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The Bronze Age in Ireland Part 9

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Like the other vessels, they can be divided into different types, of which some are peculiar to England, and even there confined to certain counties. In Ireland several of these small cups have perforated walls, while some have handles. One remarkable specimen found at Knocknacoura, Co. Carlow, is covered all over with ornament.

In the fine cist discovered at Greenhills, County Dublin, and now set up in the National Museum, a very remarkable little cup was found inside the large inverted cinerary urn (fig. 84). The form of this small cup appears to be originally derived from a metal prototype, and exactly resembles pottery-vessels of Iron-Age date found in the cemetery at Marne.

CHAPTER XII

BRONZE-AGE ORNAMENTATION IN IRELAND

The ornament of the Bronze Age in Ireland consists of chevrons, hatched triangles, lozenges, etc., combined with some wavy patterns, and later in some instances with the spirals introduced from Scandinavia,[53]

where this motive had penetrated early from the aegean along the amber route. This early type of ornament can be seen on some of the bronze celts, and also on the pottery, notably the food-vessels, which are often most tastefully decorated. The ornamentation, however, can be most fully studied on the inscribed stones in the great monuments of the New Grange group. These monuments, perhaps the most remarkable in Western Europe, have justly aroused the interest of generations of archaeologists, and many interpretations have been placed upon their decoration. Having dealt so fully with this subject in a recent book, "New Grange and other Incised Tumuli in Ireland," 1912, it is not proposed to go into the question again, but there are one or two points that may be noticed.

[53] See h.o.e.rnes, "Jahrbuch fur Altertnmskunde," Band vi, p. 163.

The most remarkable feature about the ornamentation at New Grange is the occurrence of the spiral motive; and it is the presence of this distinctive motive which has led to so much speculation.

It may be stated at once that the general view at present held by those who have studied the question is that the spiral was introduced, and that in the case of Ireland it was derived from Scandinavia.

The similarity between New Grange and the tholos tombs of the mainland of Greece is so striking that it is at least likely that the former may have been derived from the latter.

In examining the monument of New Grange, the author had been led by long study, and the comparison with motives common in the aegean at about the same period, to explain the ornamentation, notably in the cases of the large stones ill.u.s.trated in the book, p. 75, as derived from combinations of ornaments commonly found on aegean pottery, these motives being themselves connected with the symbolism of sun-worship.

In the case of other markings, it was considered these were possibly derived from the decoration of certain objects of Scandinavian origin.

In an article in _L'Anthropologie_, vol. xxiii, p. 29, dealing with the subject, M. J. Dechelette has put forward other views with regard to the markings at New Grange. M. Dechelette sees in the markings at New Grange a degenerated copy of the female idols of neolithic times, carvings of which in a more or less rudimentary form have been found in the Iberian peninsula, Italy, France, England, and Scandinavia. It may be mentioned that from the occurrence of carvings of this idol on sepulchral monuments it is to be connected with funeral rites. M.

Dechelette supports his contentions with a wealth of ill.u.s.trations drawn from the tattooed idols of Greece, Portugal, and Aveyron, the engraved chalk cylinder from Madrid, the incised lines from Almizaraque, the sculptures from the artificial grottos of Marne, the vase fragments of Charantaise, the chalk drum from Folkton Wold (Yorkshire), and the engravings from the dolmens of Locmariaquer.

On p. 43 M. Dechelette gives a scheme of the evolution of the pattern of the idol, starting from fairly well-defined eyes, eyebrows, and nose, with chevron marks imitating tattooing. The face becomes stylized by the subst.i.tution of a mere arched line for the eyebrows, and concentric circles for the eyes, the tattooing marks becoming a conventional pattern of regular chevrons. In the Irish examples the spiral replaces the concentric circles for the eyes, and the pattern below is further enriched by lozenges, and finally we arrive at a form in which the spiral has an eyebrow above and a single lozenge below, and this form M. Dechelette compares to the engravings on the slabs at New Grange. The shield-like figure on the roofing stone of the right recess at New Grange is compared by M. Dechelette to the engravings on the dolmen of Pierres-Plates at Locmariaquer, which also appear to be a stylized form of the idol.

M. Dechelette compares the very remarkable boundary-stone at Dowth, with the engraving of suns on it, to the vases from Millares, province d'Almerie, which are ornamented with raised circles, these in their turn being derived from a degenerate form of the idol.

M. Dechelette applies the same explanation to the scribings at Gavir'inis, the spiral ornamentation of which is to be regarded as derived from Ireland.

This very brilliant and original interpretation of the scribings at New Grange seems to fit the case exceedingly well, and M. Dechelette's theory may be regarded as a very probable one for the origin of the markings, but it must be remembered that there is some difficulty caused by the fact that the similarity in plan between New Grange and the tholos tombs, as has been pointed out, is too great to be neglected. Now if New Grange is derived from this source, it cannot well be placed earlier than 1000 B.C. The idol, on the other hand, is neolithic in date, and must have survived a considerable time to have influenced the Irish carvings. It must also be borne in mind that no other forms of this idol have been met with in Ireland.

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The Bronze Age in Ireland Part 9 summary

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