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So much for the dating of spiral ornaments. A difficulty has arisen as to the route which this form of decoration followed in reaching the northern parts of Europe.
There has been noted a tendency of the spiral to degrade to, and to be replaced by, concentric circles, so much so that Sir Arthur Evans has been led to maintain that “the Spiral is non-existent in BronzeAge remains in Northern Italy, Gaul, and Britain.”
Exception must be taken to this statement as far as Britain and Ireland are concerned.
And there was a reason why the true spiral failed
to make its direct way through Gaul to Britain. It took a roundabout course and reached the north-west of Europe by the Scandinavian route.
And the reason suggested is this, that as during the Roman occupation of Britain the Channel was infested by Saxon pirates from the coast-lands between the Elbe and the Rhine, the passage was no less effectively closed for trade in earlier days. Trading enterprise sought a safer route, that between Norway and the Orkneys and Scotland. “Single spirals have been found incised in stones in two localities in Orkney. In Scotland examples of double or of single spirals, associated with concentric circle, cup and ring, and cup markings, are found on rock surfaces and sepulchral stones in Argyllshire,
Ayrshire, and Peebles-shire. In England they are found in Cumberland, Lancashire, and Northumber
In Ireland there is at New Grange, co. Meath, a remarkable display of spiral ornament, single and double, returning and interlocking, associated with chevron, zig-zag, and triangle patterns.
Mr. Coffey, in the article already referred to, men
tions that “an isolated example of spiral ornament occurs in Merionethshire, Wales.”
Of this stone, Mr. R. Jones Morris, local secretary for the county, kindly supplies a photograph. Ăn unsatisfactory illustration from a rubbing by Rev. R. Williams Mason is given in Arch. Camb., 1867, p. 155, in an article by Rev. E. L. Barnwell on “Marked Stones in Wales.” “ The other stone (Mr. Barnwell has been describing a marked stone at Clynnog, Carnarvonshire), now in Llanbedr parish (near Harlech), was found on the mountains above by Dr. Griffith Griffiths of Taltreuddyn, near Harlech, lying among the débris of the primitive buildings usually assigned to Irish builders. In that position it was in danger of being broken up and converted into material for the stone walls of the district. It was therefore judiciously removed from its original position, where it was more likely to be preserved, and certainly more easily visited. It has been placed between two pillar-stones, the apparently sole relics of a large circle.
1 Mr. Coffey, “Origins of Prehistoric Ornament in Ireland," J.R.S. Antiquaries, Ireland, 1896
“It is now lying on the ground but should be placed in an upright position, and if possible a small brass plate should be affixed at the back of the stone stating whence it came, otherwise at some future period its presence between its two companions may puzzle some future antiquary.'
“ The upper part of the stone is nearly occupied with the spiral curve. Perhaps some similarity of form may be traced between this figure and those to be found in Ireland. If so, it would seem to confirm the universal tradition that these very early walls and remains of houses are the work of the Irish antecedent to the occupation of the Kymry proper, whose descendants certainly do not claim them, in these days, as the work of their forefathers.”
Sir N. Simpson, M.D., in his monograph on “ Cup and Ring Sculptures” has the following description :
“Near the village of Llanbedr, in Merionethshire, are two tallish monoliths and one intermediate stone of much smaller size inscribed as Meini Ilirion in the
The three are placed near each other and stand in a row.
The two lateral monoliths are respectively about 7 ft. and 10 ft. high. The short intermediate stone is only about 3 ft. in height and is
1 It is now in the churchyard, Llanbedr. 2 Proc. Soc. Ant., Scot., vol. vi.
cut on one of its faces with a faded volute consisting of six or seven spiral concentric lines, the diameter of the outermost being about 11 in. But this carved stone, instead of being a part (as supposed) of a set of standing stones belonging to the spot where it now stands, was removed several years ago down to its present site from one of the ancient fortified enclosures, camps, or towns, which abound on the neighbouring high grounds."
The stone was examined by the Members at our Portmadoc meeting in 1903. Mr. Romilly Allen, in his report on this meeting, remarks that it “in all probability belongs to the Bronze Age, and is a unique specimen as far as Wales is concerned. The stone is four-sided and tapers towards the top. It is 2 ft. 9 in. high by 11 in. wide at the top and i ft. 11 in. wide at the bottom by 1 ft. 2 in. thick. At the top there is a single spiral, neatly incised.”
It is not, however, an “isolated” or “unique example in Wales." At the Llandrindod meeting, 1910, the Members were able to examine another specimen, carefully preserved from weather and accident, with two other incised stones, in the wall of the porch of Llanafan Fawr Church.
A careful inspection with a magnifying glass will show the method employed.
“The spirals on the stones at New Grange and elsewhere in Ireland (Mr. Coffey points out) are not cut as with a graver, side-driven as a plough : They are punched by a number of blows struck perpendicularly on the surface of the stone. Any hard-pointed instrument, a pointed stone, will do to punch a line in the fairly soft surfaces of the stones usually selected. By repeated blows with a pointed instrument a more or less continuous line of punched marks can be easily made to follow a required form. When they are sunk, the tool may be run in the line to clear it.”
1 Arch. Camb., 1904, p. 149.