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R. A. S. MACALISTER, Litt.D., F.S.A. 















INDEX 365 



1. Archaeology in early Irish Literature. II. " Book Antiquaries" 
and " Field Antiquaries." III. Sir James Ware. IV. Edward 
Lhuyd. V. Sir Thomas Molyneux. VI. Charles Vallancey. 
VII. Edward Ledwich/ VIII. Sir William Betham. IX. 
George Petrie. X. The Ordnance Survey. XI. John 
O'Donovan. XII. Eugene O'Curry. XIII. The Royal Irish 
Academy Museum. XIV. Sir William Wilde. XV. Other 
Workers. XVI. The Importance of Irish Antiquities. 

I. An interest in the past is a natural instinct of 
humanity. There is no tribe, however low in the 
social scale, that has not asked questions about how 
the world has come to be, with the living things that 
people it ; and that has not found answers which, 
if artless and unscientific, at least satisfy the craving 
for knowledge. Of this natural interest in the past, 
Ireland affords a conspicuous example. The two 
professions, the bardic and the druidic, were endowed 
with many privileges, in virtue of their members 
being the repositories of the popular traditions in 
the one case on the historical side, in the other on the 

But, although the early Irish writers thus display 
a deep interest in History, the conception of a science 
of Archaeology does not seem to have entered their 
heads. The ancient monuments of Ireland, which 
are still conspicuous, must in the nature of things 
have been yet more conspicuous in the middle ages ; 
but we find few definite references to them in mediae- 
val Irish literature. 1 Not till the seventeenth century 

1 This is not meant to imply that the Irish literature is not of 
any service to the archaeologist : quite the contrary a study of 
Irish literature is absolutely essential for a proper comprehension 


did people begin to open their eyes to the interest 
of the actual remains of antiquity in the country. 

II. We may divide those who have concerned 
themselves with the study of the past of Ireland into 
two classes, which we may call " book antiquaries " 
and " field antiquaries " ; though this is not to be 
taken as a hard-and-fast division, nor is it intended 
to claim a superiority for either class over the other. 
The book antiquaries are those whose special w r ork 
lies among manuscripts Colgan, the Four Masters, 
Keating, Dubhaltach mac Fir Bisigh, Rudhraighe 
6 Flaithbheartaigh, and the rest of the succession, 
down to the eminent scholars of our own day. The 
field antiquaries are those who study the tangible 
remains of antiquity, be these the monuments scattered 
through the country, or small objects in collections. 
It is with the work of the latter that we shall be chiefly 
concerned in the following pages ; but we cannot 
afford wholly to neglect the province of the former. 
Without a critical knowledge of the native records 
the field worker is at sea, as may too often be illus- 
trated from the pages of our antiquarian journals. 
Without a knowledge of antiquities, and, above all, 
a comparative knowledge of the antiquities of other 
countries, the book antiquary becomes an unscien- 
tific enthusiast of the O 'Curry type. 

III. Among the students of the tangible remains 
of antiquity in Ireland, the first name that meets us 
is that of Sir James Ware. He was the son of the 
secretary to Sir W. Fitzwilliam, the Lord Deputy, 
born in Dublin in 1594. At Trinity College he made 

of Irish antiquities, and vice versa. The two complement and 
illumine each other at every step. But the references in Irish 
literature throw light on antiquities rather by incidental mention or 
allusion than by direct description. Thus, we have speculations 
on Ogham writing, without a single reference to any existing 
Ogham monument, which might have corroborated or refuted 
those speculations. But, on the other hand, we have many indirect 
allusions to Ogham writing which properly interpreted, are of the 
greatest value. 


the acquaintance of Archbishop Ussher, who en- 
couraged his archaeological tastes ; he likewise met 
Dubhaltach mac Fir Bisigh, who taught him a certain 
amount of Irish, though it does not appear that 
he ever acquired enough to make him independent 
of native scholars. He amassed a fine collection 
of Irish Manuscripts, part of which is now in 
the British Museum, and part in the Bodleian 
Library. His works include Inquiries into the 
Antiquities of Ireland ; Annals of Ireland from the 
first Conquest of the English : Commentaries on 
the Prelates of Ireland, from the first Planting of 
Christianity to the year 1665 : and a list of the 
Writers of Ireland, from the fifth to the sixteenth 
century. These works, though brief, testify to no 
small amount of painstaking research, when the 
absence of all library facilities is taken into account. 

IV. The next important name is that of Edward 
Lhuyd, born 1660, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum 
at Oxford; who, in 1698, set out on an extended 
journey through Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall, 
and Brittany, studying the Celtic languages : of 
which he published grammars and vocabularies under 
the title Archaeologia Britannica, vol. I (1707). The 
second volume, which would have contained the 
archaeological observations he is known to have made, 
was never published ; this is the more unfortunate, 
as his manuscript collections were destroyed in a 
fire at a bookbinder's office early in the nineteenth 
century. Only a few letters are preserved, which 
show his power of making careful and accurate 

V. Sir Thomas Molyneux was a practising physi- 
cian in Dublin, interested in Natural Science. In 
1725 he made his one contribution to archaeology, 
in the shape of A Discourse concerning the Danish 
Mounts, Forts, and Towers in Ireland, published as 
the third part of Boate's Natural History of Ireland. 
This seems to be the first contribution to the " Round 
Tower controversy " : it contains observations on 


the Ring-forts, and an important plan of New 

VI. Charles Vallancey was born at Windsor in 
1721. In time he entered the Royal Engineers, and 
in 1762 he became Engineer-in-Ordinary in Ireland ; 
Lieutenant-General in 1798, and General in 1803. 
His duties on the military survey of Ireland brought 
him into contact with Irish antiquities. In these he 
developed a keen interest ; but his total lack of 
critical judgment, and the fatal gaps in his wide but 
superficial knowledge, vitiated everything that he 
wrote about his favourite subject. In 1770 he began 
to issue his Collectanea de rebus hibernicis, which ran 
till 1804, the series compising six volumes. It is a 
series of essays, by Vallancey and others : the fruit 
of the labours of a committee, of which Vallancey 
was a leading spirit, established within the Royal 
Dublin Society for the purpose of investigating Irish 
antiquities. He also published other works, such as 
An Essay on the Celtic Language, and an Ancient 
History of Ireland proved from the Sanskrit Books. 

It is easy to laugh at these productions, which in 
the light of modern knowledge are truly absurd. A 
smile comes unbidden when we read the solemn 
pretentiousness with which Irish words are compared 
to those in Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Kalmuck, 
and other remote languages, or the assertions made 
with ponderous but unauthoritative dogmatism about 
Phoenicians, " Magogians ", Round Towers, Druids, 
and all the rest of the shibboleths. But it is unfair 
to ridicule men for not possessing knowledge which 
in their time was inaccessible. They lived before the 
decipherment of the Egyptian and Cuneiform in- 
scriptions had revolutionised our conceptions of 
Oriental history ; before the teachings of Geology, 
of Anthropology in all its branches, of Philology, 
had been scientifically formulated even the history 
of Gothic Architecture was unknown when they lived, 
so that with the best intentions it would have been 
impossible for Vallancey and his friends to perform 


even a task so comparatively simple as the descrip- 
tion of a mediaeval village church. When we re- 
member the difficulties of travel, and the disturbed 
state of the country, to say nothing of the non-existence 
of such aids as trustworthy maps and the art of photo- 
graphy, which are freely at our disposal, we are bound 
to admit that in the mere amassing of materials the 
authors of the Collectanea set an example of industry 
that must go far to excuse them, if in their unavoid- 
able ignorance of present-day knowledge they often 
went astray. Their absurd notions about the Round 
Towers, for example, should not blind us to the 
significant fact that at a time when there were no 
guide books or other books of reference, no maps, 
no penny postage, no railways, no motor-cars, no 
photography, none of the things which we have come 
to consider essentials of research, these earnest 
students had already explored the country sufficiently 
to enable them to draw up an almost complete list 
of those structures. With a little infusion of their 
spirit we should by now have completed that crying 
desideratum, a complete archaeological survey of the 

Indeed there is even yet a sad lack of a scientific 
spirit in the study of antiquities in Ireland ; " Vallan- 
ceyism " still preserves a certain vitality ; there seems 
to be a notion current that anyone is entitled to " fool ' 
with antiquities in his spare time if we may be 
permitted the expressive colloquialism and thereby 
to acquire the right to call himself an " archaeo- 
logist " ! The publications of our antiquarian journals, 
even yet, occasionally contain stuff as bad as anything 
to be found in the Collectanea. Here is an example, 
selected at random, of the sort of thing that some- 
times passes for archaeology : it was written not 
thirty years ago, by one who had a considerable 
reputation as a collector of Irish antiquities. 1 Nearly 
every possible mistake is made in these few words : 

1 I suppress names and references. 


nearly every point of importance is missed : and the 
extract ends with a pointless outburst of " high- 
faluting " which is merely irritating : 

" The battle-axe [sic ; the object under description is a halberd], 
though with little beauty to recommend it [what has this to do 
with its scientific interest P] 1 is yet the most interesting of all the 
weapons found at ... It is apparently of pure copper [apparently ! 
Why did the author not get it analysed, and settle this vital question 
definitely ?] and, like those of t.he Firbolgs [sic] is found pointed 
[whence comes this knowledge of what sort the weapons of the 
Fir Bolg were ?] and of ruder construction than the sharp-pointed 
weapons of the Tuatha de Danaans [sic]. It was attached to the 
handle by massive rivets of the same material as itself ; of these 
it originally had three, but only one is in situ. With its heavy 
curved blade flattened to its edges [a not very intelligible description] 
it is a formidable and destructive weapon., and takes us back to an 
age long before the advent of Our Saviour, when the valleys and 
hills of Sligo echoed back the war-cries of the opposing armies 
who strove in deadly combat upon the historic plains of Moytura." 

So long as the publication of fantastic effusions 
like this is permitted, just so long are we bound to 
withhold our mockery over the ashes of Charles 

VII. The Rev. Edward Ledwich may be called the 
first of the iconoclastic school of Irish antiquaries. 
To explain this term it may be said that there are 
two kinds of meddlers in Irish archaeology, and it 
is hard to tell which of them is the more mischievous. 
The first kind (who are ardent members of , one 
political party) are full of the glories of Brian the 
Brave, and of that dreamland time when Ireland, 
as one of their own poets has said, was peopled by a 
race "taller than Roman spears" a condition of 
things that could not be brought about, save by an 
epidemic of acromegaly or some similar disease ! 
The other kind (who are rampant members of the 

1 Students of archaeology should mark and learn this sentence 
of the illustrious Dechelette " L'interet scientifique des trou- 
vailles archeologiques ne se mesure pas aux dimensions des objets, 
non plus qu'a leur caractere artistique." Manuel d' archeologie, 
II. 1293. 


opposite political party) are for ever chortling over 
the savagery of the country down to the time of 
Queen Elizabeth, the evidence for human sacrifices, 
people going about without any clothes on, and so 
forth. As is usually the case, there is an element of 
truth in both ways of interpreting the evidence ; 
but the exaggerations on both sides are so great that 
the truth is completely hidden. On the one hand, 
to resent all suggestions that Ireland, like every other 
country, rose to civilisation from a savagery com- 
parable with the most primitive to be seen in Africa 
or in the South Sea Islands, is simply an indication 
of childishness or of ignorance. On the other hand, 
every attempt to deny or to belittle the great part 
which Ireland played in religion, literature, and art 
during the last decades of paganism and the first 
centuries of Christianity can spring from nothing 
less discreditable than prejudice or downright dis- 

Of the second class of critics, Edward Ledwich 
was the pioneer. He was born in Dublin in 1738. 
A bigoted Protestant, he evidently felt it his religious 
duty to " barbarize " the past of Ireland as much as 
he possibly could. His thesis was, that everything 
in the country which indicated the least approach to 
civilisation was the work of the Danes, who with him 
became as great an obsession as did the Phoenicians 
with Vallancey. It must in fairness be admitted that 
his Antiquities of Ireland, published in 1790, is not 
without its merits. It was a corrective to Vallan- 
ceyite enthusiasms, and many of the author's remarks 
are shrewd, and shew him to have been possessed of 
some critical judgment. The faults of the book, 
however, are more obvious than its virtues. There 
is not a little disingenuousness in the way in which 
facts are twisted to suit his theories and prejudices : 
and the way in which he speaks of the religious faith 
of those who happen to differ from him, though 
doubtless in accordance with the intolerant spirit of 
his time, is wholly indefensible. 


VIII. Sir William Betham, at the beginning of the 
nineteenth century, did valuable work in arranging 
and cataloguing the records in Ulster's Office. Had 
he confined his attentions to the genealogical and 
heraldic subjects for which he was fitted he would 
have left behind a greater name than he has actually 
done. Unfortunately he meddled with the Phoeni- 
cians and the Etruscans, and, like many a better man, 
shipwrecked himself upon the rocks of those perilous 
seas. His Etruria Celtica, along with O'Brien's 
Round Towers and Keene's Towers and Temples of 
Ancient Ireland books of which this bare mention 
will suffice holds the foremost place among the 
irredeemably insane books on Irish antiquities. 

But here again we must withhold our laughter. 
It is not so very long since people dug up one of the 
most important mounds of Teamhair in search of 
the Ark of the Covenant ; and since somebody or 
other wrote a book to prove that Ireland was " Ur of 
the Chaldees " ! 

IX. In the year 1789 was born George Petrie, the 
first personality of permanent importance in Irish 
archaeology. In pursuing his vocation as a landscape 
painter, he soon became attracted to the interest of 
Irish antiquities, to the study of which he devoted 
a large part of his life. 

Petrie was born just when scientific order was 
beginning to evolve, in several departments of learning, 
out of the undisciplined theorising of the eighteenth 
century ; and when the rapid progress of discovery 
was stimulating students to greater exertions. His 
work, though not perhaps so perfect as his more 
enthusiastic eulogists suppose, shows clear evidence 
of the influence of the new spirit. While not himself 
an Irish scholar, he had at his side the leading Irish 
scholar of his time, John O 'Donovan. Most of his 
work was done before the Famine had made so de- 
plorable a break with the old traditions, and had 
swept away so much of the language and the music 
and the memories of the old days. 


Of Petrie 's archaeological essays, the first is his 
History and Antiquities of Tara Hill : a very thorough 
account of the site and of the literary evidence that 
can be called upon to illuminate its problems. His 
second work, the Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, 
published in 1845, * s better known. In this treatise 
he disposed finally and for ever of the clouds of guess- 
work that had accumulated about the Round Towers. 
A collection of Christian Inscriptions in the Irish 
Language was published after his death, but scarcely 
enhances his reputation. An account of the Military 
Architecture of Ireland still remains in MS., in the 
custody of the Royal Irish Academy. 

X. These essays are a fruit of the great Ordnance 
Survey scheme of Captain Larcom. This enlightened 
officer was appointed director of the Ordnance 
Survey in 1828. In the plan which he drew up for 
the work, it was proposed to accompany the maps of 
each county with a memoir, describing its natural 
resources and economical character, as well as its 
historical and antiquarian monuments. Petrie was 
appointed in 1833 to superintend the latter part of 
the undertaking ; and he, with a committee that he 
gathered round him, met daily in his Dublin house, 
No. 21 Great Charles Street!! Their duty was to 
collect, from all available sources, details of the history 
of the ground being surveyed, while one of their 
number usually O 'Donovan - accompanied the 
surveyors, and wrote letters from the field, describing 
the antiquities, place-names, and local legends. But 
this magnificent enterprise was suddenly dropped, 
on the alleged ground of expense, after only one of 
the projected volumes had been issued. The whole 
story of the inception, progress, and stoppage of the 
scheme can be read in the extremely interesting 
fourth chapter of a very interesting book William 
Stokes' Life of George Petrie (London, 1868). The 
writer concludes his well-documented history with 
the following noteworthy words : " From a review 
of the official objections to the continuance of the 


work, and from considering the tenor of some of the 
questions put by the Commissioners of Inquiry, 
. it seems as if some strong, though concealed, 
influence had been brought to bear on the Govern- 
ment in reference to the danger of re-opening questions 
of Irish local history. These one-sided views pre- 
vailed, and the great undertaking, so earnestly desired 
by all who wished for the future prosperity and 
happiness of the country, was finally given up." 

It is only right to add the comment that the sus- 
pension of the work was in a sense a blessing in 
disguise. For in the thirties of the last century the 
times were not ripe for an archaeological survey of 
Ireland, or of any other country. The principles of 
archaeological observation have to be acquired, like 
any other science : and they had scarcely been for- 
mulated at the time in question. Perusal of the letters 
written, chiefly by John O'Donovan, to the Archaeo- 
logical Committee of the survey, shews how imperfect 
the work would have been. Much is recorded which 
is of the greatest possible value : but one of the most 
surprising things about these letters is the enormous 
quantity of important material which is passed over 
in complete silence, and the helpless amateurishness 
of much of the descriptive matter. The publication 
of O 'Donovan's Ordnance Survey letters has often 
been urged ; but to publish them without a complete 
re-collation of the letters with the remains actually 
to be seen in the fields would be a fatal error. 

Now is the time for such a survey ; in fact, if it 
be delayed much longer it will be too late. Increased 
tillage, changing ideas, and many other causes are 
proving fatal to the ancient monuments of Ireland ; 
and if a record is to be kept of them for future 
generations of scholars it must be begun at once. 

But history repeats itself. In 1908 Royal Com- 
missions were appointed to draw up complete lists of 
the antiquities of England, Scotland, and Wales, 
surveying each county systematically one by one ; 
they have already issued sixteen splendid volumes. 


The prayers of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of 
Ireland, and of the Royal Irish Academy, that a 
similar commission should be appointed for Ireland, 
were met with a direct refusal. 

XI. John O'Donovan was born at Ait an Tighe 
Mhoir, Co. Kilkenny, in 1806 ; he was the fourth 
son of a farmer in the county. At an early age he 
became a hedge school-master. In 1826 he obtained 
a post in the Record Office, and in 1829 in the 
Ordnance Survey. Thenceforward his life was 
devoted unwaveringly to the elucidation of Irish 
History, Topography, and Antiquities. Most of the 
Ordnance Survey letters, mentioned above, which 
are now deposited in the Royal Irish Academy Library, 
are written in his own neat hand ; these fill thirty- 
eight quarto volumes, with about 600 pages in each 
volume ; besides which there are fifty-two boxes 
of letters and documents of various kinds, a great 
collection of extracts from printed books and manu- 
scripts, and the field books, with the etymologies of 
the Irish names the last-mentioned preserved in 
the Ordnance Survey Office. In addition to these 
letters, he poured forth a constant stream of editions 
of important texts, illuminated with notes drawn 
from his unique knowledge of the country and of 
the literary sources. In 1852 he received a commission 
to edit the Ancient Laws of Ireland a work impossible 
to carry out adequately even yet, and doubly so in 
O'Donovan's time ; a task that will never be within 
the capacity of one man to accomplish, such enormous 
knowledge does it require of philology, history, folk- 
lore, law, and the development of social institutions. 
O'Donovan died without seeing any of the fruit of 
his labours in these exacting texts. 

XII. Eugene Curry in* later life he restored the 
patronymic prefix to his surname was discovered 
by Mr. Smith, of the publishing house of Hodges and 
Smith, in the uncongenial office of warder in a lunatic 
asylum. Brought up to Dublin, he had a career 
parallel with that of O'Donovan, who married his 


(O'Curry's) sister. In one respect he was more 
fortunate than his colleague, for after many vicissi- 
tudes he obtained the Professorship, of Irish History 
in the Catholic University of Ireland, so that his 
labours secured him a regular income. His lectures 
in the chair were published under the titles Manuscript 
Materials of Ancient Irish History, and Manners and 
Customs of the Ancient Irish the latter brought out 
in two volumes after his death, with a preliminary 
volume by the editor, Dr. W. K. Sullivan. Though 
antiquated by later discoveries, and by the scientific 
development of the " comparative method," and 
though vitiated by the author's engaging but un- 
critical enthusiasms, these books, which form the 
first serious attempt at a synthetic picture of ancient 
Ireland, are still of considerable value, if used with 

XIII. This work of comparison between Irish 
antiquities and the records in the manuscripts, a 
work of which O 'Curry was the pioneer, was made 
possible by the collection of antiquities belonging 
to the Royal Irish Academy, which is now deposited 
in the Dublin National Museum. The Royal Irish 
Academy was founded towards the end of the eight- 
eenth century for the study of Science, Polite Litera- 
ture, and Antiquities ; and it issued the first volume 
of its Transactions in 1787. While the earlier volumes 
of the publications of this venerable body are naturally 
out of date, its records contain some of the most 
valuable contributions to our subject that have been 
made ; and its museum is the foundation-stone of 
archaeological science in Ireland. The nucleus of 
this collection was formed in the earliest days of the 
Academy, and was augmented by the gift of a series 
of weapons and implements presented by Frederik 
VII, the learned and enlightened king of Denmark. 
These were arranged by Petrie when he joined the 
Academy, and he persuaded the body to augment 
its cabinet by the purchase of one or two private 
collections. He was enthusiastically seconded by 


MacCullagh, the Professor of Natural Philosophy 
in Dublin University (1809-1847), who bought for 
the Academy the famous Cross of Cunga. Public 
subscriptions were opened and liberally responded 
to, at the end of the thirties, to secure the torques 
found at Teamhair, and later to purchase the shrine 
known as Domhnach Airgid. Petrie was himself 
an enthusiastic collector, and his own hoard of anti- 
quities went to swell the Academy's museum after 
his death. 

When we read of these and the like instances of 
public spirit, nearly a hundred years ago, we are 
tempted to say, " Were not the former times better 
than these ? " In these latter days, thanks to the 
selfish greed of collectors and dealers, valuable anti- 
quities and manuscripts, which should be permanently 
housed in some public institution, are leaving the 
country, never to return. 1 

While we are on this subject, we must add that 
the official preservation of antiquities, as at present 
organised, can hardly be considered ideal. It consists 
of (a) the scheduling of certain monuments of out- 
standing importance for protection, and (b) the 
administration of the law of treasure- trove. The 
first is well and good so far as it goes : but it protects 
only those structures which by their very conspic- 
uousness have been most frequently described 
and illustrated, and the loss of which, though deplor- 
able enough, would not be the scientific calamity 

1 On the very day when this page is receiving its final revision, 
there comes the news that the hereditary keeper of a most important 
ecclesiastical relic, one that by its very nature should be a national 
possession, has sold it in London for a large sum : we refer to the 
Clogdn Oir the Bell of St. Senan. By great good fortune Mr. 
G. W. Panter, of Foxrock, Co. Dublin, has come fonvard to shew 
that the tradition of public spirit is not wholly dead : for he has 
bought the shrine to present it to the Royal Irish Academy's 
collection. The magnitude of this service, however, does not 
make the incident any less instructive or any less disquieting. 
A public benefactor has bought the shrine, because its custodian 
would have sold it out of the country. 


that the destruction of an unrecorded monument 
always is ; and it neglects the smaller and .less out- 
standing remains, which by their " ordinariness " 
are in reality the more important, in that they are 
monuments of the normal life of the periods to which 
they belong. The law of treasure-trove is entirely 
misunderstood in the country. It is based on the 
old mediaeval idea that unclaimed property belonged 
to the Crow T n : and there is a notion current that 
the Crown confiscates the treasure without recompense. 
This, of course, is not the case. Objects of antiquity 
acquired under the law of treasure-trove pass into 
the custody of the Royal Irish Academy, and they 
are thus preserved for the nation. That body 
administers an annual grant, expressely allotted for 
the purpose of adequately remunerating the finders. 
The story that the objects are confiscated by the 
Government or by its representatives is spread artifi- 
cially by dealers and other sharks, whose purpose is 
to secure the objects for themselves, that they may 
pocket a profit upon them. The finder is thus 
defrauded, and is put in the position of an offender 
against the law ; the country is defrauded, for it is 
more than probable that the dealer who thus acquires 
antiquities will sell them abroad, or may even melt 
them down : and science is defrauded, for as everyone 
concerned in the transaction keeps his mouth shut, 
the history and the circumstances of the find, which 
constitute half its scientific value, are irrecoverable. 

But what is really wanted is a specially appointed 
Bureau of History and Archaeology, constituted to 
deal with the whole subject, and with funds sufficient 
to enable it to do so. In a country of the enormous 
archaeological importance of Ireland, a civilised 
government would have established such an office 
long ago. 

XIV. The Museum of the Royal Irish Academy 
was made available for general study by Sir William 
Wilde, who in the fifties of the nineteenth century 
devoted the leisure of his busy professional life to 


arranging it and preparing the published catalogue, 
the first part of which appeared in 1857. Though in 
many respects antiquated, " Wilde's Catalogue " is 
still a standard work on Irish archaeology. It is far 
more than a mere list of objects, for it includes illus- 
trated dissertations on all types of antiquities 
represented in the museum. 

XV. Space would fail to tell at length of the work 
of Bishop Graves (1812-1899), and of Sir Samuel 
Ferguson (1810-1886), who devoted most of the time 
which they spent on archaeology to the decipherment 
of Ogham writing ; of Bishop Reeves (1815-1892), 
the erudite ecclesiastical antiquary ; of J. H. Todd 
(1805-1869), founder of the Irish Archaeological 
Society, which helped and supported O 'Donovan ; 
of Lord Dunraven, Margaret Stokes, Crofton Croker, 
Kennedy, Du Noyer, Wakeman, Borlase, Joyce, 
Coffey, to name but a few of the most prominent of 
those who now rest from their labours. 

And we must not forget that Dublin has not a 
monopoly of archaeologists. A coterie in Cork 
deserves mention. Its leading spirit was John Windele 
(1801-1865), whose MS. collections, now housed in 
the Royal Irish Academy Library, are of great topo- 
graphical value, and whose hoard of Ogham stones 
is in the Royal Irish Academy Museum. Kilkenny 
too, has had its eager antiquaries, chief among whom 
was the Rev. James Graves (1815-1886), who founded 
the Kilkenny Archaeological Society (now the Royal 
Society of Antiquaries of Ireland). 

Ulster, also, has its archaeological " roll of honour." 
But only a few of the soi-disant students of the subject 
in the Northern Province have made contributions 
of value to the science. Most of those who have there 
paid attention to the subject have been nothing more 
than enthusiastic collectors. It will easily be under- 
stood that when a man devotes his leisure to amassing 
hundreds and thousands of flint arrowheads (let us 
say), and to doing the work of a museum clerk in 
sorting and labelling them, he cannot expect to have 


much time left for serious study. Indeed the rank 
and file of collectors are an unmitigated curse to 
archaeology. They import an element of commercial- 
ism into the subject which is wholly to its detriment. 
Their interests are limited to making their cabinets 
fuller and richer than those of their rivals : l in the 
competition prices go up, and museums, which 
have no resources but inelastic grants of money, 
have to struggle against very unfair odds. And when 
death claims the collector, his cabinet is auctioned 
and dispersed to the four winds. Over and over 
again have I read in papers on Irish antiquities such 
words as these : ' I am happy to say this object is 
in my possession." But the writer is now dead, 
and where are his treasures ? A public museum is 
the only legitimate place for important antiquities : 
there is no harm in a student of the subject having 
a few type specimens by him, but to make antiqui- 
ties merely the sport of a collector is to degrade 

XVI. Ireland is unique among the countries of 
Western Europe, in that it never fell under Roman 
sway. In all the other lands the Romans came as a 
destroying deluge, instituting the Pax Romano, at the 
cost of all the interesting strivings after civilisation 
that were budding forth when the Romans arrived to 
submerge them. In Ireland alone can certain phases 
of non-Romanised European culture be studied. 
Others may be studied in Scandinavia : the two 
countries supplement each other archaeologically, 
and Irish and Scandinavian antiquities, Irish and 
Icelandic literature, should be treated respectively 
as parallel studies. The preservation of Irish antiqui- 
ties, therefore, becomes a duty which those responsible 
owe, not merely to the nation, but to the world of 

1 If anyone should read these strictures in a sceptical spirit, 
may I refer him to a paper by Mr. W. J. Knowles on Ancient 
Jrish Beads and Amulets (JRSAI xv p. 522), and ask him to 
mark, learn, and digest the revelations there contained ? 


learning at large. And for two reasons the study of 
Irish archaeology should be on the ordinary curriculum 
of every school in the country, of every sort and 
denomination. First, because it is by education 
alone that we can secure the continued preservation 
of the monuments. Secondly, because there is no 
study more stimulating to the imagination, as anyone 
can "find for himself who enjoys the pleasure of 
showing an intelligent child round a museum, and 
watching the rapid development of his or her eager 
interest in the antiquities there exhibited. 

Yet the subject is, we might almost say, a thing 
tabooed. It has to contend, on the one hand, with 
a dull and short-sighted utilitarianism ; on the other 
hand, with obscurantism born of political prejudices. 
Consequently, thousands of children grow up in 
the country who learn all sorts of things, but who 
have never heard of Dun Aonghusa, poised on the 
summit of its stupendous precipice : or of the lovely 
Chapel of Cormac at Caiseal Mumhan : or of Cluain 
maccu Nois and its sacred associations. Some time 
ago I showed to a child-friend a few photographs 
that I had taken on an archaeological tour. She 
looked up from them, her eyes wide open with surprise, 
and said surely a blasting impeachment of oui 
whole scheme of education : ' I never knew before 
that there was anything interesting in Ireland ! " 

The disastrous consequences of this neglect are 
only too apparent. Ancient traditional superstitions 
were once potent in preserving the ancient monuments. 
But those superstitions are dying fast ; and especially 
since 1903, when the people began to acquire the 
land, very serious damage has been done throughout 
the country to the antiquities. No proper safeguards 
were introduced into the Land Acts certainly none 
that cannot be easily circumvented and unless 
something intervenes to stay the damage, the world 
will lose many of the lessons that Ireland, and Ireland 
alone, can teach. The refusal of the Government 


to aid in the archaeological survey of the country 
makes the matter all the more serious. 1 

The signs of the times are not propitious. Strife, 
international, political, social, is drowning the voices 
of peace ; and while madness is thus raging in the 
world, nothing can be done. Dare we hope that 
a saner generation will follow ours, to gather up the 
fragments which remain, that nothing be lost ? 

1 A visitor from Mars would naturally suppose that the empire 
which rules over the greatest and most varied assortment of native 
races has encouraged by special endowments the sciences of 
ethnology and anthropology in all their branches : without a 
thorough understanding of which it is impossible to rule native 
races aright. He would probably make a good many mistakes 
in his progress through our Gilbert-and-Sullivan world, but that 
would be one of his worst. 



I. The Development of Civilisation. II. The Stone Age in Ireland. 
III. The Bronze Age in Ireland. IV. The Iron Age in Ireland. 
V. The Romans and Ireland. VI. The Introduction of 
Christianity. VII. The Vikings. VIII. Romanesque Archi- 
tecture. IX. The Population of Ireland : the native Traditions. 
X. The Legend of Cesair. XI. The early post-diluvian Occu- 
pations. XII. The Tuatha De Danann. XIII. The Children 
of Mil. XIV. Criteria of Race. XV. The Races of Europe. 
XVI. The Races of Ireland. XVII. The Evidence of Excava- 
tion. XVIII. The Evidence of modern Population. XIX. 
The Evidence of ancient Literature. XX. The native 
Tradition in the light of scientific Research. 

I. It will be well to begin our study with a pre- 
liminary survey of the ground to be covered in the 
work before us. Without such a preparation it might 
be difficult for one, approaching the subject for the 
first time, to see the wood for the multiplicity of trees 
calling for attention as we proceed. 

Civilisation in Ireland developed along the same 
orderly lines of progress as have been proved, by the 
scientific researches of the past century, to have been 
followed over the greater part of the world. In the 
beginning man sets forth on his long journey a savage, 
ignorant of the nature of the surroundings amid which 
he finds himself, and obliged to acquire even the 
most elementary knowledge by a long and painful 
process of experiments, trials, and errors. He knows 
nothing of metals ; he must fight the wild and danger- 
ous animals around him, or the beasts whose flesh 
supplies him with food, with rudely fashioned weapons 
of stone. In time he discovers the properties of 
copper ; later he finds that he can harden this metal 



by an admixture of tin, thus making bronze. Finally 
he learns the treatment and the uses of iron, and so 
he inaugurates the Iron Age, which is still in progress 
over most of the earth. 

This succession of ages, the Ages of Stone, Copper, 
Bronze, and Iron, proved first for Denmark by the 
clear-sighted archaeologists of that country, has been 
shown to hold good for nearly all other countries, 
in both the Old World and the New, whose ancient 
remains have been studied. In a few places, owing 
to special circumstances (as when colonists bring into 
a stone-age island the sometimes doubtful blessings 
of European civilisation) there is a disturbance of the 
regular sequence ; but, these chance accidents apart, 
the rule may be accepted as being practically of 
universal application. 

It will not be amiss, however, to repeat the warning 
which has often been given against supposing that 
there is an absolute chronology implied in this division 
into Ages of the history of civilisation. It is not to 
be understood that at a certain moment of time, 
datable in centuries B.C., the world rolled out of the 
Stone Age and thenceforth enjoyed the advantages 
of Metal Age civilisation. 1 The sequence denotes 
a relative chronology, and indicates nothing more 
than that certain objects assignable to the Bronze 
Age, let us say, are older than certain other objects 
from the same centre of civilisation, and assignable to 
the Iron Age. The Bronze Age of any one country 
may have been contemporary with the Stone Age of 
another and with the Iron Age of a third. In other 
words, the absolute chronology of the sequence of 
ages, if it be determinable at all, must be determined 
for each centre of civilisation independently. 

1 In a sense this is true, inasmuch as there must have been a 
moment when, somewhere in the world, an object of metal was 
used for the first time. Before that moment the whole world was 
in the Stone Age, and, if we look at the history of humanity as an 
undivided whole, we can certainly say that after that moment 
the world was in the metal age. 


Further research has enabled us to divide the Ages 
of civilisation into subordinate Periods. Each fresh 
discovery makes us realise more and more the enormous 
duration of time which elapsed between the first 
appearance of man on the earth and the first discovery 
of metals. In the course of the Stone Age, races of 
men, more diverse among themselves than are the 
most extreme types of humanity now living, developed, 
grew to maturity, and disappeared ; arts rose, 
flourished, and died ; and cultural development 
showed advances and retrogressions, whose stages 
it is necessary to classify and to label in order to 
understand their mutual relationship. The Stone" 
Age is primarily divided into two periods, called 
respectively the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic, the 
5 Old Stone Period " and the " New." In the first 
of these man was a hunter, and made his tools of 
chipped flint ; in the second he was an agriculturist, 
and made some of his tools of polished stone. In _ 
recent years a preliminary period, the Eolithic or 
" Stone-dawn Period " has been prefixed by many 
" prehistorians " to the Palaeolithic. This has not 
commanded universal acceptance ; the present is 
not, however, the place to enter into that hotly-dis- 
puted controversy. These periods are further sub- 
divided into what we may term stages or sub-periods, 
which are named after places where representative 
remains have been discovered. Thus we have, among 
others, the Chellean, Mousterian, and Solutrean 
stages in the Palaeolithic Period ; named respectively 
after Chelles-sur-Marne, Le Moustier, and Solutre. 
These are places in France where objects typical of 
the stages named after them have come to light. 

The Bronze Age is also divided into periods, which 
may be conveniently denoted by numbers ; five such 
periods are generally recognised in the archaeology 
of Northern Europe. 

The Iron Age, properly speaking, extends down to 
our own time ; and as it is improbable that anything 
will hereafter be found to take the place of iron, it 


may be expected to endure to the end. For conveni- 
ence, however, the term is restricted in archaeological 
discussion. We may divide the Iron Age of Europe, 
in the fullest sense of the term, into four periods. 
The first of these is called by the name of the village 
of Hallstatt, near Salzburg, close to which has been 
found a great cemetery belonging to the beginning 
of the Iron Age, and containing typical objects. The 
second, for a like reason, has been named after the 
settlement of La Tene, on Lake Neuchatel. The 
third period covers the time of Roman conquest and 
domination over the greater part of Europe. The 
fourth is the period of the decline of the Roman power 
and the rise of Christianity ; and this leads by imper- 
ceptible stages to the mediaeval and modern develop- 
ments of European civilisation. In speaking of the 
Iron Age of Europe, however, as a general rule it is 
understood that the first two of these periods alone 
are implied. 

II. No certain traces of man older than the Neolithic 
Period have been found in Ireland, so far as we can 
say at present. This country appears to have had no 
share in the remarkable developments of the physical 
constitution and of the material civilisation of the 
human race, witnessed by the Palaeolithic period in 
Central Europe. It is not asserted that the discovery 
of Palaeolithic remains in Ireland is an impossibility ; 
but competent critics have preserved a sceptical 
attitude with regard to all discoveries of Palaeolithic 
remains in Ireland hitherto announced, and it is well 
to follow their cautious example. 

The beginning of the Neolithic Period, however, 
finds man established on the sea-coast of the country, 
living on molluscs, fishj and anything else that happens 
to come in his way. The forest-clad interior, infested 
as it is by wolves and other noxious beasts, remains 
at first uninhabitable, or at least uninhabited. 
Gradually, however, man penetrates inland, following 
the rivers that afford highways into the heart of the 
country. We can trace a continual advance in the 


standard of living. The tools, at first the rudest 
chips, are improved ; the craftsman gains more and 
more technical skill, till his handiwork becomes a 
real art. Wide acres of forest-land are cleared and 
inhabited : society becomes organised, so that great 
bodies of men can co-operate for a common purpose 
we can see the proof of this in the gigantic stone 
monuments that they rear over their dead chieftains ; 
and communication over sea is opened and maintained, 
so that a way is made for the acquisition and adoption 
of improvements in civilisation as they are introduced 

III. There is no reason to suppose that the Bronze 
Age began any later in Ireland than in England. 
Once it was introduced it ran a parallel course, 
though with interesting local variations. The key to 
the understanding of the history of the Bronze Age 
in Ireland lies in the fact that she was at the time a 
rich gold-producing country. Irish gold afforded 
a commercial medium of exchange, which enabled 
the natives to develop and push a trade with neighbour- 
ing countries ; especially, no doubt, with the tin- 
producing land of Cornwall, in order to procure an 
essential material almost completely lacking in Ireland 

IV. Save indirectly, the Hallstatt period of the 
Iron Age was not represented in northern and western 
Europe. A few isolated Hallstatt objects have been 
found in this country, but they are mere exotics, or 
" wanderers " l like Oriental " curiosities " in a 

1 " Wanderers " are a curious phenomenon in archaeology. I 
have seen a Chinese knife which was dug up in a bog in Co. Done- 
gal probably dropped accidentally by some wayfarer. Vallancey 
(Collectanea, vol iv, p. 71) describes and figures a bronze vase 
found about two feet under the soil at Fan, Inis Eoghain (Co. 
Donegal). This vessel came into my hands a short while ago, 
and I had the pleasure of presenting it to the Royal Irish Academy. 
It is Eastern Asiatic in origin : how Vallancey would have rejoiced 
had he known this ! An Etruscan harpago, found in the bed of 
a small stream at Saintfield, Co. Down, is now in the Royal Irish 
Academy collection. 


London drawingroom. While the Hallstatt culture 
was dominant over eastern Europe, the north-west 
of the Continent was still in the later stages of the 
Bronze Age. The La Tene culture is the first whose 
remains are actually indigenous to Ireland. Though 
the number of the extant remains of the La Tene 
period is comparatively small, this period was of the 
greatest importance in the country. With the 
knowledge of iron, and of the new developments of 
art imported from Gaul, there came a knowledge of 
the Roman alphabet ; and though vellum manuscripts 
were as yet unknown, a small literate class was 
developed, and these made shift to write down, on 
wooden tablets or on some such materials, the sagas 
and the legends till then transmitted orally by the 
people or by their bards. It is to this period that we 
must assign the beginning of the written history, 
legal enactments, and rhapsodic poems that form 
the basis of extant Irish literature. 

V. The Romans did not think Ireland worth 
conquering. Its fate trembled in the balance, it is 
true, on one occasion, when a ruffianly Ulidian regnlus 
came and besought the intervention of Agricola to 
settle some dispute that he had with his neighbours. 1 
Fortunately Agricola had other things to do, and so 
Ireland was preserved for science as one of the few 
countries that remain to illustrate the development 
of civilisation without direct influence from the Roman 
Empire ; and thus to illuminate corners in European 
history that are not lighted from any other source. 
We have already seen that it is this fact which gives 
Irish archaeology a far more than merely national 

VI. The conversion of Ireland to Christianity must 
have been a gradual process, beginning at a very 
early date. A strange legend tells us that the third- 
century king Cormac mac Airt had submitted to 
Christian teaching. However that may be and the 

1 Tacitus, Agricola, cap. 24. 


story is not altogether impossible the art-motives 
that had become associated with the Christian religion, 
and with the instruments necessary for its rites, 
became engrafted on the dominant La Tene style. 
From this fusion sprang a marvellous decorative art, 
advancing by sure and steady steps till its culmination 
in the ninth and tenth centuries. This high develop- 
ment must have been the result of a not inconsiderable 
amount of peace and prosperity. Doubtless there 
were clan faction -fights now and then, in which a 
number of heads got broken ; and these are empha- 
sised in the Annals with the same lack of a sense of 
proportion as we see in our modern newspapers, 
which fill columns with the details of a murder 
committed by some otherwise unimportant person, 
while they pass over with a brief paragraph the 
triumph-work of a master painter or musician. This 
defect must always be allowed for in reading the 
Annals. But the mere fact that fine works of art 
belonging to this period are in existence is in itself 
sufficient proof that there was a measure of quietness 
in the country, in spite of the stormy records of the 
official histories. 

VII. Such a peace and prosperity could not fail to 
attract the attention of the Vikings. These greedy 
pirates established themselves on the shores of Ireland, 
sailed up her rivers, and plundered everything that 
they could lay their hands upon. But the Vikings 
were by no means mere pirates. They had their own 
arts ; they were, indeed, an almost inexplicable 
mixture of savagery and civilisation. Their settle- 
ments at Duibhlinn and elsewhere enabled them to 
impress their art-conventions on the native craftsmen ; 
and from the admixture of the two there sprang once 
more a hybrid style, which we may term Hiberno- 

VIII. In architecture, the Romanesque style began 
to creep into Ireland from the Continent, and during 
the eleventh and twelfth centuries it was dominant 
there as elsewhere in Northern Europe. Cormac's 


Chapel at Caiseal Mumhan, the finest perfect specimen 
existing in the country, was built in 1127. The 
cathedral of Cluain Fearta Breanainn was built about 
1 1 66. Its wondrous doorway remains the last 
supreme effort at self-expression of the native Irish 
art. Six years after this great work was accomplished 
the age-long traditions were laid low, as with a scythe ; 
cut off, abruptly and savagely, never to be recovered. 
We are now to examine in detail, so far as our 
limitations of space permit, the relics on which are 
based the history summarily sketched in the preceding 

IX. Before proceeding to this task, however, we 
must consider an important question. Was this 
development of culture the result of successive migra- 
tions, each tribe as it arrived bringing into the country 
its own contribution to civilisation ; or was Ireland 
continuously peopled by one stock, who adopted, 
from their over-sea neighbours, the various discoveries 
and inventions whereby civilisation was from time to 
time advanced ? 

To this question the native traditions return a very 
definite answer. They describe a long succession 
of immigrations, asserting categorically their connexion 
I with the existing population of the country. It is, 
of course, obvious that the details of these invasions 
belong to the dreamland of folk-lore, and are not to 
be taken as literal history. They are affected by the 
imperfect geographical and scientific knowledge of 
their time. They have, moreover, been evidently 
worked up into their present form by Christian 
compilers, who fitted them, by the methods of Pro- 
crustes, into a scheme of chronology based on Biblical 
indications. In some cases, indeed, the statements 
of the native historians have proved to be mere adapta- 
tions of tales told, with entirely different associations, 
by Classical or by early Ecclesiastical writers. 

But it is by no means to be inferred from this that 


the testimony of the native traditions must be rejected 
as valueless. On the contrary, when rightly inter- 
preted, they make a very real contribution to the 
problem before us. We therefore give here a short 
abstract of what they tell us ; after which we shall 
endeavour to determine upon what, if any, historical 
basis their statements are founded, by setting them 
in the light of the results of modern scientific research. 

X. These traditions begin with vague tales of 
antediluvian settlers. Some say that three fishermen, 
blown by contrary winds from Spain, were the first 
to set foot in Ireland : but the orthodox story is that 
of Cesair, grand-daughter of Noah, who with fifty 
maidens arid three men came in a ship to seek in 
Ireland a sanctuary from the Deluge. Ireland was 
chosen, because being free from serpents and venomous 
things, it might have been expected to escape the 
divine curse. (There are at least two different myths 
extant to account for the freedom of Ireland from 
serpents : this story is independent of them both.) 
However, even in Ireland the Flood found them out, 
and they perished, forty days after their arrival. 

We may pause here for a moment to notice what this 
tale almost certainly is : for thereby we shall realise 
more clearly the nature of the material at the 
disposal of the old historians, and understand better 
their methods of dealing with the traditions which 
they have transmitted to us. It is fairly obvious 
that this story was originally the pagan Irish version 
of the almost universal Flood-saga. This saga, 
wherever found, usually tells of the total destruction 
of the world by a Deluge, and narrates the process 
by which it was re-peopled. That such was the case 
in the story before us is indicated by the disproportion- 
ate number of men and women involved. Probably 
the tale was originally of a rather savage nature, with 
gross elements which the redactors have endeavoured 
to tone down, though they have not been wholly 
successful in eliminating them. 

If we endeavour to " get inside " the early Christian 


redactors of the traditional history, we shall under- 
stand better their treatment of such a tale as that at 
present before us. They had learnt it from their 
nurses in childhood ; they had no reason to doubt 
its substantial truth ; it was the more attractive, in 
that it enabled them to begin the history of their 
country at the earliest possible time. As the Flood 
is the preface to the story of Israel, so the Flood 
should be the preface to the story of Ireland. Naturally 
they identified the Flood of the Cesair saga with the 
Flood of Noah, and they connected the two sets of 
dramatis personae by the device of turning Bith, 
Cesair's father, into an otherwise unauthorised son 
of the Biblical- patriarch. It is possible that there was 
some chance coincidence of name in the original 
story which made this identification easy. They were 
further obliged to modify the tale to suit their Christian 
outlook. Doubtless it contained pagan and otherwise 
objectionable elements which had to be excised. 
The essential character which, on the hypothesis laid 
down above, the tale originally bore that of a myth 
to explain the re-peopling of the earth had to be 
altered : it could not stand in the face of the Scriptural 
assertion that all flesh had perished except the inmates 
of the Ark. The redactors accordingly saved the 
situation by making the people in the story of Cesair 
wiiolly antediluvian. 

This change plunged them into difficulties. The 
question would then have arisen, how had Cesair and 
her friends found a historian, if they had thus all 
perished in the waters ? The redactors answered by 
saying that Providence had resuscitated Finntan, one 
of the three men in Cesair's company, and had 
endowed him with a terrestrial immortality in order 
that he might carry on the traditions of the past from 
generation to generation. The naivete of this idea is 
too preposterous to allow us to regard it as a mere 
invention of the historians. No one who wished to 
be taken seriously and unquestionably our historians 
were very much in earnest would have ventured to 


tell so silly a story unless something like it was in the 
tale already. The Finntan of the original story, 
before its editors tampered with it, must have been 
a supernatural immortal being : and in all probability 
the original tale informed its hearers that everyone 
who possessed some desirable quality, or who belonged 
to some especially favoured class, was descended from 
this divine member of the group of progenitors. 
As Cesair is daughter of Bith (" Cosmos "). Finntan 
is son of Bochna (" Ocean "), and so may possibly 
have been a sea-god. 

It is important to notice that although for the 
original purposes of the story the three men are 
essential, yet they are not the leaders of the expedition. 
The head and director of the invasion is a woman. 
The significance of this fact we shall discuss at a 
later stage of our study. 

XL After the Flood Ireland lay waste for a long 
time, after which we hear of a succession of three 
invasions, much resembling one another in their 
general characteristics. The first of these is the 
invasion of Partholon with his people, who after a 
sojourn in the country perished of a plague. The 
second is the invasion of Neimheadh, whose followers 
suffered grievously at the hands of certain mysterious 
sea-pirates called Fomhoraigh, and who in consequence 
ultimately abandoned the country. The third is the 
invasion of the Fir Bolg. 1 These, we are told, were the 
descendants of the children of Neimheadh, who had 
escaped from Ireland to Greece, where they were 
held in servitude. From this bondage they fled, and 
returning to Ireland occupied it for a quarter of a 

These three invasion stories are probably all versions 
of the one tale : they have obviously been redacted 
by editors familiar with the narrative of the wanderings 
of the children of Israel. 

1 To be written thus : not " Firbolg." The plural " Firbolgs," 
often to be seen, is a barbarism : " Fir Bolg " is itself plural. 


XII. After the Fir Bolg came the Tuatha De 
Danann, the 1 " tribe of the goddess Danu." This 
mysterious people were adepts in magic, and by their 
arts they succeeded in dispossessing the Fir Bolg. 
We are expressly told, however, that they did not 
annihilate them, but that the descendants of those 
earlier people still persisted in the country. 

XIII. Finally came the children of Mil, the 
" Milesians " of popular literature. These shewed 
themselves yet stronger than the Tuatha De Danann, 
both in magic and in prowess, and thus in their turn 
they dispossessed them and compelled them to take 
refuge in the fairy mounds throughout the country. 
Thus did the children of Mil occupy Ireland, and 
they will continue to do so, as certain of the pious old 
chroniclers do not fail to add, usque ad finem mundi. 

Such are the native traditions. Before we proceed 
to examine into their meaning we must enquire 
what modern science has to say about the peopling 
of this or of any other country. 

XIV. Mankind is scientifically divided into Races, 
a term too often misused. It must be clearly under- 
stood that Race depends simply and solely on physical 
characteristics, and on psychical and temperamental 
idiosyncrasies : the peculiarities with which a man is 
born. It has nothing to do with religion, language, 
political and social connexions or sympathies, or 
with any other of the peculiarities which a man 
acquires from his environment as he grows up. Two 
brothers may lose their parents in infancy, and may 
be adopted and brought up separately in surroundings 
so diverse that when they meet in adult life they find 

1 This people is often called " Danaans," which is misleading ; 
another current corruption is " Tuatha de Danaan," mis-spelling 
the third word, and treating the second (which is really the 
most important of the three) as though it were a French 
preposition ! Unauthorised and indefensible hyphens are some- 
times inserted between the words, and the monstrous plural 
" Tuatha-de-danaans " evolved. Even writers who ought to know 
better have not spared us such solecisms as " So-and-so was a 
Tuatha-de-Danaan," or " Such-a-one was a Danaan king." 


themselves differing in all these externals : but this 
does not affect the unalterable fact that they belong 
to the same race. A negro, who owing to some com- 
bination of circumstances can speak nothing but 
English, is no more a Teuton than is his cousin who 
has stayed at home and can speak nothing but his 
native tongue. 

There are many criteria of Race, all of which have 
to be taken into account if we are concerned with the 
classification of mankind in general. 1 But when we 
are dealing with the racial affinities of the people of 
Europe, these can for most practical purposes be 
reduced to three : head-shape, colour of hair and 
of eyes, and stature. 

These characters are measured by certain scales, 
and communities are racially classified according as 
the average of their members tends to one or other of 
the ends of these scales. This definition should be 
noted. Measurements and observations of single 
individuals tell us little about their racial affinities : 
but measurements and observations of a number of 
individuals sufficiently large to give us a trustworthy 
average, tell us much about the racial affinities of the 
community to which they belong. Ever since the 
Stone Age the mixture of races has been advancing 
steadily, so that it would be difficult, if not impossible, 
to find anywhere a man who is an absolutely pure 
representative of any given race. It is only by taking 
a sufficient number of measurements to eliminate 
from the average the effects of mixture and of indi- 
vidual abnormalities that we can obtain results that 
help us to classify a community : it is practically 
impossible by physical observations to classify a 
casual individual. 

Head-shape is measured by means of a figure called 
the cephalic index. This figure expresses the breadth 

1 The reader who is desirous of fuller information may be referred 
to such easily accessible books as Deniker's Races of Man ; for 
Europe, consult Ripley, The Races of Europe ; for the British 
Islands, Beddoe, The Races of Britain. 


of the head [measured with a pair of callipers between 
the prominent points above the ears] as a percentage 
of the length [measured from a point just above the 
upper end of the nose to the most prominent point 
at the back of the head]. In other words, the cephalic 
index is the number obtained by the application of 
the formula Jggf x 100. Clearly, the greater the 
length in proportion to the breadth, the less will be 
the cephalic index ; a low index, therefore, implies 
a long, narrow skull, and a high index a short, round 
skull. The figures thus obtained are classified 
according to various systems ; the simplest, which 
omits subordinate divisions, is as follows : 

Short heads (brachycephalic) index above 80. 

Medium heads (mesaticephalic) index between 80 and 75. 

Long heads (dolichocephalic) index below 75. 

Coloration depends principally on the pigment of 
the hair, which ranges from black to light yellow, 
and of the iris of the eye, which ranges from pale blue 
to a very deep brown. The distinction of skin-colour, 
which is the most obvious basis for a classification of 
mankind, is not applicable to the sub-divisions of the 
people of Europe, as all of these belong to the white- 
skinned races. People who are dark are called 
melanochrous (dark-complexioned) ; those tending 
to be light are xanthochrous (fair-complexioned). 

Measurements of stature and of head-shape can 
be obtained from dead skeletons as well as from living 
subjects : but the test of coloration cannot be applied 
except to living persons : for the pigments of ancient 
races we are dependent on the testimonies of con- 
temporary writers. In using the evidence of ancient 
writers we must always bear in mind their " personal 
equations." A Roman writer accustomed to the 
dark Italian complexions of his countrymen would 
certainly be apt to exaggerate the fairness of a xantho- 
chrous community. In like manner a member of a 
short race will turn a tall-statured people into giants. 

These racial criteria are not altogether unalterable. 


Under certain conditions of environment they tend 
to become modified, though it takes a very large 
number of generations to establish a modification 
permanently. Coloration and stature are more subject 
to change than is head-shape ; the latter, though 
not immovably permanent, is much more stable, 
and therefore is the more valuable. 

XV. Now, when we apply these tests to the races 
of Europe, we find that, with the exception of a few 
small isolated communities here and there, they fall 
into three racial divisions. The first, which is found 
in the south of the Continent, and in its greatest 
purity in Spain, is melanochrous, dolichocephalic, 
and of medium stature and slight build : to this has 
been given the name " Mediterranean Race." The 
second, which has its seat in Central Europe, is 
brachycephalic : it is melanochrous, but lighter than 
the Mediterranean people ; and medium of stature, 
but of stouter build than the southerners. This is 
called the "Alpine Race." The third, the " Nordic," 
" Teutonic," or " Scandinavian " Race, inhabits the 
north of the Continent ; it is dolichocephalic, xantho- 
chrous, and of tall stature. 

XVI. Turning now to Ireland, we find that there 
are three sources of information open to us on the 
subject of her population : the bones found in ancient 
sites, especially graves ; the physical characteristics 
of the modern inhabitants ; and the evidence of 
ancient Irish literature. 

XVII. Unfortunately the data as yet available 
from the examination of grave deposits and other 
ancient sites are of the scantiest. True, a considerable 
number of ancient graves have been opened ; but 
in the first place, the majority of the bodies found 
have been cremated ; and, in the second, in too many 
cases the excavation has been carried out either by 
ignorant labourers dreaming of buried treasure, or 
by equally ignorant and far more reprehensible 
collectors, in search of curiosities for their cabinets. 
Even when the excavation has been on a higher plane, 



there seems to be a fate against good ethnological 
results being obtained. Sometimes in the temporary 
absence of the excavators, roughs and idlers have 
come and destroyed the skulls left lying about : in 
one case the over-zealous investigations of the police 
destroyed the bones which had been carefully put 
aside for examination. 1 And sometimes the excavators 
have not deigned to give any information about the 
bones turned up, and when they have done so, have 
contented themselves with banalities such as " the 
man to whom these bones belonged must have been 
of great stature, and had excellent teeth." 

The only extensive body of materials that I have 
been able to find bearing on the subject is a collection 
of crania unearthed in building a house in Ailesbury 
Road, near Dublin, in 1881. Besides these, I can 
discover nothing but isolated measurements of 
individual bones, scattered through books and the 
proceedings of societies. 

i. The Ailesbury Road mound was described by 
Dr. Frazer, a well-known collector of antiquities in 
Dublin, 2 who secured the skulls and other objects for 
his collection. The accident of an interment of the 
Viking period having been found in the same place 
led him into flamboyant deductions about a massacre 
by the Northmen having taken place, with lurid details 
of barbarous cruelty. Thus, the skull of a person 
apparently of weak intellect was found, into the orbits 
of which some casual fragments of charcoal had been 
washed : this suggested to the too imaginative investi- 
gator the gruesome picture of an unfortunate imbecile 
having his eyes burnt out. There is really no reason 
to suppose that the heap of skeletons was anything 
more romantic than a mediaeval plague-pit. However, 
we must acknowledge Dr. Frazer's service in giving 
us a tabulated list of the measurements of the skulls 
which he obtained, 51 in number, as an appendix 

iJRSAI, xi, 587. 

2 PRIA, xvi, 29, 116 : JRSAI, xxi, 391. 




(i. Ara : 2. Garmna and Leitir Muilinn : 3. Carna and Magh Inis : 4. Inis B6 Finne and 
Inis Earca : 5. Skulls from Inis B(5 Finne: 6. Cliara and Inis Tuirc : 7. Baile Cruaidh : 
8. Muillead and Inis C6 : 9. Ailesbury Road, Dublin.) 

(The figures in brackets denote the numbers of persons on whose'measurements the curves 
are based). 


to the Society of Antiquaries' paper referred to in 
the footnote. From these measurements the curve 
of cephalic indices (fig. i, No. 9) has been drawn. 
Of the 42 skulls whose cephalic indices could be 
determined, one was 70, three 73, two 74, seven 75, 
five each 76, 77, 78, four 79, three 80, four 81, two 82, 
and one 83 - 1 

2. A series of eleven skulls from Inis Bo Finne, 
described by Dr. Haddon, 2 have indices, one 75, 
four 76, five 77, one 79. Two others were doubtful. 
The curve will be found in fig. i, no. 5. 

3. Dr. Haddon also describes a number of skulls 
from old graveyards on Ara Mor ; 3 of eleven skulls, 
one is 73, four 74, two 75, three 76, and one 79. 

4. John Grattan, of Belfast, one of the pioneers 
of Irish craniology, described a number of skulls in 
the Ulster Journal of Archaeology.^ Those noticed 
in the first paper cited are of Danish origin, and 
therefore are not relevant to our present purpose. 
Those described in the second paper may be classified 
as follows : 

(a) From Bronze Age interments at Baile na hAite (Giants' Ring), 
Co. Down : two, indices 74 and 75. 

(b) From a cist, probably Bronze Age, at Domhnach Mor, Co. 
Tyrone : one, index 83 . 

(c) From an Iron Age tumulus at Mount Wilson, King's Co. : 
eight, indices 75 (two), 77 (five), and 80 (one). 

From various mediaeval and modern interments throughout 
the country : one of 64 (imperfect : measurements untrustworthy), 
one of 65 (abnormal), 72 (two), 73, 74 (seven), 75 (two), 76 (four), 
77 (three), 78, 79, 81, 83 (three). 

5. Haddon 5 describes skulls from Oldbridge, Co. 
Meath, and also from the Phoenix Park, and from Co. 
Tyrone. The Oldbridge skull was found in a Bronze 

1 It is to be understood that by " 70 " in this and similar lists 
is to be understood a cephalic index lying between 69.5 and 70.5, 
and so on for the other numbers. 

Z PRIA, xix, 311. 

*PRIA, xviii, 759. 

4 UJA I i, 198 ; vi, 27, 221. 

5 PRIA, xx, 572. 


Age interment : its index is 73.5. The Phoenix Park 
crania were found in a Stone Age tumulus to be 
described later ; their indices were, respectively, 
71.6, 76.8, and 78.0. The Tyrone skull is the same 
as that already mentioned (4-b above) ; Dr. Haddon 
gives the index as 83.5. 

6. In the excavations of Bronze Age earns at 
Ceathramhadh Caol, Co. Sligo, 1 fragments of bones 
and skulls were found from which some valuable 
details were recovered, though they had been for the 
greater part thoroughly burnt and broken into small 
fragments. The cephalic index " hovered on the 
limit between dolicho- and mesaticephaly, ranging 
from 73 to 76." 

The above does not claim to be a complete list of 
the references I have collected. Space will not allow 
it to be further extended here. The most important 
are enumerated. 2 But the subject of Irish craniology, 
both ancient and modern, is as yet an almost untilled 

Since the researches of Thurnam and of Beddoe 
it has been a commonplace of British ethnology that 
these islands were peopled in the Stone Age by a race 
characterised by dolichocephaly, in affinity with the 
" Mediterranean Race " of ethnologists : and that 
the Bronze culture was introduced into Great Britain 
by a round-headed race, corresponding to the 
" Alpine " stock. This round-headed race did not, 
however, find its way into Ireland in any great numbers, 
and the low cephalic indices of the skulls above 
enumerated bear this out. From these measurements 
we infer that the Bronze Age culture was introduced 
into Ireland by trade rather than by conquest or 
invasion, and that, until the process of contamination 
began after the Anglo-Norman conquest, no brachy- 
cephalic race found a footing in the country. This is 
not the same as to say that no brachycephalic individuals 

1 PRIA, xxix, C, 342. 

2 Some further references are to be found in Haddon's paper, 
PRIA, xviii, 759. 


existed in the country. That foreigners might find 
their way to the country from time to time would be 
only natural. The Domhnach Mor skull, with an 
index of 83.5, is probably one such ; and the com- 
paratively high index of one of the Phoenix Park 
skulls (78) points likewise in the direction of brachy- 
cephalic admixture. 

XVIII. We now turn to the second of the sources 
of information on Irish ethnology ; the results of 
observations on the modern inhabitants. 

Here again we are but poorly provided with material. 
Except a very valuable series of papers in the Proceed- 
ings of the Royal Irish Academy, by Drs. Haddon 
and Browne, on various districts and islands in the 
west of Ireland, and some observations in Beddoe's 
Races of Britain, we have practically nothing. " It 
is a remarkable fact that there is scarcely an obscure 
people on the face of the globe about whom we have 
less anthropographical information than we have of 
the Irish." These words were written in 1892 : l 
they are still almost as true as they were then. 

The districts that have been surveyed anthropo- 
graphically are as follows : Ara Mor and the neigh- 
bouring islands (Haddon, PRIA, xviii, 759 : Haddon 
and Browne, ibid. 768) ; Inis Bo Finne and Inis Earca 
(Haddon, PRIA, xix, 311, Browne, ibid. 317) ; Muil- 
lead, Inis Ce and Port na Claidhe (Browne, ibid. 587) ; 
Baile Cruaidh (Browne, PRIA, xx, 74) ; Cliara and 
Inis Tuirc (Browne PRIA, xxi, 40) ; Garmna and 
Leitir Muilinn (Browne, ibid. 223) ; Carna and Muigh- 
inis (Browne, PRIA, xxii, 503). From data supplied 
by these surveys the curves of cephalic indices (fig. i) 
have been drawn. The curves are set forth in the 
geographical order of the places to which they belong 
from south to north : the numbers in brackets denote 
the number of persons examined in each district, but 
the figures on which the curves are based have been 
reduced to percentages. In fig. 2 a similar curve is 

1 By Dr. Haddon : PRIA, xviii, 759 


Nos. 5 AND 9). 


given for all the individuals examined by Drs. Browne 
and Haddon. In comparing these curves with the 
two curves in fig. i (nos. 5 and 9) which denote the 
cephalic indices of skulls, some allowance has to be 
made for the slight difference two or three units 
between the cephalic index of a living head and that 
of the skull belonging to it. 1 

These curves indicate a double strain in the modern 
population, the one element distinctly brachy cephalic, 
the other on the border line between dolicho- and 
mesaticephaly. It would appear as though on the 
whole the brachycephalic strain increases in strength 
as we proceed towards the north ; but, almost through- 
out, the dolichocephalic strain is the stronger, the 
apex associated with it being in most cases higher 
than the brachycephalic apex. 

When we examine these curves more closely, we 
see further that the brachycephalic strain is a recent 
importation. It hardly influences the Ailesbury Road 
or the Inis Bo Finne skulls at all. It may be taken as 
fairly certain that this strain is due to English influence. 
And the flattened apices on the, brachycephalic side 
of the curve, as contrasted with the sharp apex of the 
dolichocephalic side, are an indication that the former 
element is a mixture, while the latter preserves a com- 
parative purity of race. 

These results, so far as they go, corroborate the 
conclusion at which we have arrived from the skulls, 
that the pre-Norman population of Ireland was 
dolichocephalic, this belonging either to the Nordic 
or the Mediterranean Race. To determine which we 
must take into account other criteria. The Medi- 
terranean Race is of moderate stature and of dark 
complexion ; the Nordic Race is of tall stature and 
of fair complexion. What indications have we on 
these points ? 

If we have scanty information on skull-shapes, 
our information on stature is infinitesimal. The 

1 The head is wider than the skull. 


Ceathramhadh Caol skeletons 1 were comparatively 
short of stature : the men between 5ft. 5ins. and 
5ft. Sins., with one exceptional case measuring 5ft Qins. ; 
the women were between 5ft. and 5ft. 5ins. This 
would predispose us to conclude that the Bronze Age 
builders of the earns from which these skeletons came 
were of the Mediterranean stock. A similar conclusion 
is reached by Dr. Haddon as a result of his examination 
of the Oldb ridge and Phoenix Park crania : 2 and it is- 
obvious even to a casual traveller that the average 
stature of the modern inhabitants of the country, 
especially of the women, tends to shortness, which 
fact points in the same direction. 

The other criterion coloration obviously fails 
us in observations on grave-deposits ; but we have a 
valuable source of information on this subject in the 
personal descriptions scattered through the ancient 
literature of Ireland. 

