[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #3 1917-1923]

REPORT OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL SECTION. 1918-19.

REV. CANON QUINE, M.A., Secretary.

1st May, 1919.

I.

In this Section the work of the past year has been of notable importance, as marking the point when a first announcement may be made to members of this Society, of the discovery of a class of inscribed stones never heretofore observed or known to exist on the Island. These vestiges are pre-Christian, viz., considerably earlier than our ogam inscriptions, and at least i,ooo years earlier than our ' runic' crosses.

The discovery marks an epoch in the Archaeology of the Island. The number of examples already found exceeds 150, i.e., a larger list than that of all our ogams and ancient crosses; and of this i5o or so, nearly loo have already been allocated and placed at the parish church of Lonan, where there is reason to hope that space will be provided for their permanent preservation.

In the case of the other examples, found in Patrick, German, Braddan and Maughold by Mr. A. Knox, the positions, dates of discovery and drawings-so far as drawings could be made of the stones in their present position-are in my hands. A few examples are known to me, with a record of their positions, in Malew and Kirk Christ Rushen, but the southern and northern parishes, as well as other considerable areas of the Island, still remain unexamined.

In this work I have had associated with me, as above indicated, Mr. A. Knox, to whom I communicated my discovery in order to enlist his interest and advice, his contribution, in the discovery of examples, amounting to a third of the whole list, Experience gradually gained in the course of making the above discoveries, now enable search to be directed immediately to the points where further discovery is probable in any new district. Thus Malew and Rushen yielded results to my own search at once, as Maughold has done to Mr. A. Knox, the localities, occupied by the people who erected these inscribed stones, being now a safe presumption.

Acknowledgment is due to Lonan proprietors and residents, who have called my attention to examples noted by them, and not only given permission to remove them to Lonan Church, but also most kindly undertaken the work of removal. I believe that the proprietors in every part of the island will be found to show a like responsive interest, if approached in a proper way, and all that they ask is courtesy and sincerity, which, however, they ask, and very properly ask, as their right. Besides, it must be remembered that a pillar stone, or massive boulder, which has served as reinforcement in a boundary fence from time immemorial, cannot be removed without that fence being made good. Where a proprietor, as in several instances in my experience, has not only given the permission to remove the stone, but made good the fence, and sent the stone to the parish churchyard, I consider such action demands the most grateful recognition and acknowledgment.

It is known that on the ordnance map an 'inscribed stone ' is marked at the camp in Kirk Braddan Wood: this refers to the so-called 'Sacrificial Stone.' But after the felling of the timber during the war Mr. A. Knox visited Braddan and found that some of these stones, forming the reinforcement of the earthworks, had been thrown out of place by the falling timber. Several of these stones he found to be inscribed with the same scheme of script and diagram as those found in Lonan, Patrick, etc. This, therefore, forms part of the present discovery: the number of examples at Braddan increasing the total of the figures given above.

The question as to whether these inscribed stones are vestiges of the Iberian or of the Celtic race cannot be settled for a long time to come; nor can it be easily decided what is script and what is diagrammatic record on these newly- discovered monuments. The important duty at present is to find, and to secure for preservation and study, as many as possible of the surviving examples. So far as any working hypothesis can be adopted at this stage of my work, I take the view that the script and the figures or marks were intro- duced from the South of Europe by way of Spain, that is to say, by early Phoenician, Carthaginian or Punic traders and colonists, prospecting for metals, and forming emporia or trading factories on the coasts of Britain and Ireland.

I am led to this hypothesis by two inscribed examples in particular, now in my possession, with Punic letter-forms and Punic letter-sequence; and also by the fact that the script on other examples, as distinct from diagram workings, very much resembles late Punic, as known on extant inscriptions in the Mediterranean area. But it is worth noting that a few examples in my possession suggest ogams; my attention having been called to them by Mr. Kelly (Baldroma), who had also noticed the resemblance. A script with Punic letter-forms may, of course, have been employed to write an Iberian or,one of the early Celtic languages. The early Cretan script appears not to have yet been deciphered, and the easily deciphered Phoenician and Punic passed in the course of centuries into that late Punic, which, by reason of the vagueness of the letter-forms, can hardly be called decipherable. Obviously the duty is to find and recover as many examples as possible in order that as many identical letter-forms as possible may be available for the study of the whole.

II.

