The Clyde Mystery - a Study in Forgeries and Folklore
by Andrew Lang
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Transcribed from the 1885 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email

The Clyde Mystery A Study in Forgeries and Folklore

By Andrew Lang, M.A. Oxford Hon. Fellow of Merton College, LL.D. St. Andrews D.Litt. Oxford, D.C.L. Durham

Glasgow James MacLehose and Sons Publishers to the University 1905



The author would scarcely have penned this little specimen of what Scott called "antiquarian old womanries," but for the interest which he takes in the universally diffused archaic patterns on rocks and stones, which offer a singular proof of the identity of the working of the human mind. Anthropology and folklore are the natural companions and aids of prehistoric and proto-historic archaeology, and suggest remarks which may not be valueless, whatever view we may take of the disputed objects from the Clyde sites.

While only an open verdict on these objects is at present within the competence of science, the author, speaking for himself, must record his private opinion that, as a rule, they are ancient though anomalous. He cannot pretend to certainty as to whether the upper parts of the marine structures were throughout built of stone, as in Dr. Munro's theory, which is used as the fundamental assumption in this book; or whether they were of wood, as in the hypothesis of Mr. Donnelly, illustrated by him in the Glasgow Evening Times (Sept. 11, 1905). The point seems unessential. The author learns from Mr. Donnelly that experiments in shaping piles with an ancient stone axe have been made by Mr. Joseph Downes, of Irvine, as by Monsieur Hippolyte Muller in France, with similar results, a fact which should have been mentioned in the book. It appears too, that a fragment of fallow deer horn at Dumbuck, mentioned by Dr. Munro, turned out to be "a decayed humerus of the Bos Longifrons," and therefore no evidence as to date, as post-Roman.

Mr. Donnelly also protests that his records of his excavations "were exceptionally complete," and that he "took daily notes and sketches of all features and finds with measurements." I must mention these facts, as, in the book, I say that Mr. Donnelly "kept no minute and hourly dated log book of his explorations, with full details as to the precise positions of the objects discovered."

If in any respect I have misconceived the facts and arguments, I trust that the fault will be ascribed to nothing worse than human fallibility.

I have to thank Mr. Donnelly for permission to photograph some objects from Dumbuck and for much information.

To Dr. Munro, apart from his most valuable books of crannog lore, I owe his kind attention to my private inquiries, and hope that I successfully represent his position and arguments. It is quite undeniable that the disputed objects are most anomalous as far as our present knowledge goes, and I do not think that science can give more than all I plead for, an open verdict. Dr. Ricardo Severe generously permitted me to reproduce a few (by no means the most singular) of his designs and photographs of the disputed Portuguese objects. A serious illness has prevented him from making a visit recently to the scene of the discoveries (see his paper in Portugalia, vol. ii., part 1). I trust that Dr. de Vasconcellos, from whom I have not yet heard, will pardon the reproduction of three or four figures from his Religioes, an important work on prehistoric Portugal.

To Dr. Joseph Anderson, of the National Museum, I owe much gratitude for information, and for his great kindness in superintending the photographing of some objects now in that Museum.

Dr. David Murray obliged me by much information as to the early navigation of the Clyde, and the alterations made in the bed of the river. To Mr. David Boyle, Ontario, I owe the knowledge of Red Indian magic stones parallel to the perforated and inscribed stone from Tappock.

As I have quoted from Dr. Munro the humorous tale of the palaeolithic designs which deceived M. Lartet and Mr. Christie, I ought to observe that, in L'Anthropologie, August, 1905, a reviewer of Dr. Munro's book, Prof. Boule, expresses some doubt as to the authenticity of the historiette.


1. Inscribed Stone, Langbank.

2. Grotesque Face on Stone, Langbank.

3. Late Celtic Comb, Langbank.

4. Bronze Brooch, Langbank.

5. Churinga Irula, Wooden Bull-roarers, Arunta Tribe.

6. Churinga Nanja, Inscribed Sacred Stone, Arunta.

7. Sacred Stone Uninscribed, Arunta.

8. Collection of Arunta Sacred Stones.

9, 10. Inscribed Perforated Stone from Tappock. Age of Iron.

11. Perforated and Inscribed Stone from Dunbuie.

12, 13. Perforated Inscribed Stones from Ontario, Canada.

14. Perforated Inscribed Stones from Portugal, Neolithic.

15. Perforated Inscribed Stones from Portugal, Neolithic.

16. Perforated "Cup and Duct" Stone, Portugal, Neolithic.

17, 18. Large Slate Spear-head, Dumbuck.

19. Stone Figurine of Woman, Dumbuck.

20, 21. Cup and Duct Stones, Portuguese, Dolmen Site, Villa d'Aguiar.

22. Stone Figurine of Woman, Portuguese, Dolmen Site, Villa d'Aguiar.

23. Heart-shaped Stone, Villa d'Aguiar.

24. Cupped Stone, Villa d'Aguiar.

25. Stone Pendant, Men in Boat, Scottish.

Figures 1-4 from Transactions, with permission of Glasgow Archaeological Society. Figures 5-8, Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia; with permission of Messrs. Macmillan and Co. 9-11. With permission of Scottish Society of Antiquaries. 12-13. Bulletin of Board of Education of Ontario. 14-16. Religioes, etc., L. de Vasconcellos. 17-19. With permission of Mr. W. H. Donnelly. 20-24. With permission of Sr. Ricardo Severo. 25. With permission of Scottish Society of Antiquarians.


The reader who desires to be hopelessly perplexed, may desert the contemplation of the Fiscal Question, and turn his eyes upon The Mystery of the Clyde. "Popular" this puzzle cannot be, for there is no "demmed demp disagreeable body" in the Mystery. No such object was found in Clyde, near Dumbarton, but a set of odd and inexpensive looking, yet profoundly enigmatic scraps of stone, bone, slate, horn and so forth, were discovered and now repose in a glass case at the National Museum in Queen Street, Edinburgh.

There, as in the Morgue, lies awaiting explanation the corpus delicti of the Clyde Mystery. We stare at it and ask what are these slate spear heads engraved with rude ornament, and certainly never meant to be used as "lethal weapons"? What are these many-shaped perforated plaques of slate, shale, and schist, scratched with some of the old mysterious patterns that, in almost every part of the world, remain inscribed on slabs and faces of rock? Who incised similar patterns on the oyster-shells, some old and local, some fresh—and American! Why did any one scratch them? What is the meaning, if meaning there be, of the broken figurines or stone "dolls"? They have been styled "totems" by persons who do not know the meaning of the word "totem," which merely denotes the natural object,—usually a plant or animal,—after which sets of kinsfolk are named among certain savage tribes. Let us call the little figures "figurines," for that commits us to nothing.

Then there are grotesque human heads, carved in stone; bits of sandstone, marked with patterns, and so forth. Mixed with these are the common rude appliances, quern stones for grinding grain; stone hammers, stone polishers, cut antlers of deer, pointed bones, such as rude peoples did actually use, in early Britain, and may have retained into the early middle ages, say 400-700 A.D.