XIX. It is not to be inferred that, when a writer 
describes for us some ancient hero, he is giving us a 
pen-picture, such as we might expect from a writer 
of a modern obituary notice. It is really something 
more valuable. The author is glorifying his subject 
by ascribing to him all the traits that went to make up 
the conventional standard of beauty at the time when 
he wrote. Contrariwise, when some character is 
described whom the author wishes to make objection- 
able, he is endowed with the conventional type of 
ugliness. Now, the standard of beauty is simply the 
normal racial standard ; the ruddy cheeks of a healthy 
girl, admired in Europe, are hideous to a Japanese, 
accustomed to his yellow-skinned beauties so, at 
least, a Japanese friend has assured me. Therefore 
these descriptions are not so much portraits of indi- 
viduals as composite photographs of a race. They 
are like the caricatures of typical representatives of 
one nation in the humorous journals of another, 

1 PRIA xxix, C, 342 
2 PRIA xx, 582-3. 


showing what features strike an observer who looks 
from the outside on the people thus criticised, as a 

We may, therefore, give here some descriptions, 
collected from ancient Irish literature. To make the 
list exhaustive would be superfluous ; a few typical 
examples is all that is necessary. The examples here 
quoted are culled in a hasty search through the R.I. A. 
facsimiles of Leabhar na hUidhre and of the Book of 
Leinster, pp. 1-280 : the rest of the Book of Leimter 
does not seem to offer material of value for our present 
purpose. Passages in verse are omitted, as the adjec- 
tives are so often used merely metri gratia that they 
would be misleading. The original Irish can be 
found in the facsimiles by the references in brackets 
(page, column, line) : to print it here would occupy 
too much space. 

We begin with Leabhar na hUidhre : 

1. (2^-253) In the fourth day came the woman to them. 
Beautiful came she . . . she had golden hair upon her. 

2. (41326) There came a great black ugly warrior. 

3. (52340) No one in the crowd managed to look upon her 
before there flowed to her shoulders soft branchy truly-golden 
hair [said of a queen]. 

4. (84ai7) Then the black cropped man overtook them [and 
a very unflattering description is given of him, and of his com- 
panion] a great black woman with a huge mouth. 

5. (SybS) Cormac Condlongas is described as having fair 
flaxen golden hair on him, a face just, fair, ruddy, beardless. 

6. (88325) The Cruithne in Da Derga's Hostel are described 
as three big brown men with three round scalps of hair, equally 
long behind and before. 

7. (88b3) The pipers in the same establishment had yellow- 
white hair on them. 

. 8. (8gbg) The golden-yellow hair of the sons of king Conaire 
is alluded to. 

9. (90319) Three big brown men, with three brown scalps 
on them. 

10. (90 ad fin. 91 ad init.) Conall Cearnach is thus descri- 
bed : White as snow one of his cheeks, red and speckled as a 
fox-glove the other cheek. Blue as a hyacinth the one eye, 
black as the back of a beetle the other eye. The filling of a 
harvest-basket was the bushy head of golden hair upon him. 


11. (9ob32) The trio in Conaire's company are described as 
fair in their hair and eyelashes. 

12. (9iai5) Conaire's golden hair is alluded to. 

13. (92b5) The cupbearers of the king of Teamhair have 
white-yellow hair. 

14. (93-4) On the other hand the swineherds of Conaire 
named Dubh, Bonn, and Dorcha (" Black, Brown, and Dark ") 
have three black scalps upon them. 

15. (93-25) The Saxons at Da Derga's Hostel have nine 
very yellow manes on them. The king's guardsmen (9537) 
are similarly described. 

16. (95b34) The three giants of Fer Falga are, Three big 
brown men with black, horse-like hair on them, reaching their 

17. (96ai7) Da Derga has red hair ; so (96338) have the 
three champions from the Sidh. 

1 8. (96bi5) Fer Caille is a black-scalped man. 

19. (96b23) The three sons of the king of Britain have 
yellow manes. 

20. (io5b44) Loiguire has hair black at the base, red in the 
middle, and as a diadem of yellow gold at the top. 

21. (ii3b3) Cu Chulaind is described as a black, sorrowful 
man, black and cropped . . . black as the side of a dub-Jholach 
his two eyebrows. The same description reappears in i22bn. 
In both places his charioteer is described as having red hair. 

22. (120319) The fairy promises Condla the Red that if he 
will accompany her to fairyland he will have a "yellow top " 
above his ruddy face. 

These twenty-two passages already suggest certain 
deductions. All persons of- importance native to 
Ireland are described as having golden hair. Most 
persons in subordinate positions, and those who are 
spoken of with scorn, are dark-haired. The coloration 
of the eyes is not so much emphasised, but there is 
evidence that the superior classes had light-coloured 

Next, we notice that, as a rule, yellow hair is descri- 
bed as long and flowing, while dark hair is described 
as close-cropped, or by a word that suggests this. 
The only exception is no. 16, where certain foreign 
giants are described. The regular word for a head of 
yellow hair is mong, " mane," the regular word for 
a head of dark hair is berrad, a derivation from the 


verb berraim, " to shave " : the word " scalp " very 
fairly expresses its meaning. This word is sometimes 
qualified with prefixed adjectives, as cnund-berrad, 
:< round scalp " (compare the expression "Round- 
heads " applied tb the close-cropped seventeenth- 
century Puritans) : dond-berrad, ;< brown scalp " : 
dub-berrad, :< black scalp " : very rarely with an 
adjective denoting a light colour. 

This fact can hardly be dissociated from a passage, 
with its gloss, in the Brehon Law tracts, 1 where it is 
prescribed that a person of the rank of a bringu, to 
maintain his position, should have a hundred men 
i mbesaib mogad " in the manners of slaves " : explain- 
ing which, O'Davoren in his Glossary (loc. cit. in 
footnote) renders the word bes by berrad, " tonsure." 

The peculiar " composite " descriptions, as we 
may call them, of Conall Cearnach (no. 10), and of 
Loiguire (no. 20) are possibly a harassed redactor's 
attempt to reconcile contradictory descriptions in 
different versions of a story before him. A gloss that 
has crept into the text of tne Book of Leinster (abybS) 
suggests this : the description of Dubhthach Doel 
Uladh there given reads thus : ' Wild black hair on 
him, a mild expression in one of his eyes, a foam of 
crimson blood in the other : that is, a gentle kindly 
expression at one time, a fierce expression at another 

The passages thus cited from Leabhar na hUidhre 
thus enable us to distinguish two classes of the 
community : the ruling classes, marked by their 
long flowing locks, and the enslaved classes with 
close-cropped black or brown heads. That both 
these classes were dolichocephalic has been already 
indicated : they must therefore belong to the Medi- 
terranean and to the Nordic stocks respectively. 
That the dark people are regularly described as mor, 
' big," would seem to militate against this identifica- 

1 Ancient Laws of Ireland (Rolls Series) V, 76, line 15 : see 
O'Davoren's Glossary in Archil) fiir celtische Lexikographie II, 
p. 235, s.v. bes. 


tion. For the Mediterranean stock is of shorter 
stature than the Nordic. But mor does not necessarily 
mean " of tall stature." It is rather, in these contexts, 
a term of reproach, meaning something like " lumpish " 
or " clumsy." The word " clodhopper " expresses 
the sense which the writers seem to wish to convey. 

There is, however, one remarkable exception to 
all these rules. The great Ultonian champion, Cu 
Chulaind, is described as being very dark, and close- 
cropped. This is at first sight surprising : but the 
mystery resolves itself when we remember that the 
historical character, who is at the .basis of the Cu 
Chulaind myth, was not a native Irishman at all. 
His other name, or rather appellation, Setanta Becc, 
" little Setanta," sufficiently identifies him as a 
member of the otherwise obscure Brythonic tribe of 
the Setantii, whose seat was somewhere about the 
mouth of the Mersey. In agreement with his foreign 
origin he was exempt from the strange disease called 
cess noinden which attacked the Ultonians at a critical 
moment in the fortunes of the province. 1 It is not 
surprising that a king of the Ulaidh should have 
imported from abroad a fire-eating bravo whose 
prowess was notorious, notwithstanding his diminutive 
stature (which is, perhaps, at the basis of the legends 
of his feats as a small boy), and his epileptic affection 
(which is possibly the nucleus of fact round which 
have crystallised the queer stories of his " distortions " 
in moments of excitement). 

We may now turn to the Book of Leinster. If we 
find that the indications which it contains agree with 
those of Leabhar na hUidhre, we may fairly take the 
thesis as proved. 

i. (300138) Dub, Dorcha, and Teimel (Black, Dark, and 
Darkness) are the three cup-bearers of Brian, luchar, and 
lucharba, the gods of the Tuatha De Danann. 

1 The MS. Harleian 5280 tells us categorically that Cu Chulaind 
as exempt from this malady ar nar bo don Ulltaib do, " for he 
was not of the Ulaidh." 


2. (55346) The seven persons called Mane are described 
as having cropped hair on them. 

3. (55350) The seven sons of Maga had berrtha nua 
" fresh-shaven scalps." 

4. (5504) The people of Cormac Condlongas had broad 
scalps with white-yellow all-golden flowing hair on them. [This 
is one of the few passages in which the word berrad is associated 
with a word describing a light colour], 

5. (55b36) She had a ruddy face, a grey laughing eye, red 
thin lips, shiny pearly teeth . . . white as the snow that fell 
in one night was the sheen of her skin and her flesh . . . white- 
yellow longi all-golden hair on her ; three tresses of her hair 
about her head, another tress shadowing her calves. 

6. (68ay) Cu Chulaind is described as having fifty bright 
yellow locks on him, in one of his transformations. But immedi- 
ately afterwards we read of a bright white bald spot on him, 
which takes the force out of the description. 

7. (yibz) Fergus has bushy twisty yellow-white truly golden 
loosened hair. He changed his racial character in the other 
world, however, for his ghost (245bz3) has brown hair. 

8. (76323) A man from the Sidh has a broad scalp with 
curly yellow hair. Compare no. 4 above. 

9. (78b3o) Cu Chulaind's hair is here described as having 
three colours, like the hair of Loiguire in no. 20 of the previous 
series of extracts. The doubt as to the colour of this champion's 
hair (compare no. 6 above with no. 21 of the previous series) 
is a further argument in favour of the explanation of " com- 
posite " descriptions, which we have just given. Compare also 
no. 29 below. 

10. (9ob4) Mane Mathremail and Mane Athremail are de- 
scribed as having jolt cass-\dond] and jolt cassbuidhe " brown 
curled hair " and " fair curled hair " respectively. 

11. (97323) Conchobar has white-yellow hair curling, well- 
ordered ... a grey eye in his head, a yellow curly beard on 
his chin. 

12. (97337) Cuscraid Mend has white-yellow hair and a light 
curling beard. 

13. (97b7) Sencha mac Ailella is a fair broad-headed warrior 
. . . brownish-yellow hair in locks on him, a dark-blue eye 
. . . a forked bright curly beard. Sencha's son, Caini, has 
flowing yellow hair (z67b44). 

14. (97b ad fin.) Eoghan ni3c Durthschta is a white long 
big man . . . brown dark hair on him, smooth and thin 
on his forehead. 

15. (98317) Loegsire Busdach has light grey hair on him, 
great yellow eyes in his head. 

16. (98331) Munremur mac Gercind has a scarred ruddy 
face and a grey sparkling eye in his head. 


17. (98345) Connad mac Morna has a brown proud round 
eye in his head, and very curling yellow hair. 

1 8. (QSbiS) Reochaid mac Fathemain has reddish yellow 
hair, well proportioned, tall, broad above, slender below, thin 
red lips, shining pearly teeth, white skin. 

19. (98b33) Fergus mac Lei the is a thick-limbed warrior, 
with brown hair, and a shining proud eye. 

20. (99310) Feradach Find Fechtnach is a white yellow 
warrior, all white is his hair, eye, beard, eyebrows, and clothing. 

21 (99337) Celtchair mac Uthechair has rough grey hair. 

22. (99350) Eirrge Echbel is a warrior with fat paunch and 
lips, broad-headed, with brown very curly hair. 

23. (99b8) Mend mac Salcholgan has ruddy hair, great 
reddish eyes. 

24. (99b23) Fergna mac Findchonna is a broad-cheeked 
brownish warrior, with black hair. 

25. (100337) The tricha ctt of Mag Murthemne have long 
yellow manes, and clear royal eyes. 

26. (ii7bi8) The grotesque infant Amairgen, whom the nar- 
rator desires to make as ugly as possible, has brown-blackish-red 
eyes and rough hair. 

27. (253343) He was long-cheeked, bright, broad-faced ; 
curling golden-yellow limber hair flowing down to his shoulders ; 
a proud burning eye, blue and clear in his head. 

28. (265b ad fin) Conchobar has a fair slender forked beard 
and yellow hair. 

29. (26639) Cu Chukind is a little black-browed man. 

30. (266343) The Tusths De Danann have ruddy brown 
beards, forked. 

31. (266343) Conall Anghlonnach is a wrathful brown war- 

32. (ibid) Conall Cearnsch is a fair warrior. 

33. (ibid) Loiguire of Rdith Immill is a valiant wsrrior with 
yellow-red hair of the colour of honeycomb, a brownish black 
forked beard. 

34. (266bi5) Uma mac Remsnfissig, Errgi Echbel, and Celt- 
chair mac Uthechair are a hideous trio . . . with very 
brown rough hair. 

35. (266b43) Trisg3t3l is dark-browed . . . with 3 broad 

36. (267332) Roimid, Conchobsr's fool, hss a black pointed 
scslp (suasmael) 3nd large eyes 3!! white, a smooth blue Ethio- 
pian fsce. 

37. (275b29) Fischns, son of Retsch of the Sidh-folk, has 
golden-yellow hair down his back. 

38. (277b22) Fedelm fholtbhuidhe, " the yellow-hsired " is 
described as a noted beauty. 


These passages will suffice, I think, to show clearly 
what was the normal standard of beauty, and the 
reverse, and thus will afford a test of the normal 
physical characters of the inhabitants of Ireland at 
the time of the development of the literature from 
which they are extracted. We must add the descrip- 
tion of king Cormac mac Airt from the Book of Bally- 
mote (edited with translation by Stokes in Irische 
Texte, III, 186) " hair-braids slightly curled, all golden 
upon him . . . like blue-bells his eyes, like the sheen 
of a dark-blue blade his eyebrows." And when 
Cormac, in the disguise of a shepherd, withstood the 
usurper who had seized his throne, and exposed the 
fallacies of his judicial decisions, Flaithiusa h-Erend 
tells us that the king looked on him and saw " that he 
had a royal eye in his head " ; which must mean 
simply that his eyes were of the fair colour associated 
with royalty, not of the dark colour associated with 
the menial work which for safety he had assumed. 
Compare no. 25 of the extracts from the Book of 

We must not expect ethnological consistency in 
these descriptions, any more than we can expect it 
in the individuals that compose a race ; the far-reach- 
ing results of blending of opposite elements are ever 
present to induce complications. Indeed, a too 
rigorous consistency would lead us to suspect a 
mechanical artificiality in the descriptions which 

would deprive them of all value. There is just enough 

i . . 1 M 

inconsistency to avert this suspicion, while maintaining 

sufficient uniformity to indicate a rule. Those whom 
the chronicler wishes to exalt always with the striking 
exception of the foreigner Cu Chulaind are fair, 
with long flowing hair. Those who are abased, in 
position or in morals, are as a rule dark, with close- 
cropped or " rough " hair ; in some cases where there 
is no suggestion of abasement there will be a peculiarity 
of name or otherwise which suggests that the person 
is of another stock. It is noticeable that certain persons 
are described as " broad-faced." Broad faces usually 


go with brachycephalic skulls, and as these broad- 
faced persons, few in number, are almost (not quite) 
always described as dark, they indicate the presence 
(already suggested by the skulls) of a few individuals 
of the Alpine stock, though not in sufficient numbers 
to reduce appreciably the dolichocephalic average. 

When we find in any country two stocks thus care- 
fully kept apart, so that they can be distinguished 
even by ancient writers with no scientific knowledge 
of ethnology ; separated from one another by social 
position running parallel with racial character a 
distinction similar to that between the Spartans and 
the perioeci in ancient Laconia : we are safe in 
inferring two things. First, that the distinction was 
maintained by obstacles to intermarriage. Secondly, 
that the ruling classes were an importation, a tribe of 
conquerers, who had subdued and reduced the 
original inhabitants to a subordinate position, if not 
to actual serfdom. 

XX. In the light of these results, let us look back 
once more at the native traditions of the successive 
invasions, which we have already analysed on an 
earlier page. We have seen that the stories of Par- 
tholon, of Neimheadh, and of the Fir Bolg, are all three 
versions of the one story, before they were worked 
over by the historians who have transmitted them 
to us. We cannot go far wrong if we suppose that 
this tradition was the tale which the aboriginal people 
had among themselves about their origines. The 
story of the Milesians, in which a knightly expedition 
came over-sea to avenge the murder of one of their 
own kin, and by dint of their superiority in magic 
and in prowess conquered the country -that is the 
tale which the xanthochrous dominant race told about 
themselves. On the other hand, the story of sea- 
pirates called Fomhoraigh, hideous to behold, with 
single legs, single hands, and single eyes, led by a 
disgusting fury of a woman with " four eyes in her 
back " that is the tale which the subdued aborigines 
told of the conquerers ; the Milesian invasion from 



the point of view of the vanquished. The conquerers 
were probably a small community, holding the country 
by a sort of feudal tenure : and just as the castles 
appear for the first time on the establishment of 
Anglo-Norman feudalism, so the crannogs or lake- 
dwellings appear for the first time on the establish- 
ment of this earlier feudalism. These all date from 
after the beginning of the Iron Age ; no alleged 
Bronze Age crannog will bear investigation. This 
fact dates the immigration tj of then xanthochrous 
conquerers to the beginning of the Iron Age. 

It will be noticed that in thus drawing analogies 
between the native traditions and the ethnology of 
the country we leave the Tuatha De Danann on one 
side. This people stands on a different footing from 
the rest. That they are a semi-humanised pantheon 
of gods is the theory about them which has become 
generally accepted. For the present we may so far 
acknowledge the substantial truth of the theory as 
to pass over the Tuatha De Danann in any investi- 
gation of the ancient races of Ireland and the remains 
that they have left behind. 

The whole civilisation of the Iron Age, with the 
Celtic language, was probably imported by the xan- 
thochrous invaders. In fact, it was their iron weapons, 
the recollection of which still survives in folk-tales in 
the terrible flashing " sword of light," which gave 
them their advantage. But it is to the Pre-Celtic 
stock that the majority of the modern inhabitants 
of the country belong. 

It might have been expected that racial analogies, 
closer than is actually to be found, should exist 
between these people and the inhabitants of those 
parts of Scotland where the Pictish language and 
Pictish social institutions were maintained down to 
historic times. But this would be to fall into the error 
against which a warning has been already given of 
confusing the external attributes of language and 
social institutions with the innate physical attributes 
of race. 


As we have already seen, the aborigines with whom 
we are concerned are to be grouped with the Medi- 
terranean stock, whose modern representatives form 
the populations of Italy and of Spain. On this account 
they are often called " Iberian." This, however, is 
assuming a little too much : and for the reason stated 
in the previous paragraph, " Pictish," a name some- 
times used for them, might be misleading. We prefer 
to use the non-committal term " Pre-Celtic," by 
which is to be understood the people that inhabited 
Ireland^ before the introduction of the Celtic 



I. The Questions involved. II. The Condition of Ireland at the 
Beginning of Human Occupation. III. The Place of Origin of 
the earliest Inhabitants. IV. The Culture of the first Inhabi- 
tants. V. Classification of Neolithic Sites. VI. Raised Beach 
Sites. VII. The Hiatus between the Raised Beach and the 
Sandhill Sites. VIII. The Shore-dwellers' (Sandhill) Sites. IX. 
Factory Sites. X. Shell-heaps. XI. Inland and Cave Sites. 
XII. Stratification and its Interpretation. XIII. The Nature of 
Flint. XIV. The Development of Neolithic Culture. XV. 
Raised Beach Implements. XVI. Sandhill Implements. XVII. 
Implements of the Overlap Period. 

I. Three questions present themselves for con- 
sideration at this stage of our study, (i) What was the 
environment in which the earliest inhabitants of 
Ireland found themselves : or, rather, to state it more 
exactly, what was the condition of the country at the 
moment when the first men landed on her shores ? 
(ii) Whence did man first come to Ireland, and how 
did he succeed in finding his way thither ? (iii) To 
what stage of civilisation had he attained when he 
first set foot on Irish soil ? 

II. To answer the first question fully, it would be 
necessary to give a synopsis of the whole geological 
history of the country ; for effect follows cause, in an 
endless chain, back to the beginning. Such an 
exhaustive treatment of the subject would, however, 
be here out of place. We may pass over in silence 
the long succession of ages that preceded the appear- 
ance of humanity. A preliminary question will then 
arise, namely, When did man first come to Ireland ? 

There is no unquestioned evidence for the human 
occupation of Ireland during the Palaeolithic period. 
Discoveries of Palaeolithic, and even of Eolithic 



implements, in the country have been announced from 
time to time. Thus, Mr. E. F. J. Bennett has described 
a number of these objects from the north of Ireland. 1 
But Eoliths generally are under a cloud, and the 
Belfast specimens do nothing to dispel the mist of 
doubt that enwraps the entire subject. Mr. Knowles, 
again, describes certain flints from Baile an Ridire, 
Co. Antrim, which he found beneath the boulder- 
clay. 2 Boulder-clay is a glacial deposit, and artificial 
objects found underneath it would almost of necessity 
be pre-glacial and palaeolithic. 3 But a committee of 
the Belfast Naturalists' Field Club examined them, 
and pronounced them to be not of human workman- 
ship. 4 Again, the Rev. F. Smith has described 
' palaeoliths " which he has found on the coasts of 
both Scotland and Ireland : 5 but all the critics of his 
book, so far as I have seen, have agreed to condemn 
this writer's theories, treating his palaeoliths as mere 
pebbles in their natural and unworked state. Early 
flints, such as have been found in the Latharna gravels, 
have been by many called Palaeolithic. 6 But this 
theory hardly attaches sufficient weight to the geo- 
logical evidence, set forth later in this chapter, in 
favour of their post-glacial date. The same is true of 
Mr. Knowles' attempt to prove other Irish implements 
in flint and stone to be Palaeolithic. 7 

1 Eoliths in Belfast and Bloomsbury, Geological Magazine, new 
ser., decade iv, vol. x, p. 127 

2 Flint flakes in the glacial gravels of Ballyrudder, near Lame, 
County Antrim, BNFC, II, iii, 410. 

3 There are a few special cases in which a post glacial-object 
might work its way underneath a bed of boulder-clay, but these 
are so rare as to be negligible. 

4 See the report, BNFC, II, iii, 518. 

6 The Stone Ages in North Britain and Ireland. London, 1909. 

6 The most serious attempt to throw back these flints into the 
Palaeolithic period is that made by Mr. Reginald Smith (Congres 
d'arche"ologie prehistorique, Geneva, 1912, vol. i, p. 414 : Archaeo- 
logia, vol. Ixhi, p. 141). 

7 The Antiquity of Man in Ireland : being an account of the older 
series of Irish flint implements. JAI, xliv, 83. 


When the gravels of Latharna were deposited, the 
relation between the land and the water was not the 
same as it is to-day ; in other words, the contour of 
the coast was a very different line from that familiar 
in our modern maps. There is evidence (the nature 
of which will be found fully discussed in any text-book 
of Geology) that the Ice Age was followed by a series 
of land oscillations, upwards and downwards, in which 
certain areas of land now submerged were for a time 
exposed, and certain areas now exposed were at other 
times submerged. The traces of these oscillations 
have been most fully studied in Scandinavia, and the 
oscillation-periods have received names derived from 
the molluscs found in deposits of the Baltic Sea, 
characteristic of the successive periods. Immediately 
after the final retreat of the ice, the land in the Baltic 
area was so deeply submerged that Norway and 
Sweden were reduced to the form of a long narrow 
island, having a wide sea, open at both ends, between 
it and the mainland of what is now Russia. This 
sea is known to geologists as the Yoldia Sea, from the 
name of a mollusc found in large numbers in its 
deposits. The submergence of the land was followed 
by an emergence, in which the land rose to a height 
sufficiently great to close the Baltic completely. The 
salt Yoldia Sea thus gradually gave place to an inland 
fresh-water lake, known as the Ancylus Lake. Sub- 
sequently a second submergence of the land took 
place, but not nearly so deep as the Yoldia submer- 
gence. The Baltic was only slightly larger, compara- 
tively speaking, than its present area. This stage 
of the sea is called the Littorina Sea. From this 
phase the modern conditions evolved by a gradual 
re-emergence of the land. 

In Scotland, during the Yoldia period, the land 
was so far submerged below its present level that a 
point which would now be at sea-level would then 
have been a hundred feet lower. When the land 
afterwards rose to its present elevation, the old beach 
rose with it, and still remains at an elevation of a 


hundred feet above sea-level, to shew where the sea 
once ebbed and flowed. A beach of later formation, 
at the present height of about fifty feet above sea-level, 
remains to mark an intermediate stage in the oscillation. 

The beaches corresponding to the Ancylus period 
are, naturally, now submerged, and are not available 
for examination : but this period has left its traces 
in beds of peat, found here and there below the 
present sea-level. Where there is peat there must 
once have been a forest, and forests cannot grow 
beneath the sea : therefore a place where submarine 
peat occurs must once have been above the surface 
of the water. 

At the height of twenty-five feet above sea-level is 
another raised beach, traces of which exist in both 
Scotland and Ireland ; this belongs to the period 
of the Littorina Sea. 1 

The regions round the Baltic sea were destitute of 
human inhabitants during the Yoldia period, and the 
same is true of Scotland and Ireland. The first known 
remains of man in Scandinavia date from the time of 
the Ancylus lake. In Scotland and Ireland, however, 
we do not find certain evidence of human occupation 
till we reach the time of the Littorina Sea. The 
twenty-five feet beach, both in Scotland and in 
Ireland, contains the earliest certain human relics. 

We may picture the country when its first inhabitants 
arrived, as covered with vast pine forests interspersed 
with ancient oaks. 2 Through these forests the rivers 

1 When the 25-feet beach is found associated with peat, the beach 
overlies the peat : but the contrary is the case when peat is found 
associated with the 5o-feet and the loo-feet beach. This shows 
that the two last-named were formed before the peat, and the first- 
named after the peat. Thus we cannot explain the 25-feet beach 
as being, like the 5<D-feet beach, an intermediate stage in the first 

2 The following note in Vallancey's Collectanea, vi, p. 289, well 
illustrates the sequence of forests pine succeeding oak which 
has also been proved by the stratification of timber in the Danish 
peat-mosses : " The late Mr. Evans, engineer, informed me that 
in cutting the line of the Royal Canal through the bog of Cappagh, 


meandered, unrestrained just as the great rivers of 
South America still flow through the forest-clad 
interior. Here and there were dangerous bogs and 
marshes, kept moist by frequent rains ; for the climate 
was colder and moister.than it is at present. 

Animal life abounded, including in its scope many 
species that have now disappeared from the country. 
Notable among these creatures was the Irish Elk 
(Cervus giganteus), whose remains have been found 
over the greater part of Europe, but which seems to 
have thriven in Ireland in especial abundance 
though its great horns, often measuring as much as 
fourteen feet from tip to tip, must have hampered 
its movements in the afforested parts of the country. 
It was for long a disputed question whether the elk 
was or was not contemporary with man. Numerous 
papers discussing this problem will be found in the 
early volumes of the Journal of the Geological Society 
of Ireland. Elk-bones which seemed to have been 
cut and grooved were brought into evidence, but it 
was shown that the rubbing of one bone upon another 
in a boggy soil, liable to disturbance, could have 
caused these marks without human aid. In 1834 ^ 
was announced that a corral of stakes had been found 
at Ceannanus, Co. Meath, in which were the bones 
of many elks that had been entrapped. 1 This discovery 
does not seem to have been confirmed : but it has 
often been suggested in conversation, if not in writing, 
that the numerous skeletons of elks found in the 
narrow bog of Baile Biadhtaigh, Co. Dublin, belonged 
to animals which also had been corralled. For this 
theory there is no evidence : it is not difficult to 

between Dublin and Kilcock, at the distance of 26 ft. he met with 
fir trees which apparently had been planted in avenues ; and at 
this depth he found a lump of tallow weighing about two hundred- 
weight ; that he sunk 14 ft. below these trees in bog, and came to 
a hard bottom on which were oak trees prostrated." The " ave- 
nues " need not be taken seriously ; the " tallow " was perhaps 
a buried keg of bog butter. 

1 Gentleman's Magazine, 1834, II, p. 148. 


imagine a combination of natural circumstances which 
had entrapped the animals in the valley that contains 
the bog, at some time of flood, so that they were 
unable to escape. 1 

The cave of Baile na mBaintreabhach, to be described 
later in this chapter, has, however, given more definite 
evidence, favouring the belief that the elk actually 
survived till the appearance of man in Ireland. 

Another animal indigenous to the country at the 
time of man's first appearance was the Wolf. This 
destructive creature is of great importance in consider- 
ing archaeological problems. Many of the defensive 
fortifications, some of which we have to study in these 
pages, were intended to guard against wolves rather 
than against human foes. The wolf was hunted in 
Ireland in 1370, according to Campion's History. 
In the Journal of the House of Commons it is recorded 
that Sir John Ponsonby recommended the extermina- 
tion of wolves and foxes in 1662 ; and according to 
Smith's History of Kerry the last wolf was killed in 
Ireland in or about 1710. 2 The presence of wolves 
made the forests even more impassable than they 
would have been by nature, and thus put difficulties 
in the way of intercourse between the different parts 
of the island. The wolf, therefore, had some con- 
siderable influence on the social history of the country. 

The Wild Boar was also plentiful even down to the 

1 See a paper by Mr. W. Williams, entitled An attempt to eluci- 
date the History of .... the Irish Elk, in the Scientific Pro- 
ceedings of the Royal Dublin Society, New Series, II (1880), p. 105. 
The author of this article believes that the elk was an interglacial 
animal, and that those found at Baile Biadhtaigh had been mired 
and drowned. In any case we need not assume the simultaneous 
annihilation of a herd of elks: the numerous individuals might 
have been drowned one by one, during a long succession of years. 

2 1 borrow these references from a paper entitled Notice of 
Animals which have disappeared from Ireland during the Period of 
authentic History, by John Scouler (Journal of the Geol. Soc. of 
Dublin, i, 224). Mr. T. J. Westropp informs me that he has 
found evidence for the existence in Ireland of the wolf at an even 
later date. 


seventeenth century. It was degenerate already in 
the time of Giraldus Cambrensis, who describes the 
Irish boars as exigui, difformes, et fugitiui. 1 In the 
crannog sites boar bones and tusks, the latter often 
of great size, are very common ; it was evidently a 
favourite object of the chase, as well as a staple 
article of food. The Fenian legends are full of boar- 
hunts, and the ferocity of the animal is vividly mirrored 
in these tales. 

The Bear was contemporary with man, though 
probably in comparatively small numbers, at least 
down to the Bronze Age. Part of a bone from the 
fore leg of a bear, worked into a pin, was found in one 
of the earns at Ceathramhadh Caol, Co. Sligo ; 2 and 
bear bones were also found in the cave of BaJle na 
rnBaintreabhach and at Elderbush Cave, Newhall, 
Co. Clare. 3 The tooth of a bear was also found in a 
shore site at Traigh Li, Co. Kerry. 4 It was probably 
commoner at the beginning of the human occupation 
of the country. 

Many smaller animals and birds, now rare or wholly 
extinct, might be enumerated, if we had any special 
reason to do so. We are here concerned only with 
the conditions which affected human life : and we 
have said enough to shew that it was no light task 
that lay before the first canoe-load of explorers who 
landed in Ireland to colonise a country, thus run 
wild, thus infested with savage animals, with forests, 
lakes, rivers, and marshes blocking the way almost 
at every mile : and to subdue it with no better tools 
than a handful of rude flint chips. 

III. We now turn to the second question which we 
set before us at the beginning of this chapter. Whence 
came these colonists, and how did they make their 
way to Ireland ? The first part of this question admits 
of but one probable answer. The oldest remains of 

1 Topographia Hiberniae, I, xix. 
2 PRIA, xxix C, 337. 
3 TRIA, xxxiii B, 18 
4 PRIA, xxii, 360. 


man in the country have been found in the north-east 
corner ; and it is just at the north-east corner that it 
approximates most closely to other lands. Maol 
Chinn Tire in Scotland is only a little more than ten 
miles distant from the nearest point of the Irish coast. 
Latharna, where the gravels containing the earliest 
flints of Ireland have been found, is less than thirty 
miles from the nearest point of the Scottish coast. 
By either of these routes the colonists might have 
made their \vay. 

In the older books on prehistoric archaeology much 
is made of the so-called hiatus existing between the 
Palaeolithic and the Neolithic periods. On the 
further side of the chasm is the hunter, unacquainted 
with pottery and with the domestication of animals, 
and living under conditions differing widely from 
those of the present. On the hither side is the agri- 
culturist, freely employing the arts unknown to his 
predecessor, and living under modern climatic 
conditions. But no transitional type had been found : 
the passage from the one to the other was apparently 
abrupt, and no one could tell how Neolithic man, 
with his special arts, had taken the place of his 
Palaeolithic predecessor. 

As is usual, however, the hiatus existed in modern 
knowledge, not in the orderly course of ancient 
history. The first serious contribution towards a 
bridging of the gap was made by Edouard Piette, in 
his excavations of the Pyrenean cave known as Le Mas 
d'Azil. 1 The deposits on the floor of this cave shewed 
that it had been a refuge of early man at different 
times, divided by intervals when owing to the overflow 
of a river the cave was full of water. At the 
bottom of the accumulation covering the rocky 
floor was a layer containing Palaeolithic tools. 
Later layers contained Neolithic implements. Inter- 
calated between these was the long-sought transitional 

1 The subject of the Azilian civilisation can be conveniently 
studied in Dechelette's Manuel d'archeologie, Part II, chap, i (vol.1, 
p. 307), or in Sollas's Ancient Hunters, chap. xiii. 


civilisation. The flints were of the same style as 
those of the end of the Palaeolithic period. The bone 
tools were also similar, but much degenerated. The 
exuberant art which arouses our wonder, as we con- 
template the paintings on the w r alls of late Palaeolithic 
cave-dwellings, had dwindled down to unintelligible 
marks daubed with paint on pebbles. The reindeer, 
the chief animal of the late Palaeolithic period in the 
region of the Pyrenees, had almost disappeared. 
This had an important consequence. One of the 
principal instruments of the end of the Palaeolithic 
period was the fishing harpoon. This was made of 
reindeer-horn, a substance which, like wood, is solid 
almost throughout to its heart. The harpoon of rein- 
deer horn could, therefore, be worked to a cylindrical 
form. But now the weapon had to be made of stags' 
horns, which have a hard outer rind and a useless 
spongy heart. The new harpoons, being made of the 
outer surface of the horn, had therefore to be flat. 
The flat harpoon is the leading criterion of Azilian 

Since Piette's investigations at Le Mas d'Azil other 
transitional forms of civilisation have come to light, 
shewing that the passage from the Palaeolithic culture 
to the Neolithic was very far from being a simple 
process. It is evident from the associated human 
remains that new races entered Europe from without, 
about this time, doubtless bringing with them new 
ideas. Another important phase of transitional 
culture, the Campignian, seems (so far as our still 
imperfect information permits us to judge) to be an 
independent development, parallel with, but not 
affiliated to, the Azilian civilisation. This phase of 
civilisation derives its name from Campigny in the 
department of Seine-Inferieure, France ; but it 
appears probable that it developed originally in 
Scandinavia. In the Ancylus settlement at Magle- 
mose is the island of Seeland, the shore settlements 
of Jaravallen in Sweden and of Nostvet in Norway, 
and above all in the Littorina shell-heaps of the Danish 


coast (commonly called Kokkenmoddinger or " kitchen 
middens ") we may watch the Campignian culture in 
process of evolution. It is chiefly distinguished by 
two stone tools, of types unknown in the preceding 
Palaeolithic age an axe with a cutting edge having 
its two surfaces straight and bevelled, like the edge 
of a turnscrew (the so-called " kitchen-midden axe ") : 
and a pick, consisting of a straight bar of stone with 
a blunt point at both ends (the " Campignian pick"). 
The shell-mound of Oronsay, which has been ex- 
cavated with great care by Messrs. A Henderson. 
Bishop and Ludovic Man, 1 has given us valuable 
information on the mode of life of that early time. Ij 
belongs to the period of the 25~feet raised beach. 
Flat harpoons, of the Azilian type, were found on the 
site. For the details of the Oronsay discoveries we 
must refer the reader to the monograph named in 
the footnote : but the general conclusions may thus 
be summarised. Oronsay man, at the time of the 
deposition of the shell-heap, was a hunter, a fisher, 
and a fowler. There is no evidence, such as would be 
afforded by the presence of corn-grinders and similar 
implements, that he practised agriculture. Frag- 
ments of red paint, and perforated shells, shewed how 
he decorated his person ; the pins and piercers of 
bone indicate that he was clothed in hides. No human 
remains were found on Oronsay itself, but some bones 
came to light in a cave at Oban, 2 which gave a certain 
amount of information about the physical character 
of the tribe. The explorers of the site believe that 
the ancient inhabitants sailed thither in a currach of 
hides stretched on a frame, rather than in a dug-out 
canoe, on the ground that no tool fit for making a 
dug-out was found in the settlement. However that 
may be, an indication of their skill in seamanship is 
the presence in the midden-heaps of the remains of 
crabs of deep-sea varieties : this shews that the people 

1 See their report in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries 
of Scotland, xlviii, 52-108. See also idem, xxxii, 298. 

2 Proceedings Soc. Antiq. Scot., xxix, 211, 410. 


had traps, and that they could row out some distance 
to set them. 

Now if there were people in what we now call 
Scotland, at the time of the 25 -feet raised beach, 
who could row at least six miles in a canoe, however 
made, they could in calm weather cross the not much 
wider channel that separates Maol Chinn Tire from 
Baile an Chaisleain, where Scotland and Ireland are 
plainly in sight of each other. 

It is not, however, to be understood from the fore- 
going paragraphs that the first inhabitants of Ireland, 
whose remains we find there also in the 2 5 -feet raised 
beach, were direct colonists from Oronsay or from 
any analogous settlement. The two communities 
belong to different culture-groups. The Scottish 
settlements hitherto found (at Oronsay and at Oban) 
are Azilian in type : the Irish settlements (chief 
among which are those contained in the Latharna 
gravels) are distinctly Campignian. No Campignian 
remains have as yet been found in Scotland : but 
the geographical position of the earliest sites in Ireland 
makes it practically certain that Ireland was colonized 
from Scotland, at about the same time as the deposi- 
tion of the Oronsay shell-heap. 

The beginning of the Neolithic period was marked 
by an immigration into Europe of at least one short- 
headed race, most probably from .Asia ; to which 
race, indeed, Europe has probably to acknowledge its 
indebtedness for many of the Neolithic arts. Though 
this was more likely a gradual " peaceful penetration " 
than a sudden warlike incursion, the newcomers must 
have produced a congestion of the population of the 
Continent. For Europe, sparsely inhabited though 
it was, had already as many dwellers as it could con- 
veniently support. It was still to a large extent 
uninhabitable, owing to its dense forests ; its natives 
still lived on the produce of the dhase, and therefore 
needed wide and empty areas for the breeding of the 
beasts on which they fed. It is quite probable that 
a direct result of the congestion, produced by the 


immigrants, would be to squeeze the backwash of 
humanity into places where man had never penetrated 
before. So it is just at this time that we find commu- 
nities working gradually northward through England 
into Scotland, and crossing the western sea to the 
islands which seemed to offer a refuge. 

Some such influence as this some force majeure 
must be postulated if we are to account for these 
colonists seeking new homes at all. If psychologically 
they at all resembled the primitive men that come 
under our own notice and this is at least probable 
then only the most irresistible pressure from behind 
would have induced them to settle in a new country 
at all. ^For, to a degree inconceivable to us, the savage 
Js surrounded, day and night, by spiritual terrors of 
every kind. So long as he stays in his own country, 
he knows how to propitiate the ghosts and the demons 
that haunt its every corner. But when he is transported 
to a strange land, amid strange ghosts and strange 
demons, he is as one at sea in a rudderless ship. 
Something of his pitiable state may be gathered from 
the story in Hebrew history of the tribes with which 
the Assyrian king had peopled the land of Israel, 
after deporting the Israelites themselves. 1 The new^ 

* ft " O 

cpmers being decimated by lions, which had bred 
freely in the depopulated country, sent a message to 
the king begging him to send them an Israelite priest 
to instruct them, as " they knew not the manner of 
the God of the land." Exactly in the same way, 
though in a yet more intense degree, we may picture 
the colonists setting foot in trepidation on the shores 
of Ireland : they knew not the manner of its spiritual 
inhabitants. Nothing but necessity could have 
induced them to brave these imaginary but very real 
terrors. Such a necessity was very likely the result 
of the intrusion of the short-headed tribes, and the 
consequent upset in the balance of population in 
Central Europe. 

1 ii (iv) Kings xvii, 24-41. 


Wherever they may have landed, they very soon 
began to make their way round the coast. They did 
not at first penetrate inland ; the interior, as has been 
already indicated, was not inviting. Ireland is girdled 
round with a ring of midden-heaps. But it is not to 
be supposed that they all belong to the first inhabitants ; 
many of them are quite late in date. Indeed, the 
shore-dwellers' civilisation, if so we may call it, might 
have been studied in the life within the last hundred 
years on some of the remote islands along the western 
coast -save that the moderns enjoyed, in addition to 
the fare of their remote ancestors, the not wholly 
unmixed advantage of the potato, and the unmitigated 
evils of tobacco, strong tea, porter, and poitin. Some 
of the middens of the shore-dwellers have yielded 
bronze and even iron objects : and one of the most 
elementary rules of archaeological research is to date 
deposits by the latest objects which they contain, if 
there be no proof that these are intrusions. As a rule, 
the stratification of a site will guide us through the 
maze in safety, so long as it has not had the misfortune 
of having been what is technically called " hogged," 
by treasure-seekers or curiosity-hunters. 

IV. In the preceding paragraphs we have already 
answered to some extent the third of our three 
questions : the stage of civilisation to which the first 
inhabitants had already attained. But in order to 
answer it more completely we must now proceed to 
give a fuller account of the results that have attended 
the investigation of the midden-sites. 

V. These may be classified under four heads : 
(i) Raised beach sites. (ii) Shore-dwellers' sites, 
(iii) Factory sites, (iv) Shell-heaps. The first three 
types contain implements, belonging to very different 
stages of civilisation. There are no implements of 
importance in the fourth type. 

VI. As a typical example of the Raised Beach sites, 
we may begin our account with a study of the gravels 
at Latharna, to which we have already referred. 
Most of these gravels have been cleared away for 


railway-ballast ; a typical section has been cut out 
and cased, and is now preserved in the Royal Irish 
Academy's collection housed in the National Museum. 
Several accounts of the Latharna gravels have appeared 
from time to time ; the best is a report presented to 
the Belfast Naturalists' Field-Club by a committee 
appointed for the purpose, and printed in their Pro- 
ceedings (II, iii, 198). This committee excavated a 
section of the gravels, measuring 9ft. by 5ft. in cross- 
dimensions, to a depth of nearly 30 feet below the 
surface of the ground ; at this level the influx of water 
prevented further sinking. The contents of each 
stratum passed through were carefully analysed. 
The parts of this analysis relevant to our purpose 
may here be abstracted. 

The Latharna gravels were situated at the base of a 
spit of sand, called from its curved shape Con an 
(" sickle ") which juts into the water of the har- 
bour. They form a stratified deposit above the 
estuarine clay, which in its turn rests on the 
boulder-clay. The boulder-clay is a glacial deposit ; 
the estuarine clay an important post-glacial deposit. 
This gives us a definite major limit of date for the 
implements found on the site. Mr. Knowles, whose 
many reports on the shore sites published in various 
Journals must form the basis of any work done upon 
the subject, has expressed it as his opinion that the 
Latharna flints are Palaeolithic, or even pre-Palaeo- 
lithic i 1 and much has been made of a mammoth-tooth 
which was found somewhere on the shore in the 
neighbourhood of the gravels. But Palaeolithic, and 
still less pre-Palaeolithic, tools cannot be embedded 
in gravels which were formed over a post-glacial 
deposit : for this proves that the beach was formed 
after the close of the ice age, and therefore after the 
conclusion of the Palaeolithic period. As for the 
mammoth-tooth, there is no evidence that it had more 
than an accidental connection with the gravels. It 
was found lying loose, not set in a definite bed. 

1 PRIA, xvi, 209. 


The following strata were observed by the committee 
of investigation, in order from bottom to top : 

1. Estuarine clay. 

2. Coarse black sand, stained in places with iron, i foot thick. 
No implements. 

3. Black clayey gravel. Very few implements : only two found, 
giving an average of 0.04 to the cubic foot. 

4. Thick bed of gravel, of coarse texture, with numerous 
fossils ; towards the bottom the matrix is red and clayey. 8 feet 
6 inches thick. Flakes were found sparingly through this bed, 
as well as a few cores and one fine celt. The excavators divided 
this bed into four sections, and found the average number of 
implements to the cubic foot in these sections to be respectively 
0.08, 0.37, 0.34, and 0.31, beginning with the lowest. 

5. Alternating bands of fine gravel and sand, 3 feet 6 inches 
thick. Hardly any implements ; average per cubic foot only 0.013. 

6. Two beds of coarse gravel, the pebbles bein up to 6 ins. 
in diameter, with matrix of yellow sand ; the uppermost 18 inches 
had been disturbed by cultivation. The depth of the upper stratum 
was i ft. 6 ins., of the lower 4 ft. 6 ins. In tl\e upper stratum there 
were at least 10 implements to the cubic foot ; the lower stratum 
had about the same proportion at the top, diminishing to nothing 
at the bottom. 

The gravels were apparently deposited by powerful 
currents at a bar across the mouth of the loch of 
Latharna. While they were in process of formation 
human settlers established themselves upon them. 
The first settlement was very small perhaps a single 
canoe-load and so the implements in the lowest 
layers are very scanty. As the settlement increased 
the tools become more frequent. The belts of sand 
between the layers of gravel seem to indicate temporary 
fluctuations, involving a sinking of the land-level 
which inundated the site of the settlement. On this 
spit of sand the people found the molluscs that supplied 
their needs, and they were conveniently removed 
from the inland forests with their dreaded animals. 

Mr. Coffey 1 has maintained that the Latharna site 
was not a dwelling-site, but rather a factory. The 
arguments in favour of this view are (i) the presence 

, xxv, 182. 


of cores in considerable quantities an observation 
that the Belfast Field-Club report, rather remarkably, 
contradicts and (ii) the absence of well-finished 
tools and of other traces of human habitation, such 
as shell-heaps, ashes, and the like. His theory is 
that people came hither for materials for their tools, 
roughed them out on the site, and carried them away 
for final trimming at their homes. 

Had this been the case, however, we should not 
have found so complete a uniformity in the Latharna 
tools as we actually do find. Rough though they be, 
the Latharna flints conform to a definite type, com- 
parable with the Campignian type of the Continent, 
and they can be easily picked out from a pile of 
miscellaneous Irish flints. Had we to deal with a 
manufactory, we should have found tools in all stages 
of manufacture, and also irregular waste flakes of 
every possible shape. More cogent appears the second 
argument : but we do not know that midden-heaps 
may not actually exist in some part of the site as yet 
undug, or that they may not have been washed away 
by the sea, as has happened to whatever shell-heaps 
there may have been on the western coast of Denmark. 
The subsidiary implements limpet-scoops and the 
like may here have been of wood, not of bone, 
and may therefore have altogether perished. 

Other inhabited traces of the 2 5 -feet raised beach 
have been found at Ceall Roid, Co. Antrim, and at 
Port Ruis, in the same county, where we find a raised 
beach in the middle of the town, in addition to the 
later settlements of which traces have been found on 
the existing beach. 1 

The implements found in these Raised Beach sites 
will be more fully described later in this chapter. 

VII. A hiatus must be admitted to exist between 
the civilisation of the Raised Beaches and that of the 
Sandhills. But as in the case of the hiatus between 

1 W. J. Simpson, Notes on Worked Flints found on a Raised Beach 
atPortrush, in August, 1882 (PRIA, xvii, p. 76). 


the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic periods, the gap 
is in our knowledge, not in the course of development. 
All that can be said at present is that nothing has as 
yet been found to throw light on the stages of history 
that intervened in Ireland between the Campignian 
settlements of the Raised Beaches and the much later 
Neolithic of the earliest shore-dwellers. There are 
two alternative explanations of the hiatus possible. 
Either we may suppose a small body of colonists to 
have landed at Latharna and at the allied sites, to have 
confined themselves to those places, and there left 
evidences of their industry and then from one cause 
or another perished utterly, leaving the country un- 
inhabited till a later Neolithic colony came and 
started afresh : or we may suppose the first band to 
have developed, by processes as yet hidden from us, 
the one civilisation out of the other. Only future 
investigation can determine which of these alternatives 
is correct. 

If we are to adopt the theory of a continuous popula- 
tion, it does not follow that we are to suppose that 
there was a continuous development. For us, to whom 
the modern inventions of locomotion are a prime 
necessity for travel, it is difficult to realise that there 
was no small intercourse between different tribes and 
countries at a time when those inventions were un- 
dreamt-of : when the only communication by land 
was by canoes moving up and down the rivers, or 
along tracks trampled down by cattle ; and the only 
communication by sea was by hide-covered currachs. 
The uniformity with which civilisation advanced over 
Europe shews that there must have been free inter- 
course between its different population-groups. 
There must have been a first man to make a barbed 
arrow-head, let us say ; yet the knowledge of the 
invention spread all over Europe. Even if half-a- 
dozen, or fifty, or a thousand different people, in as 
many different places, all hit independently on the 
same invention, its diffusion is only a degree less 
remarkable, when the total absence of writing and the 


difficulties of transport are taken into account. In 
this give-and-take of new inventions, even an over-sea 
country like Ireland would have its share. If a body 
of colonists could have rowed over from the nearest 
points of Great Britain in the beginning, they could 
have been followed by others at later stages of the 
Stone Age, bringing with them a knowledge of the 
later developments of civilisation. 

On the whole, the most likely working hypothesis 
to account for the observed phenomena of Neolithic 
history in Ireland seems to be as follows. The first 
people landed while they were still in the Campignian 
stage of development. They continued for a long 
time in the country, unp regressive, and confined to 
the sites in the north-east corner of the country, 
where alone they could be certain of obtaining flint. 
When their kinsfolk in the larger island, thanks to 
their proximity to the Continent, had made progress 
in material civilisation, later colonies found their way 
into Ireland and introduced the more developed arts 
which we find illustrated in the older sandhills. This 
theory is necessarily tentative, but in the present state 
of knowledge seems to fit the facts. 

VIII. The Shore-dwellers' or Sandhill sites are 
frequent on the northern shores of Ireland, and 
appear in lesser numbers elsewhere. When they 
were deposited the land had attained the level at 
which it at present stands. The squatters on the 
sands built them rude huts of stone, round which 
they heaped the remains of their feasts. They made 
their implements of flint where they could get it, but, 
failing flint, of whatever other stone came in their way. 

The typical sandhill site is at Whitepark Bay, at 
the eastern end of the Giants' Causeway. It has long 
been known as a productive source of antiquities, 
and has in consequence been systematically " hogged " 
by tourists, collectors, and dealers' agents, so that by 
now its glory is sadly diminished. Here and elsewhere 
the loose sands of the dunes are ever shifting in the 
winds. When an eddy of wind blows away the sand 


from a spot in the dunes, it makes a hollow, sometimes 
as much as fifty feet in depth. In the side of this 
hollow is to be seen a black stratum. This is the old 
shore level, and here are contained the relics left 
behind by the old inhabitants. It is much more 
compact than the loose sand which covers it, so that 
it is less liable to denudation by the wind ; but it is 
not altogether proof against violent blasts, and when 
the sand-particles of the floor-level blow away, the 
implements drop through to the bottom of the pit, 
where they accumulate. Where there has been a 
hearth-site, made of flat stones, the layer of stones 
composing the hearth protects the sand underneath 
it from disturbance ; thus there is apt to be a small 
mound formed in the middle of the pit, capped by 
the layer of flat stones. The hearths are identified 
as such by the burnt condition of the stones composing 
them, and by the accumulation of ashes above, around, 
and under them. The ashes of fires blown about, 
and the decomposition of organic matter, has caused 
the black colour of the old surface, which is almost 
a constant feature of the Sandhill sites. 1 

As illustrating the former wealth of Whitepark 
Bay, I may borrow the following particulars from a 
paper by Mr. Knowles. 2 A space on the old surface 
measuring 80 square feet was marked out, and its 
contents catalogued. It contained : 

2 poorly-made arrow-heads. 
21 scrapers. 
44 cores. 
277 flakes. 

13 hammer-stones. 

A few pieces of haematite, scraped and rubbed. 

14 pieces of plain pottery. 

4 pieces of ornamental pottery. 

A coarse implement of deer's horn, rudely pointed. 

A quantity of bones, teeth, and shells. 

1 This description is founded on the account given by Mr. 
Knowles, in JAI, ix, 321. 
2 PRIA, xvii, 617. 


Specimen sections of the implement-bearing sand 
are cased and exhibited in the museums of Dublin 
and of Belfast. 

Though these sites are certainly Neolithic in origin, 
it does not necessarily follow that all the sites of this 
nature are so ancient. The absence of metal does not 
by any means prove a stone-age date for any site. A 
stone tool, judiciously sharpened, may be the cheapest 
and even the most effective tool at any time for such 
a purpose as the extraction of a mollusc from its 
shell. Pottery has been found at Whitepark Bay and 
elsewhere indistinguishable from bronze-age and even 
iron-age pottery. The investigation of a site of the 
kind requires to be carried out with care and judgment, 
and the conclusions should not be stated with an over- 
confident dogmatism. 

The stone used for the implements found in the 
Sandhill sites is always the stone found locally. This 
naturally is flint in places where flint is procurable. 
At Whitepark Bay there is an abundance of good flint, 
which is the reason why that site is, or was, so rich 
in well-fashioned implements. On the western coast 
where flint does not occur naturally, as for instance 
in Counties Mayo, Galway, and Clare, the local 
stones are used. As these are often not really suitable 
for making tools, the implements are not infrequently 
so rude and formless that they would scarcely be 
recognised as human workmanship at all, unless the 
finder has had a previous acquaintance with the types 
at which the manufacturers were aiming. 

Among the tools and the ornaments of stone and 
of bone, are scattered the shells and bones remaining 
from the feasts of the shore-dwellers. The animals 
represented are ox (Bos longifrons), sheep, goat, 
pig, fox, wolf, and red deer. At Cuan Bhaile Lugha, 
in Co. Down, bones of the Irish elk have been found 
in the ancient layer 1 : and we have already referred 
to the bear's tooth found at Cuan Tragha Li. The 

1 UJA, II, iv, 44. The volume of bibliography will include a 
detailed list of shore-dwellers' sites, where references will be found. 


long bones are usually split to extract the marrow. 
The birds represented are great auk (at Whitepark 
Bay and in an iron-age site at Whitechurch in Co. 
Waterford), goose, gull, and a few others. Fish-bones 
have seldom been noted, but this is most likely due to 
careless observation or to imperfect recording : fish- 
bones are insignificant and perishable things, and might 
easily escape notice. We can scarcely believe that 
such omnivorous people as the shore-dwellers neglected 
fish in providing for their larders. Cod bones were 
found at Whitepark Bay, and if looked for they would 
doubtless be found elsewhere. On the other hand, 
shell-fish was evidently the staple diet. Everywhere 
there are to be found piles of shells, principally oyster, 
mussel, periwinkle, cockle, scallop, and whelk. Some- 
times the shells found are such as would not now 
naturally occur on the site. At Baile na nEas, Co. 
Donegal, oyster shells appear in the middens, though 
the oyster is no longer found locally. At Ros na 
Beinne in the same county a shell of Venus verrucosa 
was found, a species not now living in the seas of 
Ireland. 1 

The dog-whelk has been found in various sites, 
and has been made the subject of much curious specu- 
lation as to whether it was used for food, or as a 
source of supply of " Tyrian purple." It is unlikely 
that the shore-dwellers troubled their heads about 
purple dye : the quotations from Irish historical 
romances about the gorgeous robes of kings and others 
that have been brought forward are inept, shewing a 
want of the sense of historical perspective. W T e cannot 
argue from the historic, or the semi-historic, to the pre- 
historic, in such a free-and-easy way : a simple canon 
of archaeological research, often forgotten with fatal 
results by those who draw parallels between Irish 
literature and Irish antiquities. This was the rock 
on which O 'Curry was shipwrecked, and many after 
him have met the same fate. Of course if in eating 

1 PRIA, xix, 656. 


a dog-whelk the feaster found himself besmeared 
with the dye, he would be as delighted as a small boy 
of modern times when he discovers that his person 
displays the traces of indulgence in fresh walnuts. 
I am not troubled by the fact that the dog-whelk is 
not now supposed to be fit for food. Mr. Knowles 
tells a story which he heard in Co. Donegal, about 
certain shipwrecked French sailors who would eat 
nothing but this despised mollusc. 1 The story is 
hardly needed to corroborate the principle that primi- 
tive man will eat anything he can bite, so long as it is 
not actively poisonous, or hedged round by a religious 
or a social tabu ; but it is as well, perhaps, that the 
incident should have been put on record. Another 
point worth notice is that in the Irish midden-heaps 
the whelk-shells are, when broken, smashed in pieces, 
as though they had been crushed by a blow between 
stones. The shells in the enormous heaps which I 
have had an opportunity of examining on the sea- 
shore at Tyre, doubtless the relics of the purple 
industry which made that ancient city famous, shew 
a different treatment : they are all perforated, as with 
a sharp-pointed instrument, in the neighbourhood 
of the sac containing the colouring fluid. By the 
rough-and-ready method of the Irish deposits the 
dye would have been lost. Besides, the amount of 
colouring matter secreted by each mollusc is so small, 
that the quantity of the shells would need to be much 
greater in proportion than it actually is to justify us in 
supposing that they were collected for the purpose 
of extracting the dye. 

The sea-shells are sometimes mixed together, but 
often the different species are kept apart mussels 
here, whelks there, periwinkles elsewhere. This means 
that large quantities of each species were collected 
at once, and eaten in a single feast. 

Thus we gather a picture of a series of communities 
living along the shore, and spreading gradually round 
the whole of Ireland. They had a fairly uniform 

i PRIA, xxi, 437. 


civilisation, though there was little mutual inter- 
course otherwise a trade in flint would doubtless 
have developed. They lived on the produce of the 
sea, as well as on trapped animals and birds. They 
cultivated grain, and ground it between rubbing- 
stones. They stained themselves with ochre, but 
their claim to a use of " Tyrian purple " is, to say 
the least, non-proven. 

Their gradual penetration inland, up the rivers 
which afforded an easy highway into the interior of 
the country, is illustrated by a site found near Ormeau 
Bridge in Belfast. 1 In sand deposit on the banks of 
the Lagan were found a flake apparently trimmed 
for putting on a shaft, a hollow scraper, and a very 
irregularly made polished axe-head, as well as a large 
number of flakes and small cores, scrapers with 
rounded ends, a knife, and a leaf-shaped arrow-head. 
This site was of especial interest in that it overlay a 
Raised Beach site, representing the older phase in 
Neolithic culture. It contained flakes, cores, a chipped 
pick, and a bone of a red deer. 

IX. Factory-sites are identified by the absence of 
hearths, bones, shells, and other kitchen refuse which 
mark the ordinary dwelling-sites ; and by the presence 
of tools at different stages of manufacture- -some 
merely roughed out, others more or less complete. 
These sites are of importance in archaeological study, 
as they illustrate the processes of manufacture of the 
various kinds of stone implement. 

Several sites of manufactories of stone axes have 
been found by Mr. Knowles in the valleys near 
Gleann Arma, Co. Antrim. 2 They yielded cores, 
hammer-stones, scrapers, and flakes, as well as picks 
and other stone tools. Except these tools, there were 
no other traces of human occupation. The great 
number of the stone objects will be realised from the 
fact that from two sites in this district Mr. Knowles 

1 Described in UJA, II, v, 5. 

2 PRIA, xvii, 619; BNFC, 1905, p. 421. 


collected over 2,500 axes, of which 2,262 were chipped 
and 240 were ground. Another factory site has been 
found at Fisher Street, Co. Clare. 1 One good hammer- 
stone was found here, as well as celts at all stages of 

X. The fourth class of shore sites, which I have 
here called shell-heaps, are, in Ireland, distinguished 
from the other sites by the total absence of anything 
but shells. There are no huts, no hearths except 
a few traces of fires which appear to have been kindled 
directly upon the piles of shells already accumulated 
and no implements, except rude wedges of stone that 
could have been used for forcing open bivalve mol- 
luscs, or for scooping them out of their shells. This 
absence of implements shews that these shell-heaps 
were not places of permanent abode : and the absence 
of datable objects makes it impossible to assign them 
to any definite period. Rather are they to be regarded 
as places whither people came to collect shellfish for 
consumption elsewhere : and they are not necessarily 
of any great antiquity. Indeed there is at least one, 
at Inis, Co. Kerry, which is still in process of forma- 
tion. Unshelled molluscs are hawked about the 
western towns of Ireland, especially on Fridays, and 
it is most probable that these heaps are the remains 
of this humble industry. That the fishers themselves 
indulged from time to time in a banquet on the spot 
would be no more than natural, and thus the traces 
of fire remaining here and there in the 'heaps are 
easily accounted for. The shellfish may have been 
cooked for sale, as well as being shelled, upon the site 
where they were collected. 

XI. By the end of the Stone Age, man had found 
his way over the whole of Ireland, in spite of the 
difficulties in his way. This is shown, inter alia, by 
the distribution of the dolmens, of which we shall 
speak in the proper place, in a later chapter. But the 
inland sites, by which his progress might be traced, 

1 PRIA, xxii, 355, 388. 


are very little known, and what has been published 
has been very imperfectly described. 

As an example of cave sites, we may take that of 
Baile na mBaintreabhach, in Co. Waterford, between 
Dun Garbhain and Ceapach. 1 There are here a 
number of caves in the limestone cliffs : and that 
mentioned was explored in 1879, w i tn results which 
may be here summarised. 

1. The cave was in the first instance formed by the action of 
an underground stream, which deposited gravel on the floor. There 
were no bones in this gravel. 

2. The stream dried up, apparently gradually and with inter- 
missions. A bed of stalagmite then formed over the alluvial gravel. 
This stalagmite in places attained a thickness of 3 feet 6 inches. 
At 24 feet from the entrance it came to within 6 inches of the cave 
roof, thereby blocking the interior recesses of the cave to all animals 
larger than a fox. Accordingly no animal remains were found in 
the cave beyond this point. 

While the stalagmite was being formed, bears made their abode 
in the cave. The bones of deer were also found ; these had probably 
been dragged in by the bears. The only other animal represented 
at this period was the frog. 

3. Water washed into the cave and gradually removed some 
of the underlying gravel. The stalagmite layer, thus deprived of 
its support, became broken up. A pale sandy earth, apparently 
decomposed Old Red Sandstone, was washed in by the water, and 
in the layer of this material the fragments of the stalagmite floor 
became embedded. 

Bones of bears and of hares (numerous), pig (few), and rabbit, 
deer, wolf, ox, and elk (one each) were found in this layer. Most 
of them had probably sunk down from the stratum next above. 

One human finger-bone was said by the workmen to have been 
found in this layer, but it also appeared to belong to the stratum 

No implements ; some charcoal, washed through crevices from 
the upper stratum. 

4. Over the sandy soil a layer of grey earth was gradually 
accumulated by water action. Seams of calc tufa occurred at inter- 
vals through this stratum. 

Bones were found of Irish elk, bear, hare, ox, red deer, pig, 
rabbit, goat, fox, wolf, badger, marten. 

Twelve fragments of human bones were also found. These 
bones belonged to the stratum. 

1 Scientific Transactions, Royal Dublin Society, New Series, i 
(1877-1883), p. 177. 


Charcoal was abundant, forming a seam like a hearth or an 
old floor. The artificially pointed bone of a goat was found, as 
well as many rude hammer-stones of sandstone. 

The Irish elk bones were broken for the marrow, and there was 
an undue proportion of leg bones. This shewed that the human 
occupants of the cave hunted the elk, cutting it up where they 
killed it. and carrying into the cave the eatable portions of the 
carcase : a clear proof that the Irish elk and man were contemporary 
in Ireland. 

5. A stratum of brown earth formed over the grey earth, also 
washed in by water. The stream had for some reason ceased to 
be charged with" carbonate of lime, which was the cause of the 
change of colour of the earth. 

Bones were found of rabbit, hare, goat, ox, fox, pig, red deer, 
dog, marten, horse, hedgehog, and a bear, the last-named probably 
dug up from a lower stratum. It will be noticed that the elk has 
now disappeared. 

Nineteen fragments of human bones were found. 

A polished celt, a bone piercer, a perforated bone, a bone needle, 
two fragments of pottery, and a few hammer-stones, which were 
found in this stratum, were enough to date it to the latter part of 
the Neolithic period. The stratification of the implements was 
quite clear : the only disturbances were a chisel of bone, and a 
very late knife-handle (said to belong to about the sixth century 
A.D. ). These were accidentally washed down into stratum 4 
through a drainage crevice. 

6. The accumulation of the earth of stratum 5 continued until 
the piled-up material came too near to the roof to allow of the cave 
continuing as a habitation, and so it was at last abandoned. 

