[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 4 #1 1935]


of Manchester University, on the 22nd September. 1932, on the occasion of the visit of the IOM. Natural History and Antiquarian Society to the Ards, Maughold.

Exploration work had been carried on by Professor Fleure, assisted by Mr. Davies and Mr. Neely, during the preceding ten days.

Professor Fleure explained that civilisation reached the British Isles, some two thousand years before Christ, by two routes, one across the Continent from the South-east, and the other in boats around the coasts from the Mediterranean. The Isle of Man has few traces of those who came by land across the continent, although Canon Quine has found one of their drinking cups or beakers in his parish. Of those who came by sea, the Island, on the other hand, has many indications in its great stone monuments: —the Mull Circle (like a monument, now destroyed, that once stood in Jersey) , many fragmentary remains, and Gretch Veg and the monument on the Ard, like a few in Wales and Scotland, one or more in Brittany, and some in Sardinia

Some knowledge of the capacities of the people can be gained from the fact that they must have travelled in well built boats, able to coast along the Bay of Biscay, and they had no mean idea of engineering judging by the large stone or megalithic structures still extant after so many years. Asked to give an approximate idea of the period, Professor Fleure stated that this race arrived in Spain some time after 2500 B.C., and probably reached Mann in the succeeding centuries.

It might be safely said that the monument before them had been erected 4,000 years ago. It might possibly be much earlier The work is known to antiquaries as a horned cairn or barrow so-called from two lines of stone representing as it were the horns of an animal at the head of the barrow. The present remains are probably only a part of the original structure. The general run of the barrow is almost due East and West. The main outline of the work is obvious. It consists of a forecourt, and a long central nave. The forecourt is formed by a number of large standing stones deeply sunk into the ground and placed on end in the form of a crescent. Four of the stones on the North side are in their original positions. The largest stone, weighing approximately five tons, appears to have been attempted to be removed. There are marks round the middle which suggests that a chain has been placed there, but except that it was pulled over on its side its position had not been altered. —Prof. Fleure and his assistants had lifted it up on to its end as it originally stood.

The stones of the other horn towards the extremity had been removed, but examination of the ground clearly disclosed the sites where they had stood, thanks to the stiffness of the yellow clay subsoil. Enquiry had been made, and Mr. Neely had discovered a workman employed in his youth at the Ard, who was able to indicate the stones which had been taken out and used as gate posts on a neighbouring farm. They have now been replaced and dated 1932 to indicate their restoration The horns enclose the forecourt or principal entrance to the barrow. The two centre stones are set at an angle towards one another, meeting at the top, and leaving a narrow doorway or port-hole. This entrance is in its original condition and conforms to the entrance found in similar works elsewhere.

The removal of the earth had disclosed that the forecourt had been roughly flagged with stones of various sizes, and at the inside of the extreme stone on the N.W. horn upright flags were found,which. might be the remains of a cist or lintel grave. No human remains were found there, and the formation is not sufficiently complete to express a positive opinion, but it is not unlikely that a grave might be found there. It is a common experience to find that one age uses the sacred grounds of a preceding age for similar purposes. There are, it is understood. many lintel graves in the adjoining field on the S.W. side.

Turning now to the principal portion of the barrow, down the left of the barrow from the entrance are a series of chambers formed of large slabs of stone set on their sides, and sloping at an angle of approximately 75 degrees towards one another. The present remains show divisions into four chambers by large cross Stones (one cross stone is a restoration), the ends of which are bevelled to the same angle as the side stones, and give them Support it is into these chambers that the remains of the dead, probably after cremation, were placed. No remains have been found there, but beyond the chambers is an important mound of burnt stones, left covered for future investigation, and some of the stones, including those in the neighbouring field-wall, bear marks of burning. The chambers are in their original condition, except that the roofs have all disappeared. Prof. Fleure agreed with the suggestion of Canon Quine that it was very likely the sloping walls of the chambers carried some kind of canopied roof. The walls of the chambers are roughly flagged.

