Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 17, Slice 4 Magnetite to Malt

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  1. Archaeological Essays, Vol. 1
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He next classifies the various monuments on which the sculptures have been observed, as standing-stones, cromlechs, stones in chambered tumuli, and stones in sepulchral cists. Another chapter describes their occurrence on stones connected with archaic habitations, as weems, fortified buildings, in and near ancient towns and camps, and on isolated rocks and stones.

After a description of analogous sculptures in other countries, there is a concluding chapter of general inferences founded on the facts accumulated in the previous part of the volume. On the occasion of a rapid journey to Liverpool, Sir James Simpson visited a stone circle at Calder, near that city, and detected the true character of the sculptures on the stones, a very imperfect note of which I had recently brought under his notice. An account of this monument, which he prepared for the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, is printed in the Transactions of that body for , and the following passages are quoted from it:—"Many suggestions, I may observe, have been offered in regard to the intent and import of such lapidary cup and ring cuttings as exist on the Calder Stones; but none of the theories proposed solve, as it seems to me, the hieroglyphic mystery in which these sculpturings are still involved.

They are old enigmatical 'handwritings on the wall,' which no modern reader has yet deciphered. In our present state of knowledge with regard to them, let us be content with merely collecting and recording the facts in regard to their appearances, relations, localities, etc. But in regard to their probable era let me add one suggestion.


Archaeological Essays, Vol. 1

These cup and ring cuttings have now been traced along the whole length of the British Isles, from Dorsetshire to Orkney, and across their whole breadth from Yorkshire in England to Kerry in Ireland; and in many of the inland counties in the three kingdoms. They are evidently dictated by some common thought belonging to some common race of men. But how very long is it since a common race—or successive waves even of a common race—inhabited such distant districts as I have just named, and spread over Great Britain and Ireland, from the English Channel to the Pentland Firth, and from the shores of the German Ocean to those of the Atlantic?

The special value of the inductive treatment of the subject adopted by Sir James Simpson is here conspicuous; and although no decided conclusion was come to on the age and meaning of the sculptures, or the people by whom they were made, yet a reader feels that the utmost has been made of existing materials; and that, while nothing has been left untouched which could throw light on the question, a broad and sure foundation has been laid on which all subsequent research must rest.

One of the Appendices to this volume contains an account of some ancient sculptures on the walls of certain caves in Fife. The essay originally appeared as a communication to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in January , and was also soon afterwards printed separately— Inscribed to James Drummond, Esq.

The discovery of these cave sculptures affords an instance of the thoroughness which Sir James carried into all his investigations. While engaged in the preparation of his original paper for the Society of Antiquaries on the Sculpturing of Cups and Rings, he wished to ascertain all the localities and conditions of their occurrence.

After describing the sculptured circles and cups which had been found on the stones of weems and Picts' Houses, he referred to the caves on the coast of Fife, which he suggested might be considered as natural weems or habitations. These he had visited in the hope of discovering cup-markings; and in one near the village of Easter Wemyss he discovered faded appearances of some depressions or cups, with small single circles cut on the wall, adding to his description— Probably a more minute and extensive search in these caves would discover many more such carvings.

This was written in ; and when the paper then prepared had been expanded into the volume of , the passage just quoted was accompanied by the following note:— I leave this sentence as it was written above two years ago. Shortly after that period, I revisited Wemyss, to inspect the other caves of the district, and make more minute observations than I could do in my first hurried visit, and discovered on the walls of some of them many carvings of animals, 'spectacle ornaments,' and other symbols exactly resembling in type and character the similar figures represented on the ancient so-called sculptured stones of Scotland, and, like them, probably about a thousand years old.

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In like manner, after Sir Gardner Wilkinson had detected a concentric circle of four rings sculptured on the pillar called Long Meg, at the great stone circle of Salkeld, in Cumberland, Sir James Simpson paid a visit to the monument, when his scrutiny was rewarded by the discovery on this pillar of several additional groups of sculptures. By the former he meant the careful and systematised examinations in which the spade and pickaxe are so important, and have done such service in late years, and from which Sir James expected much more; and by the latter the exploring and turning to account the many stores of written records of early times yet untouched.

Being impressed with the value of the charters of our old religious houses for historical purposes, he, shortly before his death, had a transcript made of the Chartulary of the Monastery of Inchcolm, with a design to edit it as one of a series of volumes of monastic records for the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Perhaps it may be said that his influence was most pregnant in kindling a love of research in others, by opening their eyes to see how much yet lay undiscovered, and how much each person could do by judicious effort in his own neighbourhood.

With this view he on various occasions delivered lectures on special subjects of antiquity, and among his papers I found very full notes of lectures on Roman antiquities, one of which, on the Romans in Britain, he delivered at Falkirk in the winter of The friends who were accustomed to these easy reunions will not soon forget the radiant geniality of the host, and his success in stimulating the discussions most likely to draw out the special stores of his guests. Others also, who were associated with Sir James in the visits to historical sites which he frequently planned, in the retrospect of the pleasant hours thus spent will feel how vain it is to hope for another leader with the attractions which were combined in him.

In the course of his numerous professional journeys he acquired a wonderfully accurate knowledge of the early remains of different districts; and so contagious was his enthusiasm for their elucidation, that both the professional brethren with whom he acted, and his patients, were speedily found among his correspondents and allies.

I must not speak of the wonderful combination of qualities which were conspicuous in Sir James Simpson, alongside of those which I have mentioned. This may safely be left to the more competent hand of Professor Duns, from whose memoir of his early friend so much may be expected, and where a more general estimate of his character will naturally be found.

August 2, , p. Session Pender, Crumpsall House, Manchester. I appear here to-night more in compliance with this custom than with any hope of being able to state aught to you that is likely to prove either of adequate interest or of adequate importance for such an occasion. In making this admission, I am fully aware that the deficiency lies in myself, and not in my subject.

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