This mixed set of objects, plus the sites in which they were found, and a huge canoe, 35 feet long, is the material part of the Clyde Mystery. The querns and canoe and stone-polishers, and bones, and horns are commonly found, we say, in dwellings of about 400-700 A.D. The peculiar and enigmatic things are not elsewhere known to Scottish antiquaries. How did the two sets of objects come to be all mixed up together, in an old hill fort, at Dunbuie on Clyde; and among the wooden foundations of two mysterious structures, excavated in the mud of the Clyde estuary at Dumbuck and Langbank, near Dumbarton? They were dug up between 1896 and 1902.

This is the question which has been debated, mainly in newspaper controversy, for nearly ten years. A most rambling controversy it has been, casting its feelers as far as central Australia, in space, and as far back as, say, 1200 B.C. in time.

Either the disputed objects at the Museum are actual relics of life lived in the Clyde basin many centuries ago; or the discoverers and excavators of the old sites are dogged by a forger who "dumps down" false relics of kinds unknown to Scottish antiquaries; or some of the unfamiliar objects are really old, while others are jocose imitations of these, or—there is some other explanation!

The modern "Clyde artists" are credited by Dr. Robert Munro with "some practical artistic skill," and some acquaintance with the very old and mysterious designs on great rocks among the neighbouring hills. {4} What man of artistic skill, no conscience, and a knowledge of archaic patterns is associated with the Clyde?

The "faker" is not the mere mischievous wag of the farm-house or the country shop. It is possible that a few "interpolations" of false objects have been made by another and less expert hand, but the weight of the problem rests on these alternatives,—the disputed relics which were found are mainly genuine, though unfamiliar; or a forger not destitute of skill and knowledge has invented and executed them—or—there is some other explanation.

Three paths, as usual, are open to science, in the present state of our knowledge of the question. We may pronounce the unfamiliar relics genuine, and prove it if we can. We may declare them to be false objects, manufactured within the last ten years. We may possess our souls in patience, and "put the objects to a suspense account," awaiting the results of future researches and of new information.

This attitude of suspense is not without precedent in archaeology. "Antiquarian lore," as Dr. Munro remarks by implication, can "distinguish between true and false antiquities." {5a} But time is needed for the verdict, as we see when Dr. Munro describes "the Breonio Controversy" about disputed stone objects, a controversy which began in 1885, and appears to be undecided in 1905. {5b} I propose to advocate the third course; the waiting game, and I am to analyse Dr. Munro's very able arguments for adopting the second course, and deciding that the unfamiliar relics are assuredly impostures of yesterday's manufacture.


Dr. Munro's acute and interesting book, Archaeology and False Antiquities, {6} does not cover the whole of its amusing subject. False gems, coins, inscriptions, statues, and pictures are scarcely touched upon; the author is concerned chiefly with false objects of the pre-historic and "proto-historic" periods, and with these as bearing on the Clyde controversy of 1896-1905. Out of 292 pages, at least 130 treat directly of that local dispute: others bear on it indirectly.

I have taken great interest in this subject since I first heard of it by accident, in the October or November of 1898. As against Dr. Munro, from whose opinions I provisionally dissent, I may be said to have no locus standi. He is an eminent and experienced archaeologist in matters of European pre-historic and proto-historic times. Any one is at liberty to say of me what another celebrated archaeologist, Mr. Charles Hercules Read, said, in a letter to Dr. Munro, on December 7, 1901, about some one else: a person designated as "—-," and described as "a merely literary man, who cannot understand that to practised people the antiquities are as readable as print, and a good deal more accurate." {7} But though "merely literary," like Mr. "—-," I have spent much time in the study of comparative anthropology; of the manners, ideas, customs, implements, and sacred objects of uncivilised and peasant peoples. Mr. "—-" may not have done so, whoever he is. Again, as "practised people" often vary widely in their estimates of antique objects, or objects professing to be antique, I cannot agree with Mr. Read that "the antiquities" are "as readable as print,"—if by "antiquities" he means antiquities in general. At the British Museum I can show Mr. Read several admirable specimens of the art of faking, standing, like the Abomination of Desolation, where they ought not. It was not by unpractised persons that they were purchased at the national expense. We are all fallible, even the oldest of us. I conceive Mr. Read, however, to mean the alleged and disputed "antiquities" of the Clyde sites, and in that case, his opinion that they are a "curious swindle" is of the most momentous weight.

But, as to practised opinion on antiquities in general, Dr. Munro and I agree that it is really very fallible, now and again. The best authorities, he proves, may read antiquities differently. He is not certain that he has not himself, on occasion, taken "fakes" for true antiques. {8a} The savants of the Louvre were lately caught by the notorious "tiara of Saitaphernes," to the pecuniary loss of France; were caught on April 1, 1896, and were made poissons d'Avril, to the golden tune of 200,000 francs (8000 pounds).

Again, M. Lartet and Mr. Christy betted a friend that he could not hoax them with a forged palaeolithic drawing. They lost their bet, and, after M. Lartet's death, the forged object was published, as genuine, in the scientific journal, Materiaux (1874). {8b} As M. Reinach says of another affair, it was "a fumisterie." {8c} Every archaeologist may be the victim of a fumisterie, few have wholly escaped, and we find Dr. Furtwangler and Mr. Cecil Smith at odds as to whether a head of Zeus in terra-cotta be of the fifth century B.C. or, quite the contrary, of the nineteenth or twentieth century A.D.

Verily all "practised people" do not find "antiquities as readable as print." On the other hand, my late friend, Dr. A. S. Murray, Keeper of Classical Antiquities in the British Museum, "read" the Mycenaean antiquities erroneously, placing them many centuries too late. M. de Mortillet reckoned them forgeries, and wrote of the discoverer, Dr. Schliemann, and even of Mrs. Schliemann, in a tone unusual in men of science and gentlemen.

The great palaeolithic discoveries of M. Boucher de Perthes, the very bases of our study of the most ancient men, were "read" as impostures by many "practised people." M. Cartailhac, again, has lately, in the most candid and honourable way, recanted his own original disbelief in certain wall-paintings in Spanish caves, of the period called "palaeolithic," for long suspected by him of being "clerical" impostures. {9}

Thus even the most "practised people," like General Councils, "may err and have erred," when confronted either with forgeries, or with objects old in fact, but new to them. They have not always found antiquities "as readable as print." Dr. Munro touches but faintly on these "follies of the wise," but they are not unusual follies. This must never be forgotten.