An interesting and mysterious discovery was made outside the first chamber on the South side of the chamber. Here a considerable number of medium-size flat stones were found on top of one another, forming a space somewhat less than the area of a chamber. Some had been removed and replaced, but nothing was found, and the explanation of these stones is unknown. A similar construction was found on the North side of the first chamber, and by sieving the earth two minute fragments of rough pot were found. Each of the chambers is approximately 6ft. long by 3ft. wide at the bottom. The mound of flag-stones lay on the continuation of the line of the chambers and much. of it was surrounded by large flags.

The other works to he seen are a series of stones on the South side, set on end, running obliquely to the line of the chambers and approaching that line eastwards. The last one is rather beyond the fourth chamber, the first almost in line with the penultimate standing stone of the South horn. Exploration has been made to ascertain if there were a similar line of stones on the Northern side and one such stone in position was discovered the previous day. It is, however, set rather differently. What the purpose was of these lines of stone is not known. They did not mark the limits of the work as the harrow extended considerably beyond them. In many places examination has disclosed that there existed a flagged floor or cover from these lines of stone to the chambers, and also outside these stones. The floor in some places appears to have been laid at a slight angle, rising as it approached the. chambers.

An interesting discovery was found to the South of the East end of the oblique line of stones, where two upright stones were found at right angles to the line, about 2ft. 6ins. apart, forming an entrance, and leading from it is a well flagged path-way. Further towards the East end is a large stone of much the same size as those forming the horn, and West of this have been found the remains of dry stone walling which curved as it neared the monolith; it is apparently carried on across the East end of the barrow.

Much work remains to be done, particularly in the removal of the large accumulation of field stones, and the clearance of the rest of the soil before the full character of the monument will be disclosed; but in its present condition it can safely be said that from an archaeological point of view it is a most interesting and important work. It carries back the history of the Island to a period at least 4,000 years ago, and in its present condition it is one of the best-preserved horned barrows in the British Isles.

The work of constructing this sepulchral monument must have been a vast undertaking, carried out by forced labour, probably of a conquered people. These huge stones have been dragged for considerable distances to the top of the hill, and so well set that they have withstood the storms of thousands of years. Professor Fleure hoped that the Insular Government would cause the accumulated debris to be removed and the monument enclosed and protected from further damage.

Asked if there were any signs of carving or inscriptions on the stones, Prof. Fleure said that none could be recognised. Carvings were not by any means unknown on megalithic remains of this kind, one such barrow in particular in Brittany bearing a number of very wonderful designs. Further detailed examinations of the stones might disclose similar handwork on this memorial, especially if night photography by floodlight could be tried. He pointed out that the stones used for the construction were of two kinds; some of them were of a slatey character, and the others were hard igneous rock. Both kinds had been used indifferently.

The archæology of the British Isles could be brought into relation with the racial history of its people, and it would be valuable to have a racial survey of the Isle of Man.

The people who brought civilisation to us from Mediterranean lands, and perhaps the aborigines they found here included many dark-haired, brown-eyed, long-headed, slender-built types, like those found around the Western Mediterranean to-day. There are also, here and there, on the Italian, Spanish, French, Cornish, Welsh and West Scottish coasts, strongly built types with dark hair and broad heads and jaws, who represent, as it were, a deposit from some ancient coastwise migration, perhaps of either the time of the great stone monuments or of a later prehistoric period. One should look for this type especially perhaps among old families in Maughold and the extreme South. The Scandinavian types, with light colouring, strong noses, long heads and tall stature, stand out in contrast to these others.

By such studies we are feeling our way towards a better reconstruction of early history than that indicated in old statements about Iberians, Goidels and Britons, and so on.

Professor Fleure was thanked by the President of the Society for the most interesting and informative address he had given.

[fpc - later written up H.J Fleure & G J H Neely "Cashtal yn Ard, Isle of Man" The Antiquities Journal XVI #4 pp373/395 Oct 1936]


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received MNB Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 1999