Another item to report has reference to neolithic flint areas. I have information as to six polished flint axes in the possession of private individuals. I doubt if there is the disposition to present these to the Museum in Castle Rushen, but possibly, if an Insular Museum existed in Douglas, there might be a willingness to have them preserved there. It ought to be part of the Society's work to make a 'flint areas' map of the Island, on a scale at least 2 inches to the mile, showing merely the mountain and hill ridges and the courses of the rivers, in order to show the ridges; and on such map notes to be made showing as exactly as possible where flints have been found. One observer can contribute but little each year; there ought to be at least a dozen members of the Society adding to such map data derived from their own observation in different parts of the Island. This year, in addition to noting the occurrence of flints on the Mull Hills in Rushen, around the Clagh Ard on the upper borders of Rushen and Arbory, Arragon Moar and Arragon Beg in Santon, and Baldroma in Lonan-well known flint areas-I have found flint scrapers and other worked flints on Ballatrollag and on Grenaby in Malew, on Baroose and on Raby treens, and on the Rhaa treen in Lonan, and on 'School Hill ' near Castletown. It should be an obligation of duty on every member of this Society to report in person, or if absent in writing, to the Secretary the finding of any fragment of flint, as a contribution of data for such map of our `flint areas.'

III.

I have also to report on the discovery of a burial cist at Baroose, Lonan. The cist was discovered by Mr. Jno. F. Cowley, brother of the proprietor, and, assisted by Mr. Kelly (Baldroma) he carefully cleared out the subsoil, and recovered some forty odd pieces of an urn or food vessel. The cist 'lid- stone' had been removed long ago, having no doubt been struck by a plough, and conveyed to one of the field fences. They asked me to come and make any notes I wished to make before the removal of the cist slabs, which, unfortunately, were in the middle of a cultivated field, and out of the question to be left in situ. The setting was exceptionally exact; one might say the cist was a little water-tight stone cistern. The urn was carefully 'reconstructed ' by myself, and later by Mr. A. Knox, our results the same. A thin black core of clay mixed with tiny fragments of pounded quartz and some vegetable matter had first been hand-moulded and burnt-the carbon of the vegetable matter giving the black colour. Afterwards this core had been 'buttered ' over, outside and inside with a thin layer of red clay, on which, in a moist state, the ornament had been punctured, the complete urn then fired a second time. The urn is of the type known and classed as 'drinking-cups,' an earlier type than that known as 'food-vessels.'

In order to compare the size, form and ornament of this urn with other examples, I visited Castle Rushen Museum, where there are four examples, in addition to the large 'Crock urns' there. These four are : -

(i) The Cronk Aust Urn (Lezayre), rescued by Mr. Kermode, and reproduced in Goss miniature ware; ' food-vessel' type.
(ii) The Bishopscourt urn (Kirk Michael), presented by Bp. Bardsley; ' food-vessel' type.
(iii) The Gretchveg urn (Lonan), rescued by Canon Quine; ' food-vessel ' type.
(iv) The Ballacannell urn (Lonan), presented by Mr. R. Corlett; probably ' food-vessel ' type.

The Cronk Aust example is of a form almost peculiar to Ireland; but the others of forms identical with those of England. These four and the Baroose urn are all different in form and scheme of decoration. Some resemblance in form, however, in the cases of the Bishopscourt and Gretch veg urns, but the latter very much more elaborate in decoration. The Ballacannell urn is of a very simple type, and of buff-coloured material.

One well-known writer on early Ceramic art thinks these urns were of local manufacture, 'the work of the women of the tribe,' and this view is simple and natural; on the hypothesis that human society in the period of cist burial consisted of tribes like the Australian natives; but such hypothesis is by no means final and exclusive. It seems, all things considered, that early trade was very extensively carried on, and it is possible that these urns were an article of trade, and imported into the Island.

I have at present in my custody another urn, or rather vase, the property of Mr, Jno. Kelly (Baldrine Cottage) found in the parish of Lonan, but I cannot as yet make it the subject of a report. It is an unglazed vase, of hard-baked red clay throughout, with a wreath of leaf ornament aroundit in relief, and underneath this wreath incised or punctured ornament, of very much the same character as the incised work on the Baroose urn. It may possibly be early trade pottery of a much later period than the urns above referred to, but must be held over for mention on some other occasion. It resembles a type found in Spain.

In conclusion, I need hardly explain that I have not referred to Mr. Kermode's work at Balladoole fort and Keeill site, nor to the excavations at Scarlett, the results there being such as must be dealt with in a special paper by Mr. Kermode himself, or otherwise to appear in the regular ArchŠological Survey Report.


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