Where "practised people" may be mistaken through a too confirmed scepticism, the "merely literary man" may, once in an azure moon, happen to be right, or not demonstrably wrong; that is my excuse for differing, provisionally, from "practised people." It is only provisionally that I dissent from Dr. Munro as to some of the points at issue in the Clyde controversy. I entered on it with very insufficient knowledge: I remain, we all remain, imperfectly informed: and like people rich in practice,—Dr. Joseph Anderson, and Sir Arthur Mitchell,—I "suspend my judgement" for the present. {10}

This appears to me the most scientific attitude. Time is the great revealer. But Dr. Munro, as we saw, prefers not to suspend his judgment, and says plainly and pluckily that the disputed objects in the Clyde controversy are "spurious"; are what the world calls "fakes," though from a delicate sense of the proprieties of language, he will not call them "forgeries." They are reckoned by him among "false antiquities," while, for my part, I know not of what age they are, but incline I believe that many of them are not of the nineteenth century. This is the extent of our difference. On the other hand I heartily concur with Dr. Munro in regretting that his advice,—to subject the disputed objects at the earliest possible stage of the proceedings, to a jury of experts,—was not accepted. {11a}

One observation must be made on Dr. Munro's logical method, as announced by himself. "My role, on the present occasion, is to advocate the correctness of my own views on purely archaeological grounds, without any special effort to refute those of my opponents." {11b} As my view is that the methods of Dr. Munro are perhaps,—and I say it with due deference, and with doubt,—capable of modification, I shall defend my opinions as best I may. Moreover, my views, in the course of seven long years (1898-1905) have necessarily undergone some change, partly in deference to the arguments of Dr. Munro, partly because much new information has come to my knowledge since 1898-99. Moreover, on one occasion, I misstated my own view, and, though I later made my real opinion perfectly dear, some confusion was generated.


It is necessary, after these prefatory remarks, to give an account of the rise of the Clyde controversy, and I may be pardoned for following the example of Dr. Munro, who adds, and cannot but add, a pretty copious narrative of his own share in the discussion. In 1896, the hill fort of Dunbuie, "about a mile-and-a-half to the east of Dumbarton Castle, and three miles to the west of the Roman Wall," {12} was discovered by Mr. W. A. Donnelly: that is to say, Mr. Donnelly suggested that the turf might conceal something worth excavating, and the work was undertaken, under his auspices, by the Helensburgh Antiquarian Society.

As Mr. Donnelly's name constantly occurs in the discussion, it may be as well to state that, by profession, he is an artist,—a painter and designer in black and white,—and that, while keenly interested in the pre-historic or proto-historic relics of Clydesdale, he makes no claim to be regarded as a trained archaeologist, or widely-read student. Thus, after Mr. Donnelly found a submarine structure at Dumbuck in the estuary of the Clyde, Dr. Munro writes: "I sent Mr. Donnelly some literature on crannogs." {13a} So Mr. Donnelly, it appears, had little book lore as to crannogs. He is, in fact, a field worker in archaeology, rather than an archaeologist of the study and of books. He is a member of a local archaeological Society at Helensburgh on the Clyde, and, before he found the hill fort of Dunbuie, he had discovered an interesting set of "cup and ring" marked rocks at Auchentorlie, "only a short distance from Dunbuie." {13b}

Mr. Donnelly's position, then, as regards archaeological research, was, in 1896-1898, very like that of Dr. Schliemann when he explored Troy. Like Dr. Schliemann he was no erudite savant, but an enthusiast with an eye for likely sites. Like Dr. Schliemann he discovered certain objects hitherto unknown to Science, (at least to Scottish science,) and, like Dr. Schliemann, he has had to take "the consequences of being found in such a situation."

It must be added that, again like Dr. Schliemann he was not an excavator of trained experience. I gather that he kept no minute and hourly-dated log-book of his explorations, with full details as to the precise positions of the objects discovered, while, again like Dr. Schliemann, he had theories of his own, with some of which I do not concur.

Dr. Munro justly insists on "the absolute necessity of correctly recording the facts and relics brought to light by excavations." {14a} An excavator should be an engineer, or be accompanied by a specialist who can assign exact measurements for the position of every object discovered. Thus Dr. Munro mentions the case of a man who, while digging a drain in his garden in Scotland, found an adze of jade and a pre-historic urn. Dr. Munro declares, with another expert, that the jade adze is "a modern Australian implement," which is the more amazing as I am not aware that the Australians possess any jade. The point is that the modern Australian adze was not, as falsely reported, in the pre- historic urn. {14b}

Here I cannot but remark that while Dr. Munro justly regrets the absence of record as to precise place of certain finds, he is not more hospitable to other finds of which the precise locality is indicated. Things are found by Mr. Bruce as he clears out the interior of a canoe, or imbedded in the dock on the removal of the canoe, {15} or in the "kitchen midden"—the refuse heap—but Dr. Munro does not esteem the objects more highly because we have a distinct record as to the precise place of their finding.


To return to the site first found, the hill fort of Dunbuie, excavated in 1896. Dr. Munro writes:

"There is no peculiarity about the position or structure of this fort which differentiates it from many other forts in North Britain. Before excavation there were few indications that structural remains lay beneath the debris, but when this was accomplished there were exposed to view the foundations of a circular wall, 13.5 feet thick, enclosing a space 30 to 32 feet in diameter. Through this wall there was one entrance passage on a level with its base, 3 feet 2 inches in width, protected by two guard chambers, one on each side, analogous to those so frequently met with in the Brochs. The height of the remaining part of the wall varied from 18 inches to 3 feet 6 inches. The interior contained no dividing walls nor any indications of secondary occupation."

Thus writes Dr. Munro (pp. 130, 131), repeating his remarks on p. 181 with this addition,

"Had any remains of intra-mural chambers or of a stone stair been detected it would unhesitatingly be pronounced a broch; nor, in the absence of such evidence, can it be definitely dissociated from that peculiar class of Scottish buildings, because the portion of wall then remaining was not sufficiently high to exclude the possibility of these broch characteristics having been present at a higher level—a structural deviation which has occasionally been met with."

"All the brochs," Dr. Munro goes on, "hitherto investigated have shown more or less precise evidence of a post-Roman civilisation, their range, according to Dr. Joseph Anderson, being "not earlier than the fifth and not later than the ninth century." {17} "Although from more recent discoveries, as, for example, the broch of Torwodlee, Selkirkshire, there is good reason to believe that their range might legitimately be brought nearer to Roman times, it makes no difference in the correctness of the statement that they all belong to the Iron Age."

So far the "broch," or hill fort, was not unlike other hill forts and brochs, of which there are hundreds in Scotland. But many of the relics alleged to have been found in the soil of Dunbuie were unfamiliar in character in these islands. There was not a shard of pottery, there was not a trace of metal, but absence of such things is no proof that they were unknown to the inhabitants of the fort. I may go further, and say that if any person were capable of interpolating false antiquities, they were equally capable of concealing such real antiquities in metal or pottery as they might find; to support their theories, or to serve other private and obscure ends.

Thus, at Langbank, were found a bronze brooch, and a "Late Celtic" (200 B.C.?—A.D.) comb. These, of course, upset the theory held by some inquirers, that the site was Neolithic, that is, was very much earlier than the Christian era. If the excavators held that theory, and were unscrupulous, was it not as easy for them to conceal the objects which disproved the hypothesis, as to insert the disputed objects—which do not prove it?

Of course Dr. Munro nowhere suggests that any excavator is the guilty "faker."

I now quote Dr. Munro's account of the unfamiliar objects alleged to have been found in Dunbuie. He begins by citing the late Mr. Adam Millar, F.S.A.Scot., who described Dunbuie in the Proceedings S. A. Scot. (vol. XXX. pp. 291-308.)

