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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.”I 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 cup
. and-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
1 Proc. Soc. Ant., Scot., 1864. ? Brit. Arch. J., 1881-2. 3 Archæologia, vol. Ixi, p. 361.
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 an elevation. Many tribes address their dead at funerals and beseech
and exhort them as to their future conduct, and it requires no violent stretch of the imagination to suppose that the corpse was informed that the central cup was his own particular kraal, the space inclosed by the first ring was for his wives, the second ring for his bodyguard or household slaves, the third for his cattle and so on, while the unringed cups would be for other slaves, children, and persons of no particular consequence.
The greater the number of rings, the greater the chief, just as, among the North American Indians, the size of the tumulus showed the wealth and importance of the person commemorated. My suggestion, if correct, will account for most of the difficulties hitherto pointed out with regard to these carvings. First, as I have already mentioned, for their wide distribution and monotonous repetition. On standing stones we generally find one cup
with rings and numerous cups without rings; this would be for a chief and the many slaves who were killed to attend him in the ghost-world. The large rock surfaces covered with carvings, such as Routin Linn, I attribute to ghost-villages, where a new ghosthut is made at each death. And the different methods of grouping I explain by differences in modes of constructing villages. Thus we find the open village with stockaded huts, and unstockaded huts grouped within a common ring fence, such as a camp. The curious ladder-forms found at Ilkley would be made by a tribe who cultivated the hill sides in terraces ; it is true that I do not know of any such terraces at Ilkley, but at Lindley, not far away, there is a very well marked series.
“Apart from these isolated instances of survival, the cup-and-ring marks degenerate into mere ornament. A considerable number of kist-slabs, both in Ireland and Brittany (referred to in the quotation from Simpson), have their surfaces covered with elaborate patterns derived from the cup and ring. bolism has apparently been lost, and all that remains
is the tradition that designs of this character have some mysterious appropriateness as decorations for the sepulchral chamber; but the artist is at liberty to use them how and where he likes, in conjunction with other patterns.
"The spirals, swastikas, triskeles, and other rare forms, I am inclined to class with the secondary interments in burial-circles and barrows. These forms are all typical of Bronze-Age ornament, and may have been added to the original carvings withont any very clear object or meaning beyond adding something to a collection of carvings obviously of a sacred character.”
The aforesaid suggestion of Mr. Baildon does not commend itself to Mr. George Coffey. In a recent paper,' on a stone at Ryfad, county Fermanagh, he points out that this stone, the surface of which is literally covered with cup-and-ring marks “suggests votive sun emblems."
It hardly supports Mr. W. Paley Baildon's recent theory that cup-and-ring markings are emblems of "ghost-houses.” It agrees much better with M. Joseph Déchelette's view that they are to be regarded as sun-symbols. Here we must leave the subject for the present.
1 Journal R. S. A. I., vol. xli, p. 25. 2 Manuel d'archéologie.