XII. These results speak for themselves. I have 
thought them worth setting forth thus at length as a 
good example of how a careful excavation can teach 
us the whole history of a site. We can see the gradual 
improvement in tools, the disappearance of certain 
animals, the entrance of others on the stage : in short, 
the whole drama of life can be followed, by minute 
observance of the stratification of such a bed of accu- 
mulation as this. It cannot be expressed too strongly 
that it is a fatal error to suppose that excavations of 
this kind are conducted for the purpose of finding 
things. The objective is facts. The actual money 
value of the objects found in this cave, even with the 
ridiculously inflated prices which dealers set upon 


antiquities nowadays, was very small. But owing to 
the care with which the excavation was carried out, 
they acquired a scientific value beyond all price. 

Too many sites of the kind have been dug with the 
mere purpose of finding loot. The stratification has 
been neglected, and the result has been like a book of 
which the leaves have all been torn out and mixed up ; 
indeed, it has been worse, for the leaves preserve a 
sufficient number of clues to enable us to sort them, 
but prehistoric strata once mixed up cannot with cer- 
tainty be completely restored. But even when the 
stratification has been noted it must be critically 
studied : otherwise it can be misleading. A good 
example of its dangers may be seen in some observa- 
tions and deductions made by Rev. J. O'Laverty, 
regarding antiquities found in the Banna at Port 
Gleanna Eoin. 1 I do not quote this to disparage the 
writer or his work. On the contrary, he displays an 
instinct for scientific observation that we seek in vain 
in many others. And it would not be fair to find fault 
with an author, writing so long ago as 1857, for not 
knowing facts that have become common property 
since then. But the illustration is so good, as showing 
how a careful observer may be led astray in his deduc- 
tions, that I cannot forbear quoting it. 

The river had been partly diverted in order to 
deepen it ; and it was found that its bed was prin- 
cipally of a whitish clay, over which was a layer of 
sand and small stones, ranging in depth from 6 to 14 
inches, and containing many antiquities. 

At the bottom were arrow-heads of light grey flint, barbed and 
lozenge-shaped, the latter being the commoner : a fragment of 
bronze, apparently part of a javelin-head or a knife-blade : and a 
grey flint celt. 

In the middle were bronze swords, daggers, and a bronze scab- 
bard, as well as many bronze spear-heads, some of them still 
retaining part of their wooden handles. 

At the top were black polished celts, and what the author calls 
rude spear-heads (he should have said javelin-heads) of reddish 
coloured flint. 

1 UJA, I, v, 122. 


The author of the paper concluded that the top 
objects were the latest, the swords, etc., being older, 
and the arrow-heads older still. The flaw in his 
reasoning was that he neglected to allow for the flow 
of the river. We now know from hundreds of finds 
that swords and spear-heads are a late development 
of the Bronze Age ; the middle stratum is therefore 
in this case the latest. The arrow-heads in the bottom 
stratum might be as late as these, the smaller objects 
having dropped through crevices between stones, 
which would prevent the larger objects from following 
them. The celts and rude flints, so far from being 
the latest, were the earliest objects from the site. 
Assuming the accuracy of the statement that they 
were on topwe do not know whether the writer 
spoke from his own observation or from information 
supplied by the workmen these must have washed 
down the river from some site higher up its course. 1 

We may now proceed to desqribe the tools and 
implements left behind by the people of the Neolithic 
period in Ireland. Naturally we begin with the 
objects in flint and other stones, which are the most 
important and typical remains of the handiwork of 
Neolithic man. 

XIII. Flint is a siliceous concretion formed in 
favourable circumstances round sponges or other 
organic nuclei, and found in layers embedded in the 
chalk cliffs which are the results of submarine depo- 
sition. There is reason to believe that large areas of 
Ireland was once covered with chalk, having seams of 

1 Sometimes there are disconcerting incongruities to be found 
in archaeological deposits. Thus at Ros Ercain, Co. Antrim, an 
urn of the Bronze Age was found inverted over a cremated interment: 
in the deposit under the urn was a small seventeenth -century glass 
bottle [JRSAI, xxi, 433 ff]. The explanation of the intrusion is 
probably that given by the Rev. G. R. Buick in describing the find 
that it had been disturbed in an age when the belief in fairies and 
other uncanny influences was stronger than it is now, and that the 
discoverer had replaced it reverently, with a bottle of holy water 
to avert any possible harm from himself. 


flint running through it ; x but except in one place 
this has all Been denuded out of existence by atmos- 
pheric action, leaving no trace but occasional flint 
nodules lying on the surface of the ground. That 
one place is the north-east corner of the island, where 
a thick bed of basalt overlies the chalk as may be 
seen, for example, by visitors to Port Ruis. On the 
shore between the town of Port Ruis and the Giants' 
Causeway the sea has had its will of the chalk, and has 
cut it into all sorts of fantastic forms. But above, 
the thick ;< blanket " of basalt protects the soft rock 
lying underneath, and thus it is only on the vertical 
face of the cliff that denudation can take place. 

Here flint is found in inexhaustible quantities. 
There is a great accumulation of nodules under the 
basalt, showing that surface denudation had gone on 
to a considerable extent before the basalt had spread 
over the cliffs to protect what was left of them. These 
nodules were once deposited in layers, in an upper 
part of the cliff which had been weathered away before 
the time of the basalt. As the process of denudation 
advances, the nodules become more and more exposed, 
and finally drop out from the face of the cliff to the 
foot, where there is a great accumulation. Good 
flint was thus to be had for the picking up, and did 
not need to be mined for, as was the case in other 

Where flint is not to be found, the Neolithic people 
were forced to use whatever stones they could get as 
substitutes. Chief of these was chert. Chert is in 
origin similar to flint, and resembles it in appearance, 
but is less glossy ; it is more brittle than flint, and 
does not break with so clean a fracture. It is distribu- 
ted fairly widely over Ireland, and makes a tolerable 
substitute for flint whenever the latter stone is not 

,: But other stones, even less satisfactory, were pressed 
into the service. It is clear that those who were com- 

1 PRIA, xxx, B, pp. 12, 13. 


pelled by their geographical position to be content 
with these less tractable stones endeavoured to copy 
the forms of implements which had evolved naturally 
from the use of flint though this was a feat difficult, 
if not impossible, to accomplish satisfactorily. . This 
indicates that the dwellers in the less favoured parts, 
where flint is absent or only to be found in occasional 
loose nodules, had originally come from a flint-bearing 
region ; that the first landing had been effected in 
the north-east corner of the country, and that as the 
population increased they gradually spread further 
round the coast, as well as inland. 

XIV. The development of civilisation during the 
Neolithic period is marked, in all countries, first by 
a growth of technical skill on the making of the tools, 
and then by a growth of specialisation. Technical 
skill may, it is true, co-exist with a low stage of culture, 
as is shown by the artistic and ingenious handiworks 
of South Sea Islanders to be seen in any ethnological 
museum. Specialisation is a better indication of the 
stage of material culture attained by a community, 
whether we consider the man himself or his tools. 
The primitive savage has to be his own hunter, butcher, 
skinner, cook, tailor, builder, law-giver, medicine- 
man, soldier, sailor, and undertaker. The functions 
of law-giver and of medicine-man early separate 
themselves from the rest, and become the privileges 
of certain individuals ; but the growth of specialisa- 
tion in the other crafts is gradual, and we may measure 
the scale of civilisation according as it is developed. 
The same is true of the tools of man. He begins with 
the " universal flake " or chopper, which serves all 
purposes. The flake of early Neolithic man is to the 
tools of later Neolithic man what the schoolboy's 
pocket-knife is to the tools that a grown man needs 
for his work. The schoolboy fashions a toy boat, 
pares his pencil, trims his nails, opens the pages of 
uncut books, and indulges in surreptitious dormitory 
suppers with the one tool. The grown man needs a 
whole armoury of tools for boat-building, and uses 


a pencil-sharpener, a nail-scissors, a paper-cutter, and 
a dinner-knife for the other purposes named. 

We can divide the Neolithic culture in Ireland into 
three stages, which we may term the Raised Beach 
stage, the Sandhill stage, and the Overlap stage the 
last being so named because it falls into the period 
of transition between the Age of Stone and the Age 
of Bronze. 

XV. The tools and implements of the Raised Beach 
stage are few in number. No bone implement or 
pottery has been as yet found in any of the Raised 
Beach sites. The only tools to be described are there- 
fore flints. The flints of Latharna and allied sites 
have been very fully described and illustrated by 
Mr. Coffey, 1 and the following account of them is to a 
very large extent based upon his work. 

Cores. These are the waste hearts of the nodules 
of flint, remaining after the serviceable flakes have 
been struck off. The Belfast Field-Club committee 
failed to find many cores in their researches, though 
from other accounts there seems to have been a large 
supply available, at all depths where worked flints 
were to be found at all. Cores are irregular lumps 
of flint, usually roughly spherical or cylindrical, 
displaying all round the facets remaining after the 
flakes required had been struck off. They measure 
from 3 to 5 inches in length. 

Flakes. A Flake is a splinter of flint that has been 
chipped from the parent block by human agency. 
When the fracture is due to natural causes other terms, 
such as spall or chip, are to be preferred. The nature 
of flint is such that a sharp tap dislodges a flake from 
the nodule with a break almost as smooth and as clean 
as the surface of a sheet of glass it is this character 
that makes flint so conspicuously suitable for making 
implements. A flake that has been artificially struck 
off displays peculiarities that are not shared by splin- 
ters naturally broken. One of the peculiarities is 

, xxv, C 172. 


the bulb of percussion. If flint were malleable, like 
a lump of lead, the blow would produce a dent on 
the surface. It is, however, slightly elastic, and so 
the point at which the hammer strikes the surface is 
driven into the flint, and the particles affected directly 
or indirectly by the blow are condensed more tightly 
together. These condensed particles cleave away 
from those which are left undisturbed ; and as the 
influence of the blow spreads out as a cone through 
the body of the flint, the surface of the fracture is 
massed as a lump just under the point where the blow 
was struck. 1 If the blow be struck in the middle of 
the nodule, the lump will take the form of a perfect 
cone : if the blow fall near the edge, the cone will 
not be so perfect ; for the flake, unsupported by the 
thickness of the nodule, will break off before the cone 
is completed. There will, however, be a lump or 
protuberance on the flake just under where the impact 
of the hammer has taken place. This lump, which 
is called the bulb of percussion, is one of the chief 
indications by which an artificial flake is distinguished 
from a natural spall : and the diagnosis is corrobo- 
rated if the reversed impressions of similar conchoids 
appear in the subordinate facets, the places where 
splinters have been struck off to trim the tool to its 
final shape. But it should be said that it is impossible 
to give hard-and-fast rules for distinguishing between 
artificial flakes and natural chips. There is no absolute 
criterion : nothing but long experience will develop 
an instinct for telling the true from the false ; and it 
may even be questioned whether the longest experience 
can guarantee such an instinct to be absolutely in- 
fallible in every .case that may arise. 

The Latharna flakes present peculiarities that dis- 
tinguish them from those found in the Sandhill sites. 
They are as a rule rectangular, or of a long narrow 
oval shape, between 3 and 4 inches in length. Broader 

1 This description of the formation of the bulb of percussion is 
adapted from Sir J. Evan?, Ancient Stone Implements, p. 274. 


flakes, of a squarer form, are also found, and, in the 
surface deposits, some very neatly made flakes were 
found, pointed at one end. On the whole, the 
flakes of the Raised Beach sites are coarser than 
are those of the Sandhills. Mr. Coffey remarks on a 
large number which are of a wedge shape, with the 
bulb of percussion in the narrow end, the opposite 
end being broad and thick, and often bearing a portion 
of the outer calcareous crust of the nodule. 

14 Celts." The Latharna celt, inaccurately so- 
called, differs essentially from the latter celt, described 
below. It is a bar of flint, 6 to 7 inches in length, 
rudely chipped, and brought to a blunt point 
at both ends. Having no cutting edge, it cannot 
properly be described as a celt, if that objectionable 
word is to be retained at all. On the other hand, 
there is too much uniformity in the type to allow us 
to regard it as a mere " blank," that is, a roughed-out 
tool to be afterwards shaped into a celt. The tool is 
really a pick ; and it is identical with the Campignian 
pick of France and elsewhere. This shews us to which 
of the transitional forms of culture we are to assign 
the Irish Raised Beach remains. 

Chisel-axes. This identification of the Raised Beach 
sites as Campignian would lead us to expect to find 
chisel-axes of the kokkenmodding type in the remains 
of Raised Beach settlements. Such are, however, 
comparatively rare in Ireland, and they are not to any 
degree so characteristic of the Campignian phase of 
civilisation in this country as are the picks. A few, 
however, have been described, such as those from 
Port Ruis described by Mr. Knowles, of which three 
are here shown. 

Flints of these early types have also been found at 
some of the Sandhill sites notably at Portstewart 
and at Whitepark Bay. They are distinguished from 
the later flints partly by their form, and partly by 
their patination. Patination is a colouring that flint 
assumes, derived from the soil in which it is embedded. 
Certain ingredients of the soil, such as manganese 


or iron, penetrate into the surface of the flint and stain 
it ; the result naturally varies with the nature of the 
soil and with the disintegrating influences to which the 
flint has been exposed . This process always requires 
a considerable time to effect. Flint that has long 


lain exposed to the air, and thus has not been embedded 
in soil capable of colouring it, is deprived of its natural 
colour by the disintegrating influence of the atmos- 
phere, and assumes a creamy porcelain-like appearance. 
This is the case of the Latharna flints, especially 
those from the uppermost stratum of the Raised Beach. 
The early flints found at Whitepark Bay and at 
Portstewart are very deeply patinated, whereas the 
later flints are often not patinated at all. This does 
not mean that when the later flints were made the 
earlier were already of a greater antiquity than the 
later flints are now ; such a deduction, though obvious 
and attractive, is by no means inevitable. It rather 
means that between the times when the old and the 
new flints were made the former were lying in a bed 
favourable to patination. It is not infrequently found 
that the later inhabitants have picked up one of the 
earlier flints, and have retouched it to make it serve 
their purpose. When this is the case, the older patin- 


ation will naturally appear on the original surface 
of the implement, and will be removed from the place 
where the later people have removed flakes. 

XVI. We now turn to the series of types from the 

Cores. These, as before, are the waste products, 
the hearts of the original nodules thrown away after 
the serviceable flakes have been struck off (fig. 4). 
Where flint does not naturally occur, the cores are 
much smaller ; and the further we go from the regular 
sources of supply the smaller do they become, till at 
last they disappear altogether. Somewhere about 



Provenance unknown, in Royal Irish Academy's collection. 

the mouth of the Boinn on the east coast, and of the 
Banna on the north coast, are points that mark the 
limits of the area in which waste cores are to be found. 
Outside that area flint was too valuable to be thrown 
away, and the smallest scrap was utilised in one way 
or another. 

Flakes. To classify flint flakes completely is a 
practical impossibility, and it may be questioned 
whether it is desirable to attempt to do so. There 


are a large number of intermediate forms between 
every two varieties, on any system that might be 
adopted, and these prevent our distributing the 
specimens into hard-and-fast compartments. Some 
flakes by their shape are suitable for use as knives, 
others as javelin-heads, others again as scrapers ; but 
we cannot always say with certainty that such were 
actually the purposes for which they were made and 
used. A typical flake, with the several parts indicated, 
is shewn in fig. 5. 

B A 


A, the Striking-plane ; B, the Bulb of Percussion, with C, its 
Conchoid ; D, the ridge separating the facets E. 

Generally, however, it may be said that the flake 
implements found in Ireland are triangular in shape 
the triangle not being necessarily isosceles or even 
rectilinear, though more or less approximating to 
that shape. On the one face is the smooth inner 
surface of the flake, the side which was in contact 
with the parent nodule, with the bulb of percussion. 
On the other faces the removal of two or sometimes 
three principal flakes has brought the instrument to 
the desired shape. The butt is trimmed by means of 


what is known as secondary chipping a delicate 
subordinate flaking by which the instrument receives 
a final form. Sometimes this secondary chipping of 
the butt is so contrived as to give it the shape of an 
incipient tang. 

That such a flake, with a suitable mounting, could 
be used for a knife, a dagger, or a javelin-point, is 
obvious. But in the absence of the mounting, which 
has in practically every case decayed away, it is im- 
possible to do more than guess the purpose for which 
the last may have been used. There is one flake in 
existence round the butt of which is wrapped a wad 
of moss that served as a handle : this object, preserved 
by some wonderful chance, was found in the river 
Banna, and is now in the R.I. A. collection (fig. 6). 


Awls and Borers. In a variety of this form of tool 
the secondary chipping is applied to the tip and 
edges of the flake, in such a way as to produce what 
was probably a boring tool (fig. 6). A large number 



of borers, of very small size, have been yielded by 
the shore settlements of Grainnse M6r, Co. Donegal. 
Scrapers. Scrapers are a further adaptation of 
flakes, with or without a pointed tip. In these tools 
the edge is trimmed by secondary chipping, sometimes 
at the end (end-scrapers), sometimes at the side (side- 
scrapers) of the implement : sometimes the chipping 
is to be seen round the whole periphery of the flake. 
There is, indeed, a great variety of scrapers, under 
which general term it is possible that a number of 


tools with different purposes are grouped chief 
among which would be the cleaning and dressing of 
the hides of animals for making garments (fig. 8). Mr. 
Knowles has calculated that scrapers form about 60 
or 70 per cent, of the implements found at the Sand- 
hills : if anything this is an under-estimate. Some 


of these tools are mere flakes, while others are very 
carefully manufactured, with long or short scraping 
edges formed by slight secondary chipping. Some 
have tang-like handles, others have broad blunt blades. 


In dealing with rude tools of this nature it is pos- 
sible, as in the case of flakes, to overdo minuteness 
of classification, without any compensating advantage. 
Though there may be a variety of implements classed 
together under the one name " scraper," it is hardly 
possible for us to separate them without risk of error. 
Many descriptive names " horse-shoe scraper," 
"duck-bill," "kite-shaped," "circular," and the like- 
have been devised, but are of very little practical 
value. One name, however, may be retained with 
advantage, " spoon-shaped scraper," denoting a 
specific variety, of which a number of specimens have 
been found. In this the scraping edge is formed 
wholly or partly around an approximately circular 
disc of flint, from which a handle-like appendage 
projects (fig. 9). 



Hollow scrapers are found in some, but not in all, 
of the Sandhill sites : they are absent from some that 
are rich in other forms of implement. The peculiarity 
distinguishing this type is a semi-circular notch in 
the edge. Some writers call these implements " saws," 
and have shewn that bones can be cut with them 
when used after the manner of saws. But, on the 


whole, a non-committal name is preferable. A more 
probable theory of their use, in the opinion of the 
present writer, is that they were for planing smooth 
the shafts of arrows or of javelins, or similar curved 
surfaces. Some examples will be seen in fig. SB 

Mr. Knowles has figured a scraper 1 which, he con- 
siders, combines in one tool a straight edged and a 
hollow scraper together. To judge from the illustra- 
tion, however, the hollow is hardly deep enough. 

Knives. By chipping away one edge of a flake, 
and leaving the other, either intact or touched up with 
secondary chipping, a knife is produced. This form 
(the couteau a dos rabattu of French archaeologists) 
is not infrequent in Ireland. 

Saws. A further modification denticulating the 
cutting edge of a knife of the type just described- 
produces a saw (fig. 10). 

Daggers. Among the finest implements in flint 
found in Europe are the beautifully made daggers, 
with handle and blade complete, chipped out of a 
single flint nodule, characteristic of Scandinavia. 
It is highly improbable that these weapons are older 
than the Bronze Age : indeed they have all the 

1 PRIA, xvii, 182 and accompanying plate. 


appearance of being an attempt to imitate, in the less 
tractable flint, the beauty and finish of an implement 
in bronze. Nothing comparable with the excellence 
of these weapons has been found in Ireland, but 


objects designed on the same principle are not un- 
known. Such are a dagger (fig n) in the Royal Irish 
Academy collection (provenance unknown) : and an- 
other, more nearly resembling the Scandinavian type 


but of inferior technique, found in the bed of a dried 
lake at Scairbh, Co. Clare. 1 It is described as being 
if inches across at the widest part of the blade, and 
5J inches long. The top is slightly broken (fig. IIA). 

1 R. Day, Danish Spear-head [sic]. JRSAI, xxv, 176. The writer 
of this note seems to have had no doubt of the Danish origin of 
the object, and offers some strangely anachronistic theories as to 
how it may have found its way to Ireland. 



Arrow-heads and Javelin-heads. These are the 
most artistic of the flint objects that have come down 
to us. They fall into series, distinguished by their 



shapes, like the scrapers ; they may be oval, triangular, 
amygdaloid (lozenge-shaped), or leaf-shaped ; further 
they may be tanged or tangless, barbed or barbless. 
A triangular head with the base hollowed is perhaps 
the commonest form. Different types are found in 
the same hoard, so that no ethnological or chronolo- 
gical importance attaches to such classifications. 
Javelin-heads are distinguished from arrow-heads 
by their superior size (fig. 12). 

These weapons were fitted on to their shafts by 
splitting the end of the latter and inserting the head, 
a band of gut being tightly tied round the end to 
prevent the flint from dropping out. Two examples 
are reported of arrow-heads having been found with 
part of the shaft and of the gut ligature remaining : 
one of these from Baile an Choillin, in King's Co., now 
in the possession of Cambridge University : the other 
from Kanestown, Co. Antrim. 1 


Large weapons of this type are sometimes called 
spear-heads. The name is, however, inexact. A 
spear differs from a javelin, assegai, or harpoon, in 
that it is retained in the hand of its wielder, while they 
are thrown at the person or animal attacked. Had 
spears been invented in the Stone Age we should have 
found bronze spear-heads appearing at a very early 
date in the bronze Age ; whereas they are quite a 
late evolution. A javelin, which when once cast might 
never be recovered, would not be tipped with bronze, 
for the metal was too valuable to waste on such extra- 
vagant weapons. Many of the well-made arrow-heads 
and javelin-heads of flint are most probably of the 
Bronze Age. Indeed, some of them display the 

1 Wilde, Catalogue p. 254 : JRSAI xvii, p. 126. 


influence of bronze-age shapes reacting upon them, 
as we shall see later. Arrow-heads are most frequently 
found in the flint-bearing region of the North of 
Ireland, but they are not unknown elsewhere in the 


country. A good specimen from Co. Cork is reported 
in the Cork Archaeological Society's Journal, 1907, 
page 197. The unfinished example, fig. 14, is especially 
interesting as illustrating the process of manufacture. 
Hammer-stones. These are simply pebbles of a 
convenient size for manipulation, made of any stone 
hard enough for the purpose. They were chiefly 
used for striking off flakes from the flint core, but 
would naturally be employed for any other purpose 
that required such a tool. They are to be recognised by 
the crushed and scratched marks which indicate where 
the striking end has been (fig. 15). Where there is an 


abundance of suitable stone, hammer-stones are not 
often found, for the simple reason that the artificer 


picked up any pebble that came handy, and threw it 
away when it had served his purpose ; it was therefore 
not long enough in use to receive permanent marks of 
wear. On the other hand, when the supply of suitable 
stones was limited, we may find a stone that was used 
so much as to be reduced to a spherical shape as the 
result of hammering over its whole surface. 

Anvil-stones, Mr. Knowles has given this name, 
probably with reason, to a class of stone objects found 
in the majority of the implement-bearing sandhills. 
These are flat oval slabs of stone, of very different 
sizes some are only three or four inches across, 
others large and heavy with a depression, sometimes 
on one, more frequently on both faces (fig. 16). This 


depression is understood to have been caused by the 
use of the stone as a table, or as an anvil, in the course 
of the manufacture of flint implements. 

These have also been called " oval tool-stones," the 
depressions being supposed to have been intentionally 
made, for the grip of the fingers and thumb. Many of 
the stones, however, are too large to be thus gripped, 
nor are the depressions in a convenient place, or of a 
convenient shape, for the purpose ; in fact the useful- 
ness of the tool as a hammer is not as a rule improved 
by this treatment. The " anvil " theory is therefore 

Fabricators. The fine chipping which distinguished 
the better made arrow-heads and knives must have 


been made, not by means of the hammer which struck 
off the rough flakes, but with a specially prepared 
punch. Such a punch is the small tool called a fabri- 
cator, which greatly resembles the Campignian pick 


in miniature. It was used in pressing off the 
minute chips by the removal of which the tool or 
weapon under manufacture was brought to its final 
shape and finish. 

Mr. Knowles has described wedge-shaped pieces 
of flint with blunt faces and stout back " probably 
used in the manufacture of scrapers and arrow-heads. 
By pressing with such implements alternately on 
different sides of a flake at the same spot I have been 
able to make an indenture similar to that between 
the barb and stem of an arrow-head." 1 

Choppers. This name is given to large wide pieces 
of flint, of a size and shape adapted for the hand to 
grasp them firmly. They are commonest at Whitepark 
Bay, though they have also been found at Portstewart. 2 

A group of objects found together in a hut-site at 
Cuan Duin Droma (Co. Down), illustrates the normal 
furniture of such sites. It included three finely dressed 
scrapers, of larger size than usual ; a flat tool of flint 
showing marks of fire ; a thin, long, knife-like flake ; 
a fine stone axe, y| inches long, of a hard greenish 
stone, finely polished ; flakes, cores, hammer-stones, 
fragments of pottery, bones, an anvil-stone with a 
hollow in one side only, and a small bead. 3 

x, 324. 
? JAI, vii, 203. 

3 The most important of these objects will be found illustrated 
in PRIA, xxii, p. 338. 


A few words will be all that is necessary regarding 
the objects other than stone from the Sandhill sites. 
They are of minor importance. Pins, prickers and 
needles form the majority of the objects in bone. These 
are splinters of bone, often very artistically turned 
and shaped, and brought to a point ; the needles are 
perforated at the butt. 

Drills, for perforating holes in stone or in other 
bone objects, are hollow sections of the long bones of 
animals. These, when rotated with a drill-bow, 
agitate sand and water placed on the surface of the 
object to be perforated, and so in time wear a hole in it. 

Tines of antlers have been found at some of the 
sites ; these may have been used as scoops. Sections 
of horn, perforated to serve as hammers, have been 
found at Whitepark Bay. 

Of the pottery found in the Sandhills we shall speak 
in the chapter specially devoted to this branch of our 

There is little to be said about the costume and the 
personal ornaments of the Neolithic people. There 
seems to be no certain record of the discovery of 
spindle-whorls in unmixed Neolithic sites, which 
suggests that though spinning was certainly one of 
the Neolithic industries, it was not practised in this 
country during the Neolithic period ; and that the 
people still clothed themselves in the skins of beasts. 
At Whitepark Bay have been found lumps of colouring 
matter, such as ochres, iron oxide, and the like, which 
may have been used as paint to decorate the person. 
At "Portstewart a number of small beads were found, 
of an ornamental green stone. These are described 
as being of about the size, and much the appearance, 
of small shirt-buttons, having a hollow on one side. 1 

XVII. As we approach the end of the Age of Stone, 
a very considerable improvement in the technique of 
stone chipping manifests itself. The implements, 
instead of being merely flaked into shape with a few 

,JAI, vi, 485. 


bold strokes, are gradually chipped to a symmetrical 
form. The patience and care displayed in some of 
these later tools is wonderful. Irish specimens of 
chipped flint implements cannot compete with the 
excellence of Scandinavian or Egyptian workmanship, 
but many of the best specimens come up very nearly 
to an approximation to those supreme manifestations 
of skill. It is now, also, that the smoothing-off of the 
surface of the stone by grinding and polishing begins 
to be practised. This is chiefly exemplified in the celt. 
A celt 1 is a bar of stone, so chipped that there is 
a -cutting edge at one end, and a blunt but more or 
less pointed tail at the other. It is evidently adapted 
for hafting in a wooden handle, perforated for receiv- 
ing it, after the fashion of an axe : one or two speci- 
mens of celts thus hafted have been found in bogs, in 
which the wood has been preserved from decay (fig. 19). 
A specimen from Co. Fermanagh bore traces of a 
dark brown mastic or gum, which had apparently 
been smeared over the socket to make its grip the more 
secure. 2 Some polished celts have been found with 
a hole partly drilled through the sides. These may 
possibly be meant for the reception of the ends of 
wooden pins, passed through the sides of the socket 
to prevent the axe-head from slipping out. The 
earliest celts are chipped into shape, sometimes by 
fine chipping, though not so fine as is to be seen on 
the best knives and arrow-heads. Constant use of 
the tool automatically produced a polish on the edge ; 
it may have been the observation of this fact that 
suggested the extension of the polish over the whole 
tool. The maker set himself to imitate the pleasing 
effect by grinding the stone upon another. At first 
he seems to have stopped short at grinding off the 

1 This word is derived from an imaginary Latin word celtts, 
which exists only in a (probably) false reading of some MSS. of 
the Vulgate in the Book of Job. If used at all it should be pro- 
nounced self, to distinguish it from the linguistic term Celt (keif), 
with which it has nothing whatever to do. 

2 JRSAI, xviii, 482. 


sharp ridges between the flakes, but gradually improv- 
ing and extending the process he ultimately produced 
a tool polished over the whole surface. When he was 
lucky enough to find a stone such as serpentine, 



capable of taking a high polish, the result was often 
a work of art beautiful in itself ; but such highly 
polished ornamental stone axes (of which there 
are several specimens in the Royal Irish Academy's 


collection) can hardly have been meant for use in 
rough work ; the delicate edge and the smoothly 
polished surface would very quickly have been 
destroyed. They may fitly be compared to the 
well-known ceremonial axes of the Hervey Islands, 
specimens of which are to be seen in every ethno- 
logical museum of any pretensions : these are 


mounted in elaborate handles, artistically formed 
and ornamented, but of so unwieldy a shape that it 
would be impossible to use the axe for any practical 

Celts are of a considerable variety in size. They 
are sometimes found of as much as 12 to 18 inches in 
length, but such large specimens are exceptional, in 
Ireland as elsewhere. Those between 8 and 12 inches 
in length are commoner ; but the majority lie between 
4 and 7 inches. Smaller celts are sometimes found : 
examples not more than i inch long are not infrequent. 1 

It has been said above that celts have " a blunt 
but more or less pointed tail " at the end opposite the 
cutting edge. Mr. E. C. R. Armstrong has published 
a study of Irish polished celts, with special reference 
to the shape of the tail. 2 He divides these objects into 
two classes : in the one the outline is triangular, and 
the butt pointed ; in the other " the outline assumes 
a more rectangular shape, where the butt is rounded 
or roughly squared." The evidence drawn from the 
associations in which these objects are found is as yet 
insufficient to determine with certainty which of these 

1 See W. J. Knowles in UJA II, ix, 6. 

2 E. C. R. Armstrong, Associated Finds of Irish Neolithic Celts, 
PRIA, xxxiv, C, p. 81. 


types is the earlier : indeed, as some finds have been 
made (enumerated in Mr. Armstrong's paper) in 
which both classes have been represented, the two 
types must have overlapped. But a tentative conclu- 
sion, which applies to Britain and to the Continent as 
well as to Ireland, is indicated, that the triangular 
pointed type was probably the earlier. This is one 
of the questions on which we must await further light 
from future discoveries. 

The natural shape of a stone tool is convex, that 
of a metal tool flat. During the period of overlap 
between stone and copper, the shape natural to the 
one material was sometimes imitated in the other, 
the makers not having come to a final decision as to 
which were the most suitable shapes to be adopted. 
Convex tools in metal are very rare, for the simple 
reason that when their inconvenient character became 
clear, they would be melted and re-cast in a flat 
shape. On the other hand, a few flat celts are found 
in stone, though these are unusual ; they are certainly 
imitations in stone of the earliest metal celts. The 



example figured (fig. 20) was found in Loch Gair, 
Co. Limerick. 

A " dummy celt " in shale, found in a cist, is 
described in PRIA, xxxiii, C, p. 3 : and sword-like 
rods of the same material have not infrequently been 
described and figured, and are stored in some of our 
museums as artificial implements or weapons. I 
confess to doubts as to whether such objects are 
really artificial. 1 

Mallets, Mauls, and Hammer -axes. These objects 
(fig. 21) are seldom so highly polished as the average 
celt. They are distinguished by their shape. Mallets 
are round stones, the smallest being slightly larger 
than a man's fist, having a perforation drilled through 
them for receiving a wooden handle. Mauls are 
rather larger, and are not perforated : instead a groove 


is cut round the body of the stone, which could receive 
a rope that encircled it and was then wound firmly 
around the handle. 2 Hammer-axes are of a more 
artistic shape. They resemble in shape our modern 

1 For some curious specimens of such " imaginary " implements 
see JRSAI, xi, 205, 206. 

2 It may be that some of the heavier specimens of stones of this 
kind were intended for other purposes : e.g., for securing ropes 
whereby cattle were tethered. 


axe-heads, with a cutting edge at one end and a blunt 
hammer-like butt at the other : sometimes there are 
two cutting edges. The top and bottom of the axe- 
head expand, like the outlines of the deck of a boat, 
and are usually slightly concave. The illustration 
shews a number of varieties of these tools. The 
manufacture of these tools, especially the drilling of 
the hole, must have been a work of great labour. 

A remarkable double axe of polished diorite found 
near the ruins of the castle of Cul M6r between Raith 
Bhile and Hacketstown (Co. Carlow), may here be 
referred to (fig. 22). It is 4! inches long, and has an 
axe-edge at both ends, and the concavity at top and 


bottom is greatly exaggerated (fig. 25). The perfora- 
tion is remarkably small, and could hardly receive a 
haft capable of resisting the strain of active use : indeed 
the high polish of the implement would be destroyed 
if it were used as an axe. We must conclude that, 

like the Hervev Islands axes referred to above, the 

/ ' 

object was intended for some ceremonial purpose. 1 

Though it is some ways convenient to describe 
implements of stone thus together, it must be clearly 
understood that these do not all belong to the Stone 
Age. Even the flint implements, flakes, scrapers, 
and, especially, arrows and javelin heads, persisted 
in use throughout the Bronze Age, and possibly even 
later : the influence of the shapes of bronze-age 
weapons on corresponding objects in stone is some- 
times to be traced. Flint, notwithstanding its re- 
stricted distribution, must always have been cheaper 
in Ireland than bronze, which depended upon foreign 
trade to supply its necessary ingredient, tin ; a metal not 
found in Ireland in appreciable quantities. We have 
already seen that for weapons which, once shot away, 
might have been lost permanently, bronze would in 
this country have been an extravagance : and in point 
of fact no bronze arrow-heads have been found in 
Ireland. 2 The hammer-axe just described is a 
case in point. It is certainly a bronze-age 
object, having been found in association with a 
" small bronze axe with ornamented blade " 
[type, unfortunately, not stated, but probably 
of the flat flanged or second-period forms] and a 
fragment of the shank of a bronze pin. 

The material used for these tools celts, hammers, 
etc. was whatever hard stone came to hand. Flint 
was not suitable, on account of its liability to fracture. 
Bassalt, quartzite, and sandstone are perhaps the 
commonest stones used for the purpose. 

1 W. Frazer, On a polished stone implement of novel form, and its 
probable use. PRIA, xvii, 215 [the speculations contained in the 
paper as to the use of the object are not important]. A " celt 
with a cutting edge at both ends," from Loch Gair, Co. Limerick, 
is reported in JRSAI, xxii, 42. The description may be given a 
passing reference here for what it may be worth. 

2 A " bronze arrow-head " said (JRSAI, xxi, 484) to have been 
found at Rinn Tulaigh in Co. Limerick, is clearly, from the 
description, a tanged knife. 


On the other hand, to question or to deny the 
existence of a Neolithic age in Ireland, as has been 
done, 1 is to go far beyond a reasonable interpretation 
of the evidence. The evolution of stone implements 
in Ireland follows the same course as in the neighbour- 
ing countries of Europe. The skill and patience 
which went to the making of a fine javelin-head were 
everywhere lost when metal had become firmly estab- 
lished as the materials for weapons : and though the 
overlap may have been, comparatively speaking, long, 
it came to an end in time, and, in accordance with the 
usual law of evolution, reversion was impossible. 
It has recently been claimed that the arrow-head 
found in the Sandhill sites may be as late as the 
Normans, 2 on the ground that there is no literary 
evidence in Irish texts or in Giraldus for the pre- 
Norman use of the bow, though it was a recognised 
weapon in post-Norman times in the country. But 
neither the Irish texts nor Giraldus can tell us any- 
thing about pre- Celtic customs : and there is no 
evidence (such as we should expect were this theory 
admissible) for the use of flint-tipped arrow-heads 
by the Normans in England. The silence of the 
literary authorities proves not the extreme lateness 
but the extreme antiquity of the objects in question. 
Polished stone celts are sometimes found associated 
with late objects of the Iron Age : this, however, does 
not prove their late date, as we know that these objects 
were early credited with supernatural virtues, and were 
preserved as protection against lightning. 

Rubbing-stones and Querns. Rubbing-stones are 
pebbles of convenient size for manipulation, split so 
as to have one side flat, though not absolutely smooth. 
By rubbing over the grain, or whatever was to be 
reduced, this fulfilled the purpose for which it was 
designed. The example illustrated (fig. 2^b) was found 
by the writer in an ancient hearth on the shore at 

1 e.g., by Rev. G. R. Buick in JRSAI, xx, p. 441 : xxii, p. 318. 

2 By Mr. H. C. Lawlor in Proceedings, BNFC, 1917, p. 100. 


Laytown, near Droichead Atha. It measures 4! x 2-| 
inches, and is i inch thick. The quern is a development 
of this. The Neolithic form of quern (fig. 23 a) is what 
is called the S 'addle-quern , from the shape of the lower 
stone ; the rotary quern is of latter introduction. 
The saddle-quern consists of two stones of granite or 
rough material ; the lower stone is large and massive, 
with a flat upper surface, usually slightly concave ; 
the upper stone has a rounded back, andjs of conve- 
nient size for grasping The upper stone is rubbed 


back and forth V>ver the grain, which is spread on 
the upper surface of the lower stone. 

In some manufactory sites there have been found 
specimens of stone tools used in the manufacture of 
stone implements. These fall into three groups : 

Hammers, used for roughing the tools into shape, 
their bruised ends showing that they have been sub- 
jected to rough usage. 

Grindstones for polishing. These are slabs of 
sandstone, many of which have been found hollowed 
or grooved by attrition. Mr. Knowies describes a 


grindstone from a turf bog in Baile Cloise 1 an axe 
with the sandstone on which it must have been ground 
lying over it. More interesting is one found at Cul 
Ban, Co. Antrim (fig. 22), embedded in brick earth 
at a depth of 4 feet, close to which were found six 
newly-finished ground stone celts. The grindstone 
measures 13 inches by 8 inches : it is now in the 
R.I. A. collection, with the axes. 


Whetstones, which are not infrequently made of 
fragments of celts which have been broken by some 

1 UJA, II, ix, 6. 



i. Discovery of the Nature and Properties of Metals. II. Con- 
sequences of the Discovery. III. Place of the Discovery. IV. 
Bronze. V. Introduction of Metal-working into Ireland. VI. 
Irish Gold and its Significance. VII. Ancient Mining in the 
Country. VIII. The Bronze Celt and its Transformations. 
IX. The Periods of the Bronze Age. X. Relation of Irish to 
Foreign Art during the Bronze Age. 

THE FIRST PERIOD : I. Celts. II. Moulds. III. The continued 
Use of Stone. IV. Hammer-axes. V. Copper Daggers. 

THE SECOND PERIOD : I. Bronze. II. The Tin Trade. III. Dis- 
appearance of the Stone Industry. IV. Celts. V. Daggers 
and Halberds. VI. Lunulae. VII. Other Gold Objects. 

THE THIRD PERIOD : I. Palstaves. II. Daggers. III. Moulds. 
IV. Torques. V. The Strangford Loch Find. 

THE FOURTH PERIOD : I. Celts. II. Socketed Spear-heads. III. 
Rapiers. IV. Swords. V. Scabbards. VI. Moulds. 

THE FIFTH PERIOD : I. The Advance in Civilisation during this 
Period. II. Cejjts, Spear-heads, Swords. III. Numerous addi- 
tional Implements, &c. IV. Shields. V. Pins. VI. The 
Cupped Bracelet. VII. The Clare Find. VIII. Other types 
of Gold Ornaments. IX. Amber and Jet. X. Chronology. 

I. After the primary discovery of how to make 
fire artificially ; the discoveries of how to chip stone, 
how to tame animals, how to cultivate the fruits of 
the earth, and how to make pottery, the next momen- 
tous and epoch-making discovery was undoubtedly 
that of the nature and the properties of metals, and 
of how to procure and to shape them to meet the needs 

of man. 



Of all the metals the most lustrous is Gold. More- 
over, as it does not rust, its lustre is permanent. The 
gleam of gold would early catch the eye of a wandering 
stone-age man, and he would pick up the yellow pebble 
and wear it as a powerful amulet. In the Stone Age 
gold probably existed in comparative abundance in 
the river gravels, where it had been accumulating 
since Tertiary times ; mankind had all there was to 
draw upon. He soon exhausted the supply it has 
been observed that gold ornaments of the earlier 
periods are more massive and more wasteful of the 
metal than are those of later times and probably it 
would take a lapse of years as long again, of steady 
undisturbed accumulation, to deposit a quantity equal 
to what was at the disposal of stone-age and early 
bronze-age man. 

Next to gold, the metal most likely to attract atten- 
tion was Copper. Copper is found in a native form, 
that is, pure and not in an ore, in various parts of the 
world ; it can there be picked up like stones from the 
surface of the ground. Our stone-age experimenter 
found such a lump, which seemed to him of a size, 
weight, and shape suitable for fashioning into a stone 
axe. Carrying it home, he would endeavour to chip 
flakes from it, in the way to which he was accustomed ; 
but he would find that instead of breaking it, he 
indented it. Further trials would shew that he could 
hammer the metal into whatever shape he pleased. 
Doubtless the first metal tools were imitations of the 
corresponding stone tools, thus hammered from lumps 
of copper. That no such hammered tool has been 
found in Ireland is intelligible, and does not affect the 
probability that this was the means whereby metal 
tools were first formed. Indeed, hammered tools are 
everywhere rare in the Old World. The simple explan- 
ation is, that when it was found that metal tools 
could be made much more satisfactorily by the process 
of fusing and casting, all the old hammered tools 
would naturally be melted down. In any case we 
cannot assume that the whole evolution took its course 


in Ireland itself ; it is more likely that the art of 
working metals was not introduced into this country 
until the methods of fusing and casting had been 

For the invention of this latter process we must 
again postulate a happy accident. A lump of copper, 
whether hammered into shape or not does not matter, 
fell by some chance into the domestic fire. The owner 
had no tongs with which to rescue it, and he had the 
mortification of seeing it flow in a liquid stream over 
the ground. Mortification would give place to curio- 
sity, however, when the stream cooled and hardened 
in a shape so different from that which it had had 
before the accident, and preserving on its under 
surface an impression of the irregularities in the 
ground over which it had flowed. Without undue 
straining of the imagination, we can picture our 
discoverer playing for a while with this wonderful 
new toy, making trial marks on the ground and 
finding them exactly reproduced. At last the happy 
thought would strike him to impress his stone axe 
in the ground, and to direct the molten metal into 
the cavity thus formed : he would then be delighted 
to find that he had thereby acquired no mere play- 
thing, but a very serviceable weapon. Who can say 
but that the triumphant sword-song of Lamech 1 may 
voice the joy with which some such early investigator 
greeted his good fortune ? 

At the moment when the copper hardened in this 
improvised mould, and the experimenter - picked it 
up and saw that it was good, humanity entered the 
second stage of the upward climb. 

II. The consequences of this discovery were for 
civilisation profound. Weapons and implements 
could be turned out of the moulds by the score in 
the same time that it had taken to chip one of them 
laboriously out of stone. Time was thus saved ; and 
though uncivilised man has but little positive sense 

1 Genesis iv, 23 . 


of its value, as those of us who have had to do with 
him know to our cost, yet the saving of time (even if 
unconscious) is of fundamental importance for the 
advancement of culture. So long as man has to spend 
his days in hunting wild beasts to replenish his family 
larder, starting off on a second expedition almost im- 
mediately after he has returned from the first, he can 
scarcely expect to get very far on the road of self- 
advancement. When the stone-age savage discovered 
that animals could be domesticated, and thus kept 
always ready at hand, and that crops could be cul- 
tivated and the grain stored, he found more time on 
his hands than ever before especially as the labour of 
the fields would as a matter of course be delegated to 
his women-kind. Having no picture-palaces or golf to 
fool away the time thus saved, he very sensibly applied 
it to inventing means of improving his position in life, 
and extending his conquests over the world of nature. 
The time saved by the invention of metal casting was 
applied to the same purposes, as we can see from the 
remains which the Bronze Age has left behind. For 
the Bronze Age was a period of comparatively rapid 

III. Where did this great discovery take place ? 
The answer to this question is lost in the mists of 
time. Possibly it was made independently in several 
different centres ; it is mere nonsense to suppose that 
all discoveries, inventions, art-motives, and the like, 
necessarily spread over the world from one centre 
only. All that we can suggest with any probability, 
in view of the great gaps still existing in our knowledge, 
is that Europe is ultimately indebted to Egypt for its 
knowledge of the nature and the properties of copper. 
The copper mines of the Sinaitic Peninsula were 
worked by Egyptian kings of the earliest empire of 
that ancient country, long before Europe had emerged 
from the barbarism of the Stone Age. But as copper 
is an almost universal metal, we cannot infer from its 
distribution anything about the time and the place of 
the very first discovery of its properties. The first 


lump of copper to be melted and cast, by some process 
such as we imagined just now, might have undergone 
that treatment anywhere in the world where native 
copper is to be picked up. 

When the properties of copper became known, we 
can easily believe that there would be an eager search 
in all sorts of possible and impossible places for the 
precious nodules. In this search other analogous 
" finds " would be made such as the more metallic- 
looking ores. Means of reducing these would gradu- 
ally be discovered. The ore of Tin, though dull in 
colour, would attract attention by its weight, and 
when cast into the fire it would run out in a brilliant 
silvery stream. Tin, however, would at first make no 
appeal to the practical copper-age man. The softness 
of copper was trouble enough : this was the great 
drawback of the new material. Copper topis must 
have been a constant nuisance, owing to their edges 
turning. But tin would be still worse in this respect, 
and probably after a few tests those who discovered it 
came to the conclusion that it was useless. 

IV. But one more surprising discovery was in 
store. Perhaps someone with a shortage of copper, 
as a makeshift dropped a bit of tin into the crucible : 
perhaps a fraudulent manufacturer adulterated his 
copper with the " useless " metal for the gentle arts 
of such people are at least as old as the Bronze Age ; 
perhaps it was a mere accident or an oversight. But, 
however it happened, it was found, comparatively 
soon after the age of metal began, that tin mixed with 
copper in certain proportions hardened it. When this 
important fact became generally known, tools were 
no longer made of pure copper, but of the alloy, which 
we know by the name of Bronze. The Bronze Age, 
strictly speaking, began with this discovery. 

Like many 'other discoveries of the kind, it had 
larger consequences than would have been expected 
at first sight. Not only did it put far more serviceable 
tools at the disposal of the craftsman and of the 
warrior, but it proved to be a powerful stimulus to 


the development of trade. Copper is spread fairly 
extensively over the surface of the earth, but this is 
not the case of tin. That metal is found in a limited 
number of places only, and anyone outside those 
favoured regions who wants it must trade for it. 
This was a happy circumstance for the history of 
civilisation. Caravans oscillated over Europe, carrying 
down tin to the centres of Mediterranean civilisation, 
and helping to level up the barbarous tribes of the 
north who were thus brought, at least indirectly, into 
touch with their more advanced fellow-men. With 
tin as a civilising agent must be coupled amber, the 
beauty and the uncanny electrical properties of which 
made it a material much desired for ornaments and 
amulets. The great ladies of Crete wanted amber to 
deck themselves, while their lords wanted tin to help 
to make their weapons. So merchants had to travel 
back and forth along the lines of the great rivers, 
carrying amber from the Baltic shores, and tin from 
Spain and possibly also from Cornwall. Thus a give- 
and-take of knowledge and of art was developed 
throughout Europe, without which civilisation would 
have been retarded for many centuries. 

V. There is no reason to suppose that Ireland was 
in any way behind the rest of Northern Europe in 
the adoption of the new metal and its technique. On 
the contrary, there are in this country numerous 
remains of the Copper Age the first period of the 
Age of Metal. Naturally these are fewer in actual 
numbers than are those of the later stages, for the 
reason already given in another connexion that pure 
copper tools would be re-melted so soon as the advan- 
tage of mixing the unalloyed metal with tin was 
understood. The surviving tools of copper are 
merely those which have from one accident or another 
escaped the re-melting process. 

The knowledge of metals seems to have been 
brought into Ireland in a manner different from that 
of its introduction into England. *In England there 
are distinct signs of an invasion by conquerers, at 


the beginning of the Bronze Age, who with their 
superior weapons carried all before them in England, 
and there changed the racial character of the popu- 
lation, as well as its religious ideas (so far as we can 
judge from the burial ritual illustrated by tombs 
which have been opened). For some unknown reason 
these immigrants did not pursue their conquests to 
Ireland. The advent of bronze into England is asso- 
ciated with the coming of a brachycephalic immigrant 
population ; while the people of Ireland remain 
dolichocephalic after the introduction of bronze, as 
before. It is, however, impossible to say whether 
copper weapons and the knowledge of how to make 
them were brought over by refugees or slaves from 
England, or whether the native Irish of the time were 
astute enough to make terms with the newcomers 
and to treat and trade with them, thereby acquiring 
their contribution to civilisation by way of peaceful 

In any case the development of commerce between 
Ireland and England would be a necessity for the 
former island. Tin is very sparsely distributed in 
Ireland : l to obtain a supply sufficient for the needs 
of the Bronze Age it would have to be purchased 
from over-sea. The source from which Ireland could 
be supplied with tin, with the greatest ease, is obviously 

VI. But it would have been impossible to get 
tin from Cornwall for nothing. The owners of the 
mines there were shrewd men of business, thoroughly 
alive to the value of their property. This is shewn by 
the devices whereby the exact source of the tin was 
kept a secret from the Mediterranean traders. It is 
also shewn by the absence of pure tin from the hoards 
of bronze-casters which have been found in England 
from time to time 2 . These contain pure copper, 

1 See on this subject a note by Mr. T. Hallissy appended to 
Mr. E. C. R. Armstrong's paper on Bronze Celts discovered in 
Ireland, in PRIA, xxxiii C, p. 524-5. 

2 On these hoards see Sir John Evans, Ancient Bronze Imple- 
ments of Great Britain, passim, especially pp. 459, et seqq. 


bronze, broken fragments bought up for re-melting, 
moulds, and all the other paraphernalia except pure 
tin : a fact which shews that the mine-owners did not 
allow the pure tin to get about the country, but that 
they kept the alloying-trade in their own hands. 

But fortunately Ireland had something to give in 
exchange for the Cornish tin : namely, Gold. The 
gold of Wicklow made the bronze-age development 
of Ireland possible, and a word about the gold-fields 
there will not be out of place. The following par- 
ticulars are extracted from the Journal of the Geo- 
logical Society of Ireland 1 : 

" The source of the auriferous stream is the mountain Croghan 
Kinshela, whose summit forms a portion of the boundary between 
the counties Wicklow and Wexford. The stream from which most 
of the gold has been obtained rises in the N.E. side of the mountain, 
and, flowing down one of the glens with which that part of the 
country is intersected in almost every direction, joins the Aughrim 
River a little above the confluence of the latter stream with the 
Avonmore. It receives several smaller streams at different parts 
of its course, in all of which some gold appears to have been found, 
though in general in such small quantity as not to repay the cost 
of its extraction. Small pieces of the precious metal had been 
accidentally found by individuals, at various times preceding the 
year 1795, in which year great numbers of the peasantry, excited 
by the account of some large pieces which had been casually dis- 
covered, began to search for gold, though in a very unskilful and 
desultory manner. About six weeks afterwards the government 
took possession of the mines, and stationed a detachment of militia 
to keep out the peasantry. The latter had, however, obtained about 
800 oz. of gold during the short period they continued at work. 
The government then took the washings into their own hands, 
and continued to search for about six years, not confining them- 
selves merely to washing the alluvial matter constituting the bed 
of the stream, but also driving a level into the sides of the moun- 
tain, in search of the vein in which the gold was supposed to be 
embedded. These trials, however, proved unproductive, and the 
expense exceeding the value of the gold obtained, the government 
abandoned the workings in 1803, since which time a few of the 
peasants of the country round have occupied themselves irregularly 
and at intervals, in searching the sand which had been carelessly 
turned over before, and from which they still obtain some gold 
in small quantities, but scarcely sufficient to afford them the means 

1 Vol. iv, p. 269. 


of subsistence. About six or seven years ago [i.e., about 1849] 
some further attempts in search of gold were made by a company 
organized for the purpose, by cutting extensive trenches at right 
angles to the course of the Ballinvalley stream. These, however, 
were unsuccessful, and the washing is again solely carried on by 
a small number of the peasantry. 

" Gold occurs here in grains of all sizes, from the smallest 
spangle up to a mass weighing 22 oz., the largest hitherto found." 

Of the ancient wealth of Ireland in gold a sufficient 
proof is the great collection of ornaments in that 
material, unsurpassed by any other national collection 
in Europe, which has been accumulated by the Royal 
Irish Academy during the century and a quarter of 
its existence. This is only a small part of the store of 
gold ornaments that have been found from time to 
time in the country and melted down. To say nothing 
of the great Clare find, to be described briefly on a 
later page, the following objects of gold not in the 
collection mentioned, may be enumerated : 

i. A " yard " of pure gold about 28 ins. long, and as thick 
as a man's finger : a ring large enough to compass a man's head, 
three large loops and another smaller, and a piece " in the figure 
of a pair of tongs " [a cupped ring] two spans long and of equal 
thickness with the yard. In the possession of a man in Queen's 
County, in i673. x 

2. The following objects, found in the bog of Cuillean na 
gCuanach, Co. Tipperary, at intervals between 1732 and 1771. 

(a). A piece of gold, shaped like a half egg, 3 oz. 

(b). A circular plate of beaten gold, 8 inches diameter, 

wrapped round three ingots weighing not less than i Ib. 
(c). An elliptical plate of gold. 
(d). A small gold cup. 

(e). A tube of gold 4 inches long, weighing i oz., 7 dwts., 
, 20 grs. 
(/). A thin plate of gold rolled on another, which when 

extended was 14 inches long and inch broad. 
(g). Parts of a plate of gold, with a gold wire " inlayed 

about the rim and about 3 inches towards the centre, 

where was a gold twist sewed in and out." 
(K). A small plate of gold in the form of an equilateral 


According to a deposition published JRSAI v, p. 207. 


(i). A bronze sword, with a plate of gold in the hilt, and a 

gold pommel. 
(/). A plate of gold, " beautifully chased and embossed," 

6 inches long, 5 inches wide at one end, 4 inches at the 

other, weighing 2 oz. 
(k). A hollow piece of gold, in the form of the scabbard 

of a sword, weighing i oz., 23 dwt., 17 grs. 
(/). A gold vessel with carved handle, chased and engraved, 

10 ozs., 12 dwt., 23 grs. 
(m). Two thin leaves of gold. 
(ri). A piece of gold in the form of a scallop, 
(o). Two pieces of gold weighing 3 ozs., 9 dwt., 21 grs. 
(/>). Miscellaneous fragments, weighing together over 

30 oz. 1 

(3). A twisted rod of pure gold weighing 22 oz., found near 
Baile an Chaisleain, Co. Antrim (a torque straightened out). 2 

(4). A letter in Athenaeum, 22 October 1859, p. 533, refers to 
two great finds of gold, one of which at the time of writing was being 
sold to London and melted piecemeal : the other had been made 
at some place vaguely indicated as near the Sinann river : this is 
said to have been sold to Dublin goldsmiths for 27,000. This 
last find can hardly be dissociated from a story of an underground 
chamber found at Cluain maccu Nois, with Ogham inscriptions, 
gold ornaments, etc., etc., which went the round of the press in 
1 86 1. 3 The truth of this story was categorically denied by the 
Rector of Cluain maccu Nois at a meeting of the Kilkenny 
Archaeological Society. 4 At the time the country was much 
excited over the great Clare gold-find, and many of these tales 
may be fictions based upon that solitary definite fact. 

For a very full discussion of the use of gold in 
Ancient Ireland, the reader may be referred to Mr. 
Armstrong's Catalogue of Irish Gold Ornaments in the col- 
lection of the Royal Irish Academy (Dublin, 1920). 

VII. When we turn to the ancient records, we find 
that the Wicklow region was known in ancient times 
to be the gold-field of Ireland. The annalists and the 
historians tell us that under king Tighearnmhas, who, 
they say, reigned Anno Mundi 3656 that is to say 
B.C. 1543 one Uchadan smelted gold in the region of 

1 Vallancey, Collectanea, vi, 257, quoted from Archaeologfa, vol.iii. 

2 Archaeologia, xvi, 353. 

3 See for example Gentleman's Magazine, 1861, ii, p. 357. 
4 JRSAI, vol. vi (1860-61), p. 848. 


eastern Life : the district through which runs the river 
Ruirtheach, now wrongly called the Liffey. This is 
close enough to the region where gold has been found 
in recent times to shew that we have here a historical 
basis to the tradition, although the date assigned, 
being part of a late artificial scheme of chronology, 
is of no special importance, and Tighearrimhas himself 
is rather a legendary culture-hero than a historical 

It is remarkable that in ancient Ireland, as in the 
days of king Solomon, Silver seems to have been of 
no account. There is not a single genuine object of 
silver found in the country older than the introduction 
of Christianity. The numerous references to orna- 
ments of gold and silver in the romances are therefore 
all interpolations made by Christian scribes and 
story-tellers. Certain torques and other ornaments 
of silver, said to have been found in Ireland, have 
been described from time to time, but these are one 
and all, without exception, forgeries. 

In fact, there is very little native silver in Ireland, 
and the process of extracting the silver from the ore 
is much more difficult than the winning of gold from 
river-washings. But silver was used in the country 
for making a gold alloy, similar to the electrum of the 
Greek and Roman craftsmen. The following analysis 
of three gold torques, apparently of different pro- 
venance, speaks for itself : * 


Gold percent. 71.01 71.54 79 .48 
Silver ,, 24.09 23.67 18.01 

Copper ,, 4.67 4.62 2.48 

Lead Trace 

99.77 99.83 99.97 
Fineness of gold in carats 17.04 17.17 19.07 

1 E. A. Smith, Notes on the Composition of Ancient Irish Gold 
and Silver Ornaments, PRIA, xix, 733. 


As yet there is an insufficient body of analyses 
published, and it cannot be said whether these pro- 
portions are typical of a large number of the ornaments 
which have come down to us. But the results suggest 
that silver was imported from abroad by the Irish 
goldsmiths for alloying purposes, and that the 
process was carried out as formally, with as due regard 
to the proper proportion of the metals, as in the com- 
bination of copper and tin to make bronze. Most 
of the extant gold ornaments seem, however, to be 
of pure gold. 

It is hard to say how far copper was mined for in 
Ireland itself during the Bronze Age, or whether it, 
like the tin, was imported from over-sea. There are 
sundry remains of old mines in the neighbourhood 
of Ceall Airneadh and elsewhere, but it is not easy to 
determine exactly the period to which they belong. A 
large number of stone hammers from old copper mines 
in this neighbourhood were in the possession of the 
late Mr. Day. 1 There are some old lead mines in 
the barony of Tulach, Co. Clare, which were re- 
opened in the first half of 'the nineteenth century; 
but iron tools were found within them, clearly dating 
the workings to a period later than that with which 
we are at present concerned. More to the point was 
an interesting discovery, too briefly reported 2 as 
follows : 

" Dr. Caulfield exhibited a stone celt 12 inches long, which 
with eleven others were found under the following circumstances. 
In Autumn 1854. Mr. R. B. Hungerford was shooting on his pro- 
perty on the top of the hill of Ballyrizard, West Carbery, Co. Cork. 
Having taken shelter in a small cave on the hillside from a heavy 
shower, he observed a liquid of a green colour percolating through 
a small aperture in the inner side of the recess. Subsequently 
he probed it with an iron bar, but without any result. But on 
striking the bar into the ground at the entrance of the cave it imme- 
diately disappeared. Two or three labourers were employed to 
dig it out, beginning some feet west of the place where the bar 
went down, and on clearing out the rubbish they came on a chamber 

, xvi, 281. 
2 JRSAI, xv, 341. 


about 12 feet square. Here, among the debris they found a quantity 
of bits of copper ore, and in a corner twelve celts. The discovery 
pointed to some ancient mining operations .... and to the 
use of copper. All the celts had been much chipped at their edges. 
This fact led to an examination of the entire farm, on which ten 
or twelve parallel lodes of copper were found." 

Even more definite is the following, communicated 
by John Windele of Cork in the Uhter Journal of 
Archaeology 1 from particulars supplied by Thomas 
Swanston of Crann Liath : 

" In searching during the early part of 1846 for) indications of 
copper ore in the west of the county of Cork, under the direction 
of Capt. Thomas Cornwall, no less than six old mine-holes were 
discovered in the lands of Derrycarhoon, three miles N.E. of 
Bally dehob, of which no previous tradition or even suspicion had 
been entertained. They were all parallel lodes, one of them about 
thirty fathoms in length, and ten feet broad, though its breadth 
was not certainly known. They were rilled at the bottom with 
rubbish, and at the top were overlaid with ' bog stuff ' to a depth 
in some places of over 14 feet. A strange wooden tube, curved, 
and partly open in front, and a ladder 18 feet long, formed of a 
single piece of black oak with thirteen steps cut into it on one side, 
were also found ; as well as a number of heavy mauls weighing 
from 3 to 7 Ibs., with a cord-groove round them. 2 These old 
shafts had been worked with considerable skill. Arches of rock 
uncut had been left by the miners to keep the walls of the lodes 
from closing. ' I may mention,' says Mr. Swanston, ' as perhaps 
a help to arrive at some conclusion as to the date of these works, 
that there is a stratum of whitish slime such as runs off in the wash- 
ing of copper lying between two strata of bog, the upper of which 
is three and a half feet thick. The bog in which this appears lies 
a few yards lower down the hill than the mouth of the mines." 

VIII. The chronology of the Bronze Age can best 
be studied after we have described the implements 
and the weapons that belong to it ; but before pro- 
ceeding to do so, it will be necessary to state briefly 

I, ix, 212. 

2 It appears that the. peasantry explained these grooves as having 
been worn by the thumbs of the miners ! Similar mauls were 
found in an old mine at Muc-ros ; see Hall's Ireland, i, 240. Deche- 
lette in his Manual d'archeologie (i, 530) figures similar objects 
from. France, Spain, and North America. 


how the Bronze Age is subdivided into periods. 
For the differentiation of these, the transformations 
undergone by the Bronze Celt afford the most con- 
venient guide. It is a very instructive process to 
follow (see fig. 25). 

The oldest metal celt is a translation, so to speak, 


into the new material, of the polished stone celt 
which we have already described. A very few speci- 
mens are extant with the convex surface proper to 
the stone implement ; for the greater part, however, 
these have been re-melted when more convenient 
forms were evolved, so that it is not surprising that 
convex copper celts are extremely rare. 

Before the discovery of Bronze closed the Copper 
Age, the flat celt had been evolved. This tool re- 
sembles in outline the polished stone celt, but its 
sides are flat. The efficiency of the tool is much 
increased, while at the same time metal is saved. 
The advantage of the flat tool immediately became 
apparent, and we occasionally find efforts made to 
imitate it in the cheaper but less easily worked material, 

On the other hand, the flat celt had one disadvan- 
tage. The stone and convex copper celts could be 
hafted easily, by passing them through a hole in the 
wooden handle. But the flat celt could not be so 
treated. There was no longer a " bulge " which 


prevented the axe-head from slipping too far into the 
wood, and the flat celt was found to wedge itself 
back, as blows were struck with it, into the handle, 
thus splitting it and rendering it useless. 

The inventiveness of copper-age man was equal to 
the problem. Instead of taking a straight stick and 
cutting a hole in it, he took a section of the branch 
of a tree from the end of which projected the stump 
of a side branch. This stump he split, and into the 
split he inserted his axe-head, binding it tightly 
in position with thongs. He thus provided himself 
with a handle suitably bent for the purposes of an 
axe, while at the same time the cross-grains at the 
junction of the branch and the side stump strengthened 
the haft at the point where it received the shock of 
the blows. 

But the instrument was not perfect yet. The 
strongest thongs were insufficient to prevent the axe- 
head from "wobbling" in the slit cut for its reception, 
and so working loose. Moreover, in time the axe- 
head acted as a wedge and enlarged the slit unduly. 
About the time when pure copper was giving place 
to bronze this difficulty was surmounted by providing 
the edges of the blade with flanges raised marginal 
collars which gripped the wooden handle and preven- 
ted lateral motion. A stop-ridge, carried across the 
face of the blade, prevented the head from sinking too 
far into the handle (fig. 26). At first the flanges and 
the stop-ridge were very slight, but they gradually 
were increased in size, and indeed the subsequent 
evolution to a large extent consisted of modifications 
of these parts of the tool. At this time, also, the sides 
of the implement began to be ornamented with marks 
hammered or punched on the surface. 

The further development lay in the increase of the 
flanges and the stop-ridges, till they produced a sort 
of cell or pocket on each side of the blade. At the 
same time the blade itself was made smaller and 
narrower. The finished tool at this stage is commonly 


called a palstave, a corruption of an Icelandic word. 1 
Another new feature which appears at this stage is 
the addition of a loop at the side of the tool clearly 
for a thong with which it could be tied to the haft and 
so prevented from flying off. Cast ornament (not 
engraved or punched) now makes its appearance for 
the first time. This most frequently takes the form 


of a shield-like projection just under the stop-ridge. 
Palstaves are sometimes found with double loops, 
one on each side. In such cases we must suppose 
either that the tool was mounted on a straight handle, 
as a modern chisel, or that it was hafted in the ordinary 
way, and that the second loop was provided so that 
the blade could be reversed, if there was any reason 
for doing so. 