"The fort," writes Mr. Millar, "has been examined very thoroughly by picking out the stones in the interior one by one, and riddling the fine soil and small stones. The same treatment has been applied to the refuse heap which was found on the outside, and the result of the search is a very remarkable collection of weapons, implements, ornaments, and figured stones." There is no description of the precise position of any of these relics in the ruins, with the exception of two upper stones of querns and a limpet shell having on its inner surface the presentation of a human face, which are stated to have been found in the interior of the fort. No objects of metal or fragments of pottery were discovered in course of the excavations, and of bone there were only two small pointed objects and an awl having a perforation at one end. The majority of the following worked objects of stone, bone, and shell are so remarkable and archaic in character that their presence in a fort, which cannot be placed earlier than the Broch period, and probably long after the departure of the Romans from North Britain, has led some archaeologists to question their genuineness as relics of any phase of Scottish civilisation.

OBJECTS OF STONE.—Nine spear-heads, like arrow-points, of slate, six of which have linear patterns scratched on them. Some are perforated with round holes, and all were made by grinding and polishing. One object of slate, shaped like a knife, was made by chipping. "This knife," says Mr. Millar, "has a feature common to all these slate weapons—they seem to have been saturated with oil or fat, as water does not adhere to them, but runs off as from a greasy surface." Another highly ornamental piece of cannel coal is in the form of a short spear-head with a thickish stem. The stem is adorned with a series of hollows and ridges running across it; radiating lines running from the stem to the margin. Another group of these remarkable objects shows markings of the cup-and-ring order, circles, linear incisions, and perforations. Some of these ornamentations are deeply cut on the naturally rough surfaces of flat pieces of sandstone, whilst others are on smooth stones artificially prepared for the purpose. A small piece of flint was supposed to have been inserted into a partially burnt handle. There are several examples of hammer-stones of the ordinary crannog type, rubbing-stones, whetstones, as well as a large number of water-worn stones which might have been used as hand-missiles or sling-stones. These latter were not native to the hill, and must have been transported from burns in the neighbourhood. There are also two upper quern stones.

MISCELLANEOUS OBJECTS.—A number of splintered pieces of bone, without showing any other evidence of workmanship, have linear incisions, like those on some of the stones, which suggest some kind of cryptic writing like ogams. There are also a few water-worn shells, like those seen on a sandy beach, having round holes bored through them and sharply-cut scratches on their pearly inner surface. But on the whole the edible molluscs are but feebly represented, as only five oyster, one cockle, three limpet, and two mussel shells were found, nearly all of which bore marks of some kind of ornamentation. But perhaps the most grotesque object in the whole collection is the limpet shell with a human face sculptured on its inner surface.

"The eyes," writes Mr. Millar, "are represented by two holes, the nose by sharply-cut lines, and the mouth by a well-drawn waved line, the curves which we call Cupid's bow being faithfully followed. There is nothing at all of an archaic character, however, in this example of shell-carving. We found it in the interior of the fort; it was one of the early finds—nothing like it has been found since; at the same time we have no reason for assuming that this shell was placed in the fort on purpose that we might find it. The fact that it was taken out of the fort is all that we say about it."

Mr. Millar's opinion of these novel handicraft remains was that they were the products of a pre-Celtic civilisation. "The articles found," he writes, "are strongly indicative of a much earlier period than post- Roman; they point to an occupation of a tribe in their Stone Age."

"We have no knowledge of the precise position in which the 'queer things' of Dunbuie were found, with the exception of the limpet shell showing the carved human face which, according to a recent statement in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association, September, 1901, "was excavated from a crevice in the living rock, over which tons of debris had rested. When taken out, the incrustations of dirt prevented any carving from being seen; it was only after being dried and cleaned that the 'face' appeared, as well as the suspension holes on each side."

So, this unique piece of art was in the fort before it became a ruin and otherwise presented evidence of great antiquity; but yet it is stated in Mr. Millar's report that there was "nothing at all of an archaic character in this example of shell-carving." {21}

I have nothing to do with statements made in The Journal of the British Archaeological Association about "a carved oyster shell." I stick to the limpet shell of Mr. Millar, which, to my eyes looks anything but archaic.


Thus far, I was so much to be sympathised with as never to have heard of the names of Dunbuie and of Mr. Donnelly. In this ignorance I remained till late in October or early in November 1898. On an afternoon of that date I was reading the proof sheets, kindly lent to me by Messrs. Macmillan, of The Native Tribes of Central Australia by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, a work, now justly celebrated, which was published early in 1899. I was much interested on finding, in this book, that certain tribes of Central Australia,—the Arunta "nation" and the Kaitish,—paint on sacred and other rocks the very same sorts of archaic designs as Mr. Donnelly found incised at Auchentorlie (of which I had not then heard). These designs are familiar in many other parts of Scotland and of the world. They play a great part in the initiations and magic of Central Australia. Designs of the same class are incised, by the same Australian tribes, on stones of various shapes and sizes, usually portable, and variously shaped which are styled churinga nanja. (Churinga merely means anything "sacred," that is, with a superstitious sense attached to it). They also occur on wooden slats, (churinga irula,) commonly styled "Bull roarers" by Europeans. The tribes are now in a "siderolithic" stage, using steel when they can get it, stone when they cannot. If ever they come to abandon stone implements, while retaining their magic or religion, they will keep on using their stone churinga nanja.

While I was studying these novel Australian facts, in the autumn of 1898, a friend, a distinguished member of Clan Diarmaid, passing by my window, in London, saw me, and came in. He at once began to tell me that, in the estuary of the Clyde, and at Dunbuie, some one had found small stones, marked with the same archaic kinds of patterns, "cup-and-ring," half circles, and so forth, as exist on our inscribed rocks, cists, and other large objects. I then showed him the illustrations of portable stones in Australia, with archaic patterns, not then published, but figured in the proof sheets of Messrs. Spencer and Gillen's work. My friend told me, later, that he had seen small stone incised with concentric circles, found in the excavation of a hill fort near Tarbert, in Kintyre. He made a sketch of this object, from memory: if found in Central Australia it would have been reckoned a churinga nanja.

I was naturally much interested in my friend's account of objects found in the Clyde estuary, which, as far as his description went, resembled in being archaically decorated the churinga nanja discovered by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen in Central Australia. I wrote an article on the subject of the archaic decorative designs, as found all over the world, for the Contemporary Review. {24} I had then seen only pen and ink sketches of the objects, sent to me by Mr. Donnelly, and a few casts, which I passed on to an eminent authority. One of the casts showed a round stone with concentric circles. I know not what became of the original or of the casts.

While correcting proofs of this article, I read in the Glasgow Herald (January 7, 1899) a letter by Dr. Munro, impugning the authenticity of one set of finds by Mr. Donnelly, in a pile-structure at Dumbuck, on the Clyde, near Dumbarton. I wrote to the Glasgow Herald, adducing the Australian churinga nanja as parallel to Mr. Donnelly's inscribed stones, and thus my share in the controversy began. What Dr. Munro and I then wrote may be passed over in this place.


