« PreviousContinue »
at that end, though the kistvaen at the other is higher still. Here, however, we have a double slope to the river, and such a result was inevitable.
Deduction G clearly establishes the character of the rows. If they are always associated with definite indications of sepulture they must in some way be sepulchral likewise. It has, indeed, been customary to call the larger stone circles with which they are not infrequently connected “sacred circles"—simply, I take it, because they are specially important. Certainly not because there is any authority for such assignation, or any evidence of such purpose. But Dartmoor alone supplies instances of undoubted sepulchral circles of considerable size. For example, that at the head of the great row in the Erme valley, which is 45 feet across and encloses a distinct barrow, while they range down to five or six feet in diameter about a kistvaen. Minus the barrow, the Stalldon Moor peristalith would have been dubbed a sacred circle without doubt—indeed, it has been. The well-known circle at Penrith had also traces of sepulture, and with the pyramids in view, we need not be in a hurry to exclude the most gigantic from this category.5
So at Avebury, Stanton Drew, Shap, and Callernish, and partially at Carnac, the rows are connected with circles; at Caithness and elsewhere with cairns and tumuli. Circles, no doubt, once existed where they cannot now be found; but it is absolutely certain that these rows have always sepulchral relations of one kind or another; and that in the immense majority of cases the association with circles-some of which still do, and the rest probably did, enclose barrows or cairns and kistvaens—is clearly evident.
There might thus be something to be said in favour of Mr. Fergusson's idea that the rows connected with circles represented externally the passages in tumuli which led to the central chamber, if the double row was invariable. We have seen that it is not.
I do not think, however, our quest for the purpose of these rows, if we accept their sepulchral origin, is at all hopeless.
5 So WESTROPP (Prehistoric Phases) cites Colonel Ross-King as stating that "the Todas, a wild and rude tribe of the Nilgiri Mountains," at the present day burn the remains of their dead within a circle of stones, and afterwards bury them there. And the late Mr. W. J. Henwood, F.R.S., described the existence at Agur and other localities Northwest Provinces of India, of a people who rear cromlechs, some flat and some inclined, on the first of which flowers are often placed ; while within the enclosure formed by the latter lamps are burnt, clearly in honour of the dead, whether ancestor worship is actually involved or not.
We must bear in mind that they are a distinctive form of interment—that in the immediate vicinity of the barrows and kistvaens and circles connected with them we find barrows and cairns and kistvaens—even circles, presumably of much the same period—which are not. The rows clearly indicate special elaboration, and therefore special honour; and by all analogy they should mark the burial places of persons of importance-such as the head of a family or a village, or the chief of a tribe.
So far as we can judge, in its complete form this class of “rude stone monument” consists of a “row” connecting a circle and a menhir. At least this is the case in so many of our Dartmoor instances that we are fairly entitled to suggest the absence of circle or menhir as probably due to accident or mutilation. If so, and the perfect structure consists of circle, row, and menhir, the similarity of the arrangement to the Egyptian “Key of Life” is equally striking and suggestive, as indicating a possible association with the widespread worship of the productive powers of Nature, which in forms more or less disguised finds place, in symbol if not in doctrine, in all the elder religions. How far this cult was present to the rearers of our Dartmoor rows is, however, a very difficult question; and the rows would rather seem to represent an engrafted expansion of the original idea. Circles and menhirs are very commonly associated where the connecting row is not found. Moreover, it is one of the commonest experiences of humanity_that customs and symbols long outlive their meaning. The urn retained its place as a funeral symbol, while cremation had been abandoned for centuries, the obelisk and the headstone are the old menhir; and in parts of Yorkshire you may see miniature modern cromlechs by the score in parish churchyards, as, for example, at Skipton and Bolton Abbey-slabs supported above the ground by two or four supports. But we do not think of associating these with the original idea of the cromlech builders, and it is quite possible the circle and menhir on Dartmoor may equally have reached the
In Professor Max Muller's Gifford Lectures on Anthropological Religion, recently published, we get acconnts of Vedic funeral ceremonies taken from the Aranyakas (about 600 B.C.) and the Sûtras. In case of death, says the Sûtra, let someone have a piece of land dug up, south-east or southwest (of the village), inclining towards the south or the
pp. 241 et seq.
south-east; others say towards the south-west." This serves alike for burning or burial. Then in his Sixth Appendix? the Professor gives rules for Vedic burial collected by Rajendralal Mitra from other Sûtras. Here the road from the house to the burning ground is said to be divided into three stages; the urn containing the burnt remains to be surrounded with brick bats and covered with a mound, around which finally a few holes are dug.