In the bed of a stream near Fearann Fuar, Co. 
Kerry, was found a palstave enclosed in a leather 
case. Most unfortunately the fisherman who made 
this unique find threw the leather away, in ignorance of 
its value, and kept the palstave, believing it to be gold. 2 

The side flanges still continue to grow in size, and 

1 There seems to be some confusion as to which Icelandic word 
the term is derived from. In Icelandic pall means a hoe or spud, 
pdllsstafr would mean the " staff " or handle of such a tool. On 
the other hand there is a word pdlstafr occurring in some of the 
sagas, denoting a sort of missile. Either word is therefore inapplic- 
able, in strictness, to the tool before us ; but quite apart from its 
etymology it has become so well established as an archaeological 
term that it can hardly be dislodged, though to a purist it should 
be almost as objectionable as the word " celt " itself. 

2 JRSAI, xvi, 281. 


the next stage is reached when the angle between the 
flanges and the stop-ridge disappears in other words, 
the stop-ridge becomes absorbed in the flanges, and 
the cell or pocket which characterises the palstave 
type instead of being square-ended becomes pointed. 
At this stage the flanges are of such great size that 
they almost meet on the outer side of the handle, and 
are invariably bent to follow the curve of its surface. 
Finally the flanges meet one another and coalesce ; 
the septum of metal which formed the tail of the 
original axe-head is suppressed ; and we are left with 
a socketed celt, the last stage of development. With 
the advent of the socket the necessity of splitting the 
handle ceased. The side loop is retained and the 
axe-head is bound to the haft with thongs (fig. 27). 


IX. The periods of the Bronze Age follow this 
development. The FIRST of these is the Copper Age, 
in which tools were made of unalloyed copper. Some 
writers talk about an Aeneolithic Age. If it be neces- 
sary to use such a clumsy word, it should be restricted 
to the transitional period when the metal was treated 
as a stone, and hammered into shape. This period is 
really the last phase of the Stone Age ; the dividing 
line was crossed when the metal was fused and cast. 
The Copper Age proper is the period of the flat copper 
axes, without flange. 

The SECOND period is that of the flat flanged axes 
the first Bronze period, strictly speaking. 

The THIRD is the palstave period : the FOURTH the 
period of the axes with exaggerated flanges (" winged 
celts "), developing into the socketed celts which 
specially characterise the FIFTH period. 


X. One last question remains to be considered 
before we proceed to a description of the Irish weapons 
and implements of the Bronze Age. Did this evolution 
which we have traced work itself out in Ireland inde- 
pendently, or were the successive improvements in 
the bronze celt invented abroad and imported into 
Ireland ? 

The fact that the same line of development was 
followed all over Europe shews that no one region 
can claim to have the credit of these successive inven- 
tions. There are certain slight local differences in 
style, but the general form of the tool passes through 
the same series of transformations. There was in 
fact an essential unity in the culture of northern 
Europe, and Ireland had a share in it, but did not 
necessarily originate anything in it. On the other 
hand, owing to the wealth of remains that have come 
down to us in Ireland from the Bronze Age, perhaps 
there is no other country of northern Europe that 
affords such full material for the study of bronze-age 
civilisation. Ireland, in fact, is the great pre-historic 
museum of northern Europe. 

There is one interesting fact which shews that the 
socketed celt, at least, must have been imported. In 
countries where the socketed celt has developed by 
natural evolution from the palstave, it often displays 
a reminiscence of the " wings " of the previous stage, 
in the shape of a pair of ornamental curves cast on 
the outer surface of the socket. No socketed celts 
have been found in Ireland, so far as I have been able 
to discover after much search, bearing this ornament. 
This shews that at some time a limited number of 
socketed celts without this particular ornament- 
probably of inferior quality were imported into 
Ireland, and that these set the models from which the 
socketed celts made in the country were imitated. 
That the Irish socketed celts were not all imported, 
but were made locally, is shewn by the existence in 
the country of moulds for casting them : besides, 


had all of them been imported, we should certainly 
have found many among them with the ornament 
mentioned. The total absence of this ornament can 
be explained only in the way set forth above, and thus 
an interesting historic fact can be recovered. 1 


I. The first period is, as we have already said, the 
same as the Age of Copper ; and is so much a time of 
transition that it might almost equally well be spoken 
of as the last phase of the Stone Age. Chipped and 
polished implements of stone are freely used : in 
fact the use of copper for a certain limited number 
of objects is the only distinguishing feature which 
this period presents. As the copper is fused and cast, 
however, not hammered into shape, it is more correct 
to class the Copper Age with the Age of Metal which 
follows it than with the Age of Stone which precedes it. 

The Copper Celt (fig. 28) is a blade, shaped in out- 
line like the polished celts of stone, but flat and not 
convex in section. There is a broad cutting edge at 
one end of the blade ; the other end, called the tail 
or the butt, is narrow and blunt. These implements 
range from about 3 to about 6 inches in length. They 
are usually roughly made, and they show every sign of 
being the first tentative efforts in a new technique. 
In the earliest and rudest tools of this type the sides 
are straight, tapering regularly from the edge to the 
tail. But it was soon found that the efficiency of the 
tool was not impaired, and that metal was economised 
by making the sides concave in outline ; a cusp 
accordingly began to appear at the end of the edge. 
From the cusp the side of the tool curves inwards 
towards the tail. 

1 Sir John Evans (Bronze Implement),, p. 132), figures a celt of 
this kind, with the curved ornaments " from the Crofton Croker 
Collection." Though this suggests an Irish origin for the specimen 
in question, it is not conclusive a good illustration of the import- 
ance of recording the provenance of objects of antiquity. 



II. In the previous chapter an experimenter was 
pictured, making hollows in the floor of his hut, and 
amusing himself by directing the flow of molten 
metal into them and watching the result. Some such 
process must have preceded the manufacture of tools 


of metal by casting. The first moulds must have been 
open hollows in the ground ; the oldest moulds that 
have survived to our time are similar open hollows 
in blocks of stone merely a permanent form of the 



open moulds of clay (fig. 29). The indentations 
correspond to the outlines of the implements which 
it was desired to make ; the molten copper was poured 
into them, and left uncovered, to cool and harden. 
It was then taken out, and slightly trimmed and 
sharpened ; and the tool was complete. 

III. The introduction of metal, so far from being 
the immediate death-blow to the use of flint that we 
might have expected, proved to be a stimulus to the 
workers in stone to produce weapons comparable in 
smoothness and fineness with the objects in the new 
material. The metal was rare in comparison with 
stone, and even down to the end of the Bronze Age 
waste scraps of broken tools were bought up for re- 
melting. One such bronze-caster's hoard was found, 
many years ago, in Co. Roscommon ; it contained 
fragments of some objects of whose types no perfect 
specimen has been found in the country x ; the character 
of the fragments shewed that the hoard belonged to 
the fifth period. An even later hoard was that found 
at Annesborough, Co. Armagh, the component objects 
of which are now preserved in the Museum of the 
Royal Irish Academy. 2 This group consists of a 
bronze torque, broken ; a palstave ; and two feature- 
less bracelets. Together these might have been a 
third-period hoard : but along with them, and not 
to be separated from the hoard, was a brooch of Roman 
provincial type, not earlier than the first century B.C. 

Stone still had the advantage of cheapness ; but 
a chipped stone tool would be disagreeably rough in 
comparison with a smooth metal implement, and we 
can hardly doubt that the high polish which the later 
stone implements display was the result of an attempt 
to carry the technique of stone polishing to the stand- 
ard set by the later material. This reaction of metal 
on stone is not infrequently to be observed in imple- 
ments from the overlap period. It is practically 

1 JRSAI, xi, 120 : xv, 265, 266. 
*PRIA, xxxii, C, p. 171. 


certain that the magnificent flint daggers of Scandi- 
navia, by far the finest examples of flint-chipping 
that Europe affords, are due directly to the attempt 
to emulate the works of the copper caster. In Ireland 
and elsewhere flat stone celts sometimes come to light 
(fig. 20 ante), which are certainly translations into 
stone of a type produced originally by metal workers. 
Indeed, it was doubtless this ambitious spirit of emu- 
lation, rather than the direct advantage of metal over 
stone, which ultimately killed the stone industry. For 
stone had a certain superiority over pure copper. It 
was harder, and a stone edge was not continually 
becoming turned. But as the frog burst when it tried 
to emulate the ox, so the stone workers exhausted 
themselves when they laboured to produce tools in 
their difficult material such as could be turned much 
more expeditiously out of the moulds. 

IV. From what has been said in the preceding 
paragraph it will be seen that the Copper Age was 
distinguished by finely polished tools and weapons in 
stone, such as are conspicuous in every good collection 
of pre-historic antiquities. Among these we must 
especially mention the hammer-axes, the most formid- 
able weapon at the disposal of the warrior of the time. 
We have given a description of these objects in the 
preceding chapter. The characteristic which made 
the hammer-axe so valuable was its massiveness and 
weight which would have been unattainable in 
metal without an extravagant expenditure of the 
material. It was natural, therefore, that these weapons 
should be made of heavy blocks of stone. 

V. There is another weapon of metal to be assigned 
to this period : the triangular tangless dagger, which 
is likewise an imitation of the corresponding weapon 
in flint (fig. 31). The blade of this dagger is usually 
rounded at the butt, and is fitted into a handle of horn, 
wood, or bone, to which it was secured with metal 
rivets. The triangular form of the blade is often 
obscured, in actual specimens, by the result of later 
grinding and sharpening, which has the effect of 


making the originally straight edges of the blade 
concave. It is to be noticed that this concave edge is 
sometimes imitated in flint arrow-heads, most of which 


are almost certainly to be ascribed to the Bronze Age : 
an example is added to fig. 28. 


I. The Second Period of the Bronze Age was in- 
augurated by the discovery of the art of making the 
bronze alloy. This development of a use for tin, at 
first, apparently, a useless metal, was a stimulus to 
trade ; and for northern Europe at least, Cornwall 
must have at once become a region of outstanding 
importance. Only there was the metal to be found 
in sufficient quantity. For Cornish tin (or, more 
probably, for bronze alloyed in Cormvall with tin) 
Ireland bartered gold ; and the fine collection of 
bronze implements and weapons of Irish provenance 
in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy is a 
testimony to the active commercial enterprise of the 
Bronze Age. 

II. The fantasies of Vallancey and others of his 
school fantasies which are not confined to him or 
to his period, but which crop up even yet in popular 
publications were to a great extent based on a mis- 


understanding of the nature and the processes of the 
tin trade. It was supposed that the Mediterranean 
peoples, especially the Phoenicians, traded directly 
with the tin owners of Cornwall. From this it was but 
a step to suppose that it was the Phoenicians who 
brought their civilisation and their religious beliefs 
and cultus to these islands. Happily for the theorists, 
nobody even yet knows very much about the Phoeni- 
cians, their religion and their civilisation, so there 
was and still is free scope for speculation of which 
Vallancey and his modern imitators have fully availed 

The true nature of the tin trade and the method of 
its prosecution can be well illustrated by a modern 
instance which came under my own notice, worth 
mentioning on account of its own interest. When I 
was conducting excavations for the Palestine Explora- 
tion Fund at a site within view of the town of Jaffa, 
one of my workmen wished to send some money to 
his son, then in military service near Lake Van in 
Armenia a distance of about 630 miles as the crow 
flies. Having good reason to distrust the official 
Turkish post, in the matter of the safe transport of 
valuables, he gave the packet to a muleteer of his 
acquaintance who was going on his own business to 
Nablus. In the market there the muleteer met another 
proceeding to Damascus, and he delivered the packet 
into his keeping. Thence it passed by the same means 
to Aleppo ; and so on, from hand to hand and from 
town to town, till it reached the person for whom it 
was intended. A letter acknowledging the receipt 
was sent southwards by the same route, and reached 
the original sender about two months from the begin- 
ning of the transaction. In like manner the tin was 
carried across the continent by a series of caravans, 
exchanging their goods at the meeting-places. Doubt- 
less they exchanged other things as well folk-stories, 
news, descriptions of new discoveries, and so forth 
and thus the development of civilisation progressed 
over the whole area of the continent. 


III. The stone industry disappeared in the Second 
Period. After this we find nothing of importance in 
stone, except arrow and javelin heads, a few hammers, 
like those already described, and occasional belated 
flint flake knives. The effort to rival the easily-made 
metal tools was too great, and the trade in stone 
perished, except for instruments for which stone is 
especially suitable. Thus, the wrist-guards of archers 
(designed to protect the hand from the cut of the 
released bow-string) are almost always made of 
polished stone (fig. 31). 


IV. The flat axe is not wholly abandoned in this 
period ; but the normal celt is now the flanged axe. 
This is much more artistically made than the flat 
axe ; the bronze casters have by now learned how to 
manipulate the new material neatly. They have also 
found that it can be ornamented. No attempt is 
made to ornament the ordinary stone tools (with a 
very few exceptions), nor are the flat celts of the 
First Period decorated in any way. But the artificers 
of the Second Period found that pleasing devices 
could be scratched or punched on the surface of their 
handiworks, and accordingly we find the flanged axe- 
blades enriched by these means. Sometimes flat axes, 
unflanged (but made of bronze, and therefore Second 
Period), are similarly decorated : an example from 
Stoneyford, Co. Antrim, is figured JRSAI, xiii, 153. 
And even when giving the final hammering to the tools, 
designed to trim away the roughness left in the first cast- 
ing, and to harden and consolidate the metal, the work- 
man was careful so to direct his hammer-strokes as to 
make artistic patterns. Thus, the outer surface of 
the flanges is often beaten into a sort of rope-pattern, 
or into a series of little pyramids. 


In shape the flanged axe-head resembles the flat 
celt. Between the flanges there is an incipient stop- 
ridge a raised line running across the surface of the 


blade, to prevent the axe-head being driven too far 
into the handle. Both flanges and stop-ridge are at 
first very slight, but they increase in size as their use- 
fulness becomes more and more apparent. 


V. The triangular dagger persists through the 
Second Period. The weapon is short, adapted for 
close hand-to-hand fighting. There is as yet no 
bronze spear-head ; arrows and javelins, which are 
tipped with stone, are the only weapons made for 
fighting at a distance. 

But the advantage of keeping an adversary at more 
than arms' length while perforating him with a dagger 



is so obvious that the men of the Second Period turned 
their attention to the problem of how to attain this 
desirable end. Their first solution was to mount a 
dagger at the end of a long handle, and at right angles 
to its axis : in other words, to substitute a sharp-edged 
blade for the heavy but comparatively blunt stone 
casse-tP.te or hammer-axe. Thus was invented a very 
important weapon, the halberd (fig. 31). 

The halberd spread over part of Europe at the 
beginning of the Bronze Age, and the use of this 
weapon forms an important link between Ireland and 
Western Europe in the early part of the Bronze Age. 
Representations of it are to be found in pre-historic 
carvings in Northern Italy ; and specimens have come 
to light in Spain, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and 
elsewhere. In the earliest halberds, which not im- 
probably belong to the Copper Age, the blade is small 
and triangular it is in fact identical in shape with 
the ordinary riveted dagger. From this, however, it 
can be distinguished by the marks of the grain of the 
wooden handle, which are frequently to be seen 
impressed on the rusted surface of the butt of the 
blade. When these marks shew the grain at right 
angles to the axis of the blade we have to deal with a 
weapon which was mounted halberd-wise on its 

The halberd became very prominent among the 
weapons of early Ireland. The blade in Continental 
specimens remained comparatively small ; in Ireland 
it was increased to a considerable size some Irish 
halberd-blades are almost as long as small swords. 
The Irish type, moreover, assumes a peculiar scythe- 
like shape, the blade being convex along one edge, 
and concave along the other. By this peculiarity 
Irish halberds are easily distinguished from daggers 
or rapiers, and can be identified as Irish (or, at least, 
as of Irish type) whenever specimens are found in 
other countries. 

The halberd blades of this kind are almost pure 
copper another distinguishing feature, though this 


cannot be determined except by chemical analysis. 
We might at first sight be tempted on this account 
to put the halberd-blades back into the First Period, 
with the copper celts. But we must remember that 
the absence of tin in Ireland made the alloy very 
expensive, especially at its first introduction, and 
that therefore it would be an almost impossible extra- 
vagance to make such large blades of bronze. At 


Biorra, King's Co., a hoard was found containing some 
very slightly flanged celts and a halberd, all of copper. 
The flanges date the celts to the Second Period, their 
slightness and the metal used to the beginning of that 
period. 1 

1 For an analysis of the types of Irish halberds see G. Coffey, 
Irish Copper Halberds (PRIA, xxvii, C, p. 94). 


VI. The presence of gold in Ireland early made it 
available for decoration, and gave a stimulus to the 
development of ornament. Already in the Second 
Period we met with an important type of gold decora- 
tion, the lunula. 

This is a thin plate or film of gold, cut to a crescentic 
form. The horns of the crescent terminate, in perfect 
specimens, in small discs, the plane of which is turned 
at right angles to the plane of the lunula. The surface 
of the lunula is ornamented on one side with delicately 
engraved patterns (fig. 34). These are always clustered 
on the horns of the crescent, which are usually covered 
all over with decoration, and extend in narrow lines 
along the edges of the broadest part, leaving the 
surface in the middle of the broadest part bare of 
ornament. 1 This curious distribution of the decora- 
tion, which is the direct contrary to what we should 
have expected, has been ingeniously explained by 
Mr. CorTey as pointing to an origin for the idea of the 
lunula in the suspension of two chains of beads round 
the neck, which would hang loose and open in front, 
but would mass together on the shoulders. For it is 
certain that the lunula was a form of collar : 2 the flat 
plates at the end of the horns were catches for se- 
curing a cord by which the lunula was prevented 
from slipping off. 

The ornamentation of lunulae is invariably linear, 
consisting of triangles, lozenges, and other combina- 
tions of straight lines. Dots are also used for purposes 
of enrichment ; but curved lines are never used. The 
same is true of the ornamentation of flanged axes. 

1 If we may believe a rude woodcut in Vallancey's Collectanea, 
vi, 260, a lunula " found on the banks of the canal " was ornamen- 
ted with a zigzag covering the broad part of the surface. But it 
is probable that the thin plate of gold was crumpled., and that the 
fanciful Vallancey took the creases for ornament. 

2 The old idea that it is the mind occasionally referred to in the 
romantic literature, and that it was worn as a sort of diadem ver- 
tically over the top of the head, cannot be sustained. The orna- 
ments would not fit on the head in the manner suggested, and the 

dentification involves a monstrous anachronism. 


Lunulae are dated by this identity of ornament, and 
by the fact that two lunulae were found in Cornwall 
associated with flat axes of bronze. 


Mr. Coffey has drawn a map (fig. 35) shewing the 
distribution of lunulae, 1 so far as the provenance of 
the recorded specimens can be ascertained. It shews 
thafthis'form of ornament is scattered all over Ireland, 

1 The same has been done independently by Mr. O. G. S, 
Crawford in the Geographical Journal, Vol. xl, (1912), p. 195. 


but outside Ireland is rare, and as a rule is found only 
in places easily accessible from Ireland. It is quite 
clear, therefore, that Ireland was the centre of distribu- 
tion. The specimens from Cornwall, just mentioned, 
bear out what has already been said about the early 
establishment of a trade with that region. 


VII. The lunula is the most characteristic gold 
ornament of the Second Period ; other gold objects 
are, for the greater part, of a later date. We may, 
however, mention a peculiar ornament figured, but 
not described, by Vallancey, 1 said to have been dug 

1 Collectanea, vi, plate xvi, p. 258. 


up in the bog of Cuilleann, Co. Tipperary (fig. 36). 
This was a disc of gold, 4l inches in diameter, orna- 
mented with concentric circles and a chevron pattern 
round the edge the latter being the same kind of 
linear ornament as is found on the lunulae. The disc 
was pressed up into the shape of an irregular cone, 
perforated with a small hole at the apex. This shape 
is intentional, not accidental, as is indicated by the 


stoppage of the ornament on the steep side of the 
cone. As a specimen found at Newtown, Cros Domh- 
naigh, Co. Cavan, shews, the lunula when not in use 
was kept in an oaken box, cut to fit (fig. 37). 


I. Though the flat flanged celt has not wholly dis- 
appeared, the palstave is the normal type of this 
period. It may have one or two loops at the side to 
hold the cord by which it was secured to the handle ; 


or such loops may be completely absent. The flange- 
less flat celt has quite vanished, and the socketed celts 
have not yet come into existence (fig. 38). 


II. The triangular dagger, without tang, and secured 
to the handle with rivets, still persists. The blade is, 
however, of a different shape. In the t first two periods 
the blade of this form of weapon was rather short 
and stumpy. It is now longer and narrower, and 
makes a much more effective weapon. The blade is 
generally strengthened by means of a rib running 
down the axis on both sides. 

The hafts of these weapons were normally made of 
bone or of wood ; and these materials being perish- 
able it is rare to find them undecayed. In a few 
cases they were made of bronze, and sometimes these 
bronze handles remain, riveted to the blade. But 
bronze hafts must always have been comparatively 
rare. In fig. 39 we shew three examples of daggers 
retaining handles of bronze or of oak wood. 1 

But in addition to this survival of the triangular 
dagger, we find two new types of this form of weapon 
introduced, both of which are of considerable import- 
ance. The first of these is the triangular tanged dagger. 
It is frequently spoken of as the Arreton Down type, 
from a place in the Isle of Wight where a typical speci- 
men was found. It was not at first certain whether 
this was a dagger or a spear-head, but the question is 
now decided in favour of the former hypothesis. But 

1 A short list of weapons still retaining their original haft will 
be found in JRSAI, xii, p. 195. 


the weapon is connected in an interesting way with 
the spear-head : for the socketed spear-head developed 
out of it, by a process not unlike the evolution of the 
socketed celt. 


This process was as follows (fig. 40). The tang of 
the dagger was inserted in a handle, after the fashion 
of a dinner knife. A ferrule was fixed round the lower 



end of the wooden handle, just as in a modern chisel, 
to prevent the wood from splitting. Such a ferrule 
was at first separate from the dagger ; but at last it 
coalesced with it, the tang was then suppressed, and 


the socketed head was thus evolved, which, if fitted 
on a short handle, was a socketed dagger, and if fitted 
on a long handle was a socketed spear-head. 1 This 


socketed tool as a dagger is already known in the Third 
Period ; it is the second of the two types of dagger 
just referred to (fig. 41). Here, then, we come for 
the first time to the manufacture of socketed tools. 
At this point, where more elaborate problems in metal 

1 This development has been traced out in an elaborate paper 
by the Rev. Canon Greenwell and Mr. W. P. Brewis, entitled The 
Origin, Evolution, and Classification of the Bronze Spear-head in 
Great Britain and Ireland, published in Archffologia, Ixi, 439. 


casting meet us, it may be well to say a few words 
about the moulds used by bronze casters in Ireland. 

III. In the beginning, when nothing was made of 
metal except flat axes and daggers, a sufficient mould 
was a depression of the required shape in the surface 


of a stone, or even of the ground (fig. 29 ante). But 
when ornament began to be applied, by casting, 
to both sides of the implement, clearly a mould 
for both sides would be required. Thus we 


find the double mould invented, with two cor- 
responding indentations, and with a channel lead- 
ing to the hollow intercepted between the two 
halves of the mould. Mortices and tenons cor- 
responding to one another on the two faces of the 
mould kept them from slipping or from being mis- 
placed with reference to one another. The molten 
metal was poured in at the end of the channel, and, 
when it cooled, the moulds were taken apart and the 
implement taken out from between them. The knob 
of hardened metal that filled up the channel through 
which the molten bronze was poured into the mould 
was then broken off the implement ; such knobs are 
a constant feature of the deposits in bronze casters' 
hoards. The instrument was then completed by 
polishing and sharpening on a grindstone. Often 
multiple moulds are found, i.e., stones bearing on all 
their sides indentations for casting different types of 
objects. Such moulds are of great value as indicating 
which types were contemporary. The existing 
specimens of moulds are usually made of stone, some- 
times of metal. A few fragments of clay moulds have 
been found^in sandhill sites : two such will be seen 

in fig- 42- fel 

When it was required to make a tool with a socket, 
a method was followed which may thus be described. 1 
The mould was first filled with clay, which was 
allowed to dry and harden. When the clay was solid, 
its surface was carefully pared away till it became of 
the size of the interior of the intended socket, leaving a 
block at the butt end by which it could be supported 
in position inside the mould. A channel was drilled 
through this clay block for pouring the metal into 
the mould. The clay was then replaced in the mould ; 
the block at the top secured it in the right position, 
and the molten bronze was then poured into the space 

1 It has been deduced from the materials supplied by the hoards 
of bronze-casters, containing implements the manufacture of which 
had for some reason been suspended. 


between the walls of the mould and the clay core in 
fact, metal was poured in to take the place of the 
parings of clay removed from the outer surface of 
the core. When the metal cooled it was taken out, 
and the clay core picked out, leaving the empty 
socket : the tool was then complete, except for its 
final grinding and polishing. 

IV. The lunula has now disappeared, and has given 
place to the torque (fig. 43). The torque, strictly 
speaking, is a hoisted ring, though the name is often 


rather loosely extended to neck-collars that do not 
display the characteristic twist. A torque properly 
consists either of a bar of metal or of a ribbon-like 
strip it may be either bronze or gold twisted like 
a screw. It is supposed that the ribbon of metal was 
secured between two bars of bronze, and that all w r ere 
twisted together, the bars being subsequently removed. 
There are, however, several varieties of ornament 


grouped together under the name torque. Sometimes 
two ribbons were bent longitudinally into an L -shape, 
and welded, back to back, in this form I L : by this 
ingenious method a screw of four edges was ob- 
tained. Sometimes wires are twisted round a bar 
of metal ; and sometimes the screw effect is obtained 
by engraving, not by twisting. These last two 
varieties are probably of later date. The screw, how- 


ever made, was bent into a loop, and provided at the 
ends with hooks clasping into one another, thus 
making a collar. 

Bronze torques are rare in Ireland : a broken speci- 
men was included in the Annesborough hoard, 
referred to above, page 131. 

Torques were as a rule ornaments for the neck ; 
but large torques exist which, if intended for human 
wear at all, must have been girdles. The great torques 
found early in the last century at Teamhair (the two 


outermost examples in fig. 43) were of this kind. It 
is not impossible that these objects were votive : 
there is some evidence that there was an ancient 
sanctuary close to the place where they were found. 

VI. This is the place to refer to the Strangford 
Loch find, as it may be called, the story of which is 
instructive as illustrating the unsatisfactory means at 
present available for safeguarding monuments of 

About 1911 vague stories of a find of gold objects 
somewhere in Ireland began to be circulated among 
archaeologists here and in England. The place and 
circumstances of the find were most carefully con- 
cealed, to evade the law of treasure-trove ; and of 
what it originally consisted will probably never be 
known. A part of the hoard passed into the possession 
of a London dealer, who offered it to the British 
Museum. The Museum communicated with the 
authorities of the National Museum in Dublin, as 
the objects were Irish, before entering into nego- 
tiations with the dealer. There were some difficulties 
in the way of their acquisition, but that Gordian knot 
was cut by the generosity of Lord Iveagh, who pur- 
chased the lot and presented them to the National 

We must now note of what this part of the find 
consisted (fig. 44). There were five small models of 
axe-heads, of the flat flanged type, beautifully made 
in solid and very pure gold, and ornamented with 
impressed spirals : two pins, one of which was 
ornamented with similar spirals ; but the other, of a 
late Iron Age type, could not have belonged to the 
original find, and must have been added to the lot 
by one of the persons through whose hands the 
find passed : a torque : a small bracelet : and a 
model of a shield, in a less pure gold than the other 
objects. The flat flanged axes are of Second Period 
type, but the hoard is not necessarily so old : indeed, 
it may be questioned whether the shape of the genuine 
pin, which is of a rare and a late type, does not make 
the Fourth or the Fifth Period a more suitable date. 



The find may be called the Strangford Loch find, 
because the first stories told about it localised in the 
neighbourhood of that inlet. Other stories were told 
later ; and careful enquiry round the loch gleaned no 
information whatever. In the absence of satisfactory 
information the name Strangford Loch will serve as 
a label for the find as well as any other. 

After the acquisition of the objects persistent 
rumours now began to be circulated that the whole 
series were forgeries. A well-known collector wrote 
to say that he had purchased some pieces from the 
hoard, and that he was so certain that they were not 
genuine that he proposed to melt them down. Before 
doing so he kindly lent them to the Royal Irish Aca- 
demy for inspection. They consisted of some silver 
ornaments, which were certainly forged : a number 
of small rings and bracelets of the torque type, of a 
common type, probably genuine : and four or five 
axes, very clumsily imitated from the genuine ones. 
These were unquestionably forged, and by the very 
badness of their execution they made the genuineness 
of the original series the more probable. 1 

With these data we can reconstruct the history of 
the find. It was probably made accidentally, in the 
course of agricultural operations. The hoard con- 
sisted of the axes (probably a necklace) and the shield, 
some torques, bracelets, pins, etc. Had the finders 
honestly offered them to the Royal Irish Academy 
they would have received a fair price for them, out of 
the Government Grant which is put at the disposal 
of that body for the express purpose of acquiring 
such objects as the permanent property of the nation, 
and of securing their perpetual preservation in Ireland. 
As it was, they most likely disposed of them to some 

1 In describing these objects (PRIA, xxxii, C, p. 177) I quoted 
Sir C. H. Read as advocating the authenticity of these objects. He 
has now made it clear to me that he condemned them from the 
first, and I take this opportunity of expressing my sincere regret 
that through a misunderstanding I incorrectly interpreted his 


travelling huckster, at probably half the sum which 
they would have obtained through the legitimate 
channels. The middleman, into whose hands they fell, 
sold one or two of the axes and some of the ordinary 
things first ; finding that the axes, being unusual 
objects, attracted special attention, he melted down 
a number of the more commonplace objects and 
made axes out of them, with the twofold purpose of 
increasing the value of his merchandise and of covering 
his tracks. 

After this glance at the seamy side of Archaeology, 
we turn with relief to the find itself, or rather to the 
poor remnant which is left to us, to see what can be 
made out of it. 

There can be no doubt that the axes are amulets, 
and that they represent a widespread European cult, 
one phase of which is the Cretan worship of the double 
axe. This cult has its roots far back in the mind of 
primitive man. The massive hammer-axe was his 
most deadly w r eapon. With it he subdued his enemies, 
and slaughtered wild and monstrous animals. There 
must surely be a god in it, we may suppose him 
thinking, which made such wonders possible. So 
these little objects have a very long ancestry behind 

The shield is especially interesting. No shield has 
survived to us from the earlier period of the Bronze 
Age. It is probable that these defences were then 
made of wood or of leather. We have, however, 
shields of bronze, wood, and leather both in Ireland 
and in Scandinavia dating from the end of the Bronze 
and the beginning of the Iron Age. These shields 
are circular, and are ornamented with various patterns. 
The patterns are symmetrical, but it is curious that 
at one point in the circle the symmetry of these 
patterns is often broken, without any apparent reason. 
It has been ingeniously inferred from this that there 
was an earlier form of shield having an observation- 
notch cut in the circumference, to enable the wearer 
to peep out without exposing himself more than was 
absolutely necessary ; and that the breaks in the 


patterns on the later shield are like the vestigial organs 
of which biologists tell us the relics remaining in 
the higher forms of life of functional organs belonging 
to the lower forms of life out of which they have 
evolved. No actual shield has come to light with 
such a notch ; but it appears in the model before us. 
The shield is further perforated with four holes in a 
row, as though for receiving a strap ; and it is orna- 
mented with faintly incised linear ornaments and 
spirals, over which another series of spirals has been 


I. In the Fourth Period, which is the time of tran- 
sition from the cruder stages of civilisation in the 
earlier periods to the comparatively high standard of 
the fifth the palstave still persists. It is, however, 
giving place to the winged celt, in which the stop- 
ridge, having attained its maximum size, begins to 
disappear. Towards the end of the period the 
socketed celt begins to come into use. The earlier 
forms of celt are rare, if, indeed, they are used at all. 



II. The socketed spear-head makes its appearance 
in this period. It develops out of the tanged dagger 
of the Arreton Down type, in the manner described 
on a previous page. Loops are provided either on 
the sides of the socket or under the wings of the 
spear-head, for thongs by means of which it was 
secured to the shaft. The wings of the spear-head 
are strengthened with ribs, the design of which' is 
often very artistic. 

In fourth-period spears, the head was secured to 
the shaft by means of cords passed through loops 


cast in the sides of the socket. The moulds shew that 
these loops were cast in a semicircular form, and then, 
in finishing the tool, hammered flat. The hammering 
was always artistically done, so as to give to the outer 
surface of the loop a lozenge-shape. Occasionally, 
though not often, it is decorated yet further : thus 
in a spear-head found at Cathair Mor, Ros Cairbre, 
Co. Cork, 1 the outer surface is decorated with a saltire. 
The butt end of a spear-head was protected with 
a ferrule, commonly socketed, but occasionally provided 

1 Figured in Journal, Cork Hist, and Arch. Soc., 1899, p. 200 


with a tang. A bronze terminal of this description, 
with a pointed end and provided with a square tang, 
was found near the hill of Teamhair. It is described 
as being nearly 3 inches in length. 1 This object is, 
however, most probably Iron Age : similar ferrules 
were found at the iron-age settlement of La Tene in 

The side loops began to creep up the socket, if we 
may so express it, as evolution advanced. At first 
they were about midway between the base of the 
wings of the blade and the rim of the socket. In all 
cases but one, they are exactly opposite one another : 
the one exception is a fine spear-head of unrecorded 
provenance in the R.I. A. collection (fig. 47), in which 
the loop on one side is close to the wing, while that 


on the other is about three-quarters of the way down 
between the wing and the rim of the socket. When 
the fourth period passes into the fifth the loops have 
risen up the socket till they are immediately under 
the wings ; indeed they are generally so designed as 
to be a continuation of a strengthening rib running 
down the blade. Spear-heads of this form are among 
the most artistic weapons extant. Finally, in the 
course of the fifth period, the loop actually enters the 
blade, and appears as an opening in the wing, which 
is little more than mere ornament : for the spear-head 
is now secured to its shaft by means of a rivet passed 
through a hole provided for its reception. 2 

III. But it is the development of the tangless dagger 
which is of special importance in this period. We saw 

1 A. G. More, On an ancient bronze implement found near the 
Hill of Tara, PRIA, xv, 25. 

2 For a study of the types of Irish Spear-heads see G. Coffey, 
Notes on the Classification of Spear-heads of the Bronze Age found 
in Ireland. PRIA, xix, 486. 



it in the First Period as a stumpy triangujar blade, 
which in the Second Period gave birth to the halberd. 
In the Second and Third Periods we see the blade 
gradually lengthening and narrowing. In the Fourth 
Period it becomes so long that it can no longer be 
called a dagger ; we now have the rapier developed 
(fig. 48). At much about the same time a parallel 
line of evolution leads to the sword. The difference 
between a rapier and a sword lies in this, that the 
rapier is essentially a thrusting weapon, while the 
sword, though in the Bronze Age it is brought to a 
sharp point and can be used for thrusting, is essen- 
tially a cutting weapon with sharp edges. These two 
weapons, and the socketed spear-head, are the most 
important contributions that the Fourth Period makes 
to the armoury of the warrior. 

The finest bronze rapier in existence is the wonderful 
specimen found at Liosan, Co. Deny, which is nearly 
3 feet long and only three-fifths of an inch across. 
It was secured to its handle with two rivets. This 
triumph of the bronze-caster's art is now to be seen 
in the Royal Irish Academy's collection, which con- 
tains other examples of the same class of weapon, 
among them a splendid example from Inis Ceithlinn. 1 
A representation of the Liosan rapier will be found 
in fig. 48. 

IV. The sword of the Bronze Age has a gracefully 
curved blade, narrow towards the hilt, widening 
below, and then contracting again to a sharp point 
(fig. 49). The handle is usually a flat tongue of metal, 
projecting from the blade, and flanged for the recep- 
tion of plates of bone or some such material, which 
were secured by means of rivets. It is uncommon to 
find swords with their hafting-plates remaining un- 
decayed ; the well-known sword from Muc-shnamh, 
Co. Monaghan, once in the Day Collection, but 
now happily preserved in the Royal Irish Academy's 

1 See G. Coffey, An Account of Rapiers and Early Swords of the 
Bronze Age, PRIA, xxx, C, 88. 




Museum, is a good example. The haf ting-plates are 
in this case said to be made of bones of a whale. A 
rapier similarly hafted was found in the townland 
of Gall-bhaile, Co. Tyrone, in 1864 : and another 
sword in Co. Monaghan. The two latter are shewn 
in fig. 50. 

V. The invention of a sword involves the invention 
of a scabbard. The edges of a sword have to be pro- 
tected from injury to themselves, or from inflicting 
hurt on such people as they are not intended to hurt. 


It is, however, rare to find a sword-scabbard of metal 
throughout its length from bronze-age deposits. 
Scabbards of this period were made, we may presume, 
of leather, tipped at the point with metal. Naturally 
it is only these metal tips (called " chapes ") which 
have survived (fig. 51). Chapes, as Dr. Montelius 
has shewn, 1 are of considerable chronological import- 
ance. The earlier chapes are as a rule of smaller size : 

1 In his paper on British Bronze Age Chronology, Archaeologia, 
vol. Ixi, p. 97. 


those of the Fifth Period become extravagantly large, 
with projecting points corresponding to similar pro- 
jections at the base of the hilt. The purpose of these 
projections is probably to serve as a foot-purchase in 
drawing the sword from the scabbard. 

Sword scabbards being thus as a rule made princi- 
pally of leather, we can hardly expect that any part 
of such objects should survive the corrosion of time, 
with the exception of the metal mountings of the top 
and the bottom. But they were occasionally made of 



bronze ; fragments of one sword-scabbard of bronze 
were identified in the hoard of waste scraps from Co. 
Roscommon referred to above, page I3I. 1 

VI. The activity of the bronze caster in Ireland is 
illustrated for us by his moulds of stone, which have 
been found in considerable numbers ; shewing that 
although the tin had to be imported the metal was 
fused and cast into shape by native craftsmen. Special 
mention should be made of a remarkable find of moulds 


made at Coill na Madaidh, Co. Antrim, which has 
been described by Mr. Coffey. 2 These included 
moulds prepared for casting looped socketed spear- 
heads, which dates the find to the Fourth Period. 
Most remarkable was a mould for casting a sickle 
without socket. According to Mr. Coffey, " Up to 
the time of its discovery the only sickles known in 

1 See JRSAI, xv, p. 267. 

2 G. Coffey, Recent Pre-historic Finds acquired by the Royal Irish 
Academy : an important find of Moulds in Co. Antrim. PRIA, 
xxx, C, p. 83. 


Ireland were those furnished with a socket. No 
moulds of any description had been found. In Britain, 
though the type without the socket has been found, 
it is rare, and mostly confined to the western counties. 
On the Continent, the sickles without the socket are 
the prevailing type, though a few socketed examples 
have been found in the north-west of France." Two 
specimens of Irish socketed sickles are shewn in fig. 52A 


I. The Fifth Period of the Bronze Age in northern 
Europe is contemporary with the First Period of the 
Iron Age in southern and eastern Europe. There 
were doubtless influences working indirectly from 
South to North during the 400 years for which this 
period lasted, which had something to do with the 
great advance in civilisation made during that time. 
But these influences did not extend to the introduction 
of the use of iron ; and therefore the part of Europe 
with which we are here concerned is still counted as 
being in the Bronze Age. 

II. If a civilisation can be gauged by the amount of 
specialisation which its products display, the Fifth 
Period of the Bronze Age shews a great advance over 
the preceding stages, not excepting the Fourth. To 
begin with the weapons and implements inherited 
from the Fourth Period, we still have palstaves and 
winged celts, but the socketed celt is the normal type 
(fig- 53)- 



The socketed spear-head persists ; many specimens 
of this class of weapon are of great artistic beauty, 
bearing ornamental ribbing and apertures cut in the 
wings, enhancing the ornamental effect (fig. 54). The 
ornamental perforation of the blade is a vestigial 
relic of the side-loops of fourth-period spear-heads. 
Sometimes the opening is strengthened with flanges, 
as in an example figured in the Journal of the Cork 
Historical and Archaeological Association, 1901, 
page I22. 1 The place of the side-loops, for securing 
the head to the shafts, is now taken by rivet-holes, by 
means of which a pin could be driven through the 
shaft, securing the head. 2 

Rapiers disappear, for the obvious reason that the 
sword, which can thrust as well as cut, is a more useful 
weapon than the rapier, which can thrust only. The 
Fifth-period swords (fig. 55) resemble those of the 
Fourth Period, but can be distinguished from them 
by a nick cut on the edge just below the handle. This 
nick is probably meant to blunt the edge at that spot, 
so preventing the hand from being wounded if it 
should happen to slip in grasping the sword. Daggers, 
tanged and socketed, are still found. A specimen from 
Scol, Co. Cork, is figured in the Cork Historical and 
Archaeological Association's Journal, 1905, page 186. 

III. The following instruments added during the 
Fifth Period may be enumerated : 

Razors (fig. 56) : fine blades of bronze either single 
or (more commonly) double, with a rib backing and 
supporting them. The rib is prolonged into a tang 
for grasping the instrument ; the tang is not infre- 

1 This specimen retains a fragment of the wooden shaft. The 
paper describing it has some quite unintelligible speculation as 
to how the shaft was secured in the socket. 

2 Very few specimens of spear-heads containing the rivets have 
come to light. Probably the rivets were made of wood, not of 
bronze. They would naturally be made easily removable, as it 
would often be important, in the stress of battle, for the owner 
to be able to remove his spear-head from a broken shaft and fit 
it on to a new shaft, at a moment's notice. 





quently perforated for suspension. The Airthear 
Maighe find, described below, contains a razor in its 
original leather case. 


Gouges : these are modifications of the socketed 
celt, with a concave edge substituted for the straight 
edge of the celt. The instrument as found in Ire- 
land is almost always of small size, with a narrow 
socket. The derivation from the socketed celt is 
proved by the extreme rarity of other than socketed 
gouges : there is but one tanged gouge in the great 
collection of the Royal Irish Academy. An example 
will be seen in fig. 61, No. 2. 



Goldsmiths' Hammers (fig. 57) : resembling small 
socketed celts with a flat butt taking the place of the 

Goldsmiths' Anvils (fig. 57) : These may take the 
simple form of a more or less cubical block of bronze : 
an example of this type, found in the neighbourhood 
of Sligeach, is figured JRSAI, xvii, p. 538. It is 
described as having a small particle of gold embedded 
in the upper surface, indicating the use to which it 
has been put. More elaborate types of anvils exist, 
consisting of small tables of bronze with a spike below 
for securing them to a board. Some have a spike 
projecting sideways upon which small rings could be 
hammered into shape. 

Chisels (fig. 58) : which, unlike gouges, are usually 
tanged. A shield is provided to prevent the tang 
from being driven too far into the wooden handle : 


sometimes two projections, one on each side of the 
stem, take the place of the shield. 

Leather-cutters' knives (fig. 580) : As such is 
probably to be explained a peculiar blade with tang 
projecting from the back, found in the Sinann. 

Trumpets and Cauldrons of bronze are frequently 
found in Ireland, but as these most probably belong 


to the early stages of the Iron Age we do not describe 
them in the present volume. 

IV. Shields, however, can be mentioned most 
conveniently here. Though shields were no doubt 
used much earlier than the Fifth Period, metal shields 
of an earlier date are not known in Ireland. The 
normal type of metal shield, circular and ornamented 
with concentric bands of knobs, with ribs between in 
repousse work ; they most likely belong to the period 
of transition between the Bronze and the Iron Ages. 


A fine specimen, now in the R.I. A. Museum, from a 
bog near Loch Gair, Co. Limerick (fig. 59 c.), may be 
specially referred to. Of shields in materials other 
than metal we may refer to one said to be in alder- 
wood, from Co. Leitrim (fig. 59 A), and another in 
leather from Cluain Bhrain, Co. Longford (fig. 598). 
Both these shields display the remarkable interruption 
in the symmetry of the ornamental pattern which, as 





has already been said, is a survival of the observation- 
notch that must at one time have been made in the 
edges of shields. 1 

1 It is right to mention a possible alternative explanation of this 
interruption of the ornament : the widespread superstition against 
unbroken rings, on which see J. G. Frazer, Taboo and the Perils 
of the Soul, p. 313, et seqq. 


V. This is also the period of long ornamental pins 
in bronze, with wide 'circular heads bent at right 
angles to the shaft. Such a method of treating the 
head has the advantage of giving a wide surface for 
decoration, and displaying it to the full without in- 
conveniencing the wearer. A fine specimen formed 
part of an interesting hoard of objects found in a bog 
at Airthear Maighe, Co. Antrim, and now in the 
Royal Irish Academy's collection. It includes a 
socketed celt, and a flat-headed pin these date the 
find to the Fifth Period. There were also a socketed 
gouge and a razor : the delicate edge of the latter was 
protected by a sheath of leather Most remarkable 
of all was the woollen garment in which these objects 
were wrapped, and which had been preserved from 
total destruction by the antiseptic action of the peat. 
This cloak was ornamented with a fringe of horse- 
hair of elaborate workmanship, which merits and 
repays the closest scrutiny. It gives us a very high 
opinion of the ingenuity of the artificers in textiles 
of the fifth period of the Bronze Age. 

VI. Some important types of objects in gold are 
probably to be referred to the Fifth Period. Chief 
among these is that mysterious object which can 
best be called the cupped ring (it is often called a 
fibula, which is misleading). 

The cupped ring is a bar of gold, bent into the 
shape of a horseshoe, and terminating at each end in 
conical cup-shaped expansions. There is no general 
explanation of this type of object that will fit every 
example of it. Some of them may be bracelets, but 
others would not fit on any human wrist : there are 
specimens of the type too small even for finger-rings. 
Some of the most minute of these rings do not possess 
the cups. These small rings are frequently known 
by the name " ring-money." Occasionally specimens 
are found consisting of bronze gilt. Of the larger 
cupped rings some may be the fasteners of cloaks, 
the cups buttoning into loops on each side of the 
cloak, so that the whole ornament resembles the 



FIG. 6 1 THE AIRTHEAR MAIGHE HOARD. (Nos. 6-10 from Tulach, Co. Clare) 


morse of a cope ; but then others are so heavy 
that they could not be worn in the way suggested 
with any comfort. It has been supposed that these 
objects, which are found in so many different shapes 
and sizes, are a primitive form of currency, and I 
am strongly inclined to favour this idea. Before the 
introduction of coined money, which we owe to the 
Scandinavian kings of Dublin, the media of exchange 
were gold, cattle, and slave-girls this we learn from 
the Irish Law tracts, which further make it clear 
that the relative value of these three commodities 
varied from time to time, and with* the condition 
of the animals and the slaves. For the payment of 
sums of money in gold weight, or whatever standard, 


it would be convenient to have the ingots in a weigh- 
able shape, and in such a form that they could be used 
as ornaments. It is a curious coincidence that bronze 
rings in all respects similar to these are or have till 
recently been used as a medium of currency in parts 
of Africa. One of the Irish cupped bracelets, illustrated 
by Vallancey, bears an Ogham inscription, but this 
is undoubtedly a forgery. As a rule these objects are 
plain, with little or no decoration : but Vallancey * 

1 If these objects had the use suggested, their weights must 
necessarily conform to some fixed standard though it is not to 
be expected that they would be as accurate as modern mechanical 
refinements could make them. Materials for the study of the 
metrology of Irish gold ornaments have now been put at the dis- 
posal of students by Mr. Armstrong's Catalogue, already cited 
(p. 1 20 supra). I have tabulated all the weights of the cupped rings 
there enumerated, and (though the full calculation cannot be 
printed here) find evidence of two standards, respectively, of the 
approximate values of 15 and 20 oz. 




illustrates (from a drawing by a silversmith of Ath 
Luain called Nowlan) an unusually ornate specimen. 
This was found somewhere in Co. Galway, and ulti- 
mately sold for 52 guineas (its weight in gold) to a 
Dublin jeweller, who melted it down. On the convex 
side of the cup there were twelve circles, concentric 
with the outline, inside of which were little triangles. 
There was also a band around the base of each cup. 
A very interesting description of the technical 
processes followed in the manufacture of an object of 
this type was contributed by Mr. Edmond Johnson 
to the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 1 
This analysis, the work of a man of practical experience 
in the art of the goldsmith, gives us a high opinion of 
the technical skill of the ancient craftsmen. The 
object described is made in five separate pieces the 
bow, the two cups, and the rims of the cups. The 
gold was probably melted in a charcoal fire, which 
alone would give sufficient heat with the means at 
the artificer's disposal. The bow was formed straight 
first, and afterwards bent into the curved shape. 2 It 
was shaped in a mould cut to the tapering form of 
the bar by a hammering process known as swaging ; 
the hammer being applied, not directly to the gold, 
but to a stone similar to, but smaller than, the mould, 
and with a corresponding hollow cut in it. By striking 
with a hammer on the smaller stone, known as the 
swage, turning the gold bar between successive 
strokes, a smooth surface, circular in shape, was 
obtained. The two cups were formed on anvils 
of special shape. A socket was provided in the apex 
of the cup, into which the edges of the bow were 
fitted, and secured by sweating or surface-melting. 
The rims of the cups were not secured by this process, 

1 On Five Gold Fibulce lately discovered in the South of Ireland, 
and on the Art Processes used in their Manufacture. PRIA, xix, 776. 

2 A specimen of an unfinished cupped ring, which has not 
been bent, actually exists : it was found at Inis Geimhleach, Co. 
Cork, and has'passed into the possession of the Royal Irish; Academy 
from the Day Collection. .oss-Kis .qq 


as these thin parts of metal would have been com- 
pletely fused if the artist had endeavoured to apply 
it. They were simply hammered round the thickened 
rim of the cup. The ornamentation was produced, 
not by engraving, but by means of a hammer and chisel, 
as microscopic examination of the surface has shown. 
Mr. Johnson concludes his study with the following 
list of the tools necessary for the production of such 
an object as this : furnace, charcoal, crucible, mould 
for ingot, flux, bellows, several hammers, anvils, 
swage anvil, swages, chisel for ornament, sectional tool 
for producing concentric rings. 

VII. In March, 1854, some labourers working on 
the construction of the railway from Limerick 
to Ennis, Co. Clare, turned over the stones of 
a small earn, in the heart of which they found an 
extraordinary store of objects of this type, associated 
with other gold ornaments. The spot where the dis- 
covery was made was near a great fortified enclosure 
whose proper name it seems now impossible to recover 
it is referred to as " Cahermucna " in eighteenth 
century documents (which looks like Cathair Muc- 
shnaimh), and is now called Moghane. It has been 
reasonably conjectured that the hoard was loot from 
this fortress, buried by the raiders and never recovered. 
When the labourers found it there was, of course, a 
wild scramble for the plunder, and most of the objects 
found their way to the melting-pot : only a .few were 
saved for the Royal Irish Academy Museum, or for 
other collections. It was by far the greatest find of 
associated gold objects found in Western Europe, and 
the loss to science of the great bulk of the hoard is 
most deplorable. 2 A selection from the find was 

1 Collectanea, vi, 237. 

2 A full account of everything that can be discovered about the 
hoard and its contents will be found in Mr. Armstrong's paper, 
The Great Clare Find of 1854, in JRSAI, xlvii, 21. See also 
T. J. Westropp, Types of the Ring-forts and similar Structures 
remaining in Eastern Clare. PRIA, xxvii, C, p. 217, and especially 
pp. 218-220. 


exhibited by Dr. J. H. Todd to the Royal Irish 
Academy in 1854 : this portion weighed in all 
over 174 ozs. Records of 150 objects are pre- 
served, drawings of which will be found accompanying 
Mr. Armstrong's paper referred to in the foot- 
note. Of these all but about a half dozen are 
perfectly plain cupped rings of comparatively small 
size. The uniformity of the objects in this great 
hoard is an argument in favour of the " currency " 


VIII. Next in importance to the cupped rings, 
among the gold ornaments to be attributed to this 
period, come the gorgets (fig. 63). These resemble 
the earlier lunulae, in being crescentric breast orna- 
ments ; and corresponding to the smaller discs at the 
ends of the horns of the lunulae there are circular 
discs secured in the same position in the gorgets. 
These discs suggest, if they do not indicate, that the 
gorgets are an elaboration of the lunulae. They differ 


from the lunula, first, by their superior size ; secondly 
by their shape, which is curved, whereas the lunula 
is always flat ; thirdly by the technique of their 
ornament, which is repousse, not engraved ; fourthly 
by the distribution of the ornament, which covers the 
whole surface of the object, instead of being confined 
to specific parts as in the case of the lunula ; and 
fifthly by the nature of the ornament, which consists 
chiefly of raised ridges, rows of dots, and rope-pattern, 
in lines running parallel with the edges of the object. 


To this enumeration of differences we may add 
e lunula the flat disc at the ends of the horns 
in one piece with the ornament, whereas the 
discs in which these gorgets terminate and 
always elaborately ornamented with con- 
, groups of concentric circles, dots, and 
made as separate pieces, and are secured 
s by means of gold wire or in similar ways, 
t in the Royal Irish Academy's collection 
thread, apparently original, with gold 
wound around it, secures the discs. 


Another form of gorget (fig. 64) resembles in shape 
and appearance the cupped ring. In this the bow 
is not a solid bar, but is a disc bent to shape. It 
terminates in cups of the same kind as those 


which characterise the cupped ring, but smaller in 

A number of large spheres of gold (fig. 65), each 
consisting of two hollow hemispheres fitting into one 



another and welded together, was found at Carraig 
on the Sinann, Co. Leitrim, in the year 1834. A hole 
is cut through the middle of each hemisphere for 
threading. There were originally eleven 1 in the series, 
ranging in diameter from 3! to 2| inches. Most 
probably they were a neck ornament for a horse, as 
they are too large and clumsy to be worn by a man. 
To this period also are to be assigned circular discs 
of gold, bearing concentric or cruciform ornaments 
engraved or repousse, upon them. These as a rule 
measure about 3 inches in diameter and are made of 
this gold leaf. There are usually perforations, by 

FIG. 66 GOLD Discs 

means of which they could be secured to a textile 
fabric ; and it is possible that some of these were 
used for the enrichment of garments, a stiff embroi- 
dered ring surrounding and protecting the edge. 

Another suggestion has been made that they are 
to be considered as sun-discs, being the gilded orna- 
ment of an object like the famous sun-chariot found in 
Trundholm Moss, Denmark. 2 One disc of bronze, 
in the British Museum, with a marginal ring, such as 
is seen on the Trundholm disc, may well be analogous : 

1 Another account says thirteen, One is iri the British Museum, 
one in private possession, and seven in the Royal Irish Academy 
Museum : see PRIA, xxx, C, p. 450. 

2 R. A. Smith, On Gold Discs of the Bronze Age in the British 
Museum. Proceedings Soc. Antiq. Lond., Ser. ii, vol. xx, p. 6. 

(By permission of the Royal Anthropological Institute) 


and the splendid disc found at Leath-ton, Co. Cavan, 
recently acquired by the Royal Irish Academy, most 
probably is the decoration of a similar object 1 (fig. 66). 

Irish archaeologists have to regret that, owing to the 
fewness of ancient burials that have been excavated 
under proper scientific auspices, very little is known 
as to the disposition of gold ornaments upon the body. 
Most of the gold ornaments known have been dis- 
covered by labourers, digging in the fields or in the 
turbaries, and have been snatched as by a miracle 
from the jaws of the local jeweller's crucible. Hence 
very little indeed is known as to the exact use of the 
gold ornaments which have been found associated 
with interments. We do not know if they were worn 
by men, or by women, or by both sexes indifferently. 
The discovery 'of a few skeletons wearing " cupped 
rings " would help to solve the problem presented 
by these objects more satisfactorily than unlimited 

There is, however, one burial recorded which is of 
importance in this connexion. It was a discovery 
made in 1805 at Baile na Martra in Co. Cork ; it is 
thus recorded 2 : ' Throughout the whole of this 
district the limestone rock abounds with natural caves, 
and, in 1805, a curious discovery was made not far 
from Castle Martyr by a quarryman, in consequence 
of his crow-bar having accidentally fallen through a 
fissure of the rock. He widened the aperture and 
descended in search of the instrument into a cavern, 
where he was not a little surprised to behold a human 
skeleton, partly covered with exceedingly thin plates 
of stamped or embossed gold, connected by bits of 
wire : he also found several amber beads. The 
annexed sketch of one of these gold plates is the same 
size of the original, which is in the possession of Mr. 
Lecky of Cork, with the fragments of a head. The 

1 E. C. R. Armstrong, A find of Gold Objects from Lattoon, Bally- 
jamesduff, Co. Cavan. Man, vol. xx (1920), no. 45. 

2 Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland, p. 253. 


remainder of the gold was sold and melted in Cork 
and Youghal ; and a jeweller who purchased the 
greater part told me the quantity he had melted to 
use his own words was rather more than the contents 
of half a coal-box." The object is now in the col- 
lection of the Royal Irish Academy : see Armstrong's 
Catalogue, p. 92, No. 398. 

R. R. Brash, who cites the above passage, 1 compares 
with it a burial found at Achadh Bolog in Co. Cork. 
Here a large sheet of gold covered the entire breast 
and upper part of a skeleton buried in a grave. Some 
fragments of thin elastic gold plate and a piece of 
" ring-money " remained when Mr. J. Windele heard 
of the find : the rest was melted down. 

(The middle figure in the second row is a section through the 
circular object above it). 
iJRSAI, xi, p. 514. 


The ornamentation of the Baile na Martra inter- 
ment seems to have consisted of gold discs such as 
those described and figured above ; though the sur- 
viving one is a trapesial, not circular, in shape. That 
of the Achadh Bolog grave was most probably a large 
gorget of the kind described on a previous page. 

Beads (fig. 68) of gold, consisting each of two cones 
joined together at their bases after the manner of 
the double hemispheres in tke horse-beads described 
above are not infrequent. They are of varying 
sizes. Some of the larger objects of this kind have a 
slot cut in the side communicating with the central 
perforation. Small rings ear-rings, finger-rings, or 
bracelets of gold, of torque pattern, also call for 
notice here. These are usually open, the ends of 
the ring being plain and pointed, and the body 
twisted in torque fashion. Some of these small 
objects seem further to illustrate the superstition 
against closed rings : compare also the ornament on 
the sun-disc, fig. 67. 

Vessels of gold were probably in use, but recorded 
specimens are very rare. There is the bottom of one 
in the Royal Irish Academy's collection : but the best- 
known example is that discovered in a bog at the 
Devil's Bit mountain, Co. Tipperary, in the year 1692, 
called from the name of the family in whose pos- 
session it remained, the Comerford Bowl. It is 


now lost. It was for long absurdly called an " Old 
Irish Crown " (fig. 69). Its ornamentation is repousse, 
resembling that of the gorgets. 


Both torques and cupped rings, like lunulae, seem 
to have been kept, when not in use, in wooden boxes ; 
these were made out of blocks of timber with hol- 
lows of appropriate size and shape scooped out of 



them, and with a stopper-like lid fitting into the 

There are not many examples extant of the use of 
gold to enrich other objects. This does not mean 
that it was not frequently used for such a purpose : 
but as the decorated objects would most likely be made 
of w v ood or textiles, this perishable material would 
have decayed, leaving the gold as a meaningless 
lamina. Where it was applied to objects of a baser 
metal, such as bronze sword-hilts or the like, we 
might hope for its survival. Such an object is the fine 
bronze spear-head found at Loch Gair in Co. Lime- 
rick, and now in the British Museum (fig. 70). This 
is a Fifth-period specimen. The outer surface of the 
socket is encircled with two bands of gold, bearing 
linear ornaments : between the bands the surface of 
the bronze is channelled with grooves, in the direction 
of the axis of the socket, which are filled with inlays 
of gold, kept in position by the gold bands. 

IX. Besides gold, amber and jet were in use in the 
latter part of the Bronze Age as materials for ornaments. 
As these materials do not occur in Ireland, at any rate 
in more than insignificant quantity, in unworked form, 
objects fashioned from them are valuable proofs of 



the prosecution of trade amber with the Baltic, and 
jet, probably, with that part of South Britain now 
called Yorkshire. 

Bronze-age amber ornaments, in Ireland, appear 
to take exclusively the form of flattened oval beads, 
perforated along their shorter axis. These objects 
have been found in considerable numbers, both 
singly and in groups : the latter being evidently the 
remains of necklaces which have lost their connecting 
strings. The use of amber for the enrichment of 
other objects (such as sword-hilts or gold ornaments) 
does not seem to have been introduced into Ireland 
in the Bronze Age. The largest amber bead of Irish 
provenance is 2f inches in diameter : it comes from 
Caiseal, near Ard Macha, and is in the R.I. A. 

That certain of the amber beads found in Ireland 
are to be ascribed to the Bronze Age was first proved 
by a find of associated objects found at Mount Rivers, 
near Coachford, Co. Cork. 1 This hoard contained 
a few amber beads, of the type above described, and 
also two cupped bracelets in gold and one in bronze a 
very rare material for this type of object as well as 
two bronze socketed celts. The gold cupped rings 
and the socketed celts date the find to the fifth period 
of the Bronze Age. With this accords a more recent 
" find," made near Biorra in King's County, which 
has also being acquired by the Academy. This con- 
sisted of the beads of a very fine amber necklace, 
associated with a gold cupped ring. 

The objects in jet or lignite found in Ireland are 
more varied in shape than those of amber. They 
include buttons, of a conical form, with V-shaped holes 
for threading, opening through the base of the cone 
a type ascribed by Montelius to the first and second 
periods of the Bronze Age in England : armlets, which 
are simply plain circular rings : and beads of various 

1 See G. Coffey, Recent Pre-historic Finds acquired by the [Royal 
Irish] Academy. PRIA, xxx, C, p. 85 ff. 


shapes discoidal, cylindrical, and ellipsoidal, the 
latter sometimes with a rim or thickening surrounding 
each end of the perforation. These jet beads are 
sometimes of great, even inconvenient, size : like the 
gold balls described above, some of these may have 



been used for the decoration of horses. End and 
cross-pieces sometimes appear, to indicate that several 
chains of beads were combined in the one necklace. 
Discs of jet, perforated for suspension and ornamented 
with engraved points, are sometimes found. 

A jet necklace found in a bronze- age burial cist at 
Oldbridge, Co. Meath, consisted of alternate cylin- 
drical and discoidal beads : with the beads was one 
pendant, triangular in shape, pierced with a hole 
running from one broad face to the other, so near the 
base of the triangle that the pendant would hang apex 
downward. There can be no doubt that this object 
was suspended from the necklace 1 and that it was an 

X. We must now consider for a moment the im- 
portant question of chronology. It is impossible to 
attach exact dates to pre-historic remains : this 
impossibility is, indeed, of the essence of the distinction 
between the pre-historic and the historic. But we 
may indicate approximately, on the basis of argu- 
ments founded on various observations, some sugges- 
tion of a date that may be correct within a couple of 
centuries. In the absence of written documents we 
can hardly hope to go further. 

The Fifth Period of the Bronze Age in Ireland ends 
with the introduction of the Iron culture. This 
culture, as we have already seen, there is every reason 
to believe was brought in by a race of invaders. So 
far as we can at present say, these invaders were in 
the culture of Middle La Tene, 2 the date of which is 
approximately fixed at 300-100 B.C. It is possible 
that they may have come earlier, but not much earlier. 
The farthest limit of date that we can fix for this 
event is 400 B.C. This then may be taken as the 
date of the end of the Fifth Period. 

1 The restoration, figured PRIA, xix, 751, is not accurate in this 
respect. Compare the jet necklace figured in Anderson's Scotland 
in Pagan Times, second series, fig. 55. Ornaments of similar 
form are sometimes found in steatite. 

2 For an explanation of this term see the companion volume on 
Ireland in Celtic Times. 



The First Period is to some extent dated by its 
partaking in the universal copper-age culture of 
Europe. The flat axe-head and the triangular dagger 
are found alike in Ireland anji in early Minoan sites 
in the Aegean. The time of the early Minoan period 
is fixed approximately to 3000-4000 B.C. ; this is the 
evidence of associated objects of Egyptian provenance, 
to which the decipherable Egyptian records permit 
us to assign a date : but it must be remembered that 
owing to a variety of causes the chronology of the 
early Egyptian dynasties is still very uncertain, and 
there are profound differences between the views of 
different authorities. But we can hardly be very far 
wrong if we accept a date not much later for the 
beginning of the Copper Age in Ireland. If we fixed 
it at about 2500 B.C., as a moderate estimate, time 
would be allowed for the copper culture to make its 
way across the continent to this remote island in the 

Thus we have 2100 years to distribute between the 
five periods, or an average of 420 years apiece. In 
apportioning these we have to remember that the 
earliest steps of civilisation are the slowest, and 
therefore the first two periods were probably longer 
than the others : also that the fourth period, which 
has left comparatively few distinctive remains, was 
probably the shortest. The following sub-division 
is, admittedly, arbitrary, but it is in accordance with 
these considerations, and may be taken as a working 
hypothesis till further discoveries shall supersede it : 


First period (vUc^ 600 years 2500 1900 

Second period ' 500 years 1900 1400 

Third period 400 years 1400 1000 

Fourth period 200 years i$oo 800 

Fifth period 400 years 800 400 

Behind the Bronze Age stretches the Stone Age, 
into an unknown antiquity. The Neolithic period 



proper begins in Central Europe with the end of the 
Daun, the last of the three minor returns of glacial 
conditions which closed the Ice Age. On the basis 
of geological arguments this is fixed by Penck and 
Bruckner, in their study Die Alpen im Eiszeitalter, to 
about 7000 B.C. Somewhat older than this is the 
Campignian culture, to which the Latharna gravels 
belong : we may perhaps assign to them a date of 
about 10000 B.C. But in discussing chronological 
problems, the. larger the figures with which we deal 
the greater must be the margin of error which we 
must allow. 