It was in July 1898, that Mr. Donnelly, who had been prospecting during two years for antiquities in the Clyde estuary, found at low tide, certain wooden stumps, projecting out of the mud at low water. On August 16, 1898, Dr. Munro, with Mr. Donnelly, inspected these stumps, "before excavations were made." {25a} It is not easy to describe concisely the results of their inspection, and of the excavations which followed. "So far the facts" (of the site, not of the alleged relics), "though highly interesting as evidence of the hand of man in the early navigation of the Clyde basin present nothing very remarkable or important," says Dr. Munro. {25b}

I shall here quote Dr. Munro's descriptions of what he himself observed at two visits, of August 16, October 12, 1898, to Dumbuck. For the present I omit some speculative passages as to the original purpose of the structure.

"The so-called Dumbuck 'crannog,' that being the most convenient name under which to describe the submarine wooden structures lately discovered by Mr. W. A. Donnelly in the estuary of the Clyde, lies about a mile to the east of the rock of Dumbarton, and about 250 yards within high-water mark. At every tide its site is covered with water to a depth of three to eight feet, but at low tide it is left high and dry for a few hours, so that it was only during these tidal intervals that the excavations could be conducted.

On the occasion of my first visit to Dumbuck, before excavations were begun, Mr. Donnelly and I counted twenty-seven piles of oak, some 5 or 8 inches in diameter, cropping up for a few inches through the mud, in the form of a circle 56 feet in diameter. The area thus enclosed was occupied with the trunks of small trees laid horizontally close to each other and directed towards the centre, and so superficial that portions of them were exposed above the surrounding mud, but all hollows and interstices were levelled up with sand or mud. The tops of the piles which projected above the surface of the log-pavement were considerably worn by the continuous action of the muddy waters during the ebb and flow of the tides, a fact which suggested the following remarkable hypothesis: 'Their tops are shaped in an oval, conical form, meant to make a joint in a socket to erect the superstructure on.' These words are quoted from a 'Report of a Conjoint Visit of the Geological and Philosophical Societies to the Dumbuck Crannog, 8th April, 1899.' {26}

The result of the excavations, so far as I can gather from observations made during my second visit to the 'crannog,' and the descriptions and plans published by various societies, may be briefly stated as follows.

The log-pavement within the circle of piles was the upper of three similar layers of timbers placed one above the other, the middle layer having its beams lying transversely to that immediately above and below it. One of the piles (about 4 feet long) when freshly drawn up, clearly showed that it had been pointed by a sharp metal implement, the cutting marks being like those produced by an ordinary axe. The central portion (about 6 feet in diameter) had no woodwork, and the circular cavity thus formed, when cleared of fallen stones, showed indications of having been walled with stones and clay. Surrounding this walled cavity—the so-called 'well' of the explorers, there was a kind of coping, in the form of five or six 'raised mounds,' arranged 'rosette fashion,' in regard to which Mr. Donnelly thus writes:

'One feature that strikes me very much in the configuration of the structure in the centre is those places marked X, fig. 20, around which I have discovered the presence of soft wood piles 5 inches in diameter driven into the ground, and bounding the raised stone arrangement; the stones in these rude circular pavements or cairns are laid slightly slanting inwards.' {27}

From this description, and especially the 'slanting inwards' of these 'circular pavements' or 'cairns,' it would appear that they formed the bases for wooden stays to support a great central pole, a suggestion which, on different grounds, has already been made by Dr. David Murray.

The surrounding piles were also attached to the horizontal logs by various ingenious contrivances, such as a fork, a natural bend, an artificial check, or a mortised hole; and some of the beams were pinned together by tree-nails, the perforations of which were unmistakable. This binding together of the wooden structures is a well-known feature in crannogs, as was demonstrated by my investigations at Lochlee and elsewhere. {28a} It would be still more necessary in a substratum of timbers that was intended (as will be afterwards explained) to bear the weight of a superincumbent cairn. Underneath the layers of horizontal woodwork some portions of heather, bracken, and brushwood were detected, and below this came a succession of thin beds of mud, loam, sand, gravel, and finally the blue clay which forms the solum of the river valley. {28b} The piles penetrated this latter, but not deeply, owing to its consistency; and so the blue clay formed an excellent foundation for a structure whose main object was resistance to superincumbent pressure.

Outside the circle of piles there was, at a distance of 12 to 14 feet, another wooden structure in the shape of a broad ring of horizontal beams and piles which surrounded the central area. The breadth of this outer ring was 7 feet, and it consisted of some nine rows of beams running circumferentially. Beyond this lay scattered about some rough cobble stones, as if they had fallen down from a stone structure which had been raised over the woodwork. The space intervening between these wooden structures was filled up in its eastern third with a refuse heap, consisting of broken and partially burnt bones of various animals, the shells of edible molluscs, and a quantity of ashes and charcoal, evidently the debris of human occupancy. On the north, or landward side, the outer and inner basements of woodwork appeared to coalesce for 5 or 6 yards, leaving an open space having stones embedded in the mud and decayed wood, a condition of things which suggested a rude causeway. When Mr. Donnelly drew my attention to this, I demurred to its being so characterised owing to its indefiniteness. At the outer limit of this so-called causeway, and about 25 feet north-east of the circle of piles, a canoe was discovered lying in a kind of dock, rudely constructed of side stones and wooden piling. The canoe measures 35.5 feet long, 4 feet broad, and 1.5 foot deep. It has a square stern with a movable board, two grasping holes near the stem, and three round perforations (2 inches in diameter) in its bottom. On the north-west border of the log-pavement a massive ladder of oak was found, one end resting on the margin of the log-pavement and the other projecting obliquely into the timberless zone between the former and the outer woodwork. It is thus described in the Proceedings of the Glasgow Philosophical Society:{29}

'Made of a slab of oak which has been split from the tree by wedges (on one side little has been done to dress the work), it is 15 feet 3 inches long, 2 feet broad, and 3.5 inches thick. Six holes are cut for steps, 12 inches by 10 inches; the bottom of each is bevelled to an angle of 60 degrees to make the footing level when the ladder is in position. On one side those holes show signs of wear by long use.'

An under quern stone, 19 inches in diameter, was found about halfway between the canoe and the margin of the circle of piles, and immediately to the east of the so-called causeway already described.

