarly formed, while, as it overlooks a large extent of country, any attack would be easily seen. It is curious that although nearer to Ramsey than to Port St. Mary, and separated from the latter place by the whole range of Manx mountains, almost, not a single flint of the peculiar type found in such number by Mr. Kermode at Ramsey, has been discovered ; while on the other hand, all the flints resemble more or less those from Port St. Mary. Does this fact indicate a difference in race or period ? The negative evidence of the absence of implements of true Neolithic type, both at Glen Wyllin and Port St. Mary, is also very curious.
Assuming both " finds " belong to the same period and race, we have, by this discovery, an extended knowledge of these ancient people. From the Port St. Mary " find " we gathered :-
1st-That they were acquainted with the use of rude pottery.
2nd-That they buried their dead unburnt in stone graves.
3,rd-That some families lived by the sea shore, and used shell-fish for food, apparently as their principal article of diet.
4th-While their flint instruments were of the rudest character, they also used bone and quartz.
5th-That along with their dead they put into the graves quantities of shell-fish, and some flints,-probably as a provision for the departed in the spirit world. This little fact leads us to conclude that this primitive race had some idea of man's immortality.
We further gather from the Glen Wyllin " find "
6th-That some families lived on hills probably for protection against neighbouring tribes and families.
7th-That they dug holes in the ground in which to make their fires.
8th-That they used instruments of basalt (one flake of basalt was found).
And from the evidence of both finds:-
9th-That they probably knew the use of bows and arrows.
Taking into consideration that up to the Port St. Mary "find" nothing whatever was known of the ordinary life of these ancient inhabitants of the island, the above particulars are of great interest, and, I think prove, that it only needs scrupulous care in examining "finds," a proper classification of objects found, and a little common sense, to enable us to form, from the hardly commenced study of the most ancient pre-historic remains in the island, a museum full of most interesting evidence regarding the very earliest races which have inhabited the land now called Man.
[(1) not used]
(2). The credit for this " find " is Mr. Quine's. There is no doubt that here was an undisturbed Neolithic Floor, which, all things considered, merited as thorough an examination as do the antiquities of Greece or Rome. It shonld have been done by a Committee of the local Society. But if the Society is not willing or able to do such work itself, it should encourage private persons to do it. F. S. 1909.
(3) This was the first recorded Neolithic fire-place in the Isle of Man. In a paper by Mr. George Clinch, F.R.S. "Journal Anthropological Institute" Vol. II. N. 5. 1899, is given a section of a fire-hole at west Wickam Common, Kent, which almost exactly corresponds with a drawing I had made of the one at glen Wyllin. Mr. Clinch describes the probable process of making a cooking place, etc., as follows.-" A hole was first dug in the ground from 1.25m. to 3m- across, and about 75 cm. deep. Across this a number of dry oak branches were laid, and fire was applied. Into this fire was placed the animal or joint to be cooked, or if water was to be heated or a stew prepared a number of fair sized pebbles, placed among the burning embers, were heated and used as pot-boilers in receptacles made of wood or other perishable substances, for it is pretty clerir that no pottery was in use." The above process of cooking is based on the methods still in use in the N Pacific. But the Neolithic people at Port St. Mary undoubtedly had pottery, and as the marks of burning on the convex side of the fragments found among the refuse of their camp-floor shew, they used vessels of rude pottery for cooking.