/> v 

-A -Kf p 

H/> * /> O 



I. Stone-age Pottery. II. Bronze-age Pottery. III. Pottery in 
the Sandhills. IV. Pottery from Tombs. V. Beakers. VI. 
Food-vessels. VII. Cinerary Urns. VIII. " Incense-cups." 

I. Pottery which can with assurance be attributed 
to the Stone Age is in Ireland very rare ; in fact, only 
a few such sherds are recorded. These represent 
globular bowls with round bases, ornamented with a 
semee of punctured dots. The illustration (fig. 73) 


represents the largest sherd of this type known ; it 
comes from Dun an Ghabhair, Co. Antrim, and is now 
in the Royal Irish Academy's collection. 

II. Of the bronze-age pottery of Ireland, as of that 
of Britain, and indeed of all northern Europe, the 
following are the general characteristics : 

(a). The clay is very coarse, and often extremely 



(b). The potter's wheel was never used ; the vessels 
were modelled with the hand, and are in consequence 
seldom more than approximately symmetrical. 

(c). The ornament is traced freehand, and is there- 
fore often very irregular and crooked. 

(d). The vessels were baked in an open fire, not in 
a kiln made specially for the purpose ; in consequence 
of this, the colour, which in general is of a buff shade 
tending to reddish, sometimes varies considerably in 
tone over the surface of a single vessel. 

(e). With the exception presently to be noticed, 
there is no trace of slip, glaze, burnishing, colour, or 
other applied ornament. The decoration consists 
exclusively of patterns engraved, or modelled in relief 
in the clay. These, however, are often very rich. 

III. The pottery found in the sandhills and other 
domestic sites is as a rule much broken ; often the 
sherds are so small that it is scarcely possible to 
suggest a restoration of the vessel to which they 
belonged. The late Rev. G. R. Buick, who possessed 
a large collection of sherds from Portstewart and from 
Whitepark Bay, essayed the task, by completing on 
paper the curvature indicated by the shape of the 
fragments. His restorations are shewn in fig. 74. 
The normal types are represented in the two central 
figures ; they consist of a rather flat and wide bowl 
or pan, the upper diameter of which was sometimes 
as much as 16 inches, and of a taller, more cylindrical 
vessel, that may be described as a milk-bowl. Other 
types, as the lowermost figure in the illustration, 
are indistinguishable from the pottery more usually 
associated with tomb-furniture ; indicating that the 
cinerary urn was such in virtue of its use, not necessar- 
ily of its form in other words, that the specific types 
of funeral pottery were really domestic vessels which 
happened to be suitable for the special purpose indi- 
cated. Dr. Buick also notes 1 that certain of the 
vessels seem to have been " first roughly made, and 

1 JRSAI, xxi, p. 440. 










then when partially dry coated or smeared over with 
a thin layer of an extremely fine paste, to make them 
less porous, and give them a finish " : he also suggests 
that the pieces of haematite found sometimes in shore 
sites were used for this purpose (and not for personal 
decoration), and that the grindstones also found in 
these settlements were used for reducing the paste, 
thus applied as a slip. The figure at the top of the 
illustration, from Dun Droma, is remarkable for the 
two lug handles. Another specimen of domestic bowl, 
also from Dun Droma, is shewn in fig. 75 . l It is 
globular below, breaking its curve by a set-off about 
half-way up. A similar vessel, which I judge to 
be about the same size/ was found in fragments at 


A straight-sided bowl, from Whitepark Bay (fig. 76), 
was found by Mr. Knowles. 3 

1 Rev. L. Hasse, Objects from the Sandhills at Dundrum, and 
their Antiquity. JRSAI, xxiv, i. 

2 PRIA, xxv, 197. There is no scale on the illustration, and the 
appended note that it is " size " is ambiguous whether linear 
or areal is not stated. I presume the latter. 

3 PRIA, xxii, p. 386, fig. 6. 


Dr. Buick, in the paper already alluded to, remarks 
that the sherds from Whitepark Bay shew marks of 
burning, but, contrary to what we might have expected, 
these marks are on the inner surface, not the outer 
surface, of the pottery. This seems to indicate their 
use as cooking-vessels, but that the cookery consisted 
of baking with the help of hot stones rather than 
boiling over a fire. 

In certain of the shore settlements on the coast of 
Co. Clare lumps of fine clay, such as might have 
been used in the manufacture of pottery, have been 

IV. Four different forms of vessel appear in the 
bronze-age tomb pottery of Great Britain : beakers, 
food-vessels, cinerary urns, and the so-called " incense- 
cups." In the skilful hands of the Hon. John (now 
Lord) Abercromby, 1 the types and ornamentation of 
these different vessels have been made to yield much 
information as to the distribution of peoples in the 
Bronze Age. 

V. We cannot here enter fully into the subject as 
treated at large in the work referred to ; we must 
confine ourselves to the subject of pottery as found in 
Ireland. The first important fact for us to notice is 
the almost total absence of the beaker. The beaker 
is a vessel which may be said in general to have an 
outline shaped like a rather long capital S 2 a jug, in 
British pottery usually without a handle, having a 
globular body, the sides of which curve upward into 
a hollow neck. This type of vessel is fairly common 
in England and in the south of Scotland ; but from 
Ireland only two specimens are recorded one 
from the great earn of Mount Stewart, more fully 
described on a later page, and the other, a mere 
fragment or two, from Co. Sligo. 

1 See his sumptuous work, A Study of the Bronze-age Pottery 
of Great Britain and Ireland, and its associated Grave-goods (Oxford, 

2 " In general," because there are a number of subordinate 
types and varieties, for an enumeration and illustrations of which 
we may refer the reader to Lord Abercromby 's work. 


The reason for this absence from Ireland of the 
beaker is interesting. By a comparison of types, and 
by a consideration of the probable evolution by which 
they developed, Lord Abercromby has shewn that the 
beaker was first introduced into England from the 
Continent, somewhere on the southern shore of the 
island, and about the beginning of the Bronze Age. 
It is associated, in interments, with people of the 
brachycephalic race to which the introduction of the 
Bronze-age culture into England is due ; and the 
geographical distribution of the successive evolution- 
ary types of the beaker throughout England gives us 
a clue to aid us in tracing the progress of the brachy- 
cephalic colonists. We have already seen that this 
people never made their way into Ireland ; hence 
their specific form of pottery was never introduced 
into that country. The two specimens that have come 
to light may, as Lord Abercromby suggests, have 
been the work of captive women, taken in some raid 
of the people of Ireland on a shore-dwelling community 
of Britain. We say captive women, because the com- 
paratively small size of the hands, as indicated by 
groups of finger-prints sometimes preserved upon 
the sides of the vessels, shews that the manufacture 
of utensils of pottery was one of the numerous duties 
of the women of the household. 

VI. On the other hand, food-vessels are very 
common, and there are several different types in use 
in Ireland. These types differ from one another in 
the treatment of the sides of the vessel ; the base is 
always flat, and the diameter may be as much as, or a 
little more than, double the diameter of the base : 
though sometimes the top and bottom of the vessel 
are much more nearly equal in size. The outlines of 
the different types is shewn in fig. 77 : they are four 
in number. 

i. Cylindrical vessels. This form is nowhere very 
common, and in Ireland is very rare. Abercromby 
figures but one example, of unknown provenance ; 
and this is rather barrel-shaped than cylindrical, as it 


has a distinct entasis. This vessel is elaborately 

2. Oval vessels. This form, on the other hand, is 
a characteristically Irish type, having no counterpart 
in Great Britain. The base is more rounded than in 
the other types (though it is sometimes flattened) ; 
the sides curve regularly, like a pair of parentheses, 
and thus, although there is no definite shoulder, such 
as we see in the fourth type, the diameter of the mouth 
is less than the maximum diameter of the body of 
the vessel. So far as the recorded finds go, this form 
seems to be confined to the northern half of Ireland ; 


it penetrates into Scotland, where a few examples 
have been found one more illustration of the indis- 
soluble archaeological links between Scotland and 

The standard form, with unbroken curve, seems 
to be the oldest. But the form taken by the ornamen- 
tation led to the diversifying of the surface of the 
vessel with horizontal grooves ; these developed 


further into a raised band emphasising the widest 
part of the bowl. This band, in its turn, breaks into 
ridges and grooves, and at last a form is reached 
difficult to distinguish from the shouldered fourth type. 

3. Bowl-shaped vessels. In this form the mouth is 
the widest part of the vessel. The shape ranges from 
the curved form of a sugar-bowl to the conical straight- 
sided form of a flower pot ; but the type is every- 
where rare, especially so in Ireland. 

4. Shouldered vessels. To this group the great 
majority of food-vessels belong, both in Ireland and 
in the neighbouring countries. There are a number 
of subordinate types, depending on the treatment of 
the shoulder and of the mouth. The mouth may be 
(a) plain, (b) bevelled internally, (c) bevelled exter- 
nally, (d) everted, or (e) moulded. The shoulder may 
be marked by (a) a simple angle, (b) one raised ridge, 
(c) more than one raised ridge, (d) one groove, (e) 
more than one groove, (/) a groove interrupted at 
intervals by stops, which may be (i) perforated from 
side to side, or (ii) not so perforated, and (g) more 
than one groove interrupted by stops. These different 
forms are shewn in the diagram, fig. 77. 

But the elaborate ornamentation of food-vessels is 
their most striking feature. In this respect the pottery 
of Scotland and of Ireland far surpasses that of South 
Britain. It is not improbable that for this difference 
also the brachycephalic invaders of South Britain are 
responsible ; that although they actually introduced 
the Bronze culture, they were a drag on the wheels of 
its artistic development. 

The ornamentation of bronze-age pottery in these 
islands never takes the form of the representation of 
natural objects. This is a very noteworthy fact ; for 
the combination of dots and strokes which, for a child, 
represents the human face, might seem a more interest- 
ing and an easier subject than the combinations of 
geometrical abstractions which are actually used for 
decorative purposes by the potters. It is highly 
probable that this absence of naturalistic forms is due 
to a religious prohibition or tabu, in some degree 


analogous to that prevalent among modern Muslims. 
To represent a figure, human or animal, might involve 
the invocation of a supernatural being in a similar 
form ; and his immediate presence might be very 
inconvenient to the maker or the owner of the vessel 
bearing this ill-omened decoration. But it must not 
be overlooked that we cannot assert with assurance 
that the decoration of the pottery which seems to us 
merely " abstract," was necessarily without a concrete 
meaning to the potters themselves. They may have 
attached to the motives which they combined into 
their patterns meanings, symbolical or magical, which 
we can no longer hope to recover. 

The vessel having been formed, and while its clay 
was still soft, was ornamented by means of one or 
other of the following instruments : the finger-tip or 
finger-nail ; a point (probably of wood), sharp or 
blunt ; a slip of wood with a notched edge, curved or 
straight ; a cord of twisted strands ; a rod with a fine 
cord wrapped round it ; a cord looped into a chain ; 
or a flat slip of bone with a triangular tip. The orna- 
ment of food-vessels usually covers the whole surface 
unlike the beakers, in which it is frequently interrupted. 
It may be essentially vertical or horizontal in direc- 
tion, though the latter is the commoner : or there may 
be a combination of vertical and horizontal patterns 
in one vessel. The decoration may be simple or com- 
pound, continuous or metopic. Metopic patterns are 
an Irish speciality. The name is adapted from that 
of the metopes which break up the frieze of a Doric 
temple, and implies an alteration of ornament in one 
horizontal zone. Thus, suppose a zone to be orna- 
mented with a series of zig-zags, which might be 
unbroken, as in (#), or grouped as in (b) ; such an 

b r 


ornament would be called continuous. But if another 
pattern alternated with the group of zigzags, as in (c), 
the ornament would be metopic. Among metopic 
forms one of the most characteristic of Irish patterns 
is the sunk square, breaking a zone into equal spaces. 
The surface of the square is treated with dot and line 
ornament, and the spaces between the squares deco- 
rated in a different way. 

The motives of which the simple ornament of food- 
vessels is made up are as follows (fig. 78) : 

Dots, impressed with a point, scattered irregularly 
over an area of the surface of the vessel, or else grouped 
so as to form a regular figure. 

Lines, which may be made by means of any of the 
instruments enumerated above, and which may there- 
fore be continuous scratches or rows of discontinuous 
indentations, according to the method adopted. 
These lines may be horizontal, surrounding the whole 
vessel, or vertical, or oblique, forming groups covering 
a zone of the vessel. 

Zigzags and herring-bones, running vertically or 
horizontally, formed of combinations of oblique lines. 

Lozenges and saltires. 

Basket-work, formed by filling the triangles of a 
zigzag with short parallel strokes, thus 

This pattern always runs horizontally. 

Curvilinear patterns are rare, but sometimes rows 
of ovals are found. 

Compound ornament consists of a combination of 
the simple motives enumerated above. These are 
frequent in Irish work, where they are sometimes of 
great elaboration. An effective form of ornamentation, 
often found, consists of broad zigzags or saltires 
left plain, against a background elaborately deco- 
rated with combinations of lines ; or the reverse, 


the ornamental surface shaded, against a plain back- 
ground ; or, a third form, treating the ornamental 
surfaces and the backgrounds with different forms 
of shading. 

The bone slip with triangular tip is often used in 
forming compound patterns. By pressing the tip into 
the clay with point alternately upward and downward, 
a zigzag or a series of saltires will be thrown into 
apparent relief, according as the points are or are not 
opposed to one another. The spaces between the 
saltires thus produced can be treated in some other 
way : thus there is an example 1 in which they bear 
small circles, each shaded with two horizontal strokes. 

The above analysis is necessarily imperfect. A book 
the size of this volume could easily be filled with 
illustrations of Irish bronze-age pottery, and with a 
discussion of the different forms of ornament with 


which it is decorated : indeed every chapter of the 
present work could be expanded into a monograph 
of several hundred pages. We must be content here 
with indicating general principles. 

1 Figured in Abercromby, op. cit., vol. i, plate xlix, fig. 325. 


The purpose of the food-vessel was what its name 
implies a receptacle for food. When it was depo- 
sited in a tomb it was intended for food provision for 
the deceased, to supply his spirit with sustenance in 


the other world. But in Ireland the food-vessel is 
often used as a cinerary urn, and contains the ashes 
of the dead. 


VII. Although cinerary urns are best known as 
receptacles for the burnt remains of human bodies, 
the discovery of fragments of similar vessels among 


the domestic deposits of Whitepark Bay shews that 
they were not invented or made for this specific 
purpose, but were simply domestic utensils found 


appropriate for such use by reason of their size. It is 
the size which distinguishes cinerary urns from food- 
vessels, for in shape vessels of the two classes often 


resemble one another. While food-vessels roughly 
average about 8 or 9 inches in height, cinerary urns 
range, as a rule, between an inch or two under, and 


a few inches over, a foot in height. A magnificent 
example, from Gleann Bhile, near lubhar Cinn 
Tragha, Co. Down, now in Belfast Museum, is aft. 
i in. high. 

There is not such a great variety in shape among 
cinerary urns as there is among food-vessels. They 
may be classed as (a) cylindrical or barrel-shaped, 

(b) shouldered, like large shouldered food-vessels, or 

(c) double-conical, in which there is a flat base, sides 
expanding upwards (either V-wise, or with curved 
sides like a sugar-bowl) to about two-thirds of the 
height ; there is then a sudden projection all round, 
above which the sides contract to a mouth approxi- 
mately of the same width as the base (fig. 79). 


The ornamentation of cinerary urns is, as a rule, 
confined to the upper portion of the vessel (fig. 80). It 
is much less interesting and elaborate, even in Ireland, 
than that of food-vessels ; and, from a technical point 
of view, the construction of the cinerary urns is also 
inferior. In dealing with the large masses of clay 
with which the urns are made, the potter did not, as 
she did with the food-vessels, model the whole vessel 
at once ; she made a number of flat cakes of the clay, 
irregularly round in shape, and somewhat larger than 
the area of the palms of her hands ; she then fitted 
these together, thus building up the sides of the urn. 
Although she took pains to smooth over the lines of 
junction of the separate pieces of clay, these are 




generally traceable in the finished urn. Rope-patterns, 
modelled separately, and then attached to the surface, 
forming decoration in relief, are not uncommon on 
cinerary urns (as in the fragment in fig. SOA), though 
seldom if ever found in food-vessels. A sherd from 


near Magh Cromdha, Co. Cork, published by Sir 
Bertram Windle, 1 has a raised pattern upon it resem- 
bling a sprig of a plant more than anything else. This 
is quite unique in Irish pottery (fig. 81). 

VIII. The last of the four classes of tomb -pottery, 
the so-called " incense-cup," is very difficult to 
explain. There is nothing to say in favour of the 
name, except that it is established, and it is well not 
to disturb existing nomenclature, even for the better, 
unless some advantage is gained which will notably 
counterbalance the inevitable confusion. We may 
keep the term " incense-cup," if we agree that it is 
merely an algebraical symbol for an unknown quantity. 
Lord Abercromby calls them "pygmy cups," probably 
on the analogy of the pygmy flints of the Tardenoisian 

, xlii, 169, ff. 


culture. Perhaps a better name than either would be 
" ritual cups," for they seem to have had some use 
in the burial rites : but as we know nothing as to the 
procedure of a bronze-age funeral, we can only con- 
jecture the nature of this use. There is a large variety 
of form in this class ; all, however, agree in being 


smaller than any specimen of the other classes of 
pottery. Some are like small food-vessels ; others 
resemble modern porridge bowls on a minute scale ; 
others again, are perforated all round as though they 
had been intended for carrying a spark of fire. A 
not impossible purpose, indeed, might have been to 
serve as receptacles for a spark by which fire could be 


carried, it may be from some sacred perpetual flame, 
to ignite the funeral pyre. These cups are often 
found in tombs in association with the ashes of the 

?: S te F. F E 5 K SL C 5 ;".- ^ % . 3 : 

?. tfli'^S^gf '" :/ ? ?2^ 


dead, being frequently deposited inside the urn, upon 
the ashes. In one case incense cups were found, 
actually containing ashes 1 ; but they are usually 


1 JRSAI, xix, 19. 



I. The Limitations of Bronze-age Ornament. II. The Distinction 
between Ornament and Symbolism. III. The Use of Ornament 
in the Bronze Age. IV. Petroglyphs. V. The " Alphabet " 
of Bronze-age Symbolism in Ireland. VI. Some examples of 
the Use of the Symbols. VII. The possible Interpretation 
of the Symbols. 

I. Twice in the preceding pages we have touched 
on the subject of the present chapter in speaking 
of gold ornaments, and in describing the decoration 
of bronze-age pottery. In both classes of object there 
is material for studying the principles of bronze-age 
ornament. We have seen that this consists of combi- 
nations of geometrical motives only, and that natural- 
istic forms are rather conspicuously avoided, probably 
because of some religious or superstitious prohibition. 
The artists who had attained to so high a degree of 
technical skill as the goldsmiths' work testifies, might 
have been expected to derive inspiration from the 
human and animal life around them ; and their 
avoidance of so doing seems to indicate that they had 
been restrained by some such external force. 

II. This chapter is headed " Ornament and Symbol- 
ism." These two subjects must be considered 
together. They overlap to such a degree that the 
line of demarcation between them is very difficult to 
draw, if, indeed, it be not quite impossible to do so. 
We have already observed that the apparently abstract 
patterns upon the pottery need not necessarily have 
been abstractions to their designers. It is a common- 
place among the observers of nature-folk that patterns 



and designs which, for Europeans, have no concrete 
meaning, are for the natives full of significance ; they 
can interpret them as a Chinese scholar can decipher 
the crabbed characters which to the eyes of ignorance 
look like mere random labyrinths of strokes and 
curves. While it would be absurd to read symbolism 
into every scratch on the surface of a pot, we must 
always be prepared for the possibility that marks which 
to us seem merely decorative were at one time capable 
of a more recondite explanation. The key to this 
explanation is however lost all but certainly, for 
ever : and we are therefore obliged to draw a rather 
arbitrary line between devices which we may reason- 
ably consider as symbolic and those which may be 
treated as pure ornament. In cases of doubt it is 
better to avoid any theory of symbolism. 

III. That ornament was applied in the Bronze Age 
to the decoration of perishable objects, such as textiles 
or utensils of wood, we cannot doubt. But we can 
speak only of such objects as the corrosion of time 
has allowed to survive. These are objects in metal 
(gold and bronze), pottery, and the surfaces of stones 
and rocks. Of the first two of these metal and 
pottery we have already spoken. The decoration 
of metal is always much more carefully and regularly 
executed than is that of pottery, for the obvious reason 
that the working of gold and of bronze was in the 
hands of professional craftsmen, while the pottery was 
the handiwork of the domestic amateur of each house- 
hold. Thus the decoration engraved or stamped 
upon metal is more instructive in determining the 
history of decorative patterns than is the ornamen- 
tation of pottery, rich and varied though the latter 
undoubtedly is. In the early periods of the Bronze 
Age rectilinear patterns prevail combinations of par- 
allel straight lines, or else such figures as triangles, 
lozenges, or squares, used singly or in chequers. The 
curvilinear forms, spirals and circles, appear later. 
Thus, we never find curvilinear patterns decorating 
lunulae, which are of the Second Period ; but on the 


gorgets of the Fifth Period groups of concentric circles 
are frequent decorations. 

It is not, however, necessarily to be inferred that 
curvilinear forms were unfamiliar to the artists of the 
earlier periods. The decoration of the lunulae is 
engraved ; that of the flat flanged celts is punched 
with a straight-edged punch. These technical pro- 
cesses necessarily induce a preference for straight 
lines, curved lines being, in comparison, difficult to 
draw by such means. When the goldsmiths learned 
to stamp patterns with dies upon their handiwork, 
curved ornament became more usual. Chronological 
inferences based on an a priori theory of the evolution 
of ornaments must be treated with caution. As we 
shall presently see, the spiral is an important element 
in the decorations of bronze-age stone monuments, 
such as New Grange ; and it has been inferred that 
the date of that monument must be brought down to 
a time when, it is assumed, the spiral motive might 
have reached Ireland from the Aegean basin. The 
spiral motive is an all-important element in the deco- 
rative art of the ancient bronze-age empire of Crete ; 
and if we are to regard this art as the parent of central 
and northern European bronze-age culture, we cannot 
admit the use of the spiral in any part of Europe at a 
time before it became prominent in Crete and in the 
countries directly influenced by Cretan artists. But, 
as the present writer has endeavoured to shew else- 
where, 1 it is a fundamental error to consider Crete as 
the parent of European civilisation. The relations are 
rather fraternal, Crete having attained to its superior 
eminence because it basked in the light of Egyptian 
culture. Thus the spiral may appear anywhere in 
Europe independently of Crete ; we find it, indeed, 
at Butmir in Bosnia in the Neolithic Age ; and the 
presence of the spiral among the decorations of New 
Grange is thus no obstacle to our dating that monu- 
ment as its architecture would lead us to date it 
comparatively early in the Bronze Age. 

1 PRIA, xxxiv, C, p. 383, ff . 


IV. We may now pass to the ornamentation of sur- 
faces of stone : this subject we have not yet discussed. 
The stones treated may be rocks, boulders, standing 
stones, or parts of larger constructions such as dolmens 
or tumuli. 

The carving is always incised on the surface of the 
stone. It is (i) engraved, (ii) pocked in line, or (iii) 
pocked in surface. That is to say, the pattern may be 
cut with a chisel, or else it may be crushed out with a 
sharp-pointed hammer-like tool, worked either along 
the lines of the design, or else over the whole surface 
surrounded by those lines. In some cases both forms 
of technique are found on one and the same stone, 
apparently representing successive applications of the 
ornament ; and it is interesting to notice that the 
later work sometimes goes out of its way to spare the 
earlier work, as though the symbols were too sacred 
to be disturbed. Professor 1'Abbe Breuil, of the Paris 
Institut de Paleontologie humaine, who examined almost 
all the important specimens of Irish bronze-age art in 
stone during a visit paid to the country in Easter 1920, 
determined, by an observation of such superpositions 
of design, that the engraved linear patterns are the 
oldest, the pocked linear the later, and the pocked 
superficial the latest. 

There is one solitary example of coloured decoration 
of stone remaining in Ireland, discovered by Professor 
Breuil during the same tour, in one of the earns of 
Loch Craoibhe. 

The random dispersal of the figures over the surface 
of the stone, and the fact that the decorations consist 
of endless repetitions of a limited number of signs, 
combine to indicate that, in these petroglyphic pat- 
terns, we have to deal with a system of symbolism, 
not of mere decoration. The bronze-age artists had 
a well developed feeling for the rhythmical nature of 
decoration, and for the necessity of some approxima- 
tion to symmetry. A single glance at any bronze- age 
pot, or at a gold ornament with engraved decoration, 
will be enough to prove this. The artist worked to 


a scheme, and each element of the design is planned 
as part of a symmetrical and consistent whole. But 
on the rock surfaces, which are decorated with certain 
figures, there is no such symmetry. The designs are 
peppered over the decorated area with no apparent 
relation to one another. There is no scheme of design, 
even when the whole stone is covered with sculpture ; 
so far as we can see, the single elements have to 
be taken by themselves, without reference to any 
others. Both rectilinear and curvilinear forms are 
used in the stone carvings ; but they are treated 
quite differently from analogous figures in metal and 
pottery. Even when we have a series of triangles or of 
lozenges in chequers, or groups of spirals, the effect 
produced is rather that of a multitude of repetitions 
of a simple pattern, than of a single composite design. 
Again, certain figures are frequently found in the stone 
carvings which are never used in metal-work or pottery. 
Above all, the prohibition of natural (human or animal) 
forms is not rigidly observed in stone carvings. 

V. The principal elements used in the bronze-age 
stone carvings of Ireland, the " Alphabet of bronze- 
age Symbolism," as we may venture to term it, are 
shewn in the accompanying diagram (fig. 83), and may 
thus be enumerated : 


(i). More or less straight lines ; not very common. 

(2). Zigzags, vertical or horizontal, single or in 
groups. Herring-bones. 

(3). Triangles. 

(4). Trapezia. 

(5). Lozenges, plain. 

(6). Lozenges, ornamented, either by quartering 
(with lines joining the angles), or by drawing another 
lozenge within. The background may be wholly or 
partly pocked away. 

(7). Crosses and saltires. 


(8). Cup-hollows. 
(9). Spirals. 

(10). Groups of concentric circles, usually with a 
cup-hollow at the centre. 

(n). Similar groups, with a radial channel cutting 
through the surrounding circles. 

(12). Circles with radii marked in various patterns. 

(13). Ovals. 

(14). Segments of concentric circles. 

In addition to these there are a number of variant 
forms, of compound designs, and of groups of appa- 
rently random lines, scarcely capable of classification. 
There are also figures which seem to represent human 
faces and animals. 

VI. We cannot here give a full description of all 
the existing examples of bronze-age petroglyphs in 
Ireland ; like the pottery, such a work would form 
ample material for a separate monograph. The 
following selection contains the most important : 

I. Cluain Fionn-locha, King's Co. At this place 
there is a slab which is one of the most important pre- 
historic monuments in Ireland (fig. 84). It does not 
properly belong to the bronze-age series ; its analogies 
are entirely neolithic. It measures Qft. Qms. by 8ft 3ins. 
and is covered with incisions which are (i) cup-marks, 
(2) foot-shaped indentations, (3) crosses, and (4) marks 
consisting of vertical strokes with a circle at or near 
the top ; in some the stroke projects above the circle, 
and is capped with a knob. 

The close analogies which this stone presents with 
certain very early Neolithic sculptures in Spain (ana- 
logies which Professor~Breuil was the first to point 
out) enable us to interpret these marks to some extent. 
The marks enumerated above as No. 4 are certainly 
stylised figures of men ; the knobbed tops represent- 
ing their heads, the circles their arms in the attitude 
called " akimbo." One or two of them seem to hold 


axes or other weapons. The cross-like figures are 
also probably men perhaps representing men of 
another tribe. It is noteworthy that the looped-men 
figures are confined to one side of the stone, the 
cross-men figures to the other side ; and that the foot- 
marks are also for the greater part confined to the 
side with the cross-men. It is perhaps not very far- 
fetched to see in this most remarkable, and in the 


islands of northern Europe unique, sculpture, a record 
(such as the Bushmen of Africa have left us painted 
in their caves) of a battle between the " loop-men " 
and the " cross-men," where the former put the latter 
to flight. The cup-marks scattered among the " cross- 
men " may even indicate the number of severed heads ! 
In any case, the similarity, not to say identity, 
between this sculpture and the Spanish petroglyphs 
and paintings which recent research has brought to 


light, is highly suggestive. It indicates a direct com- 
munication between Spain and Ireland, not merely 
during the early stages of the Bronze Age (to which 
the halberds are a testimony) but even in the remoter 
times of the Neolithic Age. 

II. Loch Craoibhe, Co. Meath. The greatest series 
of bronze-age sculptures is certainly that to be seen 
in the earns of the ancient cemetery capping the hills 
near Oldcastle. Circles, spirals, zigzags, and other 
rectilinear and curvilinear figures abound. We give 
here one example (fig. 85) ; a long series of very 
accurate drawings will be found reproduced in the 


Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 
vol. xxvii, p. 294 ff. 

III. Brugh na Boinne, Co. Meath. In the great 
cemetery near Droichead Atha there are three out- 
standing tumuli, Dubhadh, New Grange, and 
Cnoghbha. The last of these is still unopened ; 
the two former contain chambers of considerable size, 
built of large stones, many of which are covered with 
spirals, concentric circles, zigzags, and other symbolic 
figures. The chambers are more fully described in 



a later chapter. 1 One stone from the surrounding 
kerb of New Grange is here shewn (fig. 86). 


IV. Castle Archdale, Deerpark, Co. Fermanagh. 
This is apparently a single grave, lined with stones, 
which are covered with sculpture. One of the figures 
seems intended to represent an animal. I visited 
the site in Easter 1920, but was unable to verify the 
drawings (due to W. F. Wakeman), 2 as the stones are 
uprooted, placed face downward, and almost entirely 

V. Seiseadh Coille Greine, Co. Tyrone. There is 
here a tumulus with a stone chamber, the stones 
covered with spirals and other ornament. The only 
extant illustration of this remarkable monument is 
totally inadequate. 3 There are ten stones lining the 

1 A large number of photographs and drawings of the sculpture 
will be found in the late Mr. George Coffey's monograph, New 
Grange and Other Incised Tumuli in Ireland (Dublin, 1912). 

2 Published in JRSAI, vol. xv, p. 543 ff. 

3 Since the above was written Mr. M. C. Burkitt has published 
photographs of some of the carved stones in his Pre-history 
(Cambridge University Press, 1921). 


chamber, about 3 feet in height. Beginning at the 
left-hand side of the entrance, the first has no sculp- 
ture ; the second has three irregular squares, placed 
concentrically ; the third has a faint spiral and a 
doubtful " feathering " of short strokes ; the fourth 
has a fine spiral ; the fifth has a broken spiral, and a 
peculiar labyrinth-like design, shaped like a lozenge 
with the upper oblique sides crossing at the top angle ; 
the sixth has a magnificent pattern consisting of a 
group of concentric circles, surrounded by groups of 
concentric semicircles ; the seventh has one cup- 
mark ; the eighth has one group of concentric circles ; 
and the ninth and tenth stones are blank. In 
addition, there is a single stone standing in a 
neighbouring field, the face of which is divided into 
two parts by a diagonal row of cup -marks ; on both 
sides there are groups of cup-marks, spirals, con- 
centric circles, and star-like radiating figures. 1 

VI. Cnoc Baine, Co. Tyrone. A similar tumulus, 
now erased, exposing the stones of the central chamber. 
Some of these bear groups of spirals and zigzag 
patterns. In the middle of one of these (fig. SyA) 
sculptured surfaces there is undoubtedly a human 

VII. Cnoc na Seamar, Co. Sligo. In the immediate 
neighbourhood of the great dolmen-field of Ceathramh- 
adh M6r, three or four miles from the town of Sligo, 
there are the remains of a similar stone-lined grave ; 
no trace of a covering tumulus remains. The sculpture 
is rather late in type, approximating to the form of 
La Tene decoration ; it is probably the latest of the 
series. One of the stones appears to bear the stylised 
figure of a woman (fig. 873). 

Of the numerous stones and rock surfaces bearing 
cup-and-circle patterns, which do not differ essen- 
tially from those found in England, Scotland, and 
elsewhere in Northern Europe, we may mention 
remarkable examples at Ath an Charbaid, Co. Kerry 

1 This stone is also figured in Mr. Coffey's book. 


(fig. 88) ; a rock-surface near the fort of Steidhg, 
in the same county ; and another at the other end 
of the country, at Magh-bhfiadh, Co. Donegal. 


Mention should also be made of a remarkable stand- 
ing stone at Cuan an Bhainbh, Co. Wexford (fig. 89). 
This is a smooth pillar, Qft. 6ins. high. On one side 
there are three cups making an inverted triangle ; it 
is probable that these represent a human face. The 
next side has also some cup-marks. On the third side 
there has been an Ogham inscription, now totally 
defaced. The fourth side is blank. The stone has 
thus had a history in three stages : it has been a 
bronze-age idol, adapted later as the memorial stone 
of a pagan chieftain of the late Iron Age, whose 



memorial inscription was destroyed as being heathenish 
by an iconoclast of the early Christian period. 1 

VIII. This leads us to a fuller consideration of the 
meaning to be assigned to these remarkable sculptures. 

The representations of human faces, human figures, 
and animal figures except those on the slab at Cluain 
Fionn-locha, which lies apart as representing an 
earlier phase of art cannot be dissociated from the 
representations, or rather suggestions, of human faces 
and figures in such relics as the famous drums of 
limestone from Folkton Moor, Yorkshire ; the neo- 
lithic burial caves of the Marne region ; the rude 
idols found by the brothers Siret in Spain ; and 
similar figures. These are all found associated with 
sepulture ; and we may assume, without undue levity, 
that these figures depict some deity of the dead. The 
aniconic pillar-stones found in a burial earn at 
Ceathramhadh Caol, Co. Sligo, in New Grange, 
and in Baile na hAite, Co. Down, as will be 
described in a following chapter, are also probably 
figures of the same or an analogous divinity. The 
figure at Cnoc na Seamar seems to represent a woman, 
like the sculptures in the Marne caves : an indication 
that the divinity of the dead is a goddess. 

The stone at Cuan an Bhainbh is of a different type. 
There is no evidence that it was originally a sepulchral 
pillar ; more probably are we to regard it as an idol, 
bearing the face of the divinity immanent within it. 
Its subsequent adaptation as a memorial pillar stone 
does not concern us at the present stage of our study ; 
but it is relevant to notice that the Christian who 
destroyed the Ogham doubtless because it derived 
the descent of the deceased from some Celtic god- 
was ignorant of the meaning of the three cup-marks 
on the opposite face ; otherwise he would have cer- 
tainly defaced them also. In the chapter on Religion 
(Chap. IX) we shall have something further to say 
about such standing stones. 

1 For the destruction of Ogham inscriptions reference may be 
made to the companion volume on Celtic Ireland. 


With regard to the other symbols, the most striking 
fact about cup-and-circle groups is their universality. 
Not only in Scotland, which, as cannot be too often 
said, forms one archaeological province with Ireland, 
but in remote countries such as America and the 
islands of the South Seas, have petroglyphs been found 
bearing extraordinary resemblance to those on the 
Irish stones. 1 The ceremonial drawings made by the 
Arunta of Central Australia are also practically identical 
in appearance with some of the Irish symbols. 2 The 
latter are closely connected with totemistic ceremonies, 
and the designs are purely conventional representa- 
tions of various parts of the totem animal, such as 
could not be explained without the aid of a native 
interpreter. Remembering this, we must be cautious 
in endeavouring to interpret the symbolism of tribes 
extinct long generations ago. 

A meaning may, however, be assigned to a few of 
the symbols in the " Alphabet " with at least a show 
of reason. The triangles and trapezia resemble flat 
axe-heads ; and remembering that quite unmistakable 
representations of flat axes, hafted, figure among the 
petroglyphs of certain monuments in France, we may 
perhaps be still on fairly solid ground if we suppose 
that this resemblance is not unintentional. The axe 
or hammer is the instrument of the thunder-god ; 
and so we may interpret the zigzags as his light- 
nings, or (less probably) the waters of his storms. 
For the lozenges, I have elsewhere suggested the 
interpretation, from which notwithstanding some 
adverse criticism I have seen no reason to withdraw, that 
they represent the head of the bull-roarer, the sacred 
instrument almost universal in primitive mysteries. 3 
Concentric circles with a radial line closely resemble the 
labyrinthine patterns which find their highest expres- 
sion on the coins of Crete ; and so these may perhaps 

1 As a single example see M. Archambault, Les megalithes neo- 
caUdoniens (L'Anthropologie, xii, p. 257). 

2 See Spencer and Gillen, The Northern Tribes of Central Aus- 
tralia, p. 737, ff. 

3 PRIA, xxxiv, C, p. 387. 


suggest a place for ceremonial dances, and thus the 
sacred dance itself. This interpretation also I have 
discussed at greater length elsewhere (loc. cit. in last 
footnote). At Hollywood, Co. Wicklow, there is a stone 
with a device engraved upon it quite remarkably re- 
sembling the Cretan Labyrinthine pattern (fig. 90). 



The compound figures, represented diagramatically 
on fig. 83, may possibly be interpreted (a) at New 
Grange, as a rude animal figure : it has, however, 
been compared, with very doubtful propriety, to the 
Scandinavian ship -figures ; (b) at Loch Craoibhe : 
can this possibly be meant to represent a planet circling 
round its primary ? (c) at New Grange : this device 
I have elsewhere endeavoured to explain as a dance 
(indicated by the triple invecked oval) round a stone 
circle (represented in plan) accompanied by the bull- 
roarer (represented by the central lozenge) ; (d) again, 
at Loch Craoibhe (see also fig. 85). This possibly 
represents the rays streaming downward from the sun. 

But the circular ornaments are, on the whole, less 
easy to explain, even conjecturally, than the rectilinear 
figures. Some of them may be figures of the sun, 
moon, or other heavenly bodies ; but in the Australian 
figures reproduced by Spencer and Gillen (loc. cit.) 
precisely similar groups of concentric circles denote 
wells, trees, and women, according to the exigencies of 
the tradition which the designs are intended to illus- 
trate ; and there may have been no greater definiteness 
in the interpretation of bronze-age symbols. 

Recently it has been suggested that pairs of spirals, 
side by side (fig. 83, ix), are intended to represent a 
pair of human (or divine) eyes. Such pairs are frequent 
in the sepulchral chambers, and if this explanation, 
which is very reasonable, be sound, then this device 
takes its place with the other naturalistic figures 
enumerated a page or two ante. It is easy to imagine 
the terror which would be inspired in a bronze-age 
thief who dared to penetrate into the sacred chamber, 
by seeing these gigantic spiral " eyes " glaring at him 
through the gloom. 

In Aegean art the decorative groups of concentric 
circles are derived by degeneration from those con- 
taining spirals. Spirals and concentric circles are 
rarely found together in Irish bronze-age art, which 
may possibly indicate a similar evolution ; but we 
cannot be sure of this. The technique of the sculpture 


in the chamber of Dubhadh is older than that in the 
adjacent chamber of New Grange ; but concentric 
circles dominate in the former monument, and are all 
but absent from the latter. 

All that we can say with any assurance with regard 
to the interpretation of petroglyphs is that their close 
connexion with sepulture shews that in some unknown 
form and in some unknown tongue they express the 
universal prayer Lucem Tuam et requiem dona Domine 
huicce sepulto ! 



I. Nature of the present Study. II. The double Strand in the 
Population. III. Nature of a social Organisation. IV. Kinship. 
V. Matriarchal Systems. VI. Evidences for Matriarchy. VII. 
Polygamy. VIII. Complexity of primitive social Organisa- 
tions : Exogamy. IX. Totemism. X. The Growth and De- 
velopment of the Pre-Celtic Tribes. XI. The Language of 
the Pre-Celtic Tribes. 

I. The subjects that have occupied us thus far 
have been of a tangible nature. We have had before 
us the implements and utensils of stone and bronze 
and pottery, and have been able to deduce something 
of the process of evolution which the types they re- 
presented had undergone. We have now to turn to 
a harder task. We have to look behind the tools, 
which we can see and handle, to their long- vanished 
makers ; and we have to endeavour, so far as may be 
possible, to reconstruct their methods of thought, and 
their outlook on the world with which they found 
themselves surrounded. 

Such a task may well seem hopeless. We may dig 
the mouldering bones from the graves, and measure 
and classify them ; but we cannot fit a tongue to them 
which will voice the thoughts that their owners 
thought, three to four thousand years ago. Not a 
scrap of writing has come down to us from that dis- 
tant time, nor even any document of which we can 
say that it was copied from writings of the Stone and 
Bronze Ages ; for if anything is certain about the 
past, this at least is sure, that writing was unknown 
in Ireland during the Stone and Bronze Ages. More 
hopeful might seem the ancient traditions preserved 
to our day, before schoolmasters and newspapers put 



other and not always better ideas in their stead ; but 
even here we have no touchstone by which we can 
distinguish with assurance between the primitive 
stone- and bronze-age elements in the common stock 
of tradition, and the accretions which should be 
ascribed to the intervening Age of Iron. 

This may almost seem to write " No Thoroughfare " 
over the pathway which we wish to traverse in the 
present chapter. But we need not altogether despair. 
There are certain indications from which we can draw 
deductions ; and the analogy of manners and customs 
among primitive races elsewhere, often remote and 
racially quite unconnected with the people which it 
is our special concern to study, throws no little illu- 
mination on the problem before us. The picture we 
can draw can never be anything but imperfect ; but 
we need not lose hope of making it a picture. 

II. First then let us in a few words remind our- 
selves of what was said at the beginning of our study. 
There is evidence of a double strand in the population 
of Ireland previous to the Norman conquest in 
1172 A. D. ; a dark and medium -statured race, allied 
with the Mediterranean peoples whose most typical 
representatives are now to be seen in Spain ; and a 
tall fair-haired race, allied to the Nordic peoples 
whose most typical modern representatives are in 
Scandinavia. Further, the Mediterranean tribes were 
the earlier, aboriginal, population, and were subdued 
and reduced to a subordinate position by the Nordic 
invaders. The Nordic people seem to have come in 
about the beginning of the Iron Age, and are not 
improbably responsible for introducing the Iron cul- 
ture and the Celtic language to Ireland. Almost to 
the end of the history of Ireland as an independent 
country we find this division clearly maintained. It 
lies at the basis of the caste system, which is safe- 
guarded by numerous stringent rules and regulations 
in the Brehon laws ; and a tacit assumption of the 
distinction between freeman and bondman, between 
the fair-haired people and the dark-haired people, is 


always in the background throughout the whole range 
of Irish literature. 

Our special concern in this volume is with the earlier 
people, the daerchlanna or unfree tribes of the later 
literature ; and our present subject is their social 
organisation. It will perhaps make the study a little 
more intelligible if we start from a known point. Let 
us consider as briefly as possible what is the social 
organisation of our own community, and working 
back from that let us endeavour to see by contrast 
what were the peculiarities which distinguished that 
of the aboriginal tribes of Ireland. 

III. We may consider a social organism as con- 
sisting of a scale of units, each major unit being com- 
posed of aggregates of the minor units next below it 
in the scale. The lowest unit in the scale is the indi- 
vidual, man, woman, boy, or girl. The next unit is 
the family ; and, according to our system, the family 
is regarded as consisting of a man and his wife with 
the children born of their union. Of this community 
the man is recognised as the head ; the bride in the 
marriage service is required, at least as a matter of 
form, to promise love, honour, and obedience to him. 
Technically a family thus constituted is known as a 
patriarchal monogamous family ; and these names 
reveal the possibility of a family being constituted on 
quite different systems, denoted by names that have 
a converse meaning. We shall presently hear of 
families constructed on a matriarchal basis in which 
the woman is the head ; and the rigid law of our 
social system which forbids more than one wife and 
more than one husband (expressed by the word mono- 
gamous), is by no means universal among the families 
of the earth. 

The next unit above the family of parents and 
children would be the kin or clan ; but this unit is 
practically obsolete in our modern social system. The 
John Browns may be on terms of the closest intimacy 
with their neighbours the Robinsons, though there is 
no sort of kinship between them ; while at the same 


time they may be in deadliest enmity with their own 
cousins, the William Browns. In other social organ- 
isations, however, we may find a system in which the 
clan unites all its members against the world, in a sort 
of indissoluble freemasonry to which no outsider can 
be admitted. Indeed, in such a system, the family, 
to which our social order attaches such importance 
(chiefly on account of its necessity to the nurture and 
training of children) sinks into comparative insignifi- 
cance, and even the individuality of the individual 
(if the reader will pardon the clumsy expression) is 
absorbed in the paramount importance and claims of 
the clan. The Bedawin offer a good example of this. 
If a man of kin A should kill a man of kin B, the B 
people do not say " So-and-so's blood has been shed " : 
they say " Our blood has been shed ' as though the 
life-fluid of the whole kindred has been tapped at its 
reservoir. In consequence, the desert law of revenge 
follows with relentless logic. The blood of the mur- 
derer's kin must be tapped likewise ; any member of 
the injured kin may, and when opportunity arises 
must, kill any member of the murderer's kin, whether 
he had anything to do with the original crime or not. 

Among ourselves, the few relics of a kin-unit hardly 
count, except as a matter of sentiment. Indeed, in 
our system, there is scarcely any unit of importance 
left between the family and the state, which contains 
all the rest. There are no doubt municipal, parliamen- 
tary, and other divisions, but these are political rather 
than social units ; a man can without hindrance pass 
from one to another, severing his connexions in the 
one, and forming new connexions in the other, at his 

It may therefore be said that in our community the 
social organisation is reduced to the simplest practic- 
able terms. There are those who would seek to 
simplify it still further by abolishing the family, ad- 
mitting no intermediary between the individual and 
the state. But these theoretical refinements of civili- 
sation do not here concern us. 


Civilisation can be gauged by the degree of complexity 
in the specialisation of trades and tools. Contrariwise, 
civilisation can equally be gauged by the degree of 
simplification of the social order. The lowest savages 
whose manners and customs have been studied with 
any fulness, the Australian blacks, have their society 
modelled on a system whose complications it is ex- 
tremely difficult to understand. And it may be taken 
as a general rule that the higher in the scale we proceed, 
the simpler does the system become. 

IV. We may say that in all cases the primary basis 
of such systems is kinship. Kinship, generally, may 
be defined as the connexion between one person and 
another, based on the belief in descent from a common 
ancestor. That ancestor may be a god or a man, or 
even an animal or an inanimate object ; but all persons 
who claim descent from the ancestor are united against 
all persons who cannot claim that advantage. The 
fact of kinship may be expressed and understood in 
different ways ; and still more the notions of the 
degree of kinship may vary surprisingly. The Austra- 
lian black calls certain old men and old women of his 
tribe, whom we should consider scarcely related to him 
at all, by names which denote the relationships of 
" father " and " mother " respectively : similarly he 
calls certain of his own contemporaries " brother " 
and " sister " ; and it is said to be difficult to make 
him understand the narrowly defined physical rela- 
tionships that we associate with those words. 

V. How, then, is kinship to be traced ? Here we 
come on the first important basis of classification. 
Our custom is to trace descent by the male line, father 
to son ; and the number of people who can name 
their ancestors in that line for eight generations is 
probably greater than the number who can give the 
surnames of their eight great-grandparents. But 
there are communities in which the descent is reckoned 
through the female line. As a rule this is found only 
at a comparatively low stage of civilisation. 

There are three possible reasons for this method of 


reckoning kinship. The first is simply the ignorance 
of the savage of the physiological process of conception 
and birth, which have to be learned like everything 
else. The Arunta tribe of Australia even yet are 
alleged to be unaware that the father has anything to 
do with the existence of the child, which they are said 
to attribute to a spirit that has entered the mother's 
body. This primitive notion may lie at the basis of 
the matrilinear succession in many cases ; for where 
there is no father recognised, descent necessarily counts 
from the only parent taken account of. 

The second reason is similar. In a community 
where there are few women, a plurality of husbands 
may create a doubt of the parentage of the child ; and 
though as in Thibet (where such a social system exists) 
there are conventions by which the doubt is resolved, 
still this may not always be the case. 

Thirdly, we can explain the matriarchal system by 
considering the circumstances of a community of 
hunters. The men are away all day in search of 
game ; the women remain behind in the dwelling. 
On the woman devolves the care of the home, the 
hearth, and the children. In the woman the family 
and tribal traditions find their repository ; and by 
virtue of these she rules the household. 

VI. Now we have very strong reasons for believing 
that the pre-Celtic people were organised on a mat- 
riarchal basis. One of the most remarkable facts 
bearing on this is the ascription of the ancient palaces 
and sanctuaries of Ireland without exception to the 
foundation of a woman. Tara by Tea or Tephi ; 
Emain Macha by Macha ; Tailltiu and Tlachtgha by 
the women whose names they bore. Never mind 
whether these women had any real existence or not, 
or whether the names found in the stories which we 
have about them are mere inventions for etymological 
purposes. There is probably some basis for the 
stories themselves, and it is very remarkable that in 
almost every case there was a tradition that a woman 
had founded these ancient palaces. 



An important fact, preserved to us by Bede, 1 is here 
in point. It is more then merely probable that the 
Picts of Scotland were cognate with the aboriginal race 
of Ireland which we are at present studying. Now 
Bede tells us that the kings of the Picts of Scotland 
were succeeded not by their sons but by their sisters' 
sons. This means that the Pictish monarchy was 
organised on a matriarchal, or rather a matrilinear 
basis. It is not to be supposed that in any primitive 
community a succession of chieftains of the physically 
weaker sex would be permitted ; but it was recognised 
that while for practical purposes the actual muscle 
must be that of a man, the man held office by right 
of his descent from, or connexion with, a woman. 
Thus the Pictish king was not the son of his pre- 
decessor, but the son of the woman nearest of kin to 
the predecessor. This is confirmed by the testimony 
of the Pictish Chronicle, a document written in 
Latin in the time of Cinead son of Mael-Choluim, 
A.D. 971-995. The work is divided into three 
parts ; a brief account of the origin of the Picts, 
founded on Isidore ; a bald list of the native 
Pictish kings ; and a fuller account of the Celtic kings 
of Scotland after the union of the Celtic invaders 
with the aboriginal Picts, from Cinead mac Ailpin, 
844 A.D., to Cinead mac Mael-Choluim, just men- 
tioned, under whom the work was compiled. 2 Some 
of the early Pictish kings were doubtless mythical ; 
but from 583 to 840 we have a certain amount of 
corroborative evidence afforded us by the Irish annals, 
especially the Annals of Ulster ; and between those 
dates we may take the list as authentic. 

Professor Zimmer, who has studied this list with 
special care, 3 has pointed out the following remarkable 
features discernible in it : 

1 Historia Ecclesiastica, I, i. 

2 The text is printed in Skene's Chronicles of the Picts and Scots. 

3 See Das Mutterrecht der Pikten, in the Zeitschrijt der Savigny- 
stjftung fur Rechtsgeschichte, xv, 277 : translated in Henderson's 
Leabhar nan Gleann, 


(i). There is a limited number of king's names ; 
they occur over and over again. 

(2). The kings' fathers' names are given in each 
case ; but none of the kings' fathers appear as kings. 

(3). The kings' names are all Pictish, but the kings' 
fathers' names are not necessarily so. Some are Irish, 
others Cymric, others again Anglian or Saxon. This 
is especially important, as we shall see presently. 

These facts would be unintelligible under a patri- 
archal system ; but if we assume that the king was 
succeeded by his sister's son (failing a brother ; in 
one or two cases a brother succeeds) then all is clear. 
The king reigns by virtue of his mother ; the father 
is of no importance, is not a king, and as often as not 
may be a foreigner. And as we have seen above, Bede 
at the beginning of his Ecclesiastical History reports to 
us that this was actually the case ; and it is interesting 
to notice that the system seems to Bede so extra- 
ordinary that he seeks to explain it, without much 
success. The same fact is noticed in Irish literature, 
and there also we meet with an attempt to explain it. 
For we are told that the Picts came to Eremon, the 
first Milesian king of Ireland, to beg for a league and 
for wives ; that Eremon granted to them the wives 
of the chieftains who had met their deaths in the 
endeavour to seize Ireland ; and that in return he 
extorted an agreement that all honours and dignities 
should pass, among the Picts, in the female line. 
This shows that the fact of matrilinear succession 
among the Picts attracted the attention of both Saxon 
and Celtic writers ; that it seemed to them something 
that called for explanation ; and that they did their 
best to find an explanation by that flickering candle 
called " the light of nature." 

We now begin to see the significance of the ancient 
story related above (page 29) to the effect that the 
leader of the first expedition to Ireland was the woman 
Cesair : also that the leader of the first attack of the 
Fomhoraigh was another woman, Lot. These tales 
have come down to us out of, or at least referring to, 


a matriarchal society, in which it seemed natural for 
the woman to take the initiative. 

Zimmer also shows us that when the Irish-Celtic 
kings succeeded to the Pictish kings in the united 
kingdom of Celtland and Pictland in Scotland, the 
matriarchate did not yield to the patriarchate without 
a struggle. Cinead mac Ailpin, the first king of the 
united peoples, died A.D. 857, according to the Annals 
of Ulster, and there is named Rex Pictomm. Under 
the Celtic system he might have been succeeded by 
his son or his brother ; under the Pictish system he 
should have been succeeded by his sister's son or his 
brother. In point of fact his brother Domhnall 
succeeded, so that neither party had ground for com- 
plaint. Domhnall was succeeded in 862 by his son 
Constantine ; but Aedh, brother of that Constantine, 
was murdered, and his sister's son placed as king in 
his stead ; apparently a last attempt of the Picts to 
establish their own system over the united throne. 

VII. A number of other ancient authors give us 
information which corroborate these deductions. 
National pride has endeavoured to explain away 
Caesar's well-known statement about the inhabitants 
of the interior of Britain, namely that ten or twelve 
men would have wives in common, the children being 
reckoned to the man to whom the wife was first given. 
There is no use whatever trying to get rid of this pas- 
sage. It simply describes a community whose organi- 
sation was practically identical with that of the Nayars 
of Malabar, the typical example of this form of social 
order. As Caesar knew nothing of the Nayars, nor 
his informants either, the statement cannot have been 

Strabo and Dio Cassius both speak of a community 
of wives, the former in Ireland, the latter among the 
Scottish Picts ; and Hieronymus and Solinus bear 
testimony to the same effect. We need not here 
discuss at any length what these writers say. The 
chief remark that has to be made about them is that 
they evidently completely misunderstood what they 


were writing about. They were confronted with a 
social scheme totally different from that to which they 
were accustomed. They could not understand it, 
and certainly did not try to do so ; it was not un- 
naturally repulsive to their instincts ; and in conse- 
quence they wrote off the people, with whom they 
professed to deal, as savages having no regular marriage 
laws, but what amounted to a complete promiscuity. 
Modern apologists, as ignorant as the ancient writers 
themselves, feel aggrieved at having these unpleasant 
things said about their ancestors, and get out of the 
difficulty easily but unscientifically by calling the ancient 
writers liars ; which is the one thing they certainly 
were not. In fact, both the ancient writers and their 
modern critics forget that society can be built on more 
than one basis. The scheme that has grown up among 
ourselves we consider the best and most suitable, and 
we would not willingly change it ; but other schemes 
have happened to grow up in places subject to other 
conditions, and while we may rightly consider them 
inferior to our own, we have no right to dismiss 
them contemptuously with abusive names. 

VIII. Indeed, every analogy would lead us to infer 
that the Pre-Celtic social system, of which we have 
a fragment in the Pictish law of succession, so far 
from being based on mere promiscuity, was highly 
complex. And here we come to a point on which 
Zimmer has touched, though he has overlooked its 
especial importance. This is the fact that so many of 
the kings' fathers among the Picts bear foreign names, 
Gaelic, Cymric, or Saxon. It is a clear indication 
that with the matriarchal system of descent there was 
coupled, as is generally the case, a law of exogamy. 

The word " exogamy " implies that a man must 
seek his wife outside the tribal unit to which he 
happens to belong. The converse expression is en- 
dogamy, in which marriages take place within the 
tribal unit. With us Mr. Smith is at perfect liberty 
to marry Miss Smith, provided that certain definite 
relationships, clearly tabulated in the law on the 


subject, do not exist between them. In an exogamous 
community the restrictions are far more drastic ; such 
a marriage is absolutely prohibited, even though the 
parties may have no traceable blood relationship. 
One of the Smith tribe must seek his bride from some 
different stock. 

A curious result follows from this. If a Smith man 
marries a Robinson woman, under the matriarchal 
system all the children will be Robinsons ; they will 
belong to the mother's tribe, which by the law differs 
from that of the father. A moment's thought will 
show that while a man's own children will thus belong 
to a tribal unit differing from his own, his sister's 
children will belong to his own unit. This result is 
recognised among all matriarchal communities : with 
the result that sometimes a man dare not chastise his 
own children, for fear of the vengeance of the tribe 
to which they belong ; but when chastisement is neces- 
sary he must beg their maternal uncle to administer 
it, for naturally a man may do what he likes to his 
sister's children. 

Further, this principle of exogamy explains another 
point. Under the ordinary social system of civilised 
Europe, a wedding of father and daughter is unthink- 
able. In an exogamous matriarchate it may be quite 
right and proper, for the two people belong to opposite 
tribes. Now such marriages do appear several times 
in the Irish genealogies ; and the late redactors who 
have transmitted the genealogies endeavour with 
indifferent success to explain them away. But there 
is no necessity to do so when we have identified the 
social system under which they are legal. 

IX. In speaking of the tribes I have up to now used 
as convenient labels modern surnames with which we 
are familiar. But we must now enquire what substitute 
for these surnames was in use among the people with 
whom we have to deal. And this leads us at once to 
a consideration of the very extraordinary and wide- 
spread institution of totemism. 

The word totem is derived, or rather corrupted, 


from a word in one of the North American Indian 
languages. It is defined by Sir James Frazer as mean- 
ing " A class of material objects which a savage regards 
with superstitious respect, believing that there exists 
between him and every member of the class an inti- 
mate and altogether special connexion." A totem 
may be a species of animals not one separate speci- 
men, but the whole species : a species of plants ; or 
even something inanimate, as a stone or one of the 
heavenly bodies. There are three kinds of totems ; 
the clan totem, common to a whole clan and passing 
by inheritance from generation to generation ; the sex 
totem, common to all the men or to all the women of 
the tribe ; and the individual totem, belonging to a 
single individual and not passing to his descendants. 

Now, briefly, the connexion between the clan and 
its totem is partly social and partly religious. The 
members of a totem clan call themselves by the name 
of their totem ; regard themselves as descended from 
a being of the totem species ; and consider all crea- 
tures of the totem species as kin to themselves. Thus, 
to give merely a single example, 1 the turtle clan of 
the Iroquois or Mohawk Indians regard themselves as 
the descendants of a large and fat turtle, which being 
burdened with its cumbersome shell in walking, con- 
trived by great exertions to throw it off, and so gradu- 
ally developed into a man, their progenitor. The 
totem being kin to the tribe, it would be as criminal 
an act to kill or eat the flesh of the totem animal as it 
would be to commit a similar outrage on the person 
of a tribesman. There is a large variety of such pro- 
hibitions on the use of the totem. Sometimes the 
totem must not be looked at or touched. A Samoan 
tribe, which has the butterfly for totem, must not 
perforate the three eyes of a cocoanut when they wish 
to drink of it ; only one or at most two may be perfor- 
ated. For it is supposed that the three eyes together 
are a kind of picture of the butterfly ; and to perforate 

1 Borrowed from Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy, vol. i, p. 5. 


all three would be to mock the totem, and so bring 
down its vengeance on the tribe that treated it with 
so little reverence. 1 Elsewhere the totem is fed, and 
very often if the totem be found dead it is buried with 
lamentations. Aelian tells us that the people of the 
island of Seriphus in the Aegean Sea, if ever they 
caught a lobster in their fishing nets, were careful to 
put it back into the sea ; and if they found a dead 
lobster they buried it and mourned over it as over one 
of themselves. To this day there is a place in 
Spain where a sardine is buried solemnly every Ash 
Wednesday. 2 

These will suffice as specimens of the beliefs and 
practices of totemism. The origin of this strange 
faith, if so we may call it, has not been satisfactorily 
made out. And its most remarkable feature is that 
it is almost universal. It is found in Australia, among 
the American aborigines, among the Semites, in India, 
among the Indo-Europeans. It lies at the base of 
many of the otherwise inexplicable rites and beliefs of 
Classical Greece and Rome. It is traceable in the 
dateless antiquity of the Early Stone Age. In brief, 
we may almost say that wherever you find men that 
have developed out of primitive conditions, there you 
find relics of totemism. Even our noble selves abjure 
the pleasure of eating horse-flesh, to which our Con- 
tinental neighbours have no objection, and why ? 
Because the horse was the totem of the first Saxon 
invaders, whose mythical leaders were Hengist 
("stallion ") and " Horsa." We have inherited the 
prohibition, though we have forgotten its reason. 

Now to show something of the importance of totem- 
ism in determining social relationships, I will give in 
outline the restrictions which correspond to our cata- 
logue of prohibited degrees in one of the many tribes 
of New South Wales. It will serve as an illustration ; 
and if anyone should feel inclined to complain that he 

1 Op. cit., vol. i, p. 13. 

2 These instances are also borrowed from Frazer, in whose book 
there is a large collection from all parts of the world. 


wishes to hear about Ancient Ireland and not about 
Australian savages, I can only say that we cannot 
understand the few fragments of fact which we can 
recover concerning social life in the Bronze Age in 
this country without coming to their study prepared 
by a knowledge of corresponding institutions elsewhere, 
which circumstances permit us to study in detail. 

The tribe I have chosen is divided first of all into 
two classes, called Ngielbumurra and Mukumurra. 
The first law of the tribe is that marriage must not 
take place except between persons of opposite classes. 

Further the classes are divided into two sub-classes 
each. The Ngielbumurra sub-classes are called Ipai 
and Kumbo ; the Mukumurra classes are called 
Murri and Kubbi. And each class has three totems ; 
the Ngielbumurra totems are the mallee-hen, the emu 
and the opossum ; the Mukumurra totems are the 
black duck, the bandicoot, and the kangaroo. As a 
man in either class may belong to one or other of the 
sub-classes, and to any one of the totems, it follows 
that there are six kinds of men, so to speak, in each 
class, or twelve in the whole tribe, and similarly of 

Every man has a choice of wives among three of 
these different kinds of women. We need not do more 
than take a single example for our present purpose. 
Take a man of the Ngielbumurra, sub-class Kumbo, 
totem emu. This man must marry a Mukumurra 
woman ; she may be either Murri or Kubbi ; but if 
Kubbi she must be a kangaroo, and if Murri she must 
not be a kangaroo, but must belong to one or other of 
the two remaining totems. There are similar restric- 
tions on all the other kinds of men, and reciprocally 
each woman of the tribe can have a mate from one of 
three possible kinds of the opposite sex. 

The children belong to the class and totem of the 
mother, but to the opposite sub-class. Thus, in one 
of the cases cited above, if our hero marry a Muku- 
murra Kubbi kangaroo, the children will be Muku- 
murra Murri kangaroos. Obviously this prevents the 


marriage of parents and children, which as we have 
just seen is quite possible under other exogamous 

We have seen in the descent of the kings of the 
Picts, the last surviving organised relics of the Pre- 
Celtic population of these islands, evidence for matri- 
archy and for exogamy. We have next to consider 
whether there is any evidence for totemism. And we 
have not far to seek. In the invaluable paper on Early 
Irish Population groups, communicated in 1911 by 
Prof. MacNeill to the Royal Irish Academy, there are 
to be found lists of all the communal names which its 
author has found in the genealogies and elsewhere. 
Among these names we find Corcu Bibuir, " the beaver 
people " ; Corcu Cuilend, [< the puppy people " ; 
Corcu Oirce, " the pig people " ; Corcu Tened, " the 
fire people." Also among names ending with the 
collective ending rige, we have Bibraige, " the beaver 
people " ; Artraige, " the bear people " ; Boccraige, 
" the goat people " ; Breccrige, " the trout people " ; 
Cattraige, " the cat people " ; Cechtrige, " the plough 
people " an example of a totem not an animal 
Cnamrige, " the bone people " an example of a totem 
being part of an animal, as often happens. Osraige, 
the modern Ossory, denotes " the deer people." 
There are other names that might be added to this list, 
but these will suffice for the present. It may be added 
that there is reason to believe that these tribal names 
belong to a form more definitely connected with the 
aborigines than with the Celtic invaders. 

From this it follows that there were a number of 
communities in Ireland bearing totemic names, and 
that totemism was to be found in Ireland as elsewhere 
in antiquity. Even among the iron-age invaders it 
was not unknown. The grotesque story that the 
mother of Oisin the poet was a deer can best be ex- 
plained by supposing that she belonged to a fawn 
kindred, just as the Australian women of whom we 
were speaking a moment ago call themselves kangaroos, 
emus, and what not. On the other hand, Fionn's 


lieutenant, Diarmuid 6 Duibhne, belonged to a boar 
totem ; he was under a prohibition never to chase a 
boar ; and he met his death as a result of breaking 
the gets. 1 

X. Of the growth and development of these tribes 
and of their mutual relationships we can say next to 
nothing. The country was probably first peopled by 
a small settlement in the North-East corner. These 
would spread gradually over the land, and would form 
communities, isolated by the long stretches of forest 
land which, thanks to the infesting wolves, were 
almost impassible barriers. Each tribe would then 
develop along its own lines, though probably in a fairly 
uniform course. A council of elders under the presi- 
dency of a chief would regulate its affairs, and would 
be the repository of its traditions and the arbiter of 
its customs and its actions. But really all that we can 
guess about the government of these early tribes is 
merely derived from analogy with other tribes which 
we can study more closely. The stone- and bronze-age 
people were the helots of the age in which the litera- 
ture was written ; the story-tellers and the law-givers 
were not interested in their arrangements, which had 
been abrogated when their land was captured by the 
Celtic-speaking immigrants ; and they record little 
or nothing directly about them . 