I carefully examined the surface of the log-pavement with the view of finding evidence as to the possibility of its having been at any time the habitable area of this strange dwelling-place; but the result was absolutely negative, as not a single particle of bone or ash was discovered in any of its chinks. This fact, together with the impossibility of living on a surface that is submerged every twelve hours, and the improbability of any land subsidence having taken place since prehistoric times, or any adequate depression from the shrinkage of the under-structures themselves, compels me to summarily reject the theory that the Dumbuck structure in its present form was an ordinary crannog. The most probable hypothesis, and that which supplies a reasonable explanation of all the facts, is that the woodwork was the foundation of a superstructure of stones built sufficiently high to be above the action of the tides and waves, over which there had been some kind of dwelling-place. The unique arrangement of the wooden substructures suggests that the central building was in the form of a round tower with very thick walls, like the brochs and other forts of North Britain. The central space was probably occupied with a pole, firmly fixed at its base in the 'well,' and kept in position by suitable stays, resting partly on the stone 'cairns' already described, partly in wooden sockets fixed into the log-pavement, and partly on the inner wall of the tower. This suggestion seems to me to be greatly strengthened by the following description of some holed tree-roots in Mr. Bruce's paper to the Scottish Antiquaries: {30}

'Midway between the centre and the outside piles of the structure what looked at first to be tree-roots or snags were noticed partly imbedded in the sand. On being washed of the adhering soil, holes of 12 inches wide by 25 inches deep were found cut in them at an angle, to all appearance for the insertion of struts for the support of an upper structure. On the outside, 14 inches down on either side, holes of 2 inches diameter were found intersecting the central hole, apparently for the insertion of a wooden key or trenail to retain the struts. These were found at intervals, and were held in position by stones and smaller jammers.'

The outer woodwork formed the foundation of another stone structure, of a horseshoe shape, having the open side to the north or landside of the tower, which doubtless was intended as a breakwater. By means of the ladder placed slantingly against the wall of the central stone building access could be got to the top in all states of the tides.

The people who occupied this watch-tower ground their own corn, and fared abundantly on beef, mutton, pork, venison, and shell-fish. The food refuse and other debris were thrown into the space between the central structure and the breakwater, forming in the course of time a veritable kitchen-midden.

Besides the causeway on the north side, Mr. Bruce describes 'a belt of stones, forming a pavement about six feet wide and just awash with the mud,' extending westwards about twenty yards from the central cavity, till it intersected the breakwater. {31} These so-called pavements and causeways were probably formed during the construction of the tower with its central pole, or perhaps at the time of its demolition, as it would be manifestly inconvenient to transport stones to or from such a place, in the midst of so much slush, without first making some kind of firm pathway. Their present superficial position alone demonstrates the absurdity of assigning the Dumbuck structures to Neolithic times, as if the only change effected in the bed of the Clyde since then would be the deposition of a few inches of mud. At a little distance to the west of these wooden structures there is the terminal end of a modern ditch ('the burn' of Mr. Alston), extending towards the shore, and having on its eastern bank a row of stepping- stones; a fact which, in my opinion, partly accounts for the demolition of the stonework, which formerly stood over them. So far, the facts disclosed by the excavations of the structures at Dumbuck, though highly interesting as evidence of the hand of man in the early navigation of the Clyde basin, present nothing very remarkable or improbable. It is when we come to examine the strange relics which the occupants of this habitation have left behind them that the real difficulties begin."

Dr. Munro next describes the disputed things found at Dumbuck. They were analogous to those alleged to have been unearthed at Dunbuie. They were

"A number of strange objects like spear-heads or daggers, showing more or less workmanship, and variously ornamented. One great spear-head (figure 1), like an arrow-point, is 11 inches long and 4.75 inches wide at the barbs. The stem is perforated with two holes, in one of which there was a portion of an oak pin. It has a flat body and rounded edges, and is carefully finished by rubbing and grinding. One surface is ornamented with three cup-marks from which lines radiate like stars or suns, and the other has only small cups and a few transverse lines. There are some shaped stones, sometimes perforated for suspension, made of the same material; while another group of similar objects is made of cannel coal. All these are highly ornamented by a fantastic combination of circles, dots, lines, cup-and- rings with or without gutters, and perforations. A small pebble (plate XV. no. 10) shows, on one side, a boat with three men plying their oars, and on the other an incised outline of a left hand having a small cup-and-ring in the palm. The most sensational objects in the collection are, however, four rude figures, cut out of shale (figs. 50- 53), representing portions of the human face and person. One, evidently a female (figure 2), we are informed was found at the bottom of the kitchen midden, a strange resting-place for a goddess; the other three are grotesque efforts to represent a human face. There are also several oyster-shells, ornamented like some of the shale ornaments, and very similar to the oyster-shell ornaments of Dunbuie. A splinter of a hard stone is inserted into the tine of a deer-horn as a handle (plate xiii. no. 5); and another small blunt implement (no. 1) has a bone handle. A few larger stones with cup-marks and some portions of partially worked pieces of shale complete the art gallery of Dumbuck."

It seemed as if some curse were on Mr. Donnelly! Whether he discovered an unique old site of human existence in the water or on the land, some viewless fiend kept sowing the soil with bizarre objects unfamiliar to Dr. Munro, and by him deemed incongruous with the normal and known features of human life on such sites.


The Curse, (that is, the forger,) unwearied and relentless, next smote Mr. John Bruce, F.S.A.Scot., merely, as it seems, because he and Mr. Donnelly were partners in the perfectly legitimate pastime of archaeological exploration. Mr. Bruce's share of the trouble began at Dumbuck. The canoe was found, the genuine canoe. "It was at once cleared out by myself," writes Mr. Bruce. In the bottom of the canoe he found "a spear-shaped slate object," and "an ornamented oyster shell, which has since mouldered away," and "a stone pendant object, and an implement of bone." {34}

Such objects have no business to be found in a canoe just discovered under the mud of Clyde, and cleared out by Mr. Bruce himself, a man or affairs, and of undisputed probity. In this case the precise site of the dubious relics is given, by a man of honour, at first hand. I confess that my knowledge of human nature does not enable me to contest Mr. Bruce's written attestation, while I marvel at the astuteness of the forger. As a finder, on this occasion, Mr. Bruce was in precisely the same position as Dr. Munro at Elie when, as he says, "as the second piece of pottery was disinterred by myself, I was able to locate its precise position at six inches below the surface of the relic bed." {35} Mr. Bruce was able to locate his finds at the bottom of the canoe.

If I understand Mr. Bruce's narrative, a canoe was found under the mud, and was "cleared out inside," by Mr. Bruce himself. Had the forger already found the canoe, kept the discovery dark, inserted fraudulent objects, and waited for others to rediscover the canoe? Or was he present at the first discovery, and did he subtly introduce, unnoted by any one, four objects of shell, stone, and bone, which he had up his sleeve, ready for an opportunity? One or other alternative must be correct, and either hypothesis has its difficulties.

Meanwhile Sir Arthur Mitchell, not a credulous savant, says: "The evidence of authenticity in regard to these doubted objects from Dumbuck is the usual evidence in such circumstances . . . it is precisely the same evidence of authenticity which is furnished in regard to all the classes of objects found in the Dumbuck exploration—that is, in regard to the canoe, the quern, the bones etc.—about the authenticity of which no doubts have been expressed, as in regard to objects about which doubts have been expressed." {36a}

Of another object found by a workman at Dumbuck Dr. Munro writes "is it not very remarkable that a workman, groping with his hand in the mud, should accidentally stumble on this relic—the only one found in this part of the site? Is it possible that he was an unconscious thought-reader, and was thus guided to make the discovery" of a thing which "could as readily have been inserted there half-an-hour before?" {36b}

This passage is "rote sarcustic." But surely Dr. Munro will not, he cannot, argue that Mr. Bruce was "an unconscious thought-reader" when he "cleared out" the interior of the canoe, and found three disputed objects "in the bottom."