It seems to me that this passage contains hints which may be worth considering—the importance, for example, attached to the burial path; the direction of the place of interment from the place of decease; and the setting apart the burial ground by an imperfect cincture. Where stones were scarce a circle of holes would be more easily formed, and be quite as symbolical as a ring of stones.
Then again we find that among the Khassia tribe, in India, in the present day, menhirs are erected to the memory of dead ancestors who are supposed to have answered prayer, the number corresponding to the estimation in which they are held.
So, too, it is a well known custom to honour the memory of deceased friends by adding stones to their cairns.
CONCLUSION. Without attempting to enter too closely into detail, it appears to me, therefore, that these stone rows are purely sepulchral; that the burial places with which they are connected are those of people in their day of position and authority; and that the length of the rows and the number of the stones indicate with more or less precision the number of what I may call active mourners, the leading members of the tribe or family, or perhaps, in Highland phrase, “the chieftain and his tail.” Whether the multiplication of the rows had any special meaning, or whether it was not rather a matter of convenience, is a question which probably never will be solved (though Cosdon certainly suggests the connection with separate interments, and possibly Coryndon likewise); but we shall have reached fairly definite conclusions if we can get to look upon the circle, with its barrow or kistvaen, and appendant row or rows, as representing heads and their following, whether the family tie is distinctly indicated or not. Hence there may be so much in Mr. Fergusson's battle
7 pp. 436 et seq.
theory as would enable us to regard the standing stones at Carnac, as such memorials to leaders who fell in conflict on a site where the abundant traces of interment may fairly lead us to infer that great slaughter must have taken place; but I do not think we can assume that each stone is itself a personal memorial—the kist or circle containing the dead chief, and every stone in the row commemorating a fallen follower. Victories so commemorated must have been worse than defeats.
Perhaps it will help advocates of the sacred circle idea to look with more favour on my hypothesis if they will regard the larger circles as the burial places perchance of a household or sept, rather than of an individual—nay, even of a tribe. And in that connection I would direct their attention to a passage in a Saxon MS. referring to Avebury, “along the stone row (Kennet avenue), thence to the burial place," with which burial place it is hardly possible to avoid identifying the Avebury Circles. Moreover, at least a dozen kistvaens were found within one circle in the Isle of Man.
THE BOUNDS OF THE FOREST OF DARTMOOR.
BY ARTHUR B. PROWSE, M.D. LOND., F.R.C.S. Exo.
(Read at Plymouth, July, 1892.)
In volume i. of the Dartmoor Preservation Association's publications, page xii., Mr. Birkett quotes Manwood, who wrote about 1500 as follows: “It doth not appear, either by histories or records, when the old Forests in England were made; and as ancient are the Forest Laws." Though Dartmoor is not mentioned in Domesday Book, the borough of Lydford was then held by the king, and it is nearly certain that then, as now, the moor was, to a large extent, attached in some way to Lydford. King John's charter for disafforesting all Devonshire except Dartmoor and Exmoor was dated 1204; but it is doubtful whether the terms of the charter were then carried out, for no written record of a perambulation of the “metes and bounds” at that time has been found. By the “Forest Laws” a solemn perambulation of the ancient bounds, in pursuance of a writ from the Crown, was a necessary preliminary to disafforestation; and in disafforesting the rest of the county the bounds of the Forest of Dartmoor would necessarily have been defined.
In 1239 Henry III. granted to Richard, his brother, "all that our Manor of Lydford with the castle of the same place and all its appurtenances together with the Forest of Dartmoor and all the appurtenances of the same Forest”: and this is the first time that a manor of Lydford and the Forest are mentioned in connection with each other. The first perambulation of which we have a record was made in 1240, probably in pursuance of a statute of 1224, in which it is said, "All Forests which King Henry our grandfather afforested and made shall be viewed by good and lawful men, and if he hath made Forest of any other wood than of his own demesne whereby the owner of the wood hath hurt we