XI. The Celtic tongue made so complete a conquest 
of the speech of the aborigines that hardly anything 
is left of the latter. Efforts have been made to discover 
in the syntax of Irish and also of Welsh traces of an 
earlier syntax just as traces of Celtic influence can be 
found in the syntax of such Irish-English expressions 
as " I am after going," " He has his window broken." 
This has not given any very satisfactory result, as we 
have unfortunately no Celtic language free from these 
theoretical contaminations with which to compare the 

1 The story of Diarmuid gives a different explanation of the pro- 
hibition : but this is not exempt from the elementary and almost 
universal law, familiar to all folk-lorists, that a myth is always later 
than the " fact " which it seeks to explain. 


insular dialects. The Celtic of the Continent is known 
to us only by a few short and shattered inscriptions, 
from which very little indeed can be gleaned. . 

More promising are the place names. There are 
many names (for instance Dundrum) the meaning of 
which is obvious, in this case " the fort of the ridge." 
Others are less easy to understand, as Stillorgan, which 
is an outrageous corruption for Teach Lorcain, " the 
house of Lorcan." Some place-names contain words 
now obsolete, but known from literary sources. It is 
a fascinating study, even when the names are so sadly 
and savagely corrupted as they are on Irish maps and 
railway-stations. We are led step by step from the 
easy to the difficult ; we solve the problems as they 
arise, by seeking out the oldest and most authentic 
forms of the names ; and at last we arrive at that most 
impressive thing, a mystery. We reach a wall that no 
man may pass. Within that wall are written most of 
the river names, and a good many of the mountain 
names ; the most striking and obvious natural 
features. The land-divisions, towns, and villages, 
bear Celtic names, showing that we are to assign the 
artificial political divisions of the country to the later 
comers ; the rivers, and to some extent the mountains, 
bear names which cannot be explained as Celtic, and 
which must therefore be a legacy from the earlier 
inhabitants though no doubt they have been modified 
by being transmitted to us through many generations 
of Celtic speakers. That boundary wall which no 
man may pass is the Holy of Holies of long-forgotten 
river deities, worshipped in the far-off ages before 
the knowledge of iron came into the country. If the 
flints found in the gravels of Larne are the oldest 
monuments of human workmanship in the country, 
the names of the rivers are the oldest monuments of 
human thought. 

We have seen that Scotland preserves for us some- 
thing of the Pre-Celtic social system in the succession 
of the Pictish kings. It also preserves for us some- 
thing of the language that we are seeking. The Pictish 


language lasted in Scotland down to the time of Colum 
Cille, for he had to employ an interpreter in speaking 
to the Picts. Had he lived a century earlier he would 
probably have known the language from his infancy, 
for there is every reason to believe that it survived in 
Ireland to a comparatively late date. But perhaps 
Colum Cille, as a scion of royalty, was as carefully 
guarded from learning Pictish in his youth as were the 
children of the squireens of a past generation from 
committing the unpardonable social solecism of learn- 
ing Irish ! Be that as it may, the Pictish language 
certainly lingered in some parts of Scotland after it 
had disappeared in Ireland, and moreover was written ; 
for we possess some sixteen inscriptions found in the 
East and North of the country, written partly in the 
Ogham character, partly in minuscules, and once in 
a very debased form of Roman capitals. These in- 
scriptions have been studied by the late Sir John Rhys 
with great ingenuity ; he endeavoured to make some 
sense of them with the aid of modern Basque. 1 The 
Picts being assumed to be a branch of the Iberian 
race, whose chief representatives are settled in Spain, 
this comparison is more natural than perhaps might 
appear at first sight. Certainly no one has obtained 
from these inscriptions any results of the smallest 
value with the use of any Celtic language for com- 
parison. What militates against any hope of complete 
success along the lines followed by Sir John Rhys is 
the scantiness of the material. The inscriptions are 
all short, and many of them are very badly mutilated ; 
some indeed are so much injured that they would be 
useless even if the language in which they are written 
were perfectly known. On the other hand, Basque 
is known to us only in modern dialects ; there is no 
ancient literature in the language from which to re- 
cover the ancient forms. Irish and Latin are very 
closelyjcognate languages ; but if we had only a few 

1 The Inscriptions and Language of the Northern Picts, Proc. Soc. 
Antiq. Scot, xxvi, p. 263. 


short and broken inscriptions in Latin, and nothing 
else, it could hardly be expected that we should make 
much of them by comparison of their linguistic forms 
with those of Modern Irish. It is true, there are a 
number of short inscriptions in Spain to which the 
name Celtiberian is commonly given, which mostly 
consist, apparently, of proper names, but which 
otherwise are perfectly unintelligible. These may 
be in some early language cognate with modern 
Basque ; but to attempt to interpret the Pictish in- 
scriptions of Scotland by the Celtiberian inscriptions 
of Spain would indeed be to interpret ignotum per 

To sum up, we have found scraps of evidence which 
when pieced together and explained in the light that 
comparative anthropology has to throw upon them, 
enable us to restore something of the tribal system of 
the Stone and the Bronze Ages in Ireland. We have 
seen that the stone-age settlers were scattered over 
the country, forming isolated communities which were 
the nuclei of separate and independent tribes ; that 
these tribes developed the principle of totemism the 
germ of which they doubtless had brought with them 
from their previous home ; that they reckoned descent 
in the female line ; and that while polygamy was no 
doubt practised we hear of a polygamous king of 
Leinster so late as the time of St. Findian of Cluain 
Iraird there was unquestionably a code of forbidden 
degrees, or something analogous thereto, founded on 
one or other of the numerous systems of exogamy 
which have been systematised by students of primitive 
man throughout the world. And lastly, though we 
can never hope to recover anything significant of the 
language of this people, we have certain inscriptions 
which shew us what it was like, and from which we 
learn that while it may or may not have been cognate 
with the modern Basque, it was most probably not a 
member of the Indo-European family. 



I. Classification and Chronology of the Remains of Habitations. 
II. The Shore-dwellers. III. Bee-hive Huts. IV. Bronze-age 
Remains. V. Towns and Villages. VI. The Great Stone 
Fortresses. VII. The Palace Sites. VIII. The Promontory 
Forts. IX. The Earthen Ring-forts. 

I. In approaching the subject of the dwellings and 
fortifications of the Stone and the Bronze Ages we 
are confronted at the outset with a serious difficulty. 
How are we to distinguish between the fortresses 
and dwelling-places of the stone-age and bronze-age 
people on the one hand, and those of the iron-age 
people who succeeded them on the other ? 

To such a question excavation alone could give a 
satisfactory answer ; and the great probability is that 
even excavation would not in this case be very inform- 
ing. Thanks to the almost superhuman labours of 
Mr. T. J. Westropp, we have a large quantity of 
material now available for the study of the plans and 
the architecture of the ancient forts of the country ; 
but we have as yet little information as to structures 
underground and antiquities associated with them. It 
is, however, in the last degree improbable that there is 
much in the way of portable antiquities buried in the 
ground ; excavations that have been conducted for 
the purpose of finding such objects have been singu- 
larly unsuccessful, and in many cases the fortress is 
built on bare rock. 

The first rough classification that presents itself is 
a division into forts on land, and forts on water. The 
former are the structures erected on terra firma ; the 
latter are erected on artificial islands, constructed in 



the lakes. To such islands the name crannog is given 
in this country. Those that have been investigated, 
if they have yielded anything at all, have been found 
to contain rusty iron nails, horseshoes, and other odds 
and ends of very late date ; and we may take it as a 
fixed point in this tangled subject that the Irish lake- 
dwellings are all of the Iron Age at earliest. In fact, the 
crannogs are a kind of prototype of the Norman mottes. 
The mottes are conical mounds, erected for supporting 
the wooden tower that was the first fortress of the 
intruding Norman baron there are a considerable 
number of these mounds still remaining, in places 
where the Normans established themselves. They 
are the monuments of men who seized the lands of 
the native peoples, reduced them to vassalage, and had 
in consequence to protect themselves continually 
against the vengeance of their serfs. In like manner 
the fair-haired Nordic invaders, who introduced the 
Celtic language and the Iron culture and who were 
of the same race as their Norman conquerors had 
seized the lands of the bronze-age aborigines, and had 
had to protect themselves against the wrath of their 
vassals. Accordingly they established themselves on 
islands on the lakes ; where there was no island they 
made one. I have said this much in explanation of 
my passing over the lake-dwellings in the present 
chapter on the Pre-Celtic dwellings and defences. 

Of dwellings and fortresses on terra firma, literally 
tens of thousands still survive. Probably many perish 
without any record of them being preserved, as more 
land is put under tillage. Many others have been 
destroyed in pure mischief. 

At present we have only probability to go upon in 
discriminating between the dwellings of the older and 
of the later races established over the land. Moreover, 
great as is the material with which we have to deal, 
it can only be a small part of the whole subject that 
we can deduce from it. Almost all organic substances 
having decayed away to nothing, we cannot say any- 
thing about the tents of textiles or of hides, or the 


huts and houses of wood, which in this .forest-clad 
country must have formed the great majority of the 
habitations. It is not to be supposed that it was 
necessarily the poorer houses that were built of such 
perishable materials. The exact contrary is the case. 
We possess in the literature, corroborated by lines of 
evidence into which this is not the place to enter, 
descriptions showing that, at least in the Iron and 
Early Christian Ages, the wealthier and more impor- 
tant houses were made of wood : and that by a curious 
anomaly, resulting from this, it is the poorer houses 
that have survived, and the richer houses that have 

II. In endeavouring to infer something about the 
dwellings and fortifications of the Stone and Bronze 
Ages, we may begin with the shore-dwellers. Their 
prototypes, the men of Oronsay, lived in wooden 
huts ; for in the recent exploration of the shell 
mounds, on that island, the holes for the posts of 
these structures were found. 1 The huts them- 
selves had naturally vanished, and nothing could 
be told of their plans except what the positions of 
the post-holes revealed. When the shore-dwelling 
communities came to Ireland, they most probably 
settled in similar flimsy habitations. A few skins of 
slaughtered animals, hung on wooden props in such 
a way as to shut out sun, rain, or wind, was probably 
the most that they aspired to. Many of the shore-sites 
shew no trace of any fixed habitation ; there is nothing 
but the hearth a layer of flat stones, covered with 
ashes, remains of a fire that may have been lit in the 
open air (fig. 91) and the heaps of shells and other 
kitchen refuse. One of the most common indications 
of a shore settlement is a black line in the sand the 
ancient surface, coloured by ashes and by the decay 
of organic substances. 2 

1 See the report of the excavation of this mound, already referred 
to in Chapter III. 

2 The best example of this black line, remaining in the country, 
is at Portstewart : see PRIA, vol. xxv, C, p. 197 f. 



Hut-sites of stone have, however, been found at 
Whitepark Bay, Dun Fionnachaidh, Baile an Bhoin- 
eannaigh, and some other places where shore sites 
exist. They are all ruined to the foundations, and it 
would be hard to reconstruct their form with any 
certainty. We may, however, presume that they did 
not differ to any marked degree from the bee-hive 
kraals which have survived from a later time. Like 
these they were circular as Prof. Montelius has shewn, 



primitive houses were always circular, thus keeping 
the tradition of the tent from which they were derived. 1 
It is most likely that the shore huts differed from the 
bee-hive structures in having upright walls, making 
enclosures like large jam-pots, which could be roofed 
with boughs, laid across the top of the wall and 
supporting a covering of hides, cloths, sods of turf, 
or anything else that would keep out the weather. 

1 See Oscar Montelius, Zur altesten Geschichte des Wohnhauses in 
Europa, published in Archil) fur Anthropologie, vol. xxiii, p. 451, 


III. On this theory the bee-hive kraal would be a 
later refinement. Most probably all the bee-hive huts 
that have survived to our time are of a date later than 
the period which at present concerns us ; but the 
construction on which they depend was already inven- 
ted or introduced in the Bronze Age, for it is adopted 
in the large chambered tumuli. It is the principle of 
the false arch, so called, in which the stones of the wall 
are laid horizontally or nearly so, and project slightly 


over the stones of the course below. 1 The opposite 
sides of the chamber thus approximate to each other 
in their upper stages, until the space between them is 
narrow enough to be bridged with a stone of moderate 

Of the extant bee-hive structures, one of the best 
preserved, and the best known, is Clochan na Carraige 

1 It is hardly necessary to observe that the true arch, in which 
the joints between the stones radiate from a common centre, is not 
known in Ireland till Christian architecture had made some advance. 


on Ara Mor (figs. 92-93). It is of rather larger size 
than usual, and is built on an oval, not, as is more 
usual, a circular plan. The doorway is so small that 
it cannot be entered except on hands and knees, 
probably in order that the interior of the building may 


be the more easily defended against wolves and other 
intruders. A series of long stones covers the roof. This 
structure is typical of the bee-hive form of dwelling, 
but is doubtless later than the Bronze Age. I 
describe it here because there is no certain example 
of a bronze-age dwelling remaining in the country. 


Huts such as these were the habitations of the 
poorer classes the equivalent of the mud cabins of 
modern times. The wooden dwellings of the wealthy 
classes, of which we possess gorgeous descriptions 
in the literature, have all decayed to nothing. These 
bee-hive huts could be erected rapidly and cheaply, 
with stones picked up on the surface of the fields ; if 
covered on the outside with mud or sods they would 
be warm and dry ; they were at least as comfortable 
as many mud cottages. It was probably as a mark of 
humiliation that such huts became the normal habi- 
tations in the monasteries which from about the sixth 
to the eight centuries were established on the remote 
islands of the west, such as Sceilig Mhichil, Ard 
Oilcan, and others. 

There is no sign whatever of mortared construction 
of any kind in Ireland before the introduction of 

IV. Of bronze-age dwelling sites perhaps the most 
striking is the village recently discovered on a spur of 
the mountain called Ceathramhadh Caol, above Loch 
Arbhach, in Co. Sligo. A full description will be 
found in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 1 
The first thing to notice about this settlement is its 
situation at a considerable height on a hill-slope. 
This is the general rule with ancient settlements. A 
city is set on a hill because it can be most easily pro- 
tected from enemies, human and animal, in such a 
situation. Down in the valleys, covered as they were 
for the greater part with forests, all manner of noxious 
beasts prowled, and enemies could attack the settle- 
ment from the advantageous position of a height above. 

The settlement at Ceathramhadh Caol in its present 
state consists of forty-seven circular foundations of 
dry stone, in diameter ranging from 20 to 40 feet. 
The walls are double, consisting of two rings of slabs 
on edge with small stones filling in between, the walls 
thus being about 3 feet in thickness. The doorways 

1 Vol. xxix, section C, p. 331. 


must have been raised above the surface of the ground 
a little, and in every case the walls have been ruined 
to below the thresholds. There is no trace of any 
internal division into rooms, nor (so far as their ruined 
state permits us to judge) is there any sign of their 
oversailmg after the manner of bee-hive kraals. In 
fact it is improbable that they did so ; for to cover 
a space of as much as 40 feet in diameter with a bee- 
hive structure would require a much greater thickness 
of wall to give stability. Most likely the structures 
were of the " jam-pot " type, and were rather protec- 
ting enclosures, built around dwellings of a more 
temporary nature wooden huts or tents and shield- 
ing them from the wind which on their exposed 
situation would otherwise have blown them away. 

Thus in dealing with the dwellings of the Bronze 
Age we are led to the conception of a hut of wood or 
hides or textiles, enclosed within a dry-stone screen- 
wall, circular on plan. This protects the hut 
from the wind a necessity on a stormy moun- 
tain slope, even if there were no wolves to consider. 
The people inhabiting these huts were by no means 
poverty-stricken ; they erected large and important 
burial earns over their dead in the neighbourhood of 
their dwellings. We need not therefore infer from the 
apparent poorness of their homes that their life was 
correspondingly degraded. Doubtless their standard 
of comfort would not satisfy the meanest among 
ourselves ; but, in dealing with the subject of social 
organisation, each community and each age must be 
considered on its own merits, without making invidious 
comparisons with other times and other manners. 

V. From enclosing each hut within its own boun- 
dary-wall it is but a step to concentrating all the huts 
together in a single organised community and sur- 
rounding them with a common wall. 

One of the most specious and weighty arguments 
in favour of those who deny the claims of Ireland to 
a native civilisation of any kind is the total absence 
of any traces of a town community anterior to the 


foundations of the Norman conquerors. In criticising 
this argument we must bear in mind two things. 
First, that we have not got remains of more than 
what shall I say ? perhaps the fifty thousandth 
part of the prehistoric houses that were at one time or 
another in existence in the country ; so that it is really 
impossible to say how they may or may not have been 
originally grouped. Secondly, that the Celtic village 
is organised on a different system from the Teutonic 
village, as anyone may see from the railway carriage 
window in travelling from Cork to London by Holy- 
head. In the Irish part of the journey he will see but 
few villages. There will be a succession of single 
houses, each on its own holding ; the village will 
consist of a few houses, shops, the school-house and 
the clergy-house, grouped around the church. In 
the English part of the journey there will be seen a 
succession of villages, of considerable size, with very 
few scattered houses between. The same contrast is 
to be observed in the Celtic and Teutonic parts of 
Northern Europe. 1 Thus the absence of town com- 
munities would denote a different, but not necessarily 
an inferior, organisation. But even with the imperfect 
materials at our disposal, we can say that it is not 
altogether true that such organised communities did 
not exist. We have just described the remains of one 
such community of the Bronze Age. There is in the 
S.W. of the Barony of Corco Dhuibhne, in Co. Kerry, 
a large series of bee-hive huts, the abodes probably of 
a fisher community of the Iron and Early Christian 
Ages. There are altogether some 400 structures in 
this group, which forms what can at least be described 
as a village. 2 The extensive mounds of Teamhair 
indicate the former existence of a large and important 
community there ; and the enclosure south of the 
sacred ridge, called Raith Mheidbhe a ring-wall 
enclosing a space about 600 feet in diameter is most 

1 Consult W. Z. Ripley's The Races of Europe, p. 239 ff., for 

2 The whole settlement is fully described in TRIA, xxxi, p. 209 ff. 


likely the site of the village where the royal servitors 
dwelt. The geographer Ptolemy mentions several 
Irish " towns " by name. In short, I question the 
accuracy of the sweeping statement that communities 
such as we may call small " towns " had no existence 
in Pre-Norman Ireland, though doubtless there were 
none organised on the elaborate system of the Norm,an 

VI. In the great stone fortresses, such as Steidhg 
in Co. Kerry, Grianan Ailich near the city of Doire, 
and the famous forts of Ara, we may see the enclosing 
walls of fortified villages of considerable size. But 
the question must first be considered, to what period 
we are to assign these imposing structures. 

For the present the answer must be unsatisfactory. 
We do not know. It is impossible to be certain 
whether these are bronze-age or iron-age fortresses. 
But on the whole they are probably to be assigned to 
the more remote period, and that for the following 
reasons : 

1. Mr. Westropp has reported the discovery in 
Dun Aonghusa, the most important and best known 

y, of the forts on Ara Mor, of a flint arrow-head. While 
it is possible that this was accidentally in the soil, and 
had no real connexion with the fort, the probability 
is the other way. 

2. No history whatever attaches to these structures, 
and such traditions as exist assign them to the Pre- 
Celtic peoples. While as transcripts of history these 
traditions are not of great value, this much is certain, 
that the popular voice agreed in making the forts 
Pre-Celtic. Had they been built by the later people, 
there would surely have been some more definite 
story attached to them ; for written history began in 
the Iron Age, and the general course of events in that 
time is fairly well known. 

I therefore describe some of these remarkable forti- 
fications here, in the high probability, though we 
cannot express complete certainty, that they belong 
to the Bronze Age. 

Grianan Ailich. This structure stands on the top 


of a small hill on the south shore of Loch Suiligh, v, 
just inside the Donegal side of the boundary between 
Cos. Donegal and Perry. It had fallen into ruin, 
but was restored rather too completely by Dr. 
Bernard of Doire, in the seventies of the last century. 
It consists of a circular enclosure, 77 feet 6 inches in 
diameter, surrounded with a wall ranging in thickness 
from ii ft. 6 ins. to 1 5 ft. There is a gallery in the 
thickness of the wail ; and as is frequently the case, 
the wall is built up in stages on its inner face, ap- 
proached from below by steps. There is the ruin of 
a structure of stone, containing three rooms, in the 
middle of the enclosure. Outside is a succession of 
three ramparts, one outside the other, forming a series 
of defences. 1 

Aileach figures in the legendary account of the 
coming to Ireland of the Milesians, the fair-haired 
Celtic-speaking peoples. Somewhat unfortunately for 
its credibility, the tale would have us believe that 
these people came from Spain, of all places ; and that 
the cause of their coming was in this wise. Their 
king was Golamh, also called Mil (from whom the 
Milesians received their name). Golamh had an uncle, 
Ith by name, who lived in a town in Brigantia, in N 
Northern Spain. Ith one day ascended a tower in 
Brigantia, and in the far distance saw a land over the 
sea. This land was Ireland ; and if anyone should 
doubt the possibility of seeing Ireland from a tower 
in Spain, however high, he may be referred to the 
tenth-century map of the world in the British Museum 
library, 2 where he will find Brigantia duly marked 
in the north of a Spain that approaches nearer to 
Ireland than the two sides of the Straits of Gibraltar. 
Such a map must have been before the story-teller 
who cast the old legend into its present literary form. 

1 For a fuller description, with plans, see the Ordnance Survey 
for the Parish of Templemore, p. 217 ; see also Dr. Walter Bernard, 
Exploration and Restoration of the Ruin of the Grianan of Aileach, 
in PRIA, xv, p. 415. 

2 Class-mark Tiberius B. V. I have reproduced this map in 
my Muiredach, Abbot of Monasterboice . 


Ith came down from his tower, and announced his 
intention of going to seek the land which he had so 
strangely discovered ; nor would he be turned from 
his resolve though his relatives endeavoured to dis- 
suade him. So he set out with his followers, and in 
due time reached Ireland, then under the domination 
of the Tuatha De Danann, and ruled by three ^kings, 
Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht, and Mac Greine three not 
improbably totemic names, meaning son of " hazel," 
".ploughshare," and "sun" respectively. Ith was 
courteously received by the Tuatha De Danann, and, 
passing through the land, he came to the fortress 
before us. It happened that the three kings were there 
engaged in a dispute as to the division of the goods 
of their predecessor in the kingdom. The question 
was referred to Ith, who gave a judgment about the 
matter which pleased all parties. But unfortunately 
for himself he allowed his enthusiasm to carry him a 
little too far ; for after giving his verdict he pronounced 
the following words of eulogy : "Be just ; it is fitting 
for you to maintain good brotherhood and to be well- 
disposed each to the other. For good is the land and 
the patrimony which ye inhabit. Plenteous her harvest, 
her honey, her fish, her wheat, and her corn ; moderate 
her heat and her cold. Within her are all things 
sufficient for your wants." The Tuatha De Danann 
said one to the other, that if they allowed a person 
who thought so highly of Ireland to escape alive he 
would bring an invasion of foreigners upon them, 
with the intention of taking away their land. So they 
pursued after him, and killed him. His followers 
escaped and carried the grievous news to Spain ; their 
friends there fitted out a punitive expedition, and 
sailed for Ireland. This was the cause of the Milesian 
invasion of Ireland, according to the Book of Invasions. 
Another story, which has survived in the Dind- 
shenchus in a rather incoherent form, ascribes the 
building of Grianan Ailich to the time of The Dagda, 
the chief ruler of the Tuatha De Danann. We need 
not discuss the historic basis, if there be any historic 
basis, of such stories as these. It is enough for us 


that the historians compiled their tales in the assurance 
of a Pre-Milesian origin for this building ; whether 
the tale was or was not historically true does not 
greatly matter. For had there been any other record, 
the question would have arisen at once how could 
such and such an event have taken place in the Grianan, 
when we know that it was built so much later ? And 
surely, if an iron-age monarch had erected this great 
fortress, some memory of the fact would have been 
preserved. Distracted as we are by books, news- 
papers, and every possible interruption in our complex 
society, we can scarcely realise the tenacity of tradition 
among a people who have nothing else to think about. 
Unaided folk-memory is very long. The kings of 
Uganda can enumerate from memory the names of 
their ancestors and collaterals for twenty-one genera- 
tions ; how many of our readers can do the same ? 
Other examples of the toughness of historical tradition 
might be given, did space admit ; but all that we need 
here say is that if the historians, writing about the 
seventh century A.D., told of a structure a story which 
implied that it antedated the coming of the iron-age 
people say about 400 B.C. we may take it that they 
had good reason for their belief. 

With this accords the results of excavations that 
were made on the site at the time of its restoration. 
A few stone objects were found, but not a scrap of 
metal. On the other hand, the site was occupied 
down to the time of St. Patrick, for we read of his 
blessing it ; and even after his time it was more than 

o ' 

once repaired. 

Of Steidhg, near^Waterville, Co. Kerry, we need-* 
say no more than that it is a structure similar to 
Grianan Ailich in construction and in size. There 
are no passages in the thickness of the walls. The en- 
trance is remarkable for its strong double lintel ; and 
the interior shews a complex arrangement of steps. 1 

1 A description, good though antiquated in some respects, will 
be found in TRIA, xiv, section 2, p. 17. There are good photo- 
graphs in Lord Dunraven's Notes on Irish Architecture, Vol. i. 


But it is on the islands of Ara that the most striking 
fortifications of this kind have been preserved. I 
know nothing in any country more stimulating to 
the imagination than the problem which these extra- 
ordinary fortresses present to the archaeologist. Huge 
structures stand on those barren islands, and we 
ransack tradition and history in vain for the smallest 
ray of light as to their origin. We find nothing but 
vague tales of Fir Bolg refugees tales highly improb- 
able, for the forts do not look like the sort of buildings 
that refugees would be able to construct. 

All three of the inhabited islands of Ara have such 
buildings ; but here I need refer only to four on 
Inis Mor, and one on Inis Meadhon. 


Dun Eoghanachta (fig. 94). A simple ring-wall, 
14 ft. thick, and enclosing a space 90 ft. in diameter. 
The wall is built in three stages, connected by roughly 


constructed flights of steps. Some of the stones are 
of great size, one in the doorway being over 5 ft. long. 
Inside the enclosure, opposite the entrance, there are 
the foundations of three stone huts ; these are the 
only constructions remaining inside the fort itself. 
There is a spring of water just under the crag on which -* 
the fort is built. 

Dubh-Chathair is a weird construction on an im- 
posing cliff headland, over a hundred feet high. It 
is impossible by a mere description to convey an idea 
of the impressive nature of the scene. The two inlets 
on each side of the promontory are the fallen-down 
mouths of caves, in which the sea is perpetually boom- 
ing. Approaching the headland we meet with a cheval 
de frise of broken stones, similar to that which we 
shall find presently at Dun Aonghusa, but less com- 
plex and of smaller stones. The wall is badly built, 
of slabs of stone ; it is about j: 8 ft. high. It is not 
impossible that this is the last relic of a colossal circular 
structure, of which the greater part has been washed 
into the sea ; but more probably it is a promontory 
fort, such as I shall describe presently, and most 
likely it is later than the other forts on the island. 
There is a complex group of bee-hivejkraals inside the 
wall. There was a doorway at the~wesfern end of 
the fort wall, which, however, fell into tlje sea in about 
1830 ; at present the entrance to the fort is by a rather 
alarming narrow gap between the end of the wall as 
it exists, and the sheer cliff on which the fort is built. 

Dun Eochla (fig. 95) is a truly magnificent struc- 
ture. It stands about the middle of the island, and 
consists of two rings. The inner ring is oval, measur- 
ing 91 by 75 feet, and surrounded by a wall aboutX 
15 feet high and 12 feet thick. Like the walls of the 
other forts it is built up in stages approached by 
stairways. The entrance, which is formed of very 
large stones, is between 7 and 8 feet wide. It is 
noticeable that the entrances to all the forts of 
Inis M6r are so turned as to command the nearest 
landing-place. Inside the inner ring there is a shape- 
less circular construction, probably a ruined hut. The 






outer ring is also, roughly speaking, oval, measuring 
about 270 ft. north to south, and about 190 ft. east 
to west, surrounded by a wall 8 or 9 feet high. 

Again and again, as we stand on the wall of this 
great structure, we ask ourselves who were the people 
who raised it, and for what purpose ; against whom 
was it necessary to defend this barren and rocky islet 
with such gigantic works ? It is passing strange that 
though the people of the island have been, on the 
whole, isolated, living on their own memories, yet 
not a breath of tradition remains to tell of the builders 
of the fortress. 

Dun Aonghusa (figs. 96-97) This is the most 
famous of all the forts on Inis Mor. In approaching 
it we may permit ourselves to quote Mr. Westropp's 
eloquent words about it : "Of all the early forts of 
Ireland we may say that only one has appealed to the 
imagination, and even to the affection, of the nation, 
as a building, and become, with most antiquaries, 
the type and symbol of the countless similar structures, 
all subordinate to it in interest. At Emania and at 
Tara it is the sentiment and tradition, not the remains, 
that so appeal ; but at Dun Aongusa the site and the 
building affect even the coolest mind as no blaze of 
mythic and historic association could do. Many of 
us still remember the sense of almost inaccessible 
remoteness that attached to the ' Aras of the Sea.' 
All who have visited the spot feel the repellant attrac- y 
tion of the gigantic precipice and the swirling abyss f 
over which the fort is so airily poised. Then there is 
the pathos no less of the legend that made it the 
refuge of a doomed and hunted race, than of its own 
inevitable destruction that invested the broken grey 
walls on the farthest edge of the old world." 1 

1 From a Study of the Fort of Dun Aengusa in Inishmore, Aran 
Isles, Galway Bay ; its Plan, Growth, and Records : in PRIA, 
xxvii, sect. C, p. i. This is by far the best account of the fort. 
For the other forts on the island refer to Mr. Westropp's thorough 
Study of the early Forts and Stone Huts in Inishmore, Aran Isles, 
Gahvay Bay : same volume, p. 174. 


The ancient legend about this fort is to the effect 
that the Fir Bolg, routed by the invading Tuatha De 
Danann at the first battle of Magh Tuireadh, fled 
and took up their abode in Ara, Islay, Rachra, 
and other islands of the sea. Later they returned, 
being driven from their refuges by the Picts ; and 
were given lands under tribute by the king of 
Teamhair. But owing to the heaviness of the rent 
imposed on them,' they fled to the protection of 
Ailill and Meadhbh, the king and queen of Con- 
nachta, under the leadership of the sons of Umhor, 
their chief. Ailill and his consort received them, 
and settled them in various places ; Aonghus y 
son of Umhor was settled in Dun Aonghusa in Ara. 
The other sons of Umhor likewise gave their names 
to the places thus granted to them ; they are enumer- 
ated by the ancient historian. 1 There was a story of 
the capture of Dun Aonghusa, entered in the catalogue 
of romantic tales in the Book of Leinster, but this 
story is one of the countless ancient Irish tales that 
have been lost. 

We cannot, of course, accept the tale which we 
have thus briefly narrated as literal history. It is a 
tradition pieced together, to a large extent artificially 
constructed in order to account for the names of certain 
places in the mainland and on the islands of the west. 
The names were there, and no doubt the traditions 
of the Fir Bolg were there, and the early mediaeval 
historians, like the famous writer on Chinese Meta- 
physics, " combined the information " ! It is as 
though a modern story-teller, finding in Ireland a 
place called Johnstown, and learning that a certain 
king of England called John came to Ireland, should 
assume that the town was called after the king, and 
should localise in the town some story current about 
the king, in order to account for the town's name. 

I incline to the belief that in the Aonghus or Oenghus 
of the fort we are really to see the great hero-god of 

1 See Keating's History (I.T.S. edition), vol. I, p. 200. 


the Pre-Celtic people, of whom we shall have to speak 
in the next chapter. This Oenghus was equated by 
the incoming Celtic-speaking people to their Dago- 
devos (Dagda) or " good god." It is at least a coin- 
cidence that Grianan Ailich should be connected with 
the latter god, as we have already seen ; perhaps the 
Ara fort was put under the patronage of the earlier 
divinity when the tradition of the actual founder was 
being lost. 

The fortress stands on the edge of a great cliff- wall, I 
rising sheer from deep water to a height of about f 
joojeet. It is improbable that it should have been' 
originally built as we see it now a semicircle, more 
or less, with the unprotected edge of the precipice 
forming the straight side. There can be little doubt 
that the original fort was a complete circle, and that 
the erosion of the sea has reduced it to its recent 
form and will in time sweep out of existence this 
wondrous monument of antiquity. 

Approaching the fort we come first to the outer I 
wall, which in its present form is over 2,000 feet long. | 
It encloses a space i ,250 feet long measured along the 
cliff edge, and 650 in maximum breadth at right 
angles to the present line of the cliff. It is about* 
8 feet thick, and has but one gateway, which is nearly 

Passing this wall we come to a notable feature of 
the fort, at a distance of 300 or 400 feet. This is the 
abattis, or cheval de frise : a band, 30 to 80 feet wide, 
of pillar stones set in wild confusion in such a way 
as to prevent the fort being taken with a rush. The 
stones are 3 to 5 feet in length. A similar feature is 
found in Dubh-Chathair, as we have seen, and in two 
other forts on the mainland ; also in one or two 
ancient forts in Scotland and on the Continent. Idlers, 
rolling stones over the cliff, have demolished the 
cheval de frise at its ends. 

Just inside the cheval de frise is a fragment of another 
wall, 7 ft. 6 ins. thick and 250 ft. long. This wall Mr. 
Westropp justly thinks to be an old wall of the struc- 


ture, superseded by a later wall. Another fragment 
remains at the eastern side. Evidently this wall was 
at some time breached, and the present serpentining 
middle wall erected to fill the gap. It is likely that 
the present outer wall was built at the same time, for, 
as Mr. Westropp notes, the cheval de frise would most 
likely have been the outermost feature in the original 
design, as it is at Dubh-Chathair. 

The innermost citadel is surrounded with a .rampart 
now 12 to 13 ft. high, but in places 18 ft. high in 1839. 
Like the other fort walls it is built in terraces, in this : 
case only two in number, approached by flights > 
of steps. The space enclosed is about 150 feet 
long. The buttresses which were added in the 
unfortunate restoration some years ago are without 
ancient authority. 

Dun Chonchobhair . This fort is also named after 
one of the sons of Umhor. It is the great treasure of 
Inis Meadhon ; an oval enclosure, measuring 221 ft. 
in length, and 115 ft. in breadth, surrounded with a 
wall 20 ft. in height, built in three stages. On the 
east side of the enclosure there is an outer annexe, 
with a gate-house guarding its entrance. 1 

" Moghane " (Muc-snamh ?) (fig. 98) A fortress of 
different type, but comparable in size to these is that 
of " Moghane " in Co. Clare. This enclosure has 
evidently at some time been systematically overthrown, 
probably in some hostile raid. We have already re- 
ferred to this fort in connexion with the great Clare 
gold-find which was found close by : and it is very 
likely that this was the loot from some assault on the 
fortified town, for " Moghane " fort can be nothing 

There are three rings in the fort ; the outermost 
enclosed a space of 1,500 by 1,100 ft. the length of 
its wall is 4,400 feet, somewhat larger than that of the 
railing surrounding St. Stephen's Green in Dublin 

1 A plan and description of the fort will be found in JRSAI, 
xxv, 267. 


the second 700 by 660, the third 380 by 360. There 
is a ditch outside the outer wall, quarried in some 
places in the solid rock. A few later huts have been 
built here and there along the course of the wall, no 
doubt out of its materials. The middle wall is about 
17 feet thick, and the innermost no less than 20 to 22 


feet. Nothing has ever been found within the enclo- 
sure to give any clue to its history, nor is there any 
written record or oral tradition to give any account 
of its origin. 1 

1 A full account of this fort will be found in Mr. Westropp's 
paper, Types of the Ring-Forts and similar Structures remaining in 
Eastern Clare, in PRIA, vol. xxvii, section C, p. 218. 


VII. It was said in the preceding chapter that one 
of the evidences for the matriarchate in the Bronze 
Age was the fact that a uniform tradition regarding the 
centres of Irish royalty assigned their foundation to 
women. Conversely, the existence of such a tradition 
about any site affords presumptive evidence that its 
foundations date to the Bronze Age. Little can, 
however, be said about the mounds which cover such 
a site as Teamhair ; there is nothing distinctively 
Bronze Age about them, so far as can be seen. Probably 
these palace sites were all re-modelled in the Iron 
Age. 1 

VIII. The Promontory forts (of which the most 
notable is perhaps Dun Beag in the Corco Dhuibhne 
village, above referred to) are probably for the greater 
part to be assigned to the Iron Age. All that need 
here be said, therefore, is that round the coast of 
Ireland, wherever a convenient headland presents 
itself, the promontory has been turned into a fortress 
by building a strong wall across its base. Often sub- 
sidiary buildings, kraals and the like, are to be seen 
on the space thus walled off. 

IX. Some words must be said, in conclusion, about 
. the rmg^or^tf_artli, which are the commonest and 

most conspicuous of the remains of ancient Ireland. 
They are scattered in tens of thousands over the whole 
country ; and possibly because of their very frequency 
very little indeed is known about them. Archaeolo- 
gists have been recording and describing the excep- 
tional objects, and these common-place structures 
have been neglected : yet their very commonness gives 
them a special importance, as it shews that they are 
relics of the normal life of ancient days. 

A large book could be written upon these structures, 
enumerating their types, varieties, and probable pur- 
poses. The simplest form is an unbroken ring of earth, 

1 As reference to the descriptive part of my monograph, Temair 
Breg (PRIA, xxxiv, C, 231), will shew, the traditions accord with 
this view of the case 


enclosing a circular space that may be anything from 
about 15 feet in diameter up to an acre or so in extent. 
Next comes a similar ring, with a fosse running along- 
side it most commonly outside, but occasionally 
inside. Thirdly we may mention a similar ring and 
fosse, but with an entrance-gap, corresponding to 
which there is a causeway through the fosse. Further 
types are formed by multiplying the number of 
mounds : some add a second, others a third vallum. 
Ring-forts with more than three mounds are seldom 
found ; some, however, have the appearance of this 
degree of elaboration, as one or the mounds 
usually the second is double, a sort of passage way 
with a parapet on both sides running along the top. 

Further complications are produced by multiplying 
the number of rings two or even three enclosures, 
close together or in contact, being not infrequent. 
It is, however, not always easy to determine, in such 
a case, whether we have to deal with several indepen- 
dent simple structures close together or with one 
compound structure (the " figure-of-8 " type). 

When there are two or more concentric rings 
surrounding the structure it often happens that the 
entrance-gaps are not opposite one another, but that 
the visitor, having passed through the entrance in the 
outer vallum, has to walk along the intervening fosse, 
perhaps a quarter of the way round the fort, till he 
reaches the gap in the inner vallum. The purpose 
of this is evidently to compel him to turn his flank to 
the defenders of the fortress, and so to put him at 
a serious disadvantage. 

The forts above described are circular rings : 
usually they are so exactly circular that they must 
have been laid out, by their builders, with the aid of 
some mechanical contrivance ; probably a rope was 
tied to a peg at the centre of the proposed fort, and 
swept round as a moving radius, thus tracing the 
circle. But the ring-forts are not all circular. Some 
are D- shaped, with one straight side : others are 
quadrilateral and more or less rectangular. It is 


generally supposed that these latter forms are later 
than the circular structures, but without very much 
ground on which to base the speculation. That 
certain of these forts are bronze-age is indicated by 
the discovery of bronze spear-heads and ferules in 
one (type not stated) at Hollyfort, Co. Wexford. 1 

It may be that certain types are characteristic of 
certain areas. But until the archaeological survey of 
the country is undertaken and completed it will be 
impossible to determine whether this is so. If they 
are ever to be studied properly if the survey just 
mentioned is ever to be carried out the time is now 
or never. Old superstitions, which have preserved 
them intact till now, are dying : and while the autho- 
rities look on apathetically, a soulless land-greed is 
already beginning to deprive the country of these 
most interesting relics. 

The walls are constructed, some of earth alone, 
some of earth mingled with stones : some combine 
earthen with stone walls. Some are great and imposing 
structures, even to-day when the weather has been 
playing on them for over a thousand years : others 
are insignificant. 

Many of these structures have no sign of any 
internal sub-division, or of enclosed buildings. But 
in others we find the foundations of guard-chambers 
beside the entrances, bee-hive kraals, and also sou- 
terrains underground chambers and passages, often 
of considerable complexity. 

The purpose of these ring-forts is, probably variable. 
Some are certainly not forts, but bronze-age burial 
places : in the concluding chapter of this volume 
we shall see one or two illustrations of this. Probably 
the majority are residential : but many of them are 
far from any water supply, and are so placed as to be 
easily attacked by enemies. Others are very likely 
simple cattle-pens. Most probably the walls were 
reinforced by a cheval de frise of brushwood on the 
top, to prevent the entrance of unwelcome visitors. 

iJRSAI, xxi, 485. 


The remark just made, that the ring-forts which 
seem to be residential are often placed in undesirable 
military positions, applies to many of the fortified 
structures in Ireland. Steidhg, for example, is situated 
where no military engineer in his senses would place 
a fort. It is commanded by heights out of the reach 
of the defenders, but from which the attackers could 
shoot missiles into the enclosure. The explanation 
of this anomaly is very simple. It was not so much] 
human enemies as wolves which were the attackers I 
that had to be feared. These elaborate fortified 
steadings do not tell of a time when every man's hand 
was against his fellow, as some would have us believe. 
They tell of a time when on the contrary communities 
had to combine against this terrible destroyer of their-, 
flocks. This is the explanation of the construction 
of countless " forts " over the country which could/ 
not have resisted the siege of a dozen hostile men( 
for a week. 

The date probably varies as much as the plan and 
construction. Enough is not known to date individual 
examples. Some, however, must be quite late, as 
Ogham inscriptions have been stolen by the builders 
from the graves to which they properly belong, and 
used (often mutilated) as building material in the 
souterrains. Others may well be as old as the Bronze 
Age. No excavation in these structures has ever 
yielded any objects worth discovering a few scraps 
of broken pottery or the like is the most that has been 
found in them. 

We repeat, it would be quite hopeless to attempt, 
within our limits, anything like an exhaustive treatise 
on ring-forts. The subject is endless ; and it has 
hardly been touched at all by Irish antiquaries. 
Enough, however, will have been said to give the 
reader a starting-point ; which indeed is all that we 
can hope to do in any of the chapters of the present 



I. Difficulties of the Study. II. The Materials at our Disposal. 
III. The Branches of the Study of Ancient Religions. IV. 
The Objects of Pre-Celtic Worship. V. The Rites of Pre- 
Celtic Worship. VI. The Places and Ministers of Pre-Celtic 

I. Suppose that we were desirous of learning the 
geological history of some complicated system of rocks ; 
and that it was possible to procure exact diagrams of 
their stratification, with a carefully selected series of 
specimens from each stratum, correctly labelled and 
arranged in their proper order. We might reasonably 
expect that a geologist would be able to give us the 
information we required, from the material which 
we were thus able to put at his disposal, even though 
he had no opportunity of personally visiting the site. 

But now let us suppose that for some reason we 
wished to obtain a second opinion on the subject : and 
that in communicating with another geologist we 
employed a messenger so careless or so untrustworthy 
that he made the diagrams illegible by dropping them 
in mud, lost a number of the specimens, detached the 
labels from the rest, affixed false labels in some cases 
in their stead, and finally presented the specimens 
all mixed up and disarranged. It is common sense 
that Geologist No. II would be at a serious disadvan- 
tage as compared with Geologist No. I, and that it 
would be unreasonable to expect from him a report 
so full and so accurate as that presented by his more 
fortunate colleague. 

The disadvantages under which Geologist No. II 
labours, in this hypothetical case, are no worse than 



those from which we ourselves suffer when we endea- 
vour to reconstruct something of the religious ideas 
of the men of the Stone and the Bronze Ages. The 
problem before us is analogous to that which our 
faithless messenger has put before him. 

The study of Comparative Religion is one of the 
most elusive that can occupy the attention of a scholar. 
On no subject are peoples and tribes so reticent as on 
their religious beliefs and practices. In no subject 
is it possible to follow so many Wills-o'-the-Wisp. 
It is instructive, as a warning, to look back over the 
history of the interpretation of ancient religions and 
mythologies during the last thirty or forty years. 
One scheme after another has arisen and has fallen. 
Thus, there was a time when the solar system was the 
universal solvent. Everything was interpreted as a 
myth of the sun, the dawn, the night, the light, the 
darkness, the heavenly bodies. Was a hero born ? 
he was the rising sun. Did a hero die ? he was the 
setting sun. Did he rise from the dead ? even this 
was no difficulty for the solar mythologist : is not 
the sun called back to life anew every morning ? Did 
a story tell of a man with one eye ? he was obviously 
the sun. Did it, on the contrary, tell of an Argus 
with a hundred eyes ? what could he be but the sky, 
twinkling with its myriad stars ! Did a heroine like 
Persephone spend half her time in the gloomy under- 
world, and half in the joyous world above ? obviously 
she was the dawn, which comes half way between the 
darkness and the light. The great charm about the 
solar myth hypothesis was that it was always right, 
and never failed of an explanation. If there was a 
myth that could not, however tightly one turned the 
thumbscrew, be forced to recall one set of celestial 
phenomena, there was quite a large selection of 
alternatives, one or other of which would be sure to 
fill the gap. The rainbow, the aurora borealis, or 
the zodiacal light could be called in on an emergency. 

This form of criticism is associated, in these islands, 
with the name of its Oxford protagonist, Max Miiller. 


It was applied to the traditions and mythology of 
Ireland by the late Sir John Rhys, in his Hibbert 
Lectures on Celtic Heathendom. That book was a 
remarkable pioneer study in a field till then all but 
untilled. But it carried the theory much too far. Even 
a clear-cut historical character like Cormac mac Airt 
was forced to become a sun-god : and this theory still 
lingers among the uninstructed, who probably know 
little or nothing about the many enduring contribu- 
tions made by Sir John Rhys to Celtic scholarship. 
Practically all such exegesis as this is now obsolete, 
for the heavy guns of Mr. Andrew Lang and others 
shattered the solar hypothesis : and the corn-spirit 
reigned in its stead. Like the sun-myth, this also 
was pushed to extremes, and regarded as a general 
explanation in all difficulties. Like the sun-myth, 
the corn-spirit is now finding its level : and probably 
in days to come, someone will hit upon a new 
scheme of interpretation which, like its predecessors, 
will run its course. 

This is not to say that there is not a very consider- 
able element of truth, both in the solar myth hypo- 
thesis and in the theory of the corn-spirit. But they 
must not be forced to work overtime ! 

There is a third method of interpretation, which 
has its place within certain limits : namely, to treat 
ancient mythic tales as traditions (distorted no doubt) 
of actual events. Such a simple explanation appears 
in many cases eminently reasonable. But naturally 
it will not serve when we get the same story told in 
widely different parts of the world. The tale of the 
barber of the Irish "king Labraid who had horse ears, 
which follows step by step the story of the barber of 
the similarly afflicted king Midas, even apart from 
the physical impossibilities in the narrative, could not 
be so explained, simply because it is found in two 
such widely separated places as Ireland and Phrygia. 

II. The mere fact that there are so many different 
explanations of myths and of the associated rites is 
sufficient to show the difficulties with which we have 


to contend in our present study. If there were any 
branch of the subject of Comparative Religion that 
we might have supposed to be familiar, it would surely 
be the religions of ancient Greece and Rome. We 
have countless literary works of all kinds, inscriptions, 
temples, tombs, to tell us of them ; yet in this branch 
of research there are dozens of unsolved problems. 
Consider on the contrary the meagreness of the 
material at our disposal in attempting to discover 
something of the religious beliefs and practices of 
the pagan peoples of north-western Europe. We 
have a few scanty details in Caesar and other classical 
writers. We have on the Continent and in Great 
Britain, but not in Ireland, a number of short votive 
inscriptions mentioning certain gods and goddesses, 
but telling us nothing about them. We have on the 
Continent some sculptured representations of certain 
gods, which are valuable so far as they go, but un- 
satisfying. We turn to the surviving fragments of 
the native literature, and find that they have been so 
ruthlessly edited by their early redactors that we have 
to work hard with a drag-net to recover any traces 
of ancient paganism at all from them ; and when 
found they have to be criticised with the greatest 
judgment. There are no temples at our disposal ; 
though there are a number of rude stone monuments, 
which, enigmatical as they are, have some contribution 
to make to the subject. And that is all. When we 
have collected these scanty materials together, there 
remains the further problem of deciding how much 
is Celtic and how much Pre-Celtic. We have in fact 
the same difficulty to meet as we had in deciding the 
date of the ancient fortresses described in the last 
chapter. In any case it is only to be expected that if 
the materials for the study of Celtic religion are slender, 
those from which we can get any idea of Pre-Celtic 
religion must be yet more exiguous. 

III. In studying ancient religions we have to con- 
sider the subjects under various heads the objects 
of worship (gods, etc.) : the methods of worship 


(religious rites and cerempnies) : the places of wor- 
ship (temples, etc.) : the ministers of worship (priests, 
druids, etc.). We cannot here give more than a sketch 
of the vast subject before us, which would require a 
large volume for its adequate discussion. 1 In making 
a selection of a few of the materials at our disposal, 
we begin with the objects of worship. 

IV. Let us ask ourselves first what would be the 
most likely objects of worship of tribes on the level 
of civilisation of the Stone and Bronze Ages, at the 
time when we first make their acquaintance. An im- 
portant element in their religion would be the cult of 
the dead, who have entered a mysterious supernatural 
state in which they have much capability for good or 
for ill. Andrew Lang, in The Making of Religion, has 
shewn that the mental state in which hallucinations, 
wraiths, and " revenants " appear, abnormal in civi- 
lised man, is less abnormal in a savage, whose life is 
much less regularly ordered where, to take one 
simple and obvious instance, long fasts are often 
succeeded by a heavy gorge of food, both conditions 
naturally disturbing the mental balance. When we 
add the ignorance of the savage as to the true scientific 
nature of phenomena, which even his civilised brother 
understands but imperfectly, it is easy to understand 
that a cult of the dead will enter, to a great extent, 
into his endeavours to propitiate the unknown and 
uncomprehended powers with which he is surrounded. 

Next to this we may mention the cult of animals. 
Even to us an animal is a profound mystery. We 
cannot make the most rudimentary guess at the nature 
of the mental processes in, or the appearance of the 
world to, the cat dozing on our hearthrug. Yet more 
mysterious is the wild nature and its mighty forces 
that surround a savage. The weird noises of animals, 
their strange habits, their mysterious appearances and 
disappearances, their superhuman powers in various 
directions in physical strength, in swimming, in 

1 The writer may be permitted to mention that he has for some 
time had such a volume in preparation. 


swiftness, in flight all these invest the animal world 
with a sort of divinity which we find reflected in many 
religious systems. 

Thirdly will come the great inanimate powers and 
forces of nature the wind, the rain, the sun, the 
storm, the thunder, givers now of life and now of 
death. With them may be coupled the meteor, fallen 
from heaven, and the heavy massive axe which the 
man himself has fashioned, but whose deadly stroke 
enables him to kill his enemies and to slaughter the 
animals that he hunts for food. Under this heading 
we may also connect the deities of fertility and vege- 
tation, whose work it is to bring the harvest to its full 
fruition in its due and appointed season, and, gene- 
rally, to superintend the increase of crops, flocks, 
herds, and Man himself. 

Examples of all these classes are to be found in 
Pre-Celtic tradition. Among the principal deities of 
ancient Ireland one of the first and most important is 
Oenghus of the Brugh. The Brugh is certainly the 
great group of monuments near Droichead Atha, of 
which Dubhadh, Cnoghbha, and New Grange are the 
most conspicuous but by no means the only monu- 
ments. The mere existence of these gigantic burial 
places proves the existence of great men of old in 
whose honour they were erected. And the writer can 
see no valid reason to doubt that the constant tradition 
which connects New Grange with a personage called 
Oenghus is founded on some ancient history, now . 
otherwise forgotten. In his paper on Teamhair he 
has adduced reasons to believe that Oenghus was a 
real historical character, who lived, probably, some 
time towards the beginning of the Bronze Age : that 
he was the founder of the religious rites which centred 
in the kingship of Teamhair : that in his honour, and 
probably under his superintendence, the structure 
called New Grange was erected : that he was deified 
after his death : and that the incoming Celts equated 
him to a god of their own, called variously Geide or 
Dagda, who was most probably a storm-god. The 


argument on which these, conclusions are based is 
rather complicated and cannot well be condensed 
here : readers may be referred to the Academy's 
publication, where it will be found. 1 

Of the worship of Oenghus we have many traces. 
In the life of the seventh century saint, Colman mac 
Luachain, 2 we are told that a certain king and his 
jester we should probably read " druid " (drui) for 
"jester" (druth) were travelling together on horseback 
and they came to a place where their horses could not 
go, so that they were obliged to tether them and proceed 
on foot. The king put his horse under the protection 
of St. Colman ; his companion, as a pagan, invoked 
Oenghus. In the sequel the king's horse was found 
safe and sound, while the jester's was stolen. 

Again, readers of the tale of the Pursuit of Diarmuid 
and Grdinne will recall the striking close of the story. 
Diarmuid had gone to chase the great boar of Beinn 
Gulban, ignorant of the gets upon him never to chase 
the boar. This probably means, as we saw in a 
previous chapter, that Diarmuid belonged to a 
boar tribe, and should not have chased his totem 
animal. He was slain : and then we read " At that 
time and season it was shown to Oenghus of the Brugh 
that Diarmuid was lying dead in Beinn Gulban ; and 
he went there in the wind, and raised three terrible 
cries of grief over the body of Diarmuid. And he 
said to Grainne's people [who had come to fetch the 
body] that he would not let them take Diarmuid 's 
body, but that he would himself bear it with him to 
the Brugh : and since, he said, I cannot restore him 
to life, I will put a spirit into him so that he may talk 
to me every day." Diarmuid belonged, according to 
tradition, to the Ernai of Mumha, certainly a Pre- 
Celtic people. He belonged to the matriarchal kin 
of Duibhne, whose name is found in several Ogham 
inscriptions in the barony of Corco Dhuibhne. Oen- 
ghus protected his own tribesman, therefore, and 

1 PRIA, vol. xxxiv, sect. C, no. 10. 

2 Edited by Kuno Meyer in the Todd Lecture Series of the RIA. 


himself saw to the disposal of his body, not permitting 
Grainne, a representative of the fair-haired Celtic 
usurpers, to have anything to do with it. 

Besides the important group of stories that centre 
in Oenghus, we have other traces of the cult of the 
dead. The great assemblies, such as those of Tailltiu, 
Tlachtgha, Carman, Uisnech, and the rest, all took 
place in close association with ancient cemeteries. 
In the Fenian legend of the Chase of Sliabh na mBan 
Finn, 1 we are told that Find mac Umhaill sat to rest 
on a certain assembly-mound, and his followers 
grouped themselves around him. * Whose tomb is 
this mound ? " asked one of the group : evidently it 
was a matter of course that the recognised place of 
assembly should be a tomb. 

These examples must suffice for the present : and 
we now turn to the second head, the worship of 
animals. This follows a definite line of development. 

At first the animal itself is conceived of as being 
endowed with mystical powers an idea intelligible 
enough, for reasons already mentioned. But after a 
while man begins to assert his domination over the 
beasts. He discovers that though in certain points 
some of them surpass him, yet they are on the whole 
inferior to himself. The crude conception of the 
sanctity of the species merges in the animal god- 
some specific cow, or boar, or whatever it may be, 
that has lived on the earth in past time. Such, for 
instance, in the great bull of the epic of Tain Bo 
Cualnge. In time this animal deity becomes identified 
with an anthromorphic god. Thus the Bull of 
Cualgne was identified with the swineherd of Bodhbh, 
King of the Sidhe of Mumha. Even in classical 
Attica tales were told of how Zeus for purposes of his 
own took on occasion the form of various animals. 
Doubtless these stories were originally told of animal 
gods, afterwards identified with Zeus. Our own 
nursery tales of Puss in Boots, and ^Beauty and the 

1 Published in Kuno Meyer's Fiannuigecht (Todd Lecture Series). 


Beast, in which a prince appears in animal form, are 
worn-down extracts from mythologies of the same 

The Bull of Cuailnge : the Boar of Beinn Gulban : 
the Black Pig that is said to have scooped out the dyke 
which still remains to mark the southern limits of 
Ulaidh, and which has not yet entered the limbo of 
dead gods, as a recent ebullition of popular excitement 
has shown : all these are certainly extremely ancient 
animal gods. Probably " Irusan mac Arusain," king 
of the cats, of whom there is a grotesque description 
in the rollicking satire on the bards called Imtheacht 
na Tromdhaimhe, is a parody of some cat divinity. 
We have some evidence for cat worship in that singu- 
larly interesting biographical dictionary, as we may 
call it, known as Coir Anmann. This compilation tells 
us that Cairbre Cat-head, who led the revolt of the 
serfs, that is, the enslaved aborigines, in A.D. 9 (accor- 
ding to the chronology of the Four Masters) was so 
called ' :< because his god had the shape of a cat." 
Clearly that is no reason for such a name, and it could 
not have been invented as a reason. It must have been 
in existence as a separate story about Cairbre, and 
have been adapted by the writer of the treatise. It 
does not necessarily prove that the aboriginal inhabi- 
tants worshipped cats, but it does suggest that their 
Celtic masters asserted that they did so. 

Of the worship of the powers of nature, the agri- 
cultural and pastoral deities, we have the clearest 
evidence in the periodical assemblies, which were 
not impossibly of Pre-Celtic origin. They took place, 
as a rule, at or near cemeteries, and were thus bound 
up with a cult of the dead : but the fact of their inci- 
dence on the critical days of the year proves that they 
were also connected with the annual phenomena of 
seasonal change. The assembly of Uisnech celebrated 
Beltane, the first of May, the beginning of summer. 
The assembly of Tailltiu celebrated Lughnasadh, the 
first of August, the beginning of Autumn. The assem- 
bly of Tlachtgha and that of Teamhair celebrated 


Samhain, the first of November, the beginning of 
winter the season of the death of the corn-spirit. 
There is evidence (which will be found set forth at 
length in the author's paper on Teamhair, already 
referred to) that the re-birth of the corn-spirit was 
also celebrated at Teamhair, with a feast at or about 
25th March. 

The frequent traces found, in ancient legend and 
in modern custom, of^well-worship and spring-wor- 
ship, most probably have their roots in the Pre-Celtic 
period : though doubtless there are imported Celtic 
accretions which it would be difficult now to dis- 
entangle. And especially is it probable that river- 
worship was an essential element of Pre-Celtic religion, 
but not so distinctively (except as a matter of survival) 
of the religion of the succeeding Celtic-speaking 
people. This is indicated by certain remarkable facts 
in the nomenclature of rivers in Ireland. These are 
of three types : A, Commonplace descriptive names, 
such as Abhann mhor, Abhann dubh, and the like 
;< the great river," " the black river," etc. B, Names 
derived from the towns by which the river flows : 
' the Boyle River," " the Galway River," " the Gort 
River," etc. C, Names entirely inexplicable. Group 
C are the oldest, and are most probably relics of the 
Pre-Celtic speech ; very likely originally the names of 
the deities of the rivers. Groups A and B denote 
rivers originally nameless, or of which the name was 
too ill-omened to utter. Where we have groups of 
nameless rivers, called merely after the neighbouring 
towns (as seems to be the case in S.W. Galway),, we 
probably have the seat of a tribe which did not pay 
special religious homage to the rivers. 

Before leaving this part of the subject, another 
important deity must be mentioned the reigning 
chieftain or king. There is complete evidence (for 
which, again, reference may be made to the author's 
paper on Teamhair) that the reigning monarch was 
looked upon as an incarnation of a corn-deity. His 
presence among his people secured for them the boon 


of good crops : his unworthiness caused pestilences 
and famines. His life was in consequence hedged 
round with many geasa, to safeguard his divinity. 
He had to be the strongest and most vigilant man in 
the community : not only was a person suffering from 
a physical blemish incapable of reigning, but if anyone 
could kill the reigning monarch he ipso facto proved 
himself more worthy to be a god upon the earth and 
reigned in his stead. Similar rites are reported from 
Italy (the Rex Nemorensis of Aricia), Central Africa, 
and many other places. The facts upon which these 
deductions are founded are reported of the Celtic 
period, but there can be little doubt that the system 
is of Pre-Celtic origin. 

V. We now turn to the rites with which these powers 
were worshipped and propitiated. These were in 
part magical : and here we touch upon a problem 
which has been much debated within recent years and 
which has been answered in different ways : namely, 
whether magic or religion 1 had the priority in develop- 
ment. There are some who would give the priority 
entirely to magic. There is a drought, let us say, and 
the savage wants rain to fall, to water the earth. He 
therefore performs some rite, such as pouring water 
upon the ground which is supposed in some way to 
produce sympathetically the effect required. It is of 
the same order of ideas as the well-known method of 
injuring an enemy by maltreating an image of the 
person in various ways. In time (on this theory) a 
rite of the kind becomes periodic : the original purpose 
for which it is performed is forgotten, and a tale is 
told to account for it. Gods emerge from the dramatis 
persona of the tale. The other theory is that the action 
of the savages is really an acted prayer. " Give us 
rain," he says, in effect, as he pours the water on the 
ground : " this is what we want." It is an object - 

1 It is hardly necessary to say that in speaking of " religion " 
here, we refer only to natural religion, as opposed to the religion 
taught by an inspired Teacher. 


lesson, so to speak, for the supernatural Powers. For 
various reasons, which it would take too long to set 
forth in this place, the second seems to me the more 
satisfactory theory of the two. 

We can give a selection only from the material that 
a careful search through the literature provides us 
with, for determining the rites by which these deities 
were worshipped. I begin with some observations 
on the well-known story of St. Patrick and Cromm 
Cruaich. This appears at first sight to be a story of 
Celtic religious worship, and therefore outside our 
present subject. But it is quite clear that the Celtic 
incomers took over much from the religion of their 
Pre-Celtic predecessors. It was natural that they 
should do so ; for the aborigines presumably would 
know how the gods of the land should be worshipped : ' 
we have already, in a previous chapter, spoken of the 
awe with which people would in pagan times enter a 
strange country before they discovered how its 
spiritual inhabitants should be propitiated. 

St. Patrick, we are told, came in his peregrinations 
to Magh Sleacht, a place of uncertain identification, 
but said to be in Co. Cavan. There was there " the 
king idol of Ireland," called Cromm Cruaich : and 
he was of gold, surrounded by twelve subordinate 
deities of stone. 

Obviously this is the description of a monument 
of the class known as Stone Circles. And in the 
Stone Circles I see, primarily, the representations 
or abodes of groups of bronze-age divinities. These 
monuments, of which a large number still remain in 
Ireland, are almost always planned on the model of 
the circle of Cromm Cruaich as thus described a 
circle of stones with one outstanding stone outside ; 
rarely inside. The outstanding stone is often of 
commanding size, as in the circle figured (fig. 99) from 
Muisire Beag, Co. Cork. Another good example is the 
circle at Hollywood, Co. Wicklow (fig. 100) a short 
distance south of Poll a' Phuca waterfall. It consists 
of a circle of blocks of granite, with a single pillar 


standing outside, which someone has tried to conse- 
crate by cutting a large cross upon it. The circle 
stands in a field called Achadh Greine, " sun-field " ; 


and it bears the name " The Piper's Stones," because, 
it is said, these stones were once men, who in piinish- 
ment for having taken part in some profane dance were 



turned into stone the stone outside the ring is iden- 
tified with the piper. To all these points we shall 
return presently. 

In the Dindsheanchus of Magh Sleacht we have an 
ancient Irish poem, about 1,000 years old, which 
describes Cromm Cruaich, and also describes the rites 
that took place around it. As it is of some importance 
we may give here a rough version of it, in some approxi- 
mation to the metre of the original i 1 

Here used to soar 
A lofty idol, without peace : 
Cromm Cruaich was the name it bore, 
It caused all quietness to cease. 

Alas the tale ! 

They prayed to it, with tribute sad, 
They, the brave people of the Gaedhil 
To make them, in this hard world, glad. 

Their god was he 

That Cromm all misty, withered, wan 
Those whom he ruled so fearfully 
Are dead and whither have they gone ? 

To him oh shame ! 
Their children, piteous babes, they slew, 
Their blood they poured out in his name, 
With wailing cries, and tears, and rue. 

For milk, for corn, 
For increase of their crops, in fear, 
They offered him, those parents lorn, 
One-third of all their children dear. 

The noble Gaedhil 
In prostrate awe before him came : 
With murderous rites so runs the tale 
From which Magh Sleacht received its name. 

From Teamhair came, 
One Samhain day, with royal show 
A prince King Tighearnmhas was his name 
His coming was a cause of woe ! 

1 The Irish text with a literal translation will be found in Meyer 
and Nutt, The Voyage of Bran, vol. ii, p. 301, ff. 


There they transgressed, 
They beat their hands, their bodies rent, 
To serve the demon they addressed 
As god ; and showers of tears they spent. 

That mighty host 

Those strong unhappy warriors, died 
Around their king : their lives they lost 
In worship luckless, without pride. 

For, it is said 

No one escaped, save just one-fourth, 
The rest they left all lying dead 
Round Tighearnmhas, ravager of the north. 

Thus, to that god 

The hosts prostrated in their shame, 
And yet around the blood-stained sod 
The plain still keeps its ancient name. 

Stone idols old 

Ranked round Cromm Cruaich, four times three, 
They were of stone, but he of gold, 
The hosts deceiving bitterly. 

From Eremon 

The gracious founder of our race, 
Till Patrick came, they served a stone, 
And worshipped it within that place. 

With heavy maul 

He smashed the paltry gods each one, 
With valorous blows destroyed them all, 
Nor left a fragment 'neath the sun. 

This important poem tells us (i) that there was in 
the place named an idol called Cromm Cruaich ; (2) 
that it had twelve subordinate gods around it ; (3) that 
it was worshipped with rites which involved prostra- 
tions, self-mutilations, and human sacrifices, especially 
the sacrifice of children ; (4) that at least one king, 
Tighearnmhas, had been sacrificed there ; (5) that 
the purpose of the rites was to secure goodness of 
crops ; (6) that St. Patrick destroyed the whole group 
with a maul or sledge-hammer. The stories about 
St. Patrick vary slightly in the details of the destruction 


of the monument, but that is beside the present point. 
For our immediate purpose the first five of the above 
statements are those which are relevant. That Cromm 
was of gold probably means that his stone figure was 
specially adorned with gilding. There are other cases 
of the outside stone of a circle-group being conspi- 
cuously decorated : a good example is the well-known 
group called Long Meg and her Daughters, near Penrith 
in Cumberland. That no gilded example remains is 
not surprising. Much weight must be attached to 
such traditions as those enshrined in this ancient poem. 
The young people who are now growing up, in an 
Ireland that has been revolutionised by the news- 
paper, the schoolmaster, and the returned American, 
can have but little conception of the Ireland which I 
remember as a boy, when the fairies were as real as 
the cattle in the fields : and even the Ireland of my 
recollections had already lost traditions that were still 
living in the generation before. In fact, none of us 
can have any real idea of the wealth of ancient tradition 
that must have been in the country, and that must 
have perished, neglected and unrecorded, in the black 
years of the Famine, and of the subsequent clearances. 
And when we go back a thousand years or so, to a 
country divided into a large number of small commu- 
nities, undisturbed by English interference, and living 
on their memories, it is not difficult to believe that 
much of -the then only recently extinguished paganism 
must still have been very clearly remembered. People 
have wasted gallons of ink and reams of paper trying 
to wriggle out of the evidence which this poem affords 
of the -practice of human sacrifice in Ireland. Such 
spurious patriotism is merely silly. There is not a 
country in the world where human sacrifices have not 
been offered at some time. If our ancestors two 
thousand years ago indulged in the practice, we may 
regret it : but as we cannot undo the past, let us do 
the next best thing, and feel grateful to them for 
giving us such an interesting subject for scientific 
investigation : for if the men of remote ages are not 


materials for scientific dissection, so to speak, of what 
use are they at all ? 

So we may be quite certain that sacrifices, both 
animal and human, formed a part of the ancient 
religious rites in this as in other countries. And 
another part of the rites was certainly dancing : and 
here we see the meaning of the tradition above referred 
to, that the stones in a circle had once been dancers, 
who were turned into stone for dancing a profane, 
that is, a pagan dance. A recollection of the use of 
these monuments is certainly enshrined in this legend. 

It is by no means an isolated case at Hollywood. 
The mediaeval story-teller, Geoffrey of Monmouth, 
calls Stonehenge Chorea Gigantum, the " giant's 
dance." A like name (Dawns-maen, " the dance- 
stone ") was used in Cornwall to denote similar 
monuments : and the tale of the dancers of Hollywood 
is told in connexion with other stone circles as well. 
A dance in the field of the sun ; nothing can be more 
obviously a recollection of the religious rites which 
these hoary stones used to witness on occasion long 
ago. The rite is by no means confined to Ireland : 
indeed in this as in other things Ireland simply shares 
in one universal European cult, that can be traced 
across the Continent right over to the Labyrinth of 
Crete. That structure, the palace-temple of the solar 
bull (the Minotaur) is bound by close and subtle ties 
of relationship with the stone circles that dot our 

The dance was most probably a circling procession 
advancing in a sun-wise direction, i.e., walking, 
running, or leaping in a circular path, keeping the 
right hand towards the centre of the circle. There 
was at Teamhair a stone circle it has now dis- 
appeared called the Deisiol ; and the Dindsheanchus 
of Teamhair speaks of it as "a sward with luck 
before going to death, where men used to turn 
right-hand-wise " : which probably means that some 
sort of circling procession was made there in 
order to induce the Powers to give success in battle. 


Primarily the purpose of such circling processions was 
magical : it was intended to keep the sun in his 
appointed course. But doubtless the rite took to 
itself other ideas and other accretions as time went on 
the usual fate of ancient rites, which is what makes 
Comparative Religion such an extremely complex 
subject of study. On Inis Mhuiredhaigh, an island that 
beyond all possibility of question was an ancient 
pagan sanctuary before it became the site of a Christian 
monastery, there is an altar called Clocha breaca, 
" the speckled stones." If you have an enemy whom 
you desire to injure, you go to this altar, and taking 
up one of the stones you walk round it left-hand -wise 
a direction contrary to the lucky sun-wise direction : 
pronouncing the while the curse which you desire 
should fall upon your foe. Then, if the powers of 
evil, whatever they may be, who control these matters, 
consider that your curse is justified, it will fall on the 
enemy : if not, it will return on yourself a salutary 
provision against the misuse of this powerful engine 
of destruction. 

There is also some reason to believe that the dancers 
had a very remarkable accompaniment the noise of 
the bull-roarer. The bull-roarer is an instrument of 
the greatest possible interest. It consists simply of 
a small lath of wood, tied at the end of a string. When 
the string is whirled round, the lath produces a 
peculiar fluttering sound, not quite like anything else : 
if the reader who has not heard it can imagine a rather 
noisy ventilating-fan which, however, is not steady 
in the sound it produces, but wavering, now loud, 
now soft, he will have a vague idea of what a bull- 
roarer sounds like. 

The bull-roarer is an important instrument in the 
rites of the Australian aborigines. It is used to 
summon the tribesmen, and to scare off those not 
initiated into the tribal mysteries especially the 
women : for it is believed that if a woman so much 
as sees a bull-roarer she will die. It is also used in 
primitive rites in America. It has been found 


surviving in some ancient Greek rites : and in the 
ancient Irish corroborees the feisanna and aonaighe 
the use of the bull-roarer has quite recently been 
identified. There is good reason to believe that the 
mysterious scream of the Stone of Fal, the inaugura- 
tion stone of the Kings of Teamhair, was produced 
by means of this wide-spread instrument. In ancient 
Ireland, as among the modern Australian black- 
fellows, the voice of the bull-roarer (called in Irish 
Roth Ramhach or " paddle-wheel ") was the voice of 
a god. 1 

To return for a moment to the story of St. Patrick 
and Cromm Cruaich, we should notice that outside 
this story and a few other traditions which depend 
upon it, there is no evidence for the existence of an 
ancient god Cromm or Crom. The name is probably 
a; nickname, given to the god in the early days of the 
struggle between Paganism and Christianity, by the 
adherents of the rival faith. We should also notice 
that the stone circle described in this narrative is less 
a dancing place than a representation of the dance 
itself. The chief god (whatever his real name may 
have been) stands in the middle, or in front, of the 
group : the " sub-gods " are circling round him in 
an eternal procession. The stones are gods, or rather 
the representatives or receptacles of godhead. A 
remarkable group of stone circles surrounds the 
probably sacred lake, Loch Gair in Co. Limerick. 2 

Still commoner than stone circles are single standing 
stones, some of them of small size but others as much 
as 17 to 20 feet in height (even taller standing stones 
exist in other countries). These probably served a 
variety of purposes, and belong to very different 
chronological periods. Some may be landmarks, 

1 The whole subject is fully discussed in the author's paper on 
Teamhair, referred to above. 

2 See Sir Bertram Windle's paper on this site, PRIA, xxx, 
sect. C, p. 283. Though I would not personally subscribe to the 
astronomical theories put forward in this paper, I have carefully 
tested it, and found that as a survey it is perfectly accurate. 


TIMES 301 

or possibly memorials of noteworthy events, 
certainly are grave-marks : but references in the 
Brehon Law tracts 1 to Ailche Adhartha, " stones of 
adoration," evidently referring to monuments of this 
kind, shews that when these documents were compiled 


there was still a tradition that they had received 
worship were, in fact, a kind of rude idol. 

Even when the standing stones marked graves, 
they are to be taken as religious rather than merely 

1 Vol. iv, p. 142 ; v, p. 472. 


memorial in essence. They are far more than mere 
gravestones : they are the receptacle provided for the 
life of the dead man, the medium through which 
offerings and honours are paid to his spirit. They 
are thus tangible memorials of the cult of the dead 
of which we have just spoken. 

The majority of these standing stones are simply 
rude blocks set on end, shewing no mark or sign of 
having been dressed by a mason. The illustration 
(fig. 101) represents a good typicaljexample, not ex- 
ceptionally tall, at Greencastle, Co. Tyrone. Often 
such stones are found to have crosses cut upon them. 


(Frorrva photograph by Mr. M. C. Burkitt) 

These are to be explained as the work of Christians, 
who still preserved enough of the Paganism from 
which they had been rescued to have a superstitious 
dread of destroying these monuments, but anxious to 
take the harm of its paganism out of it. 

A few stones, however, appear to have been so 
treated as to suggest the human figure that they were 
designed to represent. We have already (ante p. 230) 
figured such a stone, at Cuan an Bhainbh. At Fan- 
achaidh, west of Castletown in Co. Cork, there is a 


standing stone (one of a row of three, one of which 
has fallen) which certainly seems to have been 
trimmed into the rude semblance of a human figure. 
Naturally such stones statues-menhirs, to adopt a 
convenient French term would be most likely to 
be destroyed on a change of religion, and therefore 
it is not surprising that very few monuments of the 
kind are now to be seen in the country. But the 
tradition of the statue-menhir type of monument 
lived on till the introduction of Christianity, as is 
shewn by a most remarkable monument in the cathe- 
dral churchyard of Clochar. This is doubtless a 


Christian memorial, but it is clear that it has been 
cut into a shape suggestive of the human figure. 

There is another kind of megalithic monument 
which has to do, most probably, with bronze-age 
religion. This is the alignment (fig. 103). It con- 
sists of a row of stones set out in a straight line. 
There may be a single row, or a group of parallel 
rows. The stones need not be of large size, though 
some alignments are very imposing on account of the 
loftiness of the pillars of which they are formed. 


There is nothing in Ireland comparable with the great 
series of alignments at Carnac in Brittany, where over 
a thousand pillar-stones are used : but some are of 
quite respectable dimensions. Wakeman describes 
a group of four parallel alignments in Co. Fermanagh 
(at Cabhan Ce.athramhadha), consisting of stones 
about 3 ft. in height and extending over a length of 
480 feet. 1 The example here figured (at Barr an Chor- 
rain, Co. Cork) though three out of the five stones have 
fallen, is impressive, owing to the great size of the 
stones (fig. 103). 

In considering megalithic monuments of any kind, 
it must never be forgotten that what we see may be 
nothing but the skeleton of the original structure. 
There may have been mud, wicker-work, or wooden 
additions which were an essential element in their 
ritual use. These we have no data whatever to restore : 
yet it often appears as though there must have been 
such additions. At Kilmartin near Lochgilphead, 
Argyllshire once more we remind the reader that 
Ireland and S.W. Scotland form one archaeological 
province, and that we cannot think of the one apart 
from the other there is a remarkable series of 
stones the arrangement of which may be represented 
diagramatically thus : 

: A . B : C 

B is a large flat upright flagstone covered with cups 
and circles. There are a number of smaller stones 
at its foot, here omitted, which probably have a ritual 
use. The length between A and C is about 230 feet, 
B being almost in the middle of the line. The two 
groups of two stones become intelligible when we 
consider them as the gate-posts of the entrance to a 
sacred enclosure, which was marked out in this case 

JRSAI, xiv, 501. 


with a wooden palisade, in the centre of which stood 
the evidently sacred stone B. 1 Some reminiscence 
of just such a monument may linger in the name Gates 
of Glory, locally applied to a pair of standing stones 
close together in a field a little distance west of Dain- 
gean Ui Cuis, Co. Kerry. Behind these, there is a 
large stone now prostrate, which, like the stone B in 
the diagram above, is covered with a cup-and-circle 
pattern. We may without in the least transgressing 
the bounds of reason, regard these three stones as 


the sole relics of an elaborate temple enclosure of 
wood. There are other standing stones in the neigh- 
bourhood which may or may not belong to the same 
system. 2 

But the most remarkable stone monument which 
the Pre-Celtic age has left us is undoubtedly the 
temple for it can hardly be anything else called 
Leac Con mic Ruts, picturesquely situated in the 

1 For further particulars about this monument see the Proceedings 
of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. xvi, p. no. 

2 For the " Gates of Glory" see JRSAI, xxviii, 161. 


Deerpark near the town of Sligo. Other megalithic 
monuments, of less importance, stand by : and there 
is good reason to fear that others, again, have gone to 
make the high wall surrounding the Deerpark. The 
monument consists of a central area, 50 ft. long and 
25 ft. broad, marked out with stones about 4 ft. high. 
At one end is a trilithon (two stones supporting a 
third laid upon them lintel -wise), which forms a 
doorway leading into a subsidiary chamber about 
20 ft. long. The lintel of this trilithon has fallen or 


been pushed off its supports in recent years. At the 
opposite end are two trihthons leading into two similar 
chambers. The length of the whole chamber is close 
upon 100 ft., and it stands on a bank about 114 ft. 
long. It is possibly fanciful, but not unworthy of 
note, that the plan of the structure is not unlike a 
human body, the single chamber at the one end re- 
presenting the head, the two chambers at the other 
the legs. Excavations have been made inside this 


structure and have revealed human and animal bones, 
with some scraps of flint but no metals. 1 

Of the ministers of Pre-Celtic religion we can say 
nothing. It has been suggested that the whole druidic 
system is of Pre-Celtic origin : but while the possibility 
of this is not to be denied, there is no conclusive 


evidence for it. The Druids are so closely bound up 
with Celtic religion that it is better to postpone any- 
thing we may have to say about them to our later 
studies in the archaeological history of Celtic Ireland. 

1 JRSAI, xxi, 578. There is a good account of this structure 
by E. T. Hardman in JRSAI, xv, 57, entitled On a remarkable 
Megalithic Monument near Sligo. 



I. This Subject a Branch of Religion. II. Primitive Man and 
Death. III. Grave-goods. IV. Food-deposits. V. Burial for 
the Benefit of the Living. VI. Methods of Disposal of the 
Dead. VII. Cannibalism. VIII. Burial during the Stone Age : 
the Shore-dwellers. IX. The Middle of the Stone Age. X. 
The Dolmen-builders and their Constructions. XI. The 
Bronze Age : Cremation and its Significance. XII. Burial 
Ritual of the Bronze Age in Ireland. XIII. Earth Burials. 
XIV. Cave Burials. 

I. The subject of the disposal of the dead naturally 
follows that of religion. Indeed, it is rather to be 
considered as an intrinsic and very important part of 
that section of our study. Much of the ancient religion 
is founded on the cult of the dead : and the tendency 
of modern scholarship is perhaps rather to increase 
than to diminish the number of elements in religion 
and in mythology attributable to this source. 

II. At a very early stage in his development man 
revolts against the inevitable decree of death. It takes 
him altogether by surprise. He cannot believe in its 
universality : there are even yet many tribes of nature- 
folk which regard death as an abnormal accident, 
caused by some maleficent power acting on the victim ; 
were it not for witchcraft a man would live for ever. 
And when a man dies it becomes the duty of the 
witch-doctors to smell out the hostile magician who 
has caused his death. With this revolt against the 
law of nature, to which there is nothing analogous, so 
far as we can know, in the animal world, there grows 
up the conviction that death is not the end of all 
things, but the door to another life. There is probably 
no race or tribe, ancient or modern, not inspired with 



this belief to a greater or less extent. It appears as 
early as the epoch of the mammoth, in the middle of 
the Early Stone Age not improbably even earlier ; 
and it exists among the most primitive savages known 
to modern science. 

III. We can tell something about the views of a 
future life held by a people, from the deposits which 
they leave in the graves of their dead. In his new 
life the hunter will need his weapons and his war-paint, 
the woman her domestic implements and her orna- 
ments ; so these are placed beside their bodies in 
their last resting-place. There would be no sense or 
meaning in such deposits if no belief in a future life 
were entertained ; for the practically-minded savage 
is quite awake to the folly of recklessly wasting desir- 
able goods. To serve a great chief, his wives and his 
slaves and his horses are slaughtered around his tomb, 
that their spirits may minister in the new life to his. 
Indeed, this killing of the deposit is not confined to* 
animate gifts. For the line of demarcation between 
the animate and the inanimate is not so sharply drawn 
by the savage as it is by ourselves. The flying bird 
and the falling stone are both in motion, and therefore 
are both alive. The heavy axe kills enemies and 
animals with its deadly blows, therefore it is endowed 
with a mysterious vitality. It follows that as the living 
slaves and wives can be slaughtered in order to send 
their spirits after their lord, so the spirits of things 
that we call lifeless may be liberated for the same 
purpose. This is the explanation of the fact that such 
goods are so frequently smashed in pieces before being 
deposited in the tombs. 

IV. Food is an important deposit in burials. The 
purpose which it serves may be variously explained. 
It may simply have been argued that the ghost needed 
sustenance, as the man whose body it had tenanted 
in life had needed it. But there is not improbably 
another and a more subtle reason for such deposits. 
There is a well-known incident in folk-tales we find 
it in Ireland ; it is, indeed, universal in which the 


hero is brought to a mysterious place such as a fairy 
palace, and is forbidden by some one who befriends 
him to partake of the food set before him ; should 
he take the smallest particle he will never be able to 
escape. The notion underlying this incident is that 
latent in the old law of hospitality. When you break 
bread with another you are, as it were, one with him ; 
you make with him a binding covenant for mutual aid 
and protection. When you break bread with the 
fairies, or with the ghosts of the dead, or with super- 
natural companions, you are in like manner one with 
them. Readers of the Odyssey will recollect the same 
idea acting in the converse direction ; Odysseus, in 
his visit to the shades, cannot converse with them, or 
even make them aware of his presence, till he has 
given them a draught of earthly blood. And if you 
do not want your friend who has gone to join the dead 
to remain with them perpetually, you must supply him 
with earthly food. Peradventure he will taste of it 
and be recalled to earth again by it : if he be allowed 
to go hungry among the shades he may taste of their 
food, and so be obliged to stay in their gloomy land 
for ever. 1 

V. It must further be remembered that burial, and 
burial rites, are not only for the benefit of the dead. 
The living also profit by them. For the ghost of the 
dead man is a source of danger. It is important to 
keep it from wandering and annoying the living ; and 
some form of burial rite is necessary for this purpose. 
Even if the body cannot be procured, for any reason- 
as for instance because the deceased had been drowned, 
or devoured by beasts, or had perished among 
enemies a semblance of burial must be given him. 
Cenotaphs earns of stone, well built, but absolutely 
void of any contents have been found in the ceme- 
teries of Ceathramhadh Caol, in Co. Sligo, and at 

1 See Mr. E. S. Hartland's paper, Fairy Births and Human Mid- 
wives in " The Archaeological Review," vol. iv, esp. pp. 330-336. 
[Reprinted in his Science of Fairy Tales.] 


Loch Craoibhe in Meath. Another good example of 
a cenotaph was the carefully built earn known as " the 
Miracles " (a mistranslation of Fearta, " graves ") at 
Tulach Craoibhe, some five miles from Inis Ceithlinn, 
This structure was well and carefully built, of large 
stones, but nothing was found within it except one 
boulder bearing bronze-age ornamental carving, 
used, however, merely as building material, its in- 
scribed surface being turned downward. Such careless 
treatment of a bronze-age stone with symbolism, which 
probably had some sanctity at the time when it was 
made, may perhaps indicate that the monument 
belongs to the Iron Age. 1 

VI. The chief methods of the disposal of the dead, 
practised in Western Europe, are inhumation and 
incineration. There are others practised in other 
countries mummification in various forms, exposure 
to carnivorous animals or birds, etc. but these fall 
entirely outside our present study. There is, however, 
one other method, and, as some writers have attributed 
it to ancient Ireland, we may as well clear it out of 
the way at once. 

VII. Strabo 2 tells us that among other customs 
which the Irish had, and which he evidently regarded 
as highly shocking, was that of eating their deceased 
fathers. Apologists have tried to console themselves 
by calling Strabo a liar, and certainly that eminent 
geographer was not wholly guiltless of regrettable 
mistakes : he admits candidly that his authority for 
the statement here quoted is doubtful. But as in the 
case of the irregular marriages to which we alluded in 
a previous chapter, this easy way of evading the 
difficulty is more discreditable to the apologists than 
to the ancient author whom they criticise. The 
practice to which Strabo refers certainly exists else- 

1 T. Plunkett, Account of the Exploration of a long barrow in the 
Co. Fermanagh. PRIA, xv, 323. A similar stone, similarly treated, 
was found built into a ring-fort at Cluain Dubh, near Hilltown, 
Co. Down. UJA II, iv, 188. 

2 Bk. IV, chap, v, Section 5. 


where, among tribes of which he could have had no 
knowledge ; and there is no reason in the world why 
it should not at some time or other have existed in 

National pride need not be seriously perturbed by 
making such an admission. For, rightly viewed, 
this custom, crude and repulsive to our sensibilities 
as it undoubtedly is, is yet not without its element of 
pathos and even of beauty. Consider what is at the 
basis of the general practice of cannibalism. It doubt- 
less often has no end but the mere satisfaction of 
appetite ; but in many cases its meaning is much more 
subtle. A man sees that another has some desirable 
characteristic bravery, skill in one direction or 
another, or what-not which he himself lacks, but 
desires. By assimilating, in the most literal sense of 
the word, the fortunate possessor of the coveted 
quality, he hopes to acquire his talents. And so the 
son says of his dead father : '" Let him pass into my 
personality ; let the being who till now I have been 
calling ' I ' be henceforth ' he ' ; let my life be his ; 
only let him live again." It is an endeavour to force 
from the mystery surrounding nature an answer to the 
question, asked at every grave-side since man began 
to realise that he is not as the 'beasts that perish If 
a man die, shall he live again ? 

That this custom lasted in Ireland down to the 
time when Strabo wrote is not probable ; but there 
is no evidence one. way or the other. Even if it did 
persist so long, it is only another indication of the 
fact which Caesar proves clearly, that different grades 
of civilisation co-existed in different parts of these 
islands. That the aborigines of Ireland should have 
retained to a late date some of their primitive customs, 
customs that had come down from the Stone Age, 
is not at all impossible. 

VIII. The normal method of disposing of the body 
during the Stone Age was by burial. As a rule, in 
accordance with a wide-spread custom, the body was 
placed lying on its side, in a crouching attitude the 


knees being drawn up so as to touch, or almost touch, 
the chin. 

Only a very few stone-age sepulchres have been 
properly investigated in this country, and no very 
satisfactory reports of their examination have been 
published. In the neighbourhood of Baile an Bhoi- 
neannaigh, in Co. Kerry, was found a series of seventeen 
graves, apparently connected with a settlement that 
had left a deposit of implements and shells on the 
adjacent beach. Two or three only of these graves 
were properly examined. They were simply marked 
out and bordered with stones set on edge, enclosing 
a space averaging about 6 ft. by 2 ft. In this case the 
skeletons were not, as usual, crouched, but stretched 
at length. Nothing of the nature of coffins had been 
used. There was no sign of any violence on the skulls, 
which were of both males and females. No trace of 
implements, metal or flint, or pottery of any descrip- 
tion was found in any of these graves. The grave- 
goods of the shore-dwellers, so far as the materials 
available permit us to judge, are of the scantiest 
description. 1 Indeed this is the rule in all periods of 
Irish history ; the grave furniture is seldom if ever 
intrinsically worth the trouble and expense of searching 
for it. 

IX. The well-known mound of Cnoc Maraidhe, in 
Phoenix Park, levelled in May 1838, is a good typical 
example of a stone-age burial. The mound contained 
a chamber, consisting of five supporting stones about 
2 ft. high and a covering table-stone 6 ft. 6 ins. long. 
This chamber contained the remains of three human 
beings ; the first two were perfectly preserved, but 
only the tops of the thigh bones of the third were 
preserved. It is probable that the latter were amulets, 
worn by the two people to whom the grave really 
belonged. The bodies were slightly crouched, and 
the heads pointed north the latter, however, does 
not seem to be a point of great significance, as the 

1 See Archdeacon Wynne's note, Traces of Ancient Dwellings in 
the Sandhills of West Kerry, JRSAI, xxiii, p. 78 


orientation of such skeletons as have been observed 
in Stone-age tombs in Ireland seems to be a matter 
of complete indifference. These people had also worn 
necklaces of Nerita shells, which had been rubbed 
down on the valve to make a hole for threading. A 
vegetable fibre was used as the thread, and the shells 
were threaded ingeniously upon it. There was also 
a small fibula of bone and a knife and arrow-head 
of flint. 


In addition to the central chamber there were four 
small cists embedded in the mound, each containing 
an urn in which were the ashes of burnt bodies. 
These latter are doubtless what are technically known 
as secondary interments an adaptation of an earlier 
burial mound as a convenient place for disposing of 
a later burial. The urns, and the rite of burning, 
are sufficient to date these intrusive interments to the 
Bronze Age. 

The skulls and grave-goods found in this mound 
are to be seen in the Royal Irish Academy's collection 
in the National Museum. 1 

, i, 1 86 if. 


This example will show the nature of the graves of 
the middle period of the Stone Age in Ireland the 
period intervening between the earliest shore-dwellers 
and the dolmen-builders, of whom we have still to 
speak. We may see the bodies stretched or crouched, 
deposited within a chamber made of slabs of stone, 
and covered with an earth mound, of moderate dimen- 
sions. In Great Britain the stone-age burial mound, 
at least in certain districts, is of an oval plan, contrasting 
with the circular plan of the bronze-age burial mound. 
This rule, though not invariable, is useful to enable 
us to form a fair anticipation of what to expect when 
we begin to excavate a tumulus. But the distinction 
of !< Long Barrows " and " Round Barrows " fails 
us altogether in Ireland. There are no true Long 
Barrows in Ireland at all, though (perversely enough) 
there are a few earns of stone-heaps of the long 
" stone-age " shape, but undoubtedly belonging to 
the Bronze Age. 

X. As the Stone Age drew to a close a new fashion 
began to spread ; the fashion of Dolmen-building. 

A dolmen is a structure, often of considerable size, 
consisting of a number of stones standing upright and 
supporting one or more horizontal cover-slabs. The 
word is Breton, in which language it bears the 
appropriate meaning " table-stone." In Ireland 
they are often called by the name " cromlech " : 
and there seems to be an idea current that it is 
;< patriotic " to use it, though it is a much less satis- 
factory term. In the first place it is ambiguous, for 
this word is used by the French archaeologists (who 
easily stand first among the masters of pre-historic 
research) to denote what we call stone circles a 
totally different class of monuments. In the second 
place it is misleading, for it suggests to Irish ears a 
connexion, which it does not really possess, with the 
spurious divine name Cromm. In the third place 
the word is not Irish but Breton, and its meaning, 
" crooked stone," is not satisfactory as a description 
of monument. In short, the name Cromlech should 


be altpgether expunged from archaeological treatises, 
and the name Dolmen substituted in every case. 
Among the country people these monuments go by 
a variety of popular names, as " Giant's Grave," 
Leaba na bhfian, Leaba Dhiarmada agus Ghrdinne, 
Clock toghbhdla and the like. 


The dolmen thus resembles the small cist built 
inside the earth mound, but differs from it in being 
as a rule much larger and in not being covered with 
earth. The latter point has, it is true, been disputed ; 


but the probability is that the majority of dolmens 
which are exposed have always been so. Earth mounds 
are among the most permanent structures that can 
be reared by man ; after the surface has become well 
tied together by grass-roots they are practically in- 
destructible, unless intentionally dug away. Needless 
to say, anyone who took the trouble to remove an 
earth mound from his land would not spare the stone 
structure at its heart. Moreover, there are some 
dolmens which could not possibly have formed cham- 
bers in the heart of the mound. They are too open ; 
the earth would fill the whole space in and around the 
stones. A good example is the dolmen of Liag an 
Eanaigh, 1 Co. Down (fig. 107). Here there is a large 
stone, ii ft. long, supported at a height of seven feet 
by three slender pillar stones. It is quite plain that 
these stones would become quite buried in the earth, 
and no chamber would be formed, if a mound were 
heaped around them. 

It is impossible to contemplate some of these gigan- 
tic structures without a feeling of wonder. How, we 
may well ask, were these huge blocks lifted, with the 
scanty mechanical means at the disposal of stone-age 
man ? How were they poised and secured so that 
they have stood unmoved, it may be, between 4000 
and 5000 years ? Many of them are built of stones 
which must have been transported a long distance, 
as there is no bed of the kind of stone anywhere near ; 
there is one dolmen in France containing a stone that 
weighs 40 tons, which must have thus been carried 
19 miles. Such labour must mean the co-operation 
of many men ; such a co-operation means a high 
degree of social organisation. Large bodies of men 
must have united for a common purpose before 
any dolmen could have been built. Every monument 
of the kind is the record of the unifying power, either 

1 Joyce gives Lug an Eanaigh as the Irish form of this name, but 
it is perhaps more probable that the place should be called Liag 
an Eanaigh after the conspicuous monument the English form, 
" Legananny," sounds more like Hag (stone) than lug (hollow). 


of the word of some chief or medicine-man, or else 
of the feeling of loyalty to the tribal ideal and to the 
memory of the dead leader. 

Before we proceed to a more detailed description 
of the form of these monuments, which are among the 
most interesting that Pre-Celtic Ireland has bequeathed 
to us, let us glance for a moment at the facts of the 
distribution of dolmens in the world. 

They are found in Japan, after which there is a gap 
(proceeding westward) till we come to India. After 
this there is another gap till we meet them again in 
Syria, the Caucasus, and the Crimea. There are none 
in Egypt, but they occur in considerable numbers 
along the north coast of Africa. Crossing into Europe 
at the Straits of Gibraltar, we find ourselves among 
a profusion of monuments of this type in Spain ; 
indeed, Spain contains some of the finest dolmens in 
the world. On the other hand they are unknown in 
Italy, except in one district about Otranto, and in 
the Balkan Peninsula only one example is recorded. 
Returning to Spain, and crossing the Pyrenees into 
France, we again find ourselves in a rich dolmen 
district ; over 4,000 dolmens are recorded as existing 
in France. Belgium, Holland, and North Germany 
have a few, and there are a considerable number in 
Denmark and Southern Sweden. In Central Europe 
and in Northern and Central Russia they appear to be 
unknown. In the British Islands they are found in 
considerable numbers, especially in Cornwall and 
Wales ; while Ireland is one of the ^richest countries 
in the world in this class of monument. 1 

This distribution must have a meaning. It points 
to lines of influence, travelling along certain ways, 
touching some regions and leaving others unaffected. 
It has been supposed by some authorities that we are 
to picture the activities of a dolmen-building race, 

1 A useful map of the distribution of dolmens, and many illus- 
trations of these and analogous structures, will be found in 
Fergusson's Rude Stone Monuments ; a work for which otherwise 
there is little to be said. 


which spread from some centre of culture and settled in 
the various countries where these monuments are to be 
found. Others, with more reason, regard them as the 
indication of the spread of new ideas, religious or 
cultural, which affected a number of different tribes. 
What these ideas were we can but guess. It may be 
that the dolmens are the enduring monuments of the 
teaching of some great leader of men in the unrecorded 
past, who found out a new way of worshipping the 
gods and of propitiating the dead, and who caused 
his people to follow in his footsteps. Just as the 
religion of Muhammad spread from India to Spain, 
affecting populations differing profoundly among 
themselves in race and in language, so the forgotten 
cult, of which the dolmens are the expression, spread, 
thousands of years before, and by much the same 
routes, over a yet wider range of territory. 

The distribution of dolmens in Ireland itself is 
suggestive. Down to quite recent times the traditipn 
of encumbering forests covering the plains of Ireland 
persisted. In the early historical compilations the 
clearance from their forests is one of the stock actions 
attributed to the early monarchs ; and as a rule the 
greater the prowess of the king the greater is the 
number of the plains that he is said to have cleared. 1 
Traffic through the interior of the country must have 
been difficult, except along the lines of great waterways. 
Now, if we look at a map of the distribution of 
dolmens 2 we can see this fact illustrated in a very 
interesting way. There is a thick belt of dolmens 
running across Clare and part of Limerick. The 

1 There is a religious idea underlying the clearance of the plains 
attributable to the kings. The kings being vegetation-divinities, 
it was probably their special prerogative to cut down trees. 

2 Maps shewing the distribution of dolmens in the four provinces 
will be found in the first part of Borlase's Dolmens of Ireland. It 
should be remarked, however, that these maps err both by the 
omission of real dolmens and by the inclusion of unreal ones ! 
The letterpress of this book, as a whole' must be used with caution, 
though as a collection of illustrations it is of great value. 


northern end of this belt is in Boireann, which stony 
barony can never have had many trees ; the rest of 
the belt is accessible from the Sionann, which, with 
its lakes, must always have been the great highway of 
this part of the country. In Kerry these monuments 
are practically confined to the almost treeless sea- 
coast. In Cork they follow the ridge of the Bograch 
mountains in the barony of Muscraighe, which were 
probably comparatively free from forests ; and in 
Waterford they follow the line of the Siur, being 
especially common in the corner intercepted between 
the estuary of that river and the south coast of the 
county. Thus in Mumha the dolmens are practically 
confined to the sea-coast, where the trees would 
naturally thin out, and to the lines of the great rivers. 
The same thing is to be noticed in Connachta ; the 
north sea-coast is full of them indeed, Sligo is the 
great county in Ireland for these remains. There is 
then a little group in the south of Co. Galway within 
an easy journey of Loch Deirgdhearc, the last of the 
lakes of the Sionann. The few others that exist in 
the province are scattered along the brinks of con- 
spicuous rivers, with the exception of a belt running 
right through Mayo from north to south, and clearly 
following the line of the three great lakes, Con, 
Measca, and Oirbsean, which before the introduction 
of railways were the chief means of communication 
into the heart of the province. 

In Ulaidh the rule is not so conspicuously observed 
as in the other provinces ; but even there the majority 
of the dolmens, and the only large groups, are on the 
sea-coast, and in the lands watered by Loch Earna. 
We may notice especially a group near Loch Suileach, 
which contains the majority of the Donegal examples ; 
and on the other hand the comparative emptiness of 

Laighean shews conspicuously the same thing as the 
other provinces. The only groups are on the coast 
in Dublin, on the Siur in Kilkenny, and on the Bearbha 
in the same county, as well as on the Boinn in Meath. 


In considering such a question as the distribution 
of dolmens we must not forget another matter the 
presence or absence of stones suitable for building 
such structures. But even this is bound up with the 
foresting of the country and to a large extent depends 
upon it. We have seen that stone-age man was both 
able and willing to undertake the enormous labour of 
transporting stones of great size and weight, whenever 
it was necessary to do so. But nothing would have 
been a greater hindrance to such operations than a 
dense growth of forest trees, with its attendant under- 
growth and brushwood a pathway would have to be 
cleared through the obstruction. Further, the exis- 
tence of a forest implies soil, and a consequent inacces- 
sibility of blocks of suitable stone. We may therefore 
fairly conclude that the distribution of dolmens 
depends directly on the ancient forestation of the 

It is natural to ask ourselves how these gigantic 
blocks were raised. This question can be answered 
only by conjecture. It is not likely that any very 
elaborate system of levers was in use ; there are 
schemes published in various books which involve 
the use of complicated frameworks of timber, with 
highly ingenious mechanical apparatus. These are 
scarcely convincing. 

To arrive at a more acceptable conclusion, we must 
first postulate an unlimited quantity of labour avail- 
able, either willing or forced. Further, we may assume 
that the builders had the use of some kind of ropes ; 
of large beams of wood which they could use as 
simple levers and rollers ; and of some apparatus for 
digging. And we must also assume that the work 
was directed by an overseer, competent to see that 
the stones were sufficiently firm to bear the weight of 
the cover-slab, and that the space between the uprights 
was not too wide to be spanned by the stone selected 
to lie upon them. With these postulates we can re- 
construct the process with fair probability (fig. 108). 










The first thing to do would be to deposit the uprights 
on the ground, in such a position that their feet were 
approximately over the spot which they were intended 
to occupy ; the cap-stone lying at a little distance away. 
This placing of the stones would be done with the 
aid of ropes and rollers. 

The next step would be to dig the pit for the feet 
of each upright, one by one, and to raise the stone 
gradually with levers to slide it into position. It 
would be supported at each stage of the process of 
erection by wedging stones or earth underneath it. 
Small stones were wedged around the feet of the 
uprights, to hold them firmly in position. 

So soon as it was certain that the uprights were 
fast in the ground, an earth bank would be built up, 
sloping down from the top of the supporting stones to 
the place where the stone intended for the cover-slab 
was lying. This stone would then be dragged up 
this slope with the aid of rollers, and when set in 
position the earth bank would be dug away. The 
monument was then complete. 

For what purpose was such great labour under- 
taken ? Popular archaeology has answered this ques- 
tion by calling these monuments " druids' altars." 1 
It is not impossible indeed, it is highly probable 
that rites involving sacrifices in honour of the dead 
took place periodically around these monuments. 
But the idea that they were altars cannot be admitted 
for a moment. They may look like altars to the super- 
ficial observer, but when they are examined in detail 
the difficulties of such an explanation become obvious. 
An altar would require a flat and horizontal upper 

1 It is perhaps unfair to put the blame for this foolish idea on 
" popular archaeology." A great deal of harm has been done, 
in Ireland, by semi- instructed persons airing their accomplishments 
before country folk, or scribbling in newspapers, and thus con- 
taminating the traditions. It is not unlikely that many notions 
about " druids," " druids' altars," " giants' graves," and other 
puerilities, have been imported thus by " Vallanceyites " into local 


surface in the cover-slab : these monuments are 
almost always rounded on the upper surface, and 
often the cover-slab is oblique. Moreover, some of the 
monuments are of considerable height : the " druid " 
would have required a ladder to climb to the top, 
and it is far from obvious how he could have dragged 
a recalcitrant victim up with him. However, we need 
not waste any more space in discussing a theory 
(like that of the pagan origin of the Round Towers) 
which, if anyone dared now to maintain it seriously, 
he would ipso facto gain a place among, let us say, 
the unnecessary part of humanity ! 

The probable explanation is that dolmens were 
meant to represent houses, dwelling-places for the 
shade, differing from his earthly habitation in being 
more permanent. That the structure is a good imita- 
tion of a house is shewn by the fact that some dolmens 
have actually been inhabited by poor squatters in quite 
recent years. This " house of the soul " would be 
made a receptacle for gifts and offerings made from 
time to time to the dead man by his surviving friends. 
It was not necessarily the burial-chamber proper 
indeed, in many if not in most cases it cannot have 
been the burial chamber, as it would have been too 
open for that purpose. The actual interment was 
made in the earth underneath, and the dolmen erected 
over it, like a monument. 

A few dolmens in Ireland have sculptured marks 
upon them which, however, are quite unintelligible. 


Some figures on a dolmen at Leanan, Co. Monaghan, 
are not unlike Runic characters, but are without 
alphabetic significance (fig. 109). At Caiseal Dearg, 




Co. Tyrone, there is on one of the stones a series of 
cuts and scratches, but these may be nothing more 
recondite than the marks made by sharpening tools. 
On a dolmen called " The Bealick," near Magh 
Cromdha, Co. Cork, there are some cup-like marks. 1 

There are several types of dolmen exemplified among 
the Irish specimens. 

The simplest, but at the same time one of the rarest, 
is the so-called trilithon, which consists of only three 
stones two uprights and one cover-stone. Loch 
Muine, Co. Down, has an example. The well-known 
trilithon on Sliabh Callainn in Clare is not to be 
counted among this class of dolmens. There were 
originally other stones besides the three of which 
the structure now consists, but these have been 
removed in modern times. 

The normal type of dolmen, of which there are any 
examples through the country (fig. no), consists of a 
single capstone, supported by more than two uprights- 
most commonly three, but sometimes more. At 
Ceall Tighearnain, in Co. Dublin, there is a dolmen 
with as many as eleven uprights. The roofing-stone 
in this monument is estimated to weigh 40 tons 
(fig. in). 

There is a variety of this type in which the cover 
stone is not raised wholly from the ground, but 
supported in a sloping position. Among the monu- 
ments of this class may be mentioned the huge dolmen 
in the demense at Howth, Co. Dublin. Its capstone 
weighs 70 tons. It need hardly be said that Sir 
Samuel Ferguson's well-known poem on this monu- 
ment is nothing but a poet's fancy, and has no claim 
to present an authentic history of the structure : in- 
deed, it is perhaps a pity that it has popularised an 
idea so impossible as that the dolmen commemorates 
a lady of the Fenian cycle. 2 Another great monument 
of this class is in the demesne of Mount Browne, 

1 See illustrations in Borlase's Dolmens, and JRSAI IV, ii, 

524. 5 20 - 

2 Dolmens, though so common in Ireland, are never mentioned in 
ancient Irish literature. O'Donovan's identification of " The 
Giant's Table " in N. Mayo with " The Tomb of the Maols " is 







near Carlow (fig. 112); its capstone weighs 100 tons 
the heaviest known capstone in all Europe. Both the 
Howth and the Mount Browne dolmen may at first 
have been of the normal type, in which the whole 
capstone is raised from the ground, but I hardly 
think so. If these great stones had slipped into the 
position which they now occupy, they would most 
probably have brought down all the supporting-stones 
in their fall. 


In another variety the cover-slab is partly supported, 
not on uprights but on a subsidiary cover-slab. A 
magnificent example of this type, one of the finest 
in Ireland, is the monument known as Leac an Scail, 
near Muileann an Bhata in Co. Kilkenny. 

The above are all varieties of what may be called 
the dolmen proper. But there is a closely related 
structure, the allee couverte, which presents us with 
fresh varieties. In the allee couverte there is a series 
of cover-slabs, supported on two rows of uprights, 
which most usually are parallel, but sometimes are 


slightly expanding, so that the plan of the structure 
is wedge-shaped. Good examples are to be found 
in most counties. 

Some dolmens are surrounded with enclosures of 
stone or earth. The most notable example is perhaps 
the Giant's Ring at Druim Bo, Co. Antrim. This 
consists of a dolmen, now rather dilapidated, inside 
an earthen ring 580 ft. in diameter. The purpose in 
all such cases was to mark out a sacred enclosure 
around the monument, not to be trodden by profane 
foot also, very likely, to confine the ghost of the 
dead, and to prevent it from issuing forth to harm 
or terrify the living. Good examples of dolmens with 
stone enclosures are to be seen at Ceathramhadh Mor, 
Co. Sligo, and Baile an Tuaidh, Co. Antrim. The 
latter dolmen has a double stone enclosure, most of 
which has, however, been removed for road-metal or 
building purposes. A earn of stones formerly covering 
the dolmen has also been removed. 1 


Less common is the association of a dolmen with 
a standing stone. A good example (fig. 113) is at 
Ruadh Mor, Co. Cork. 

1 Illustrations of the dolmens here referred to, and of many 
others of the same types, will be found in Borlase's work. 


XI. With the beginning of the Bronze Age a new 
method of disposing of bodies of the dead began 
to spread over northern and parts of southern Europe. 
Hitherto the bodies have been buried, with or without 
grave-goods, inside a stone cist in the heart of a 
tumulus ; or under a dolmen ; or else in a simple 
grave, with or without a stone lining, in the earth. 
But now the practice of cremation makes its appearance 
in the regions named ; and though for a long time there 
was, so to speak, a struggle between the two rites, 
the latter custom ultimately prevailed, and became the 
normal mode of disposing of the bodies of the dead. 

This radical change in sepulchral rites must be the 
index of a deep-rooted change in the way of looking 
at the religious aspect of death. We cannot, suppose 
that a material resurrection or re-vivification of the 
body was expected by people who adopted the most 
efficient means of destroying it. On the other hand, 
the continuance of the practice of depositing grave- 
goods in, if anything, an increasing abundance, is a 
witness of the continuance of the belief in a life after 

The whole subject has been discussed, with a wealth 
of illustration, by Prof. Ridgeway. 1 The numerous 
examples which he draws from Classical sources, but 
which need not be specifically detailed here, shew 
that the idea underlying the practice of cremation is 
something like this : After death the soul remains 
near the body, flitting about it. Even when the bones 
have been long buried, the soul is still in the vicinity, 
and can be transferred by digging up and translating 
the remains. This belief was turned to practical 
account, when some ancient hero was taken from his 
grave to another land, which hoped to have the unseen 
co-operation of his ghost in military enterprise. But 
when the body is burnt, the soul's anchor is destroyed ; 
the ghost departs to the realm of spirits, never to 
return. Admission to this realm cannot be obtained 

1 Early Age of Greece, vol. I, chap. vii. 


unless the body is burnt, and offerings made for the 
use of the spirit must also be burnt. Thus, Herodotus 1 
tells the story of a dead wife appearing to her husband, 
and complaining that she was cold in the land of 
spirits, because the garments deposited in her tomb 
had not been burnt, so that she could make no use of 
them. The burning etherealised the offerings, turning 
them to the vapour of smoke, and so made them 
available for the etherealised shade. 

XII. The burial ritual as followed in Ireland during 
the Bronze Age was very far from being uniform, 
so far as we can judge from the few bronze-age tombs 
that have been scientifically examined. The bronze- 
age burial-places in Ireland can be thus classified : 

A. Earth Burials 

i. Body deposited in earth without protection. 

2. Deposit protected with a cist ; no earn or tumulus. 

The cist may or may not be surrounded with an 

enclosure or otherwise marked. 

a. The cist underground. 

b. The cist at or above the surface of the ground. 
3. Deposit protected with a cist, covered with a earn 

(of stones) or a tumulus (of earth). There may 
be either a single cist or a plurality of cists in the 
covering structure. 

a. The cist underground. 

b. The cist at or above the surface of the 

ground . 

B. Cave Burials 

i. The grave deposit in a natural cave. 

2. The grave deposit in an artificial cave, i.e., a 
chamber built up with a regular means of ap- 

a. The chamber below ground. 

b. The chamber above ground, covered with 

a earn or tumulus. 

1 History, V, 92. 


In the above table the word " burial " includes 
cremation as well as inhumation interments. 

We now give one or two examples of each of these 
classes of burial : but no full list of all that have been 
found or described can be attempted here. 

XIII. [A. i] : Earth burial without protection. The 
bodies of the " rank and file " of the population were, 
no doubt, simply buried in the earth, without coffins, 
urns, or other receptacles. When such was the case 
both the ashes (in the case of a burnt body) and the 
bones (in the case of an unburnt body) would become 
mingled with the soil ; and if no grave-goods were 
deposited with the interment, all trace of it would in 
time perish, even the bones decaying away to nothing 
in our damp climate. As a rule, therefore, the burials 
of the poor of the population are no longer to be found. 
Even when the skeletons come to light, in soil favour- 
able to their preservation, the absence of grave-goods 
makes it impossible to identify the interment with 
certainty as belonging to the Bronze Age. When the 
body after burning was placed in an urn, and the urn 
buried in the ground, identification is naturally 
easier. A good typical instance of this is the deposit 
found at Lann Abhaigh in Co. Antrim. 1 Here there 
was found in a gravel-heap an urn filled with calcined 
bones, with a second urn inverted over it. At a dis- 
tance of 5 ft. from this deposit there was a human 
skeleton doubled up and lying on its back. In the 
next field there was found, in a gravel-pit, an urn 
inverted over calcined bones, with a stone resting on 
its upturned bottom. There were no flints or bronze 
objects near this ; and the field was quite level and 
showed no external sign, in the shape of mounds or 
stones, of being the site of a cemetery. The two urns 
in the first deposit were of the food-vessel type, and 
were elaborately decorated with a variety of linear 
ornaments. The other was a cinerary urn, plain 
except for some ornamentation round the rim, and 
a ridge surrounding the body of the vessel. 

1 UJA II, v, 24. 


Analysing this deposit, we find the following essen- 
tial elements : 

(1) The absence of any surface indications of the interment. 

(2) The absence of grave-goods. 

(3) The presence of both cremation and inhumation. 

(4) The buried skeleton being in a crouched position. 

(5) The different disposition of the urns in the one burial 

the urn containing the ashes was right-way up, in the 
other it was inverted. 

(6) A flat stone laid on the bottom of the upturned urn. 

(7) The burial in a gravel-bank, which is a convenient method 
of burial apparently not uncommon in Ulaidh. 

It might be possible to explain the presence of 
cremation and inhumation in the one cemetery as 
accidental, the two types of deposit belonging to 
different periods ; but there are other examples to 
which we shall presently refer, that make it admissible 
to suppose that the two were contemporary. The 
crouched position of the skeleton is a frequent attitude 
of burial, descending from the Early Stone Age. The 
stone deposited on the upturned urn may have 
had the intention of confining the ghost still more 

Dr. J. Sinclair Holden 1 has recorded, but without 
details, that it is very common for urns to be found 
" in the Glens of Antrim " containing ashes. In some 
of these cases the site has no external mark, in others 
a large rude stone stands close by. 

The deposits that were found on the site of Campbell 
College, Belfast, add something to that described 
above. Here in a low gravel mound two urns were 
found, between i and 2 ft. below the surface, and 
about 10 yards distant from one another. They stood 
mouth downward. A small urn, of the form called 
" incense-cup," mouth upward, was inside the smaller 
of the urns, resting on its contents. In the same ridge 
were " about 20 small graves " (presumably stone 
cists) about 2 ft. long by i ft. wide, filled with gravel 

i, p. 219. 


and soil, each containing a few fragments of bone 
and charcoal. 1 

Here, as before, we see 

(1) The absence of any surface indication of the graves. 

(2) The commingling of urn burial and cist burial, with cre- 

mation in each case. 

(3) The absence of grave-goods. 

(4) The deposit of the urns, differing in form from that at Lann 

Abhaigh, no stone being used in the present case. 

(5) The ritual use, whatever it may have been, of the " incense- 


(6) Cist-burials without urns more numerous than burials 

with urns. 

Near Coillidhe Bacaigh, at a place called Geal-ghorm 
Parks, was a natural mound of sand utilised as a place 
for burial deposit. 2 Four urns were found, three of 
them placed standing on flat stones, mouths upper- 
most ; the fourth was inside one of these. There 
were no cists. The urns were close to the surface. 
Near to the place where they were found there is a 
small basin-shaped cavity, 4^ to 5 ft. in diameter, and 
surrounded with a raised rim 2 to 3 feet broad, locally 
called the " Devil's Punch-bowl." The earth inside 
this cavity is quite black, and it has been suggested 
that it was here that the cremation was carried out. 
However that may be, these deposits give us further 
differences in detail. The urns were placed upright, 
apparently with nothing to prevent the overlying earth 
from falling into them (for there is nothing said in 
the description about stones or other coverings being 
used for the mouths). The urn inside the other takes 
the place of the " incense-cup " in the Campbell 
College deposit. Otherwise we have the same appear- 
ance as before deposit of burnt bones in urns without 
grave-goods, and without any external indication of 
the deposit. 

1 UJA II, ii, p. 184. 

2 UJA II, i, p. 94. 


Dun Droma, Co. Down. Here were found ten 
urns at a depth of 3 feet, all bottom upwards and 
resting on stones ; they contained charred bones. In 
addition, a small ring of shale, about an inch in dia- 
meter, was found in one of the urns. Here we have 
a more uniform series, all conforming to what was 
probably the normal type the urn inverted with its 
mouth resting on a flat stone. The small ring of shale 
is the first indication we have met with of the possi- 
bility of grave-goods in these simple interments. In 
the same bank which contained these urns there were 
a number of graves, and to have been about 3^ ft. 
long by i ft. 2 ins. broad, and i ft. 6 ins. deep, con- 
taining bones. They were all destroyed by the work- 
men employed in making a bridge, the excavation for 
which revealed the burials. It is practically certain 
that these were stone-lined iron-age graves, and that 
their association with the urn-burials was nothing 
more than accidental. 1 

Creagan, Co. Antrim. Here were found three urns, 
containing burnt bones of a man and of a large animal, 
as well as a triangular dagger of bronze. The urns 
were buried in a gravel-heap, but the relative position 
of the human and the animal bones is not clear. 2 

A very curious burial is described by Mr. G. Coffey, 
who excavated it on the townland of Fearta, near Loch 
Riabhach, Co. Galway. 3 It may be described as an 
earth-burial above ground. The principal body was 
cremated, and placed on a block of stone lying on the 
old surface of the earth : over it an urn was inverted. 
A mound of earth and stones (present dimensions 
40 ft. diameter and 9 ft. height), had then been heaped 
over the deposit ; and in the upper part of this there 
was a second interment ; this time of a young woman, 
unburnt. With her were some bones of a small horse, 
and the leg-bone of a red deer, as well as picks made 

1 UJA I, vi, 164, 
2 PRIA, xxxiii, C, p. i. 

3 G. Coffey, On the Excavation of a Tumulus near Loughrea, 
Co. Galway. PRIA, xxv, C, 14. 


of the horns of the same animal. This has every 
appearance of having been the body of a slave, sent 
to minister to her lord in the other world : it can 
hardly be explained as a secondary interment sub- 
sequently intruded on the mound, as a stratum of 
sand, more or less parallel with the outer surface of 
the tumulus, ran above the second interment and was 
unbroken. The different treatment of the two bodies- 
burnt and unburnt is thus suggested to denote a 
difference of social caste. 

[A. 2] : Cist-burial. In this form of interment 
(with cremation or inhumation) a receptacle is made 
by means of slabs or stones, in which are placed the 
human remains and the grave deposits. Cist burials 
may be made with or without urns, and the cists may 
be wholly sunk in the ground, or may be wholly or 
partly exposed. 

Of the simple type we may mention as an example 
a find at Thorny Valley, near Baile Meadhonach, Co. 
Antrim. 1 Here workmen digging in a field came on 
the cover of a cist which they removed ; the cist was 
found to contain an urn, mouth downward, resting 
on a flat stone. The sides of the cist were formed of 
five stones, making a five-sided chamber. There were 
no grave-goods of any kind except the urn, beneath 
which there was a quantity of white calcined bones. 

The essential points of this burial are 

(1) The use of a cist. 

(2) The absence of surface indications. 

(3) The absence of grave-goods. 

(4) The inversion of the urn. 

At Ceall Bhronaigh, Co. Mayo, a bronze-age ceme- 
tery was discovered early in the last century. It is 
described, not very satisfactorily, in the Gentleman's 
Magazine (1827, vol. ii, p. 541), where it is reported 
that up to the moment of writing ten urns had been 
found. It is not stated how they had been deposited, 

*UJA II, i, P . 93- 


but one of them " contained a very small vessel, 
supposed to be a lachrymatory." 1 There was also 
found " a small tomb in form of a chest," i ft. 6 ins. 
long and a foot wide, which contained stones and an 
arrow-head of flint. 
Analysing this description we gather 

(1) The co-existence of plain earth burial with urns and of 

cist burial. This suggests the possibility that a difference 
of social position was indicated by the difference of ritual. 
The single cist-burial may well have been that of a chief, 
the plain urn-burials those of his retainers. 

(2) The exclusive use of cremation. We are not told that 

the body in the cist was burned, but we may infer this 
from the small size of the receptacle. 

(3) The use of an incense cup, apparently in one urn-burial 


(4) Grave-goods very scanty, and confined to the cist-burial. 

The urn-burial found at Greenhills,Tamhlachta,Co. 
Dublin, which has been ingeniously transported to 
the Royal Irish Academy's collection in the National 
Museum, may here be mentioned. This deposit adds 
a new feature to the urn-burial in cists, in the shape 
of a food-vessel. An incense-cup was lying upon the 
contents of the cinerary urn, which was inverted. 2 At 
Brugh Dearg, Co. Tyrone, another cist burial was 
found with an incense-cup inside the urn. 3 

The cist is sometimes double. A ggod example 
was found at Oldbridge, Co. Meath. 4 This contained 
a decayed skeleton (female) with food-vessel and 
associated jet beads. 

At Lug an Chuirin, Queen's Co., were found two 
cist burials of some importance. 5 There were here 
two cists, one single, the other double, lying parallel 

1 A theory not much more improbable than that which gives the 
current name " incense-cup " to these small vessels. 

2 See the account of this burial in PRIA, xxi, 338. 
3 JRSAI, xv, 740. 

4 PRIA, xix, 747. 

5 M. W. Lalor, On a recent discovery of kists containing human 
remains, on a farm at Luggacurren, Queen's Co. JRSAI, xv, 446. 



one to the other : the double cist was divided into two 
unequal divisions with a cross-slab, but covered with 
a single slab extending over its whole length. Each 
cist contained an unburnt skeleton : these must have 
been deposited in a crouching position, though this 
is not definitely stated. No satisfactory description 
of the bones has been published. The cists were 
3 yards apart and lay east and west : in the south-east 
corner of the two largest receptacles there was an urn. 
These urns contained, in addition to a little earth, 
" two little links of beads of some mineral substance 
of a bluish colour " highly polished and finished, 
and two bronze armlets. On the cover-stone of one 
of the cists, on the under surface, was a conical cup- 

The essential points of this interment are 

(1) The deposition of unburnt bodies in the crouching attitude 

in the cist. 

(2) The deposition of grave-goods in the cist a very rare 


(3) A cup-mark in the cover-stone, which, perhaps by over- 

sight, had been turned upside down. 

Cup-marks have been found elsewhere upon the 
stones of cists. In a cist-cemetery at Druim na Coille, 
Co. Tyrone, where a number of very fine urns came 
to light, one of the cists had on its floor-stone two cup 
hollows on one face, one on the other. 1 

The subject of cist-burial above the surface of the 
ground introduces us to a bewildering study. There 
is a great variety of partly exposed stone structures 
still existing in Ireland, most of them probably belong- 
ing to the Bronze Age, and connected with burial, but 
so diverse in plan among themselves that it is next to 
impossible to classify them. The difficulty is increased 
by the unfortunate fact that they have suffered shock- 
ingly at the hands of generations of those pests, the 
seekers for hidden treasure. 

1 JRSAI, xii, 510. 


We may say in general that these structures consist 
of comparatively small stones set on edge, marking 
out enclosures, each of them of sufficient size to hold 
an urn, or a parcel of ash from the burning of a body. 
We may presume that they were all originally covered 
with slabs, but it is very rare to find these remaining 
intact, thanks to the attentions of treasure-seekers. 
Normally they are rectangular, though they are some- 
times wedge-shaped : sometimes there is only one 
enclosure, but in many there are more than one 
usually arranged in a row. 

An important group of cist-burials are those in 
which there is an external mark of the grave either 
a standing stone, or an earth or stone enclosure, such 
as we have already seen in connection with dolmens. 
Among these we may mention especially the burial at 
Long-stone Fort, near Nas, Co. Kildare, the excava- 
tion of which is fully described in the publications of 
the Royal Irish Academy. 1 Here there was a cist 
sunk in the ground, without a cover, intended for 
two persons, and containing the burnt remains of 
(apparently) a man and a woman, a flint chip, a frag- 
mentary wrist-guard of an archer, and a scrap of 
pottery. Beside the earn rose a tall standing stone, 
17 feet above ground ; and an earthen bank surrounded 
the whole, enclosing a circular space a little over 100 ft. 
in radius, with the standing stone in the exact mathe- 
matical centre. 

The excavation of this burial had important scientific 
results. For the facts upon which the following state- 
ments are based, we must refer the reader to the 
original article in the Royal Irish Academy Proceedings, 
mentioned in the footnote. The burial took place on 
the top of a hill which, though not of great size, com- 
mands a wide view. The first step was the lighting 
of a great beacon-fire, which must have been seen far 
and wide ; presumably to summon the clan of the 
deceased. 2 The grave was then dug and the cist made, 

^PRIA, vol. xxx, C, p. 351. 

2 Or possibly for the simpler purpose of destroying an incon- 
venient growth of brushwood. 


and the body of the dead man (probably also of his 
wife, slaughtered that she might accompany him to 
the world of the shades) was burnt inside the cist the 
stones of which bore marks of a severe fire. The grave 
having been filled in (there was no cover-stone on the 
cist), the pillar-stone was erected, most likely by a 
process analogous to that which we have already de- 
scribed in connection with the raising of dolmens 
an earth-bank was built, having a sloping side, up 
which the stone was rolled and dropped into the hole 
prepared for its reception. The earth bank was then 
dug away, and the enclosing vallum traced out by 
means of a rope tied to the standing stone at one end 
and swept round as a radius. It was noteworthy that 
a hollow was formed in the underlying rock for the 
reception of the foot of the standing stone, which was 
wedged up with blocks of stone to keep it firmly in 

For what purpose was this standing stone ? Natu- 
rally, it will be said, to mark the grave. But the grave 
is already sufficiently marked by means of the earthen 
fortification surrounding it. We have to consider this 
question in connexion with the whole subject of 
standing stones. 

Both in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands standing 
stones are often called Fear breagach, " a false man." 
A stone of this kind would hardly suggest such a name 
to a modern, unless there were a tradition behind it. 
It points to the time when the stone was really meant 
for a man. It is not exactly to be regarded as a statue ; 
rather is it a receptacle for the life or the soul of a 
person buried underneath it. The idea that the life 
of a man passes into that of a tree or plant growing 
over his grave is a commonplace of folk-lore. 1 It is 
unquestionably at the basis of the feeling so prevalent 

1 Among instances of such a belief I need mention only the well- 
known tale of Baile and Aillen (for which see Hyde's Literary 
History of Ireland, p. 117) and to go far away from Ireland a 
tale which will be found at p. 117 of my grammar of The Language 
of the Nawar of Palestine 


in Ireland against the trimming of the graves in the 
cemeteries. Our English visitors, who contrast the 
untidy Irish graveyards with the neatly kept God's 
acres of their own land, and draw conclusions much 
to the disadvantage of Ireland and her people, are 
blissfully unaware that they are in the presence of a 
tabu of imposing antiquity, which has its roots in the 
strivings of ancient man after an expression of his 
instinct for immortality. I do not say that if we could 
get inside any modern peasant's mind we should find 
in all its crudity the idea that the grass growing over 
his dead relative's grave was really quickened by the 
life of the departed, and that it would therefore be an 
act of impiety to cut it. But beyond all question the 
peasant's far-distant ancestors held that belief, and 
their modern descendant, though he has forgotten 
their faiths, has not forgotten the prohibitions that 
were founded on those faiths. 

Where there was no tree, a stone would serve ; and 
it may be that a stone was intentionally substituted 
for a tree after it had been observed that trees were 
after all not permanent grave-marks, but that they 
were subject to decay. This would be especially 
reasonable as there was a notion that stones had a life 
of their own, manifested by growth : this belief is 
indicated by survivals of it still to be found. A well- 
to-do Meath farmer has pointed out to me a curious 
mark on a stone in his field, and has explained it as 
being due to the pressure of another stone while it 
was growing. 

[A. 3] : Cist-burial in an earthen or stone mound. 
An example of such a monument, with the cist sunk 
wholly or partly beneath the surface of the ground, 
was opened in 1858 in Moat Meadow, near Beal-atha 
Hill, Carraig Fhearguis. Unfortunately the report of 
the excavation, published in the old series of the Ulster 
Journal of Archaeology * is an excellent model of " how 

1 Vol. vi, p. 169. 


not to do it." The mound was nearly circular, 45 ft. 
in diameter, and 7 ft. in maximum height. Within 
a foot of the level of the field there was a layer of flat 
stones, under which was a stratum of what the writer 
of the article calls " fossil earth," containing snail - 
shells and bones of deer [?] and of the ordinary domestic 
animals. Under the " fossil earth " were the two 
clay strata with a bed of peat between : in this were 
numerous fragments of flint, all " more or less bearing 
marks of having been artificially shaped " a descrip- 
tion which for vagueness it would be hard to beat ; 
and at the level of the layer of peat, exactly in the 
middle of the mound, was a cist (dimensions not 
stated) filled with a glutinous clay mixed with ashes, 
at the bottom of which, at the depth of 5 inches, were 
two semicircular stones. Two or three feet to the 
north of this were 27 amber beads " of rude shapes," 
pierced : several rude specimens of flint arrow-heads 
were also found in the clay, along with a number of 
globular stones about the size of a grape-shot. No 
human remains were found, with the exception of a 
small bone which was " pronounced on competent 
authority to be very like one of the small wrist bones 
of the human body." If the authority unnamed could 
not make a better attempt at identification than that, 
he was scarcely competent ! 

The description quoted above is so confused that 
it is difficult to make out exactly the disposition of 
the burial. This is unfortunate, as the interment 
seems to have been of considerable importance. In 
a properly regulated country, archaeological excava- 
tion by a person so obviously incompetent as the 
writer of this notice would be absolutely prohibited, 
under heavy penalties. For the mere act of excavation 
is necessarily destructive ; and only long experience, 
training the eye to note, and the pen and pencil to 
describe clearly and .to draw, the different stages in 
the removal of the earth, can justify anyone in under- 
taking a task so delicate. The two semi-circular stones 


recall similar slabs of stone found elsewhere in bronze- 
age burials, for holding the pile of ashes when there 
was no urn. It is curious that the amber beads would 
appear (so far as the confused description permits us 
to judge), to have been outside the cist ; this suggests 
that they have no real connection with the burial, and 
that it had been dumped on an old habitation- site. 
Perhaps the owner was buried on the site of his dwelling. 
In the year 1748 a ploughman at work in a field at 
Carn Fhiachach, near Muilleann Gearr, Co. Westmeath, 
drove his plough through a " sandy hillock " which, 
not improbably, was the relic of the earn which gave 
the place its name. However that may be, he struck 
a large stone which proved to be the cover-stone of 
a cist. The account which we have of the discovery 
seems to have been written some time afterwards, and 
from hearsay evidence only : it was communicated by 
Bishop Pocock to the Society of Antiquaries of London, 
and published in vol. ii of Archaeologia (1773). It 
appears that there was an unburnt skeleton in the cist, 
which we are told (as is usual in old, and even some 
recent, accounts of such interments) belonged to a 
man "of a size greatly above the common proportion." 
An urn was deposited with the skeleton, which was 
roughly handled and fell to pieces. The bishop also 
describes and figures a gold ring, " set with twenty- 
five table diamonds," alleged to have been found in 
the cist, but which is obviously modern possibly 
seventeenth century, but certainly not older. He 
further comments upon the " singularly curious attire, 
or ornament, of the head ; for it was covered with an 
integument of clay, as with a cap ; the border whereof, 
neatly wrought like Point or Brussels lace, extended 
half-way down the forehead. Upon handling, it 
mouldered into dust, so that no drawing was made 
of it." This may have been another urn, but more 
probably it was nothing at all merely earth lying on 
the skull, in which the too-vivid imaginations of the 
spectators traced the wonderful ornament described. 


This interment was multiple, for round the cist 
were ranged five smaller cists, arranged thus 

and containing nothing but human bones. The 
bishop, in his article quoted, draws the obvious con- 
clusion that the monument commemorates a chieftain 
surrounded by five of his followers who fell in some 
battle. It may also be a man surrounded by five 
slaves, slaughtered to keep him company and to do 
him service in the world of shadows. A similar group 
of five cists was found, according to Pocock, on the 
lands of Adamstown, about half a mile distant. In 
this latter group, however, there seems to have been 
no larger cist. 

There are a greater number of examples of cists 
above ground, protected by tumuli or earns. In the 
Manor of Lindsay of Luachra, Co. Tyrone, there was 
an old mound of earth called " The Moat " ; on the 
top of this mound, covered by about 8 ft. of earth, a 
cist was found in the year iSoo. 1 It measured 3 ft. in 
width and 4 ft. in length. It was built of flagstones- 
bottom, top, and four side stones. Inside it was an 
urn, full of fine earth and ashes and burnt bones ; 
there were no other deposits. 

Mr. Wakeman describes 2 a tumulus at Coill Ui 
Cearnaigh, Co. Cavan, which displays a combination of 
these types i.e., the cist above and under the ground. 
In this case the cist was erected on the summit of a 
natural esker, and was then heaped over with earth, 

1 Gentleman's Magazine, 1802, II, p. 1185. 

2 JRSAI, xv, 189. 


the esker forming the heart of the mound. This cist 
contained an urn, a polished stone axe-head, and a 
peculiar bone object resembling a fragment of a 
buckle. In a neighbouring cist on the slope of the 
mound, and probably belonging to a secondary inter- 
ment, were fragments of pottery with ornaments in 
relief, and two flints one a rude knife, the other a 
well-chipped arrow-head. 

Another good example, this time inside a stone heap, 
was the monument lettered " Carn O " in the great 
series on Ceathramhadh Caol Mountain. 1 This 
stone-heap contained a small pentagonoid cist, with 
a sort of antechamber, also pentagonoid ; it contained 
an urn and some burnt and unburnt bones, but nothing 

The majority of such structures are circular in plan : 
but there is one, also on Ceathramhadh Caol (earn E) 
which recalls the " horned barrows " of Scotland. It is 
a mound of stones 120 ft. long and 35 ft. in maximum 
breadth. The burial cists -two in number with a 
passage between them are at one end. At the other 
end the pile of stones splits into two " horns " : but 
except the cists just mentioned there are no construc- 
tions inside the heap of stones. 

The hill-top grave of Cnoc Baine, Co. Tyrone, 
which is important on account of its sculptured stones 
(referred to on a preceding page) belongs to this 
group. The earthen mound has been nearly all dug 
away, probably by treasure-seekers, exposing the now 
much-dilapidated cist. 

Even more remarkable is a earn at Dubh-ait, 2 near 
Florencecourt, Co. Fermanagh (fig. 114). This consists 
of a complex earn, in three divisions, at the centre of a 
heap of stones, from which radiates five projections 
of a maximum length of 60 feet. Though no other 

1 For the account of the excavation of this series see PRIA, 
vol. xxix, sect. C, p. 311. 

2 This name (Anglicised Doohat) has been explained as Dwnha 
ait, " the place of a tumulus " : but such an interpretation is hardly 
possible syntactically. 


example of a structure of this type from Ireland 
seems to have been recorded, it is not unknown in the 
North of Scotland : several are figured in Anderson's 
Scotland in Pagan Times, second series, p. 231, ff. 1 


As illustrating the same type of burial with a mul- 
tiplicity of cists we take two important examples. 

The first is the mound of Mount Stewart, Co. 
Down, now almost completely annihilated. It stood 
in a plain near the " Temple of the Winds " on Mount 
Stewart demesne, and had the appearance of a earn 

1 The Irish example is described by W. F. Wakeman, JRSAI, 
xvi, 163, ff. 


about 5 ft. high and 30 ft. in diameter at the base. 1 
Unfortunately a " projector " from England took it 
into his head that the appearance and utility of the 
plain would be improved by draining it and filling up 
the trenches with the material of this heap of stones. 
When the process of carrying out this nefarious scheme 
began, the workmen found, at the south side of the 
heap, a great stone, covering four flag-stones set on 
edge and forming a cist. Inside it was a small earthen 
vessel, which the labourers, of course, imagined would 
contain hidden treasure ; they broke it, but there was 
nothing inside but a small quantity of blackish granu- 
lated earth. A large number of similar cists came to 
light one by one how many is not known. Dr. 
Stephenson, apparently quite arbitrarily, says that 
there cannot have been much less than sixty or seventy ; 
but Vallancey's account (communicated by a " Mr. 
Templeton of Belfast ") though giving no information 
on this essential point, does not suggest so large a 
number. The rude plan accompanying Vallancey's 
account shows fifteen small cists. In each there was 
an urn, about the size of a quart measure. The bottoms 
of the cists were strewn with fragments of bones that 
had been exposed to an intense fire, and with bits of 
charcoal ; in some a little gravel was mixed with the 
rest of the contents. In the heart of the earn there 
was a cist four times the size of the others ; it was 
empty. The other cists, all of which contained an 
urn in their north-western corners, were to the south 
of the large central cist ; apparently the north side of 
the earn contained no cists. 

1 The only records remaining of this remarkable monument are 
an account in Vallancey's Collectanea (vol. vi, p. 291), and a descrip- 
tion in a pamphlet by Dr. S. M. Stephenson of Belfast, entitled 
An Historical Essay on the Parish and Congregation of Grey Abbey 
(Belfast, 1828). The latter description is reprinted in Ulster Journal 
of Archaeology, old series, vol. ix, p. in. It is clear, on comparing 
these accounts, that Stephenson's is a mere paraphrase of Vallan- 
cey's, and therefore of no independent authority. It is not certain 
whether the dimensions given were obtained by actual measurement, 
or were mere eye-estimates ; probably the latter. The mound 
was, most likely, rather larger than is here stated. 


Of this very remarkable structure the " English 
projector " has left nothing but a melancholy fragment 
of the central cist. The regularity of the construction 
of this earn, and the remarkable fact that all the urns 
are placed in a definite part of the cists, indicate that 
the burials must all have taken place at one time. 
The empty central cist of large size, with its accom- 
paniment of subordinate cists, enable us without undue 
straining of the imagination to regard this earn as the 
monument of some great military disaster which 
involved in ruin a bronze-age chieftain and a consider- 
able number of his followers. The chieftain's body 
could not be recovered. His ghost was, therefore, in 
accordance with the custom alluded to on a previous 
page, propitiated by means of a mock burial. The 
followers were burnt on the funeral pyre, and their 
ashes ranked behind the receptacle which should have 
held the remains of their leader. Indeed, it would 
almost seem as though we are to see an actual military 
grouping of the tombs. King Loiguire was buried 
at Teamhair standing upright in his armour, with his 
face turned towards Laighean, " for he was ever an 
enemy of the men of Laighean." In like manner the 
nameless Bronze-age warrior of Mount Stewart was 
placed as though leading his men out to battle, it may 
be against the foe who had sent them to the under- 

The second monument is the structure called Dun 
Ruadh, near Greencastle in Co. Tyrone. This is, or 
rather was, a very remarkable earn, built in the form 
of a ring, with an open space in the middle (figs. 115, 
1 1 6). It was surrounded with an earthen mound, 
now almost entirely effaced. Unfortunately it has 
been submitted to the process of " hogging," for the 
sake of a few urns, worth a few shillings ; and therefore 
it can no longer yield the scientific harvest that might 
have been gathered from it if it had been examined 
by a competent excavator. There are traces of thirteen 
cists to be seen in the dilapidated ruin which now 
represents the monument. These are not arranged 
in any particular order. 




Another remarkable example of multiple burial of 
this type was that found at Barr Fhionntamhnaigh, near 
Tri Liag, Co. Tyrone, and excavated in 1871 under 
Mr. Wakeman's superintendence. This was a earn, 
8 ft. high and 40 ft. in diameter, apparently containing 
no structure at its heart : but round the margin there 
was a series of eight cists. Mr. Wakeman's paper, 1 
describing this structure, is unduly verbose, and 
demands careful reading before we can discern what 
was actually found : and even then it is not clear 
which earns contained which objects. But the follow- 
ing brief analysis seems to contain accurately the gist 
of the report 

(1) North Eastern Cist. Skeleton. 

(2) Human bones ; three vertebrae of a dog ; a cinerary urn, 

empty, lying on its side on a slab of sandstone. 

(3) Two skeletons. 
(4, 5) Empty. 

(6, 7) Destroyed by treasure-seekers in the absence of the 
explorer : the debris that they left included fragments of 
a decorated urn, and a flint knife. 

(8) Several bones. 

The skeletons were apparently crouched (Mr. Wake- 
man asserts that the bodies must have been dismem- 
bered to fit them into the cists). There is an account 
of the bones, by another writer, included in Mr. Wake- 
man's paper, which perversely succeeds in evading 
almost every detail of importance. 

A similar earn, with a central cist of large size and 
a series of marginal cists at Beithigh, Co. Fermanagh, 
not far from the earn with radiating limbs described 
above. The description of this structure 2 states that 
the cists were apparently eight in number, but the 
accompanying illustration a very bad one shows 
at least thirteen. 

Another multiple interment, from Diseart, Co. 

1 Remarks on the exploration of a pre-historic earn near Trillick, 
Co. Tyrone, JRSAI, xi, 579. 
2 JRSAI, xvi, 169. 


Westmeath, is described (unusually well) by Mr. D. 
Kelly. 1 This was an earthen tumulus on oval base, 
in which were two cists. That to the west contained 
an unburnt skeleton, between 5 ft. 8 ins. and 5 ft. 
10 ins. in stature, and dolichocephalic skull : around 
and about it were calcined bones, including that of 
a youth of about twelve years. The burnt bones on 
the cover-slab of this cist were covered with another 
slab. The eastern cist contained the skeleton of a 
br achy cephalic aged man. There was an urn, empty 
except for infiltrated earth, in the first cist, and some 
animal teeth : otherwise there were no other deposits. 
The essential points of this important interment 

(1) The burial of persons of different race (query, a foreign 

servant or attendant with the native chieftain). The 
younger dolichocephalic (and therefore native) man was 
probably the more important of the two, and he was 
accordingly provided with an urn. 

(2) Burial inside the cists, burning outside. The burnt bodies 

may have been those of sacrificed attendants : but this 
would be a direct contrast to the Loch Riabhach interment 
described above, where the important person is burnt, 
the servant buried. We must, however, remember that 
the Bronze Age was of considerable length, and that a 
custom practised in one part of the country, or at one 
period of the Bronze Age, may easily have been the exact 
reverse of a custom in another part of the country, or at 
a different period of the Bronze Age. 

XIV. [B. i] : Cave Burial. We now come to 
speak of cave burials. Natural caves are sometimes 
used for the purpose, but cases of this are very un- 
common. Vallancey reports some cases in the 
neighbourhood of Teach Lorcain, Co. Dublin : 2 he 
says : " several urns were found in small natural caves 
between the rocks of Stillorgan, near Dublin. There 
were no tumuli over them, but the cave covered with 

1 D. Kelly, On the opening of a Tumulus at Dysart, Co. Wcsi- 
meath, JRSAI, xiv, 178. 

2 Collectanea, vol. vi, p. 304. 


a large flag." Nothing more is known of this discovery. 
The urns, according to Vallancey, were in the Museum 
of the Royal Dublin Society. 

In the cave of Cnoc Ninnidh, near Inis Ceithlinn, 
was found an urn-burial of two persons, a man and 
(probably) a woman. 

[B. 2] : Artificial cave burials. This is a com- 
moner and more interesting mode of cave-burial. To 
this class belong the most imposing sepulchres that 
have come down to us from Ancient Ireland. 

The cave may be beneath the surface of the ground, 
though this (in Pre-Celtic Ireland) is less frequently 
so than above the surface. One of the best examples 
is the remarkable burial chamber discovered in 1858 
at Baile na hAite, near the Giant's Ring described in 

FIG. 117- 


, xv, 335. 


an earlier part of this chapter (fig. 117). Happily this 
monument was found on the lands of an enlightened 
farmer, who co-operated with the Belfast Natural 
History and Philosophical Society in carefully explor- 
ing it. From the description of this excavation 1 the 
following particulars are borrowed. 

The chamber was in a field almost adjoining the 
Giant's Ring on the north side. It was constructed 
underground, circular on plan, and 7 ft. in diameter, 
with a wall of large irregular stones 2 or 3 feet long 
surrounding it. These inclined inward considerably, 
their interstices being closely wedged up with sharp 
fragments of stone. This wall was about 2 feet high, 
and the structure was covered with large quarried 
flagstones resting on the wall and gradually projecting 
towards its centre, secured where necessary by pinning 
up with thin stones. The chamber was 3 feet high 
in the centre, and the top of the uppermost covering 
slab was 2 feet under the surface of the ground. The 
floor was paved with flagstones. 

In the centre of the chamber was an upright pillar- 
stone, supposed by the writer in the Ulster Journal 
to have been a prop supporting the roof. It is more 
probable that it had a religious significance. Similar 
pillar-stones were found in the inner chambers at 
New Grange and in the principal burial earn chamber 
at Ceathramhadh Caol. 2 Most likely it was a rude 
representation of some deity of the dead, like the 
famous sculptured drums of chalk found at Folkton 
in Yorkshire. The writer in the Ulster Journal says 
that this stone was " about 3 feet high," but the scale 
of his plan would make it only about half that length. 
Probably the drawing is wrong. 

Round the foot of the Ceathramhadh Caol pillar 

1 UJA I, iii, 358. The account is anonymous, but probably 
written by Robert MacAdam. 

2 For the stone in the New Grange see the plan in Molyneux's 
Danish Forts, here reproduced, fig. 119; for Ceathramhadh Caol 
see the RIA report already referred to, page 326, and accompany- 
ing illustrations. 



there were deposited a number of rounded water-worn 
stones, about a foot or so in length (fig. 118). Though 
they were not worked in any way there can be little 
doubt that these were sacred stones, probably baetyls 
i.e., as it were, receptacles of sanctity ; " hand-idols," 
as they may be loosely called, adapting an Irish .term. 
Precisely similar stones were found inside New Grange 
when it was first opened in 1699 (fig. 119). 

To the east of the chamber at Baile na hAite a space 
was left open, apparently as an entrance to the cham- 
ber : the rest of the circumference was occupied with 
a series of compartments, marked off from each other 
and from the central space by slabs on end, about 
one foot high. There were six of these compartments. 
The first two (A and B) contained three urns of burnt 
clay filled with burnt bones ; they were rudely orna- 
mented and much disintegrated, so that fragments 
only could be preserved. No illustration of these urns 
or fragments seems to be forthcoming. A fourth urn 
had stood at the end of B nearest to C, but it had 
rotted away to a mere shapeless pile of earth. Com- 
partment C was empty. Compartment D contained 
a few burnt and some unburnt bones, including five 
skulls : it is noteworthy that they were deposited in 
sand quite different from the material in which the 
urns were lying. Part of the pelvis of a small cow, 
as well as a few fragments of unburnt sheep and goat 
bones were also found here. Compartments E and F 
contained " large quantities of burnt bones divided into 
several parcels by thin stones." There were no im- 
plements or ornaments of any kind in the chamber, 
and no markings on the stones. 

In some respects the excavation of this structure, 
though better than the disgraceful attempt commented 
upon in a previous page, is not very satisfactory. The 
construction of the walls and roof of the chamber 
should have been made clearer by measured sections, 
which are withheld. There are no illustrations of the 
pottery. Measurements and particulars of the skulls 
are given, but the other bones do not seem to have 



been properly examined. It cannot be said too often, 
as emphatically as possible, that anyone likely to be 
troubled with false sentimentality (miscalled " rever- 
ence ") about the proper scientific examination of 
human bones should realise at once that archaeology 
is not for him ; he had far better turn his attention 
to collecting postage-stamps, a field in which he will 
do quite as much good, and far less harm. The 
solution of difficult problems of racial affinity depends 
entirely upon the collection of as large a body as pos- 
sible of measurements of living persons and of ancient 

Reading the account of the Baile na hAite burial 
chamber side by side with that of the earns at Ceath- 
ramhadh Caol, we are struck with a series of resem- 
blances. We are evidently in the presence of relics 
of one and the same burial ritual. These resemblances 
can be set forth thus 

(1) The construction of a burial chamber with a roof formed 

of oversailing slabs, and with burial compartments con- 
structed at the foot of the wall. 

(2) The mixture of burnt and unburnt interments. 

(3) The occasional deposition of the burnt ashes in urns. 

(4) The disposal of burnt bones, not contained in urns, in 

parcels upon thin slabs of stone. 

(5) The presence of animal bones, probably remains of food- 


(6) A sacred standing stone in the middle of the chamber. 

(7) The absence of deposits of intrinsic value. At Ceathramh- 

adh Caol there were a number of bone pins and similar 
objects mingled with the human bones. Had the bones 
from Baile na hAite been properly examined, it is more 
than probable that similar objects would have been 
detected . 

The land surrounding the Giants' Ring seems to 
have been the site of an important cemetery, doubtless 
attracted to the place by that great central sanctuary. 
The farmer told the explorers that on previous occa- 
sions he had dug up ancient interments on the same 
and the adjoining fields. There was no external indi- 
cation of the interments. It is heartbreaking to read 
that many cartloads of human bones had been dug up 


and lost. On the site of the dwelling-house, which 
is not far off, there had been a mound which was 
removed when the house was built : it contained 
several " short stone coffins " in which were urns and 
burnt bones. Similar " coffins " stone cists, to be 
exact -were found in several parts of the same field, 
all formed of stone slabs, with a slab at the bottom and 
another at the top. These in most cases contained 
urns. Another mound on being opened contained 
:< three very large stones placed on end, sloping to 
each other at the top," under which were an urn and 
small bones. Similar remains, including at least one 
artificial chamber resembling that above described, 
had been found on an adjoining farm. 

The only antiquities found were flint arrow-heads, 
celts, hammerstones, and " four rings of black light 
structure like jet, the largest about four inches in 
diameter and the other three smaller, the whole of 
them fitting exactly within one another, so that when 
thus placed they were like a circular grooved disc." 

Another find of a burial urn in an artificial structure 
is described in the same journal, 1 by an evidently 
inexpert writer, who, to make matters worse, is writing 
from a memory of thirty years back. The discovery 
had been made in 1825. The urn was "of a dark 
coarse clay, rudely ornamented and crumbling into 
fragments," and contained ashes. It was covered " by 
a solid stone arch [!] or dome, made of stones about 
five or six inches in width ; the ' arch,' which was 
about four or five feet in diameter, 2 was formed so 
firmly and each stone wedged in so skilfully among the 
others that it was necessary to use a crowbar to de- 
molish it." A stone celt and a flint arrow-head were 
found under the dome. Whatever this structure may 
have been it certainly was neither an arch nor a dome, 
and we can only guess that it was in some way com- 
parable with the Baile na hAite chamber above 

1 1, iv, p. 270. 

2 From which it follows that the component stones must have 
been considerably larger than the writer's recollection of them. 


Lastly we come to burial in artificial caves over- 
ground. In such cases the construction is as follows : 
a dolmen-like chamber was formed, and over it was 
heaped a mound of stones, of earth, or of earth 
mixed with stones. The walls of the chamber are 
either built up of small stones, or formed with rows 
of long upright monoliths : in some (notably New 
Grange) there is a mongrel form in which the weight 
of the roof is supported by walls of small stones, and 
these are masked by monoliths which add to the 
decorative and imposing effect of the chamber, and 
act as retaining stones. The chamber is usually 
cruciform, side cells for the reception of the burials 
being formed all round ; the cross is completed by 
the entrance passage. But the cruciform plan is not 
the only one. At Ceathramhadh Caol one of the earns 
contained two chambers, one behind the other, with 
a narrow doorway between them ; and at Eanach 
Chloiche Mhuilinn, Co. Armagh, a most important 
burial structure of this class, described by Vallancey, 1 
Betham, 2 and some others of the older writers, but 
now entirely destroyed, there were three chambers in 
a row. At Dubhadh the chamber is of irregular plan. 
Whatever the plan of the chamber, the roof was formed 
with great slabs of stone, gradually oversailing till 
they met in the middle. The burials were in com- 
partments of the kind which we have already seen at 
Baile na hAite, or else in flat shallow stone sarcophagi, 
of which examples remain at New Grange and at 
Dubhadh. This central chamber is technically called 
the tholos. 

An entrance passage, called the dromos, gives access 
to the tholos. This is usually straight, though in one 
of the Ceathramhadh Caol earns it is tortuous. Other 
earns which have been examined and found to contain 
similar deposits are those on two Fermanagh moun- 
tains (Toppid and Beal Mor), We may refer the 

1 Collectanea, vol. v, p. 461. 

2 Etruria Celtica, vol. i, p. 173. 


reader to the published reports of these excavations. 1 
And it is highly probable that similar chambers exist 
in such structures as the great earn of Cnoc na Riaghadh 
(fig. 120), popularly associated, under the name 
Meascan Mheidhbhe, with the termagant queen of 
Connacht. This stone heap, which is doubtless much 
older than the time to which Meadhbh is traditionally 
assigned, dominates the greater part of Co. Sligo. 
In 1779, according to an unnamed writer quoted by 
Col. Wood Martin, 2 it was 650 ft. in circumference at 
the base ; the present basal circumference is given at 


590 feet, and its height 34-25 feet. I have made a very 
rough calculation from the measurements supplied, 
merely for the purpose of getting a general idea of 
the weight of stones in this monument. The figure 
resulting was rather over forty thousand tons. There 
are several other great earns in the county : one fine 
example at Heapstown, also in Co. Sligo, is worth 
passing mention. 

The cemetery on the hills of Loch Craoibhe, near 
Oldcastle, Co. Meath, consists of a series of earns 
with burial chambers, resembling those at Ceathramh- 
adh Caol, but rather larger and more extensive. 

1 JRSAI, xviii, p. 83. 
2 PRIA, xx, 651, 659. 


They have the additional interest that the stones of 
the principal chambers are decorated with sculptured 
symbols (fig. 121). The site was first brought to 
notice by E. A. Conwell, in a paper communicated to 
the Royal Irish Academy in 1864 ; and in a later paper 1 
will be found a plan and illustrations of some of the 
earns and the sculptures. Further illustrations have 
been published elsewhere. 2 But the cemetery still 
awaits an exhaustive monograph. 


The most important of the series of mounds in this 
site is that lettered T in Conwell's plan, absurdly 
identified by him as the tomb of the legendary law- 
giver, Ollamh Fodhla. It is a conical mound of stones 

1 E. A. Conwell, On the Identification of the Ancient Cemetery 
at Loughcrew, Co. Meath, and the discovery of the Tomb of Ollamh 
Fodhla. PRIA, xv, 72. 

2 Especially W. Frazer, Notes on Incised Sculpturing* on Stones 
in the Cairns of Sliabh-na-Calliaghe .... with Illustrations from 
a series of Ground Plans and Water-colour Sketches, by the late 
G. V. DuNoyer. Proceedings Soc. Antiq., Scotland, xxvii, p. 294. 
See also G. Coffey, New Grange and other Incised Tumuli in Ireland. 


115 ft. 6 ins. in diameter and some 30 ft. high, sur- 
rounded with a heap of stones. One of these stones, 
on the north side of the mound, is a large block 10 ft. 
broad, 6 ft. high, and 2 ft. thick, worked on its upper 
surface to the semblance of a chair : it is known locally 
as " the Hag's Chair." This stone is carved with 
engraved symbols of the same character as those in 
the chambers. The interior chamber of this earn is 
of the normal form a short dromos, leading to a 
tholos with three burial chambers radiating out from 
it, so that the whole is cruciform on plan. 

Yet more extensive is the great cemetery of Brugh 
na Boinne, which extends along the left hand of the 
river Boinn, near Droichead Atha. This collection 
of monuments constant tradition associates with the 
kings who ruled in Teamhair : and it is highly probable 
that the tradition is correct, so far as the Bronze 
Age is concerned : for the monuments are probably 
exclusively of that period. 

The cemetery includes tumuli large and small, 
stone circles, standing stones, and ring-forts (probably 
sepulchral enclosures) : one of the last named is of 
great size. These are scattered over an area nearly 
three miles long and about a mile broad. Though 
the principal monuments have been well described 
many times, a complete monograph in this cemetery 
is still lacking. 

Three mounds in this series have absorbed most of 
the interest of archaeologists ; New Grange, Dubh- 
adh, and Cnoghbha. Of these the colossal monu- 
ment known as New Grange is by far the most 
important, not merely in the Brugh cemetery, but in 
the whole of Ireland. 

This structure is a mound of earth and stones, 
covering an area of about two acres. It is surrounded 
by a kerb of huge slabs, end to end : three are exposed 
and are seen to bear ornament ; probably all of them 
are decorated. An opening gives access to the dromos, 
which is 44 feet long ; this leads to a tholos with three 
side chambers, the overall measurements being 18 ft. 

IOO 1 50* . 

I I I I . I . I . I . I . I . I . 

MO 1 



by 21 ft. : the maximum height of the tholos is 19 ft. 
6 ins. The walls of the dromos, the tholos, and the 
side chambers are lined with great slabs of stone, 
elaborately decorated with figures from the " alphabet 
of symbolic ornament " described in Chap. VII. Great 
slabs in the side chambers mark the places where the 
burial deposits had been made : one of these has in 
recent years been rather foolishly transported to the 
middle of the tholos, where it occupies the place of 
the now vanished standing stone that originally stood 
there. Another standing stone once was erected on 
the top of the mound ; and a ring of standing stones 
girdles it, fencing in the ground on which it stands. 1 
There is not, north of the Alps, a relic of antiquity 
more impressive than this mound, which for perhaps 
nearly four thousand years has handed down from 
generation to generation the memory of Oenghus of 
the Brugh. Even Stonehenge, though to the eye more 
imposing, is second in interest to New Grange. For 
Stonehenge is dead. The colossal stones stand where 
the builders left them, and we ask in vain the whence 
and the wherefore of their existence. But New Grange 
is still alive with memories and traditions. We know 
why it was erected ; it was the grave-sanctuary of a 
great bronze-age hero, whose name probably was 
something like Oenghus, who was deified after his 
death, and continued to be worshipped in Ireland 
at least, till the fifth or sixth century of the Christian 
era. We know something not so much as we should 
wish, but still something of the builders of the 
mound. They have endeavoured to trace in barbaric 
hieroglyphs a record of their attitude towards the 
unseen powers which they dreaded ; and though the 
story is not yet fully unravelled, a good beginning 
has been made. 

1 For numerous illustrations of New Grange, outside and inside, 
and of the sculpture with which it is decorated, see G. Coffey, 
New Grange (Brugh na Boinne) and other Incised Tumuli in Ireland. 
Dublin, 1912. 


(A few place-names, accidentally mis-written in the text, Iiave 
been tacitly corrected in the Index.) 

Abercromby, Lord, 201, 202, 207, 

Achadh Boldg (Aghabullog, Co. 
Cork), 187, 188 

Achadh Greine (Aughgraney), 
Co. Wicklow), 204 

Adamstown, Co. Westmeath, 344 

Aeneolithic Age, 127 

Ages of Civilisation, 20 

Aghabullog see Achadh Bolog 

Aghacarrible, see Ath an Char- 

Ailche Adhartha, 301 

Ailesbury Road, skulls from, 34, 

Airthear Maighe (Armoy, Co. 
Antrim), 169, 174 

Alignments, 303 

Allee Couverte, 328 

Alloying of metals, 121 

Alphabet of Bronze Age symbol- 
ism, 221 ff 

Alpine Race, 33, 37, 49 

Amber, 116, IQO, 191, 342 

Ancylus Lake, 54 

Anderson, J., x, 346 

Animals cult of, 286, 289; found 
in sandhill sites, 71 

Annesborough, Co. Armagh, 131, 

Antediluvian Inhabitants of Ire- 
land, 27 

Anvil stones, 98 ; goldsmiths' 

Aonghus, see Oenghus 

Ara Mor (Great Aran Island, 
Co. Galway), 38, 260, 264; 
forts of, 268 ff 

Archaeology in Early Irish Lit- 
erature, i 

Archambault, M., 232 

Archers' wrist-guards, 135 

Ard Oilean (High Island, Co. 
Galway), 261 

Aricia, Rex Nemorensis of, 292 

Armoy, see Airthear Maighe 

Armstrong, E. C. R., 103, 104, 
117, 120, 177, 180, 181, 186, 

Arreton Down Dagger, 144, 156 

Arrowheads, alleged use of by 
Norman, 108; bronze, 107, 
flint, 95 f. 

Asia, brachycephalic immigrants 
from, 62 

Assemblies, 289, 290 

Ath an Charbaid (Aghacar- 
rible, Co. Kerry), 227, 229 

Aughgraney, see Achadh Greine 

Auk, Great, 72 

Australians, kinship among, 240; 
totemism among, 249 

Awls, flint, 88 

Axe, cult of, 154, 287; kitchen- 
midden, 61 ; sculptured figures 
of. 232 

Azilian civilisation, 59, 60 

Baetyls, 354, 355 

Baile an Bhoineannaigh (Bally- 

bunnian, Co. Kerry), 258, 315 
Baile an Chaisleain (Ballycastle, 

Co. Antrim), 62 
Baile an Choillfn (Ballykillen, 

King's County), 96 
Baile an Ridire, (Ballyrudder, 

Co. Antrim), early flints from, 

Baile an Tuaidh (Ballintoy, Co. 

Antrim), 329 
Baile Biadhtaigh (Ballybetah, 

Co. Dublin), elk bones from, 

5. 6 

Baile Cloise (Ballyclosh, Co. 
Antrim), no 

Baile Cruaidh (Ballycroy, Co. 
Mayo), 38 

Baile Meadhonach (Bally- 
money, Co. Antrim), burial at, 



Baile na hAite (Ballynahatty, 
Co. Down), Giants' Ring and 
interments at, 36, 231, 352, 
355, 357, 358 

Baile na mBaintreabhach (Bally- 
namintra, Co. Waterford, cave 
at, 57, 76; bear bones from, 58 

Baile na nEas (Ballynanass, Co. 
Donegal), 72 

Baile na Martra (Castlemartyr, 
Co. Cork), 186, 188 

Balla Hill, see Beal-atha 

Ballintoy, see Baile an Tuaidh 

Balloo, see Cuan Bhaile Lugha 

Ballybetagh, see Baile Biadh- 

Ballybunnian, see Baile an 

Ballycastle, see Baile an Chais- 

Ballyclosh, see Baile Cloise 

Ballycroy, see Baile Cruaidh 

Ballykillen, see Baile an 

Ballynahatty, see Baile na hAite 

Ballynamintra, see Baile na 

Ballynanass, see Baile na nEas 

Ballyrizard (sic), copper-mines 
at, 122 

Ballyrudder, see Baile an Ridire 

Banna (Bann River), 78, 86, 88 

Bannow Bay, see Cuan an 

Barr an Chorrain (Barachaurin, 
Co. Cork), 304 

Barr Fhionntamhnaigh (Barr of 
Fintona), Co. Tyrone, 350 

Barrow, see Bearbha 

Basque, 253 

Beacon-fire, 339 

Beads, 338; from sandhills, 100; 
gold, '187, 1 88 

Beakers, 201 

Beal-atha Hill (Balla Hill, Co. 
Antrim), tumulus at, 341 

Bealick, 326 

Beal Mor (Belmore, Co. Fer- 
managh), 359 

Bear in Ireland, 58 

Bearbha (Barrow River), 320 

Beauty, standards of, 41 

Bedawin, kinship among, 239 

Beddoe, J., 31, 37, 38 

Bede, Venerable, 242 

Beehive huts, 259 

Behy, see Beitheach 

Beinn Ghulbain (Benbulbin, Co. 
Sligo), 288 

Beitheach (Behy, Co. Fer- 
managh), 350 

Belfast, urns discovered in, 333 
Belmore, see Beal Mor 
Benbulbin, see Beinn Ghulbain. 
Bennet, E. F. J., 53 
Bernard, W., 265 
Betham, Sir W., 8, 359 
Biorra (Birr, King's Co.), 139, 

101 . 

Bishop, A. H., 61 
Black line in shore sites, 257 
Black Pig, 290 
Boar of Beinn Ghulbain, 290 , 

Wild, in Ireland, 57 
Bograch (Boggeragh Mountains, 

Co. Cork), 320 

Boinn (Boyne River), 86, 320 
Boireann (Burren, Co. Clare), 


Bone objects from sandhills, 100. 
Book antiquaries, 2 
Book of Leinster, ethnological 

data from, 42, 45 f. 
Borers, flint, 8 
Borlase, W. C., 15, 319, 329 
Boxes for holding lunulae, 143 
Boyne, see Boinn 
Bracelets, gold, 188 
Bracers, see Archers' wrist- 

Brachycephalic, 32 
Brachycephaly in Ireland, date 

and origin of, 37 
Brash, R. R., 187 
Breuil, Abbe, 220, 223 
Brewis, W. P., 146 
Brigantia, 265 
Broad-face, description in MSS., 

meaning of, 48 
Bronze Age, in; divisions of, 

22; immigrants in England, 

117; in Ireland, 23; pottery 

of, characteristics of, 196 ff; 

stone implements in, 107 
Bronze-casters' hoards, 131 
Bronze, invention of, 115 
Broughderg, see Brugh Dearg 
Browne, Dr. C., 38, 40 
Brugh Dearg (Broughderg, Co. 

Tyrone), burial at, 337 
Brugh na Boinne, Co. Meath 

Boyne Cemetery), 225, 287, 362 

See also New Grange 
Buick, Rev. G. R., 108, 197, 201 
Bulb of Percussion, 83 
Bull of Cualgne, 289 
Bull-roarer, 232, 299 
Burial, in Bronze Age, 331 ; in 

Stone Age, 312 
Burkitt, M. C., 226 
Burren, see Boireann 
Butmir, spiral motive at, 219 



Cabhan, Ceathramhadha (Cavan- 
carragh, Co. Fermanagh), 304 

Cahermore, see Cathair Mhor 

Caiseal (Cashel, Co. Armagh), 

Caiseal Dearg (Castlederg, Co. 
Tyrone), 324 

Caiseal Mumhan (Cashel, Co. 
Tipperary), 26 

Campigny and its culture, 60 

Cannibalism, 311 

Cappagh, see Ceapach 

Carn Fhiachach (Carnfeehy, 
Co. Westmeath), 343 

Carna, Co. Mayo, 38 

Carriag Fhearguis (Carrick- 
fergus, Co. Antrim), 341 

Carraig Sionainne (Carrick-on- 
Shannon, Co. Leitrim), 184 

Carrowkeel, see Ceathramhadh 

Carrowmore, see Ceathramhadh 

Cashel, see Caiseal 

Castle Archdale, Co. Fer- 
managh, 226 

Castlemartyr, see Baile na 

Cat worship, 20,0 

Cathair Mhor (Cahermore, Co. 
Cork), 156 

Cathair Muc-shnaimh (Moghane 
Fort, Co. Clare), 180 

Cauldrons, 170 

Caulfield, Dr. 122 

Cave burial, 351 

Ceall Airneach (Killarney, Co. 
Kerry), 122 

Ceall Bhronaigh (Kilbroney, Co. 
Mayo), 336 

Ceall Roid [or Ruadh] (Kilroot, 
Co. Antrim), 67 

Ceall Tighearnain (Kiltiernan, 
Co. Dublin), 326, 327 

Ceannanus (Kells, Co. Meath), 
alleged corral at, 56 

Ceapach (Cappagh, Co. Water- 
ford), 76 

Ceathramhadh Caol (Carrow- 
keel, Co. Sligo), 37, 41, 58, 
231, 261, 310, 345, 353, 357, 
359, 360 

Ceathramhadh Mor (Carrow- 
more, Co. Sligo), 329 

Celt, Bronze, evolution of, 124; 
Copper, i2Q 

Celtiberian inscriptions, 254 

Celts, raised beach, 84; stone, 
101 ff 

Cemetries, 289 

Cenotaphs, 310 


Cephalic index, 31 

Ceremonial axe-heads, 103, 106 

Cesair, 27 

Chapes, 162 

Chert, 80 

Cheval-de-frisej 260, 275 

Chinese objects found in Ire- 
land, 23 

Chisel axes, 84 

Chisels, 170 

Choppers, QQ 

Christianity, 24 

Chronology of Bronze Age, 123, 
193 ; of civilisation, 20 

Cinead mac Ailpin, 243 

Cinead mac Maeil-Choluim, 242 

Cinerary urns, 201, 200, 

Circles, stone, 293 

Cist burial, 336 

Civilisation in Ireland, develop- 
ment of, 19; of shore-dwellers, 

Clare find of gold ornaments, 

IIQ, 180 
Cliara (Clare Island), Co. 

Mayo), 38 
Clochan na Carraige, Ara Mor, 

259 f. 
Clochar (Clougher, Co. Tyrone), 

302 f. 

Clogan Oir, 13 
Clonbrin, see Cluain Bhrain 
Clonfert, see Cluain Fearta 

Clonfinlough, see Cluain Fionn- 

Clonmacnois, see Cluain maccu 


Clougher, see Clochar 
Clover Hill, see Cnoc na Seamar 
Cluain Bhrain (Clonbrin, Co. 

Longford), shield from, 171 
Cluain Fearta Bhreanainn 

(Clonfert, King's Co.), 26 
Cluain Fionn-locha (Clonfin- 
lough, King's Co.), sculptured 

stone at, 223 f, 231 
Cluain maccu Nois (Clonmac- 
nois, King's Co.), 120 
Cnoc Bhaine (Knockmany, Co. 

Tyrone), 227, 345 
Cnoc Maraidhe (Knockmaree, 

Co. Dublin), 313 
Cnoc na Riaghadh (Knocknarea, 

Co. Sligo), 360 
Cnoc na Seamar (Clover Hill, 

Co. Sligo), 227, 231 
Cnoc Ninnidh (Knockninny, Co. 

Fermanagh), 352 
N Cnoghbha (Knowth, Co. Meath), 

225, 287, 362 

3 68 


Coffey, G., 15, 66, 82, 84, 139, 
140, 141, 157, 159, 164, IQI, 
226, 335, 361, 364 

Coill na Madaidh (Killymaddy, 
Co. Antrim), 164 

Coill ui Cearnaigh (Killicarney, 
Co. Cavan), 344 

Coillidhe Bacaigh (Cullybackey, 
Co. Antrim), burials at, 334 

Coir Anmann, 290 

Colgan, 2 

Coloration, 31; in Ireland, 41, 

Coloured decoration, 220 

Colouring matter found at 
Whitepark Bay, 100 

Colum Cille, 253 

Comerford Bowl, 188 

Commerce between Ireland and 
England in Bronze Age, 117 

Concentric circles, 234 

Cong, see Cunga 

Conwell, E. A., 360 

Coolbawn, see Cul Ban 

Coolmore, see Cul Mor 

Copper, 112 

Copper Age, 127, 129; in Ire- 
land, 116 

Copper celts, 129 

Corco Dhuibhne (Corkaguiney, 
Co. Kerry), 263, 288 

Cores, 82, 86 

Corkaguiney, see Corco 


Cormac mac Airt, 24; descrip- 
tion of, 48 

Cormac's Chapel, 25 

Corn-spirit, 284, 291 

Cornwall, 133, 141, 142; tin 
trade with, 116, 1 17 

Crann Liath, Co. Cork, 123 

Crannogs, 256 

Crawford, O. G. S., 141 . 

Creagan (Creggan, Co. Antrim), 


Cremation, 330 

Crete, 116, 154, 232; ornament 
in, 219 

Criteria of race, 31 

Croghan Kinshela, see Cruachan 
ui Ceinsealaigh 

Croker, Crofton, 15, 186 

Cromlechs, see Dolmens 

Cromm Cruaich, 293 

Cros Domhnaigh (Crossdoney, 
Co. Cavan), 143 

Crown, so-called, 188 

Cruachan ui Ceinsealaigh 
(Croghan Kinshela, Co. Wick- 
low), gold in, 118 

Cuan an Bhainbh (Bannow Bay, 
Co. Wexford), 228, 230, 231, 

Cuan Bhaile Lugha (Balloo 
Bay, Co. Down), 71 

Cuan Duin Droma (Dundrum 
Bay, Co. Louth), 99; see also 
Dun Droma 

Cii-Chulaind, ethnology of, 45, 

Cuilleann ua Cuanach (Bog of 
Cullen, Co. Tipperary), gold 
objects found in, IIQ f., 143 

Cul Ban (Coolbawn, Co. An- 
trim), no 

Cullen, Bog of, see Cuilleann 

Cullybackey, see Coillidhe 

Cul Mor (Coolmore, Co. Car- 
low), 1 06 

Cunga (Cong, Co. Galway), 
cross of, 13 

Cup and circle symbols, 227, 232 

Cupped rings, 174, 181 

Curry, see O' Curry 

Curves of cranial indices, 35, 39 

Daerchlanna, 238 

Dagda, 266, 287 

Daggers, 166; flint, 92 if; sock- 
eted, 146; triangular, 132, 137 

Daingean ua Cuis (Dingle, Co. 
Kerry, 305 

Dances, religious, 297 

Dawnsmaen, 298 

Day, R., 93, 122 

Dead, cult of, 286, 289 

Dechelette, J., 59, 123 

Deerpark, Co. Sligo, megalithic 
monument in, 305 f. 

Deisiol, 298 

Deniker, J., 41 

Derry, see Doire 

Derrycarhoon, see Doire Ceath- 

Dindsheanchas, 266, 295, 298 

Dingle, see Daingean 

Dio Cassius, 244 

Discs of Gold, 184 

Diseart (Dysert, Co. West- 
meath), 350 f 

Distribution of lunulae, 141 ; of 
dolmens, 318 ff 

Dog whelk, 72 

Doire Ceathramhan (Derrycar- 
hoon, Co. Cork), 123 

Doire (Derry), 264 

Dolichocephalic, 32 

Dolmens, 315 ff; distribution of, 
318 ff. 

Domhnach Airgid, 13 



Domhnach Mor (Donoughmore, 

Co. Tyrone), skulls from, 36 ff 
Donegore, see Dun an Ghabhair 
Donoughmore, see Domrinach 


Dowth, see Dubhadh 
Drills, bone, 100 
Droichead Atha (Drogheda, Co. 

Louth), IOQ, 225 , 

Dromos, 350 
Druids, 307 
Druim Bo (Drumbo, Co. Down), 

Druim na Coille (Drumnakilly, 

Co. Tyrone), 338 
Dubhadh (Dowth, Co. Meath), 

225, 287; 359, 362 
Dubh-ait (Doohat, Co. Fer- 
managh), 345, 346 
Dubhaltach mac Fir Bisigh, 2, 3 
Dubh-Chathair, Ara Mor, 269 
Duibhlinn (Dublin), Viking 

settlements in, 25 
Dummy celts, 105 
Dun Aonghusa, Ara Mor, 264, 

269, 271 ff 
Dun an Ghabhair (Donegore, 

Co. Antrim), 196 
Dun Beag (Dunbeg Fort, Co. 

Kerry), 278 
^Dun Chonchobhair (Inis Meadh- 

onach, Ara), 276 
Diin Droma (Dundrum, Co. 

Louth), 200, 335; see also 

Cuan Duin Droma 
Dun Eochla, Ara Mor, 269 
Dun Eoghanachta, Ara Mor, 

Dun Fionnachaidh (Dunfanaghy, 

Co. Donegal), 258 
Dun Garbhain (Dungarvan, Co. 

Waterford), 76 
Du Noyer, G. V., 15, 361 
Dunraven, Lord, 15 
Dun Ruadh, Co. Tyrone, 348 

Eanach Chloiche Mhuillinn (An- 
naghclochmullen, Co. Ar- 
magh), 359 

Earrings, gold, 187, 188 

Earth, burial, 332 

Egypt, 114 

Elderbush Cave, Co. Clare, 58 

Electrum, 121 

Elk, Irish, 56 

Endogamy, 245 

Enniskillen, see Inis Ceithlinn 

Eoliths in Ireland, 53 

Ernai, 288 

Ethnological data in Irish MSS. 
42 ff 

Evans, Sir J., 83, 117 
Evolution of bronze celt, 124 
Exchange, media of, 177 
Exogamy, 245 
Eyes, figures of, 234 

Fabricators, 98 

Factory sites, 74 

Fal, stone of, 300 

Fan-achadh (Fanahy, Co. Cork), 

Fearran Fuar (Farranfore, Co. 
Kerry), 126 

Fearta, Co. Fermanagh, 311 

Fearta, Co. Galway, 335 

Ferguson, Sir S., 15, 326 

Fergusson, J., 318 

Ferrules, 15 

Fertility, deities of, 287 

Fibula, 174 

Field antiquaries, 2 

Figure subjects, tabu against 
representations of, 204, 217 

Find mac Umhaill, 289 

Fir Bolg, 29, 268, 273 

First appearance of Man in 
Ireland, date of, 52 

Fish-bones in midden-heaps, 72 

Fisher Street, Co. Clare, 75 

Flakes, flint, 82, 86, 87 

Flanged celt, 125, 135 

Flat celt, 124; in stone, 104, 

Flint, nature of, 79 

Flood legends, 27 

Folkton Moor, Yorkshire, lime- 
stone drums from, 231, 353 

Fomhoraigh, 29 

Food-deposits in tombs, 309 

Food-vessels, 201, 202 

Forbes, N., xi. 

Forests, sequence of, 55 

Fortifications, classification of, 
255 f . ; date of Irish, 281 ; pur- 
pose of, 280 

Four Masters, 2 

Frazer, Sir J. G., 173, 247 

Frazer, W., 34, 107, 361 

Frederik VII, King of Den- 
mark, 12 

Future life, belief in, 308 

Gall-bhaile (Galbally, Co. Ty- 
rone), 162 

Garmna (Garumna Island, Co. 
Galway), 38 

Gates of Glory, 305 

Geide, 287 

Geoffrey of Monmouth, 298 

Ghosts, precautions against, 310. 



Giants' Ring, 36, 329, 352, 357 

Giraldus Cambrensis, 58, 108 

Gleann Arma (Glenarm, Co. An- 
trim), 74 

Gleann Bhile (Glenville, Co. 
Down), 211 

Glenavy, see Lann Abhaigh 

Glenville, see Gleann Bhile 

Gods of strange countries, 63 

Golamh, 265 

Gold, 112, 118, 140 

Goldsmiths' tools, 170, 179 

Gorgets, 181, 182, 183 

Gouges, 169 

Grainnse Mor (Grangemore, Co. 
Derry), 89 

Grattan, J., 36 

Grave-goods, 309, 335, 339, 343, 

Graves, Bishop, 15 

Graves, Rev. J., 15 

Greencastle, Co. Tyrone, 302, 

Greenwell, Rev. Canon, 146 

Grianan Ailigh, 264 

Grindstones, 109 

Hacketstown, Co. Carlow, 106 
Haddon, A. C., 36, 37, 38, 40, 


Haematite, use of, 200 
Hafting of celts, 103, 125 
Hafts of daggers, 144 
Halberds, 137, 138, 139 
Hallissy, T., 117 
Hall, S. C., 123 
Hallstatt, 22 

Hammer-axes, 105, 132, 138 
Hammered copper tools, 112 
Hammers, goldsmiths', 170 
Hammers, stone, 109 
Hammer-stones, 97 
Hardman, E. T., 307 
Harpago found in Ireland, 23 
Hartland, E. S., 310 
Hasse, Rev. L., 200 
Head-shape, 31 
Hearths, 257 f. 
Herodotus, 331 
Hervey Islands, 103, 107 
Hiatus between Palaeolithic and 

Neolithic, 59 

High Island, see Ard Oilean 
Holden, J. S., 333 
Hollow scrapers, 92 
Hollyfort, Co. Wexford, 279 
Hollywood, Co. Wicklow, 233 ; 

stone circle at, 293 
Horned barrows, 345 
Horn objects from the sandhills, 


Horsehair, woven, 174 
Houses, ancient, 258 
Howth, 326, 328 
Human sacrifice, 297 

Iberian peoples, 51 

Imaginary implements, 105 

Immolation at burials, 336, 340, 


Importance of Irish antiquities, 

Incense-cups, 201, 214, 337 

Inch, see Inis 

Inchageelagh, see Inis Geimh- 

Incineration, 311 

Inhumation, 311 

Inis (Inch, Co. Kerry), 75 

Inis Bo Finne (Inishbofin Is- 
land, Co. Mayo), 36, 38, 40 

Inis Ce (Iniskea, Co. Mayo), 38 

Inis Ceithlinn (Enniskillen, Co. 
Fermanagh), 159, 311 

Inis Earca (Inishark, Co. Mayo), 


Inis Geimhleach (Inchageelagh, 
Co. Cork), 179 

Iniskea, see Inis Ce 

Inis Muiredhaigh (Inismurray, 
Co. Sligo,), 299 

Inis Tuirc (Inishturk, Co. Gal- 
way), 38 

Iron Age, divisions of, 22 ; in 
Ireland, 23 

Irusain, Mac Arusain 

Ith, 265 

lubhar Chinn Tragha (Newry, 
Co. Down), 211 

Iveagh, Lord, 151 

Jaravallen, 60 
Javelin-heads, flint, 95 f. 
Jet, 190 ff, 337 
Johnson, E., 179, 180 
Joyce, P. W., ix., 15, 317 

Kanestown, 92 

Keating, 2 

Kells, see Ceannanus 

Kelly, D., 351 

Kennedy, P., 15 

Kilbroney, see Ceall Bhronaigh 

Killarney, see Ceall Airneach 

Killicarney, see Coill ui Cear- 

Killymaddy, see Coill na Mad- 


Kilmartin, 304 
Kilroot, see Ceall Roid (or 



Kiltiernan, see Ceall Tighear- 


King worship, 291 
Kinship, methods of reckoning, 

Knives, flint, 92; leather-,cut- 

ters', 170 

Knockmany, see Cnoc Bhaine 
Knockmaree, see Cnoc Maraidhe 
Knocknaree, see Cnoc na 


Knockninny, see Cnoc Ninnidh 
Knowles, W. J., 53, 65, 70, 73, 

74, 84, 89, Q2, 98, 99, 103, 109, 


Knowth, see Cnoghbha 
Kokkenmoddinger, 61 

Labraid, legend of King, 284 
Labyrinth, 298 
Labrinthyne, pattern, 232 
Lagan River, 74 
Lake-dwellings, 256 
Land-oscillations, 54 
Lang, Andrew, 284, 286 
Lann Abhaigh (Glenavy, Co. 

Antrim), 332 
Larcom, Sir Thomas, 9 
Larne, see Latharna 
La Tene, 22, 157 
Latharna (Larne, Co. Antrim), 

53, 59, 62, 64 ff, 82,^84, 85, 195 
Lattoon, see Leath-ton 
Lawlor, H. C., 105 
Laytown, Co. Meath, 109 
Leabhar na hUidhre, ethnologi- 
cal data from, 42, 43 
Leac an Scail, 328 
Leac Con mic Ruis, Deerpark, 

Co. Sligo, 305 f 
Leanan (Lennon, Co. Mon- 

aghan), 324 

Leather case for palstave, 126 
Leather-cutters' knives, 170 
Leath-ton (Lattoon, Co. Cavan), 

185, 186 
Ledwich, E., 6 
Legananny, see Liag an 

Letir Muilinn (Lettermullan 

Island, Co. Galway), 38 
Lhuyd, E., 3 
Liag an Eanaigh (Legananny, 

Co. Down), dolmen, 316, 317 
Life, region of, 120 
Liffey River, see Ruirtheach 
Lindsay of Luachra, 344 
Liosan (Lissane, Co. Derry), 

rapier from, 159 
Littorina Sea, 54 

Loch Arbhach (Loch Arrow, Co. 

Sligo), 261 
Loch Con (Loch Conn, Co. 

Mayo), 320 

Loch Corrib, see Loch Oirbsean 
Loch Craoibhe (Lochcrew, Co. 

Meath), 220, 225, 234, 311, 360 
Loch Deirgdhearc (Loch Derg), 

Loch Earna (Loch Erne, Co. 

Fermanagh), 320 
Loch Gair (Loch Gur, Co. 

Limerick), 104, 107, 171, 189, 

190, 300 
Loch Measca (Loch Mask, Co. 

Mayo), 320 
Loch Muine (Lochmoney, Co. 

Down), 326 
Loch Oirbsean (Loch Corrib, 

Co. Galway), 320 
Loch Riabhach (Lochrea, Co. 

Galway), 335 

Loch Suilligh (Loch Swilly), 265 
Loiguire, King, 348 
Long barrows, 315 
Long Meg and her Daughters, 


Long-stone Fort, 339 
Lough : for names beginning 

thus, see Loch 
Lug an Chuirin (Lugacurren, 

Queen's County), burial at, 337 
Lunulae, 139, 140 

MacAdam, R., 353 

MacCullagh, Professor, 13 

Magh Cromdha (Macroom, Co. 
Cork), 214, 326 

Magh bhFiadh (Movea, Co. 
Donegal), 228 

Magh Sleacht, 293 

Magh Tuireadh (Moytura), battle 
of, 273 

Magic and religion, 292 

Maglemose, 60 

Mallets, 105 

Man, L. McC., 61 

Manufacture of gold objects, 179 

Maol Chinn Tire (Mull of Can- 
tire), 59, 62 

Marks sculptured on Dolmens, 


Marne, carvings in, 231 
Mas d'Azil, Le, 59 
Matriarchal organisation, 238 ; 

succession, 240, ff 
Matriarchate, 277 
Mauls, 105 

Maeascan Mheidhbhe, 360 
Mediterranean race, 33, 37, 4; 

in Ireland, 237 


Melanochrous, 32 

Mesaticephalic, 32 

Metals, discovery of the nature 

of, 112 

Metopic patterns, 205 
Meyer, Kuno, 295 
Middenheaps, 64 
Mil, children of, 30, 265 
Milesians, see Mil 
Mind, a diadem, 140 
Mines of copper, 121 
Mining, ancient, 123 
Miracles, 311 
Moghane, see Muc-shnamh and, 

Cathair Muc-shnaimh 
Molyneux, Sir T., 3, 353 
Money, 177 

Monogamous marriges, 238 
Montelius, Oscar, 162, IQI, 258 
More, A. G., 157 
Moss-handle of flint flake, 88 
Mottes, 256 
Moulds, 130, 146, 148, 156, 163, 

Mount Browne, Co. Carlow, 326, 


Mount Rivers, Co. Cork, igi 
Mount Stewart, Co. Down, 201, 

Mount Wilson, King's Co., 

skulls from, 36 
Mounting of flakes, 88 
Movea, see Magh bhFiadh 
Muc-ros (Muckross, Co. Kerry), 

Muc-shnamh (Muckno, Co. Mon- 

aghan), sword from, 150, 
Muc-shnamh Moghane Fort), 

1 80, 276 f; see also Cathair 

Muigh-inis (Mweenish, Co. 

Gal way), 38 

Muillead (Mullet, Co. Mayo), 38 
Muilleann an Bhata (Mullin- 

avat, Co. Kilkenny), 328 
Muilleann Gearr (Mullingar, 

Co. Westmeath), 343 
Muisire Beag (Musherabeg, Co. 

Cork) , 293 
Mull of Cantire, see Maol 

Chinn Tire 
Muller, F. Max, 283 
Mullet, see Muillead 
Mullinavat, see Muilleann an 


Mullingar, see Muilleann Gearr 
Multiple interments, 344, 346 f. 
Mumha (Munster), 320 
Muscraighe (Muskerry, Co. 

Cork), 320 

Mweenish, see Muigh-inis 
Mythology, interpretation of, 283 

Nature worship of powers of, 


Nayars, 244 
Needles, bone, 100 
Nemhedh, 2g 
New Grange, 219, 231, 234, 287, 

353, 355, 356, 359, 362 ff 
Newhall, Co. Clare, 58 
Newry, see lubhar Chinn 

Newtown, 143 
Nordic Race, 33, 40; in Ireland, 


Nostvet, 60 
Nutt, A., 295 

O'Curry, Eugene, ix, n 

O'Donovan, J., 8 ff, n, 326 

Odyssey, 310 

Oenghus, 274, 287, f, 364 

O'Laverty, Rev. J., 78 

Oldbridge, Co. Meath, burial at, 
337 jet necklace from, 193 ; 
skeleton from, 36, 41 

Ordnance Survey, 9 

Origin of earliest colonists of 
Ireland, 58 f; of metal cul- 
ture, 114 

Ormeau Bridge, deposit at, 74 

Ornament, 217 

Ornamentation of celts, 135 ; of 
wood vessels, 204; of lunulae, 

Oronsay, 61, 257 

Palstaves, 126, 143 ff 

Partholpn, 29 

Patination, 84, 85 

Patriarchal organisation, 238 

Patrick, Saint, 293 

Penck and Bruckner, their chro- 
nology, 195 

Penrith, Cumberland, 297 

Peopling of Ireland, the, 26 

Periods of Bronze Age, 127; of 
civilisation, 21 

Petrie, G., 8, 12 

Phoenicians, 134 

Phoenix Park, skulls from, 36 ff, 

4i, 3i3 

Pick, Campignian, 61, 84 
Pictish inscriptions, 253 
Picts, 50, 51; matriarchate 

among, 242 
Piette, Edouard, 59 
Pillar-stones, 340, 353 
Pin, bone, 100; ornamental, 174 
Piper's stones, 294 



Place-names, their treatment in 
modern maps, x ff ; Pre-Celtic 
words in, 252 

Plunkett, T., 311 

Pocock, Bishop, 343, 344 

Polished stone implements, 131 

Polygamous marriage, 238, 254; 
in Britain, 244 

Port Gleanna Eoin (Portgle- 
none, Co. Antrim), 78 

Port na Claidhe (Portnacloy, 
Co. Mayo), 38 

Port Ruis (Portrush, Co. An- 
trim), 67, 80, 84, 85 

Portstewart, Co. Derry, 84, 85, 
0,9, 100, 197, 200, 257 

Pottery, 10.6; in sandhills, 71, 

Pre-Celtic language, 251 ff; 
tribes development of, 251 

Preservation of antiquities, 13 

Prickers, bone, 100 

Promontory forts, 277 

Ptolemy, 264 

Pygmy cups, 214 

Querns, 108 f 

Race, definition of, 30 

Raised beaches, 54 f., 64; imple- 
ments of, 82 

Raith Bhile (Rathvilly, Co. 
Carlow), 106 

Raith Mheidhbhe, 263 

Rapiers, 158, 150,, 166 

Rathvilly, see Raith Bhile 

Razors, 166 

Read, Sir C. H., 153 

Reeves, Bishop, 15 

Relation between ethnology and 
legends of early colonists, 49 

Religion, comparative, 283 

Rhys, Sir. J., 253, 284 

Ridgeway, Sir W., 330 

Ring-forts, 278 

Ring-money, 174 

Rings, 187; gold, 188; supersti- 
tion against, 173, 188 

Rinn Tulaigh (Rinntulla, Co. 
Limerick), 107 

Ripley, W. Z., 31, 263 

Rites, religious, 292 

River worship, 20,1 

Rock-scribings, 364 

Roman brooch found in Ireland, 


Romanesque architecture, 23 
Romans and Ireland, 24 
Roovesmore, see Ruadh Mor 

Ros na Beinne (Rosapenna, Co. 

Donegal), 72 
Roth Ramhach, 300 
Round barrows, 315 
Royal Irish Academy, Museum 

of, 12 and -passim 
Ruadh Mor (Roovesmore, Co. 

Cork), 329 

Rubbing-stones, 108 f 
Rudhraighe 6 Flaithbheartaigh, 


Ruirtheach River (Liffey), 121 

Sacrifice, 297 

Saddle-quern, 109 

Sandhill sites, 67 ff; imple- 
ments from, 86 ff 

Saws, flint, 92, 93 

Scabbards, 162; bronze, 164 

Scairbh (Scarriff, Co. Clare), 93 

Scandinavia and Ireland, 16 

Scandinavian daggers, 92 ff ; 
race, 33; see also Nordic 

Sxrarriff, see Scairbh 

Sceilig Mhichil, 261 

Scouler, J., 57 

Scrapers, flint, 89 ff 

Seiseadh Coille Greine (Sess 
Kilgreen, Co. Tyrone), 226 

Sequence of forests, 55 

Serpents in Ireland, 27 

Sess Kilgreen, see Seiseadh 
Coille Greine 

Setantii, 43 

Shafts of arrows, 96 

Shale " implements," 105 

Shannon River, see Sionann 

Shell-fish in midden sites, 72 

Shell-heap sites, 75 

Shields, 154, 171, ff 

Shore-dwellers, 64, 257 

Sickles, 165 

Silver, 121 

Simpson, W. J., 67 

Sinaitic Peninsula, 114 

Sionann (Shannon River), 320; 
gold found near, 120 

Siret, MM., 231 

Sivir (Suir River), 320 

Skellig, see Sceilig 

Skene, W. F., 243 

Skulls, ancient, in Ireland, 34 

Sliabh Callainn (Slieve Callan, 
Co. Clare), 326 

Sligeach (Sligo), 170 

Smith, E. A.. 121 

Smith, Rev. F., 53 

Smith, R. A., 53, 184 

Social organisation, 236, ff 

Socketed celt, 127, 155, 165 



Socketed dagger, 146 

Socketed spearhead, 155, 156 

Socketed tools, method of manu- 
facture, 148 

Solinus, 244 

Sollas, W. J., 59. 

Spain, tin-trade with, 116; neo- 

" c nthic carvings in, 223 

Spearheads, 167 ; so-called flint, 
96; evolution of, 145 ff; 
looped, 156, 157; socketed, 166 

Spencer and Gillen, 232, 234 

Spheres, gold, 183 

Spiral motive in ornament, 219 

Spirals, significance of, 234 

Spoon-shaped scrapers, 90, 92 

Staigue, see Steidhg 

Standards of weight, 177 

Standing stones, 301, 339 

Statue-menhirs, 302 f 

Stature in Ireland, 40 41 

Steidhg (Staigue Fort, Co. 
Kerry), 264, 267 

Stephenson, S. M., 347 

Stillorgan, see Teach Lorcain 

Stokes, Margaret, 15 

Stokes, Whitley, 48 

Stone Age, divisions of, 21 

Stone Age in Ireland, 22 

Stone implements in the Bronze 
Age, 107 

Stonehenge, 298 

Stop-ridge, 136 

Strabo, 244, 3" 

Strangford Loch find, 151 ff 

Stratification, importance of, 77, 

Suir River, see Siur 

Sullivan, W. K., 12 

Sun discs, 185 

Sun figures, 234 

Sun myths, 283 f 

Survey, archaeological, of Ire- 
land, 10 

Swanston, T., 123 

Swords, 159, 166 

Symbolism, 217 f 

Tabu against figure subjects, 

204, 217 
Tailltiu (Teltown, Co. Meath), 

assembly of, 290 
Tamhlachta (Tallaght, Co. 

Dublin), 337 
Tara, see Teamhair 
Teach Lorcain (Stillorgan, Co. 

Dublin), 351 
Teamhair (Tara, Co. Meath), 

excavations at, 8; torques 

found at, 13 ; other references, 
150, 157, 263, 277, 298, 300; 
assemblies of, 290 

Tearmon Feichin, Co. Louth, 

Technique of stone carving, 220 

Teutonic race, 33 ; see also Nor- 

Thibet, 241 

Tholos, 359 

Thurnam, J., 37 

Tighearnmhas, 120, 121 

Tin, 115; trade in, 133 

Tlachtgha (Hill of Ward, Co. 
Meath), 290 

Todd, Rev. J- H., 15, 181 

Tomb pottery, 201 

Toppid, Co. Fermanagh, 359 

Torques, 149 

Totemism, 246, 288; in Ireland, 

Towns, 263 

Trade, 116; methods of ancient, 

Traigh Li (Tralee, Co. Kerry), 

58, 71 

Triangular dagger, 144 
Trilithon, 326 
Trumpets, 170 
Trundholm Moss, sun-chariot 

from, 184 
Tuatha De Danaan, 30, 50, 266, 

Tulach - (Tulla, Co. Clare), 

mines at, 122 
Tulach Craoibhe (Tullycreavy, 

Co. Fermanagh), 311 
Tumuli, 340 
Types of celts, 103 
Tyre, shell-heaps at, 73 
Tyrian purple, 72 

Uchadan, 120 

Uisnech (Ushnagh, Co. West- 

meath), assembly of, 290 
Umhor, sons of, 273, 276 

Vallancey, Charles, 4, 23, 55, 
120, 133, 140, 142, 177, 347. 
351, 350 

Vessels of gold, 188 

Vikings, 25 

Village sites, 261 f 

Wakeman, W. F., 344, 350 
Wanderers, archaeological, 23 
Ware, Sir J., 2 
Well-worship, 291 



Westropp, T. J., 57, 180, 255, 

264, 271, 275 
Whetstones, no 
Whitechurch, Co. Waterford, 72 
Whitepark Bay, Co. Antrim, og 

ff, 84, 85, 99, loo, 197, 200, 201, 

209, 258 

Wicklow, gold in, 118 
Wilde, Sir W., 14 
Williams, W., 57 
Windele, J., 15, 123, 187 
Windle, Sir B., 214, 300 
Winged celt, 127, 155 

Wolf in Ireland, the, 57 
Women, importance of, in early 

legends, 29, 241 ff 
Wood-Martin, W. G., ix, 360 
Wrist-guards of archers, 135 
Wynne, Archdeacon, 313 

Xanthochrous, 32 
Yoldia Sea, 54 
Zimmer, H.. 243, ff