If we are to be "psychical," there seems less evidence for "unconscious thought-reading," than for the presence of what are technically styled apports,—things introduced by an agency of supra-normal character, vulgarly called a "spirit."

Undeterred by an event which might have struck fear in constantem virum, Mr. Bruce, in the summer of 1901, was so reckless as to discover a fresh "submarine wooden structure" at Langbank, on the left, or south bank of the Clyde Estuary opposite Dumbarton Castle. The dangerous object was cautiously excavated under the superintendence of Mr. Bruce, and a committee of the Glasgow Archaeological Society. To be brief, the larger features were akin to those of Dumbuck, without the central "well," or hole, supposed by Dr. Munro to have held the pole of a beacon- cairn. The wooden piles, as at Dumbuck, had been fashioned by "sharp metal tools." {37} This is Mr. Bruce's own opinion. This evidence of the use of metal tools is a great point of Dr. Munro, against such speculative minds as deem Dumbuck and Langbank "neolithic," that is, of a date long before the Christian era. They urged that stone tools could have fashioned the piles, but I know not that partisans of either opinion have made experiments in hewing trees with stone-headed axes, like the ingenious Monsieur Hippolyte Muller in France. {38a} I am, at present, of opinion that all the sites are of an age in which iron was well known to the natives, and bronze was certainly known.

The relics at Langbank were (1) of a familiar, and (2) of an unfamiliar kind. There was (1) a small bone comb with a "Late Celtic" (200 B.C.-? A.D.) design of circles and segments of circles; there was a very small penannular brooch of brass or bronze; there were a few cut fragments of deer horn, pointed bones, stone polishers, and so forth, all familiar to science and acceptable. {38b}

On the other hand, the Curse fell on Mr. Bruce in the shape of two perforated shale objects: on one was cut a grotesque face, on the other two incomplete concentric circles, "a stem line with little nicks," and two vague incised marks, which may, or may not, represent "fragments of deer horn." {38c}

We learn from Mr. Bruce that he first observed the Langbank circle of stones from the window of a passing train, and that he made a few slight excavations, apparently at the end of September, 1901. More formal research was made in October; and again, under the superintendence of members of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, in September, October, 1902. No members of the Glasgow Committee were present when either the undisputed Late Celtic comb, or the inscribed, perforated, and disputed pieces of cannel coal were discovered. Illustrations of these objects and of the bronze penannular ring are here given, (figures 1, 2, 3, 4), (two shale objects are omitted,) by the kindness of the Glasgow Archaeological Society (Transactions, vol. v. p. 1).

The brooch (allowed to be genuine) "might date from Romano-British times, say 100-400 A.D. to any date up to late mediaeval times." {39} Good evidence to date, in a wide sense, would be the "osseous remains," the bones left in the refuse at Langbank and Dumbuck. Of the bones, I only gather as peculiarly interesting, that Dr. Bryce has found those of Bos Longifrons. Of Bos Longifrons as a proof of date, I know little. Mr. Ridgeway, Disney Professor of Archaeology in the University of Cambridge, is not "a merely literary man." In his work The Early Age of Greece, vol. i., pp. 334, 335 (Cambridge University Press, 1901), Mr. Ridgeway speaks of Bos as the Celtic ox, co-eval with the Swiss Lake Dwellings, and known as Bos brachyceros—"short horn"—so styled by Rutimeyer. If he is "Celtic" I cannot say how early Bos may have existed among the Celts of Britain, but the Romans are thought by some persons to have brought the Celtic ox to the Celts of our island. If this be so, the Clyde sites are not earlier (or Bos in these sites is not earlier) than the Roman invasion. He lasted into the seventh or eighth centuries A.D. at least, and is found on a site discovered by Dr. Munro at Elie. {40a} Meanwhile archaeology is so lazy, that, after seven years, Dr. Bryce's "reports on the osseous remains" of Langbank and Dumbuck is but lately published. {40b}

{ Figs. 1, 2: p40a.jpg}

Dr. Bryce, in his report to the Glasgow Archaeological Society, says that "Bos Longifrons has a wide range in time, from Neolithic down to perhaps even medieval times. It was the domestic ox in Scotland for an unknown period, before, during, and for an unknown time after the Roman invasion. . . . The occurrence of extinct, probably long extinct, breeds, and these only, make the phenomena in this respect at Langbank exactly comparable with those observed at sites of pile buildings in Scotland generally, and thus it becomes indirect evidence against the thesis that the structure belongs to some different category, and to quite recent times." {40c}

{ Fig. 3: p40b.jpg}

The evidence of the bones, then, denotes any date except a relatively recent date, of 1556-1758; contrary to an hypothesis to be touched on later. It follows, from the presence of Bos at Elie (700 A.D.) that the occupants of the Clyde sites at Langbank may have lived there as late as, say, 750 A.D. But when they began to occupy the sites is another question.

{ Fig. 4: p40c.jpg}

If Roman objects are found, as they are, in brochs which show many relics of bronze, it does not follow that the brochs had not existed for centuries before the inhabitants acquired the waifs and strays of Roman civilisation. In the Nine Caithness Brochs described by Dr. Joseph Anderson, {41} there was a crucible . . . with a portion of melted bronze, a bronze ring, moulds for ingots, an ingot of bronze, bits of Roman "Samian ware," but no iron. We can be sure that the broch folk were at some time in touch of Roman goods, brought by traffickers perhaps, but how can we be sure that there were no brochs before the arrival of the Romans?

We shall return to the question of the disputable relics of the Clyde, after discussing what science has to say about the probable date and original purpose of the wooden structures in the Clyde estuary. Nobody, it is admitted, forged them, but on the other hand Dr. Munro, the one most learned authority on "Lake Dwellings," or "Crannogs," does not think that the sites were ever occupied by regular "crannogs," or lacustrine settlements, Lake Dwellings.


The actual structures of Langbank and Dumbuck, then, are confessedly ancient remains; they are not of the nineteenth century; they are "unique" in our knowledge, and we ask, what was the purpose of their constructors, and what is their approximate date?

Dr. Munro quotes and discusses {43} a theory, or a tentative guess of Dr. David Murray. That scholar writes "River cairns are commonly built on piled platforms, and my doubt is whether this is not the nature of the structure in question" (Dumbuck). A river cairn is a solid pile of stonework, with, perhaps, a pole in the centre. At Dumbuck there is the central "well" of six feet in diameter. Dr. Murray says that a pole "carried down to the bottom would probably be sunk in the clay, which would produce a hole, or well-like cavity similar to that of the Dumbuck structure." {44}

It is not stated that the poles of river cairns usually demand accommodation to the extent of six feet of diameter, in the centre of the solid mass of stones, and, as the Langbank site has no central well, the tentative conjecture that it was a river cairn is not put forward. Dr. Murray suggests that the Dumbuck cairn "may have been one of the works of 1556 or 1612," that is, of the modern age of Queen Mary and James VI. The object of such Corporation cairns "was no doubt to mark the limit of their jurisdiction, and also to serve as a beacon to vessels coming up the river."

Now the Corporation, with its jurisdiction and beacons, is purely modern. In 1758 the Corporation had a "lower cairn, if it did not occupy this very spot" (Dumbuck) "it stood upon the same line and close to it. There are, however, no remains of such cairn," says Dr. Murray. He cites no evidence for the date and expenses of the demolition of the cairn from any municipal book of accounts.

Now we have to ask (1) Is there any evidence that men in 1556-1758 lived on the tops of such modern cairns, dating from the reign of Mary Stuart? (2) If men then lived on the top of a cairn till their food refuse became "a veritable kitchen midden," as Dr. Munro says, {45} would that refuse exhibit bones of Bos Longifrons; and over ninety bone implements, sharpened antlers of deer, stone polishers, hammer stones, "a saddle stone" for corn grinding, and the usual debris of sites of the fifth to the twelfth centuries? (3) Would such a modern site exhibit these archaic relics, plus a "Late Celtic" comb and "penannular brooch," and exhibit not one modern article of metal, or one trace of old clay tobacco pipes, crockery, or glass?

The answers to these questions are obvious. It is not shown that any men ever lived on the tops of cairns, and, even if they did so in modern times (1556-1758) they could not leave abundant relics of the broch and crannog age (said to be of 400-1100 A.D.), and leave no relics of modern date. This theory, or suggestion, is therefore demonstrably untenable and unimaginable.

Dr. Munro, however, "sees nothing against the supposition" that "Dr. Murray is right," but Dr. Munro's remarks about the hypothesis of modern cairns, as a theory "against which he sees nothing," have the air of being an inadvertent obiter dictum. For, in his conclusion and summing up he writes, "We claim to have established that the structures of Dunbuie, Dumbuck, and Langbank are remains of inhabited sites of the early-Iron Age, dating to some time between the fifth and twelfth centuries." {46a} I accept this conclusion, and will say as little as may be about the theory of a modern origin of the sites, finally discarded by Dr. Munro. I say "discarded," for his theory is that the modern corporation utilised an earlier structure as a cairn or beacon, or boundary mark, which is perfectly possible. But, if this occurred, it does not affect the question, for this use of the structure has left no traces of any kind. There are no relics, except relics of the fifth (?) to twelfth (?) centuries.

In an earlier work by Dr. Munro, Prehistoric Scotland (p. 439), published in 1899, he observes that we have no evidence as to the when, or how of the removal of the stones of the hypothetical "Corporation cairn," or "round tower with very thick walls," {46b} or "watch tower," which is supposed to have been erected above the wooden sub-structure at Dumbuck. He tentatively suggests that the stones may have been used, perhaps, for the stone causeway now laid along the bank of the recently made canal, from a point close to the crannog to the railway. No record is cited. He now offers guesses as to the stones "in the so-called pavements and causeways." First, the causeways may have probably been made "during the construction of the tower with its central pole," (here the cairn is a habitable beacon, habitable on all hypotheses,) or, again, "perhaps at the time of its demolition" about which demolition we know nothing, {47a} except that the most of the stones are not now in situ.

Several authentic stone crannogs in Scotland, as to which we have information, possessed no central pole, but had a stone causeway, still extant, leading, e.g. from the crannog to the shore of the Ashgrove loch, "a causeway of rough blocks of sandstone slabs." {47b} If one stone crannog had a stone causeway, why should this ancient inhabited cairn or round tower not possess a stone causeway? Though useless at high water, at low water it would afford better going. In a note to Ivanhoe, and in his Northern tour of 1814, Scott describes a stone causeway to a broch on an artificial island in Loch Cleik-him-in, near Lerwick. Now this loch, says Scott, was, at the time when the broch was inhabited, open to the flow of tide water.

As people certainly did live on these structures of Langbank and Dunbuie during the broch and crannog age (centuries 5-12) it really matters not to our purpose why they did so, or how they did so. Let us suppose that the circular wall of the stone superstructure slanted inwards, as is not unusual. In that case the habitable area at the top may be reduced to any extent that is thought probable, with this limitation:—the habitable space must not be too small for the accommodation of the persons who filled up the eastern third of an area of from twelve to fourteen feet in breadth, and in some places a foot in thickness, with a veritable kitchen-midden, of "broken and partially burned bones of various animals, shells of edible molluscs, and a quantity of ashes and charcoal . . . ." {48}

But Dr. Munro assures me that the remains discovered could be deposited in a few years of regular occupancy by two or three persons.

The structure certainly yielded habitable space enough to accommodate the persons who, in the fifth to twelfth centuries, left these traces of their occupancy. Beyond that fact I do not pretend to estimate the habitable area.

Why did these people live on this structure in the fifth to twelfth centuries? Almost certainly, not for the purpose of directing the navigation of the Clyde. At that early date, which I think we may throw far back in the space of the six centuries of the estimate, or may even throw further back still, the Clyde was mainly navigated by canoes of two feet or so in depth, though we ought to have statistics of remains of larger vessels discovered in the river bed. {49a} I think we may say that the finances of Glasgow, in St. Kentigern's day, about 570-600 A.D., would not be applied to the construction of Dr. Munro's "tower with its central pole and very thick walls" {49b} erected merely for the purpose of warning canoes off shoals in the Clyde.

That the purpose of the erection was to direct the navigation of Clyde by canoes, or by the long vessels of the Viking raiders, appears to me improbable. I offer, periculo meo, a different conjecture, of which I shall show reason to believe that Dr. Munro may not disapprove.

The number of the dwellers in the structure, and the duration of their occupancy, does not affect my argument. If two natives, in a very few years, could deposit the "veritable kitchen midden," with all the sawn horns, bone implements, and other undisputed relics, we must suppose that the term of occupancy was very brief, or not continuous, and that the stone structure "with very thick walls like the brochs" represented labours which were utilised for a few years, or seldom. My doubt is as to whether the structure was intended for the benefit of navigators of the Clyde—in shallow canoes!


The Dumbuck structure, when occupied, adjoined and commanded a ford across the undeepened Clyde of uncommercial times. So Sir Arthur Mitchell informs us. {51a} The Langbank structure, as I understand, is opposite to that of Dumbuck on the southern side of the river. If two strongly built structures large enough for occupation exist on opposite sides of a ford, their purpose is evident: they guard the ford, like the two stone camps on each side of the narrows of the Avon at Clifton.

Dr. Munro, on the other hand, says, "the smallness of the habitable area on both "sites" puts them out of the category of military forts." {51b} My suggestion is that the structure was so far "military" as is implied in its being occupied, with Langbank on the opposite bank of Clyde by keepers of the ford. In 1901 Dr. Munro wrote, "even the keepers of the watch-tower at the ford of Dumbuck had their quern, and ground their own corn." {52a} This idea has therefore passed through Dr. Munro's mind, though I did not know the fact till after I had come to the same hypothesis. The habitable area was therefore, adequate to the wants of these festive people. I conjecture that these "keepers of the watch-tower at the ford" were military "watchers of the ford," for that