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At Gavr Inis, in Brittany, amongst the numerous incised stones in the passage and chambers of the tumulus, two are inscribed with spirals; one bears a single spiral, the other has on it two rude examples of the double spiral. In a subterranean chamber at La Tourelle, near Quimper, Brittany, were found fragments of a terra-cotta statue, with a varied ornamentation of concentric circles, isolated or grouped in quincunx, and separated by dotted lines.'
The spirals of the Egyptian scarabs have been con
sidered to have a sacred or magical meaning. It is quite possible that the markings on stones may have had some religious significance.
Sir J. N. Simpson was inclined to believe “that they were emblems or symbols connected in some way with the religious thoughts and doctrines of those that carved them.” This he concludes from the position and circumstances in which they are found. several instances they are engraved on the outer or inner surface of the stone lids of the ancient kist vaen and mortuary urn.
The remains of the dead which 1 Arch. Camb., 1868, p. 309.
occupied these cists and urns were covered over with stones carved with these rude concentric circles,
apparently just as afterwards—in early Christian times -they were covered with cut emblems of the cross placed in the same position. Man has ever conjoined
together things sacred and things sepulchral, for the innate dread of death and the grave has ever led him, in ancient as in modern times, to invest his burial rites and customs with the characters and emblems of his religious creed.”1
Mr. Romilly Allen, while dismissing as futile guesses”
" the notion that “these sculptures are maps of the stars or of prehistoric villages, a rude sort of picture-writing or for playing some kind of game," agrees with Sir J. Simpson that they have a religious significance, “because they are found so frequently associated with sepulchral remains, such as megalithic circles, menhirs, chambered cairns and stone cists, and often on the stones of cinerary urns. He suggests as probable that they are connected in some way or other
with funeral rites, either as sacred emblems or for actual use in holding small offerings or libations.” “ The fact (he adds) of their being found occasionally on vertical surfaces is rather against the latter assump
Mr. W. Paley Baildon has made an interesting suggestion in an article on “Cup and Ring Carvings. Amongst these he includes as Type 6 Spirals, Swastikas, and Triskeles. Mr. Baildon suggests that these cupand-ring carvings, “the most archaic stone carvings that have been left to us” (which he assigns to an earlier period than the Bronze Age), were made for “Ghost-houses,” a miniature hut or model being incised instead of a real full-sized one for the occupancy of
a the ghosts of the dead. The passage deserves to be quoted at length :
“In China, paper models were made of houses, furniture, boats, sedans, ladies-in-waiting and gentlemen pages, which were solemnly burned at the funeral.
, The Malagasy and certain West African tribes make a little 'soul-hut' or devil-house over or near the
grave. In early interments in Italy, Germany, and Denmark, model houses of pottery are found ; and I should like to suggest here (though it is not material to my argument) whether some of the so-called 'incense-cups' found in many of our English interments may not be ghost-huts in the model of bee-hive dwellings. Once the idea is attained that a model does as well for a ghost as a real object it becomes applied to many things. As Professor Gowland told us some time ago, the Japanese placed images of men and animals of stone, clay, or wood, by the corpse. Egyptian tombs are full of models of all kinds; models of weapons are sometimes found instead of the weapons themselves; the modern Esquimaux buries models of kajaks, spears, etc., with his dead.
A sculptured stone from a tumulus in Brittany shows a whole armoury of weapons and a bee-hive hut, incised in stone, for the use of the ghost.
“Size presents no difficulty. The Burmese stretch threads across streams for the ghosts to pass along. And the modern ghost, if we believe the stories, can enter through a key-hole, and then proceed to clank chains or move heavy furniture.
“Now I suggest that the cup-and-ring carvings are the equivalent of the miniature ghost-huts and huturns that I have just mentioned. Each cup would then represent a hut, while the rings would be stockades or banks around them. It may be objected that savage peoples in a time so remote as the Neolithic period would not have the knowledge or skill to produce ground plans. The answer is that these are not primarily or intentionally plans. The people who constructed circular huts with concentric stockades round them, such as can be seen to-day in many places, must have had the art to measure and make out the site on the ground before beginning to build. A plan of this sort seems to me to be more easily comprehended than a perspective or elevation. Many tribes address their dead at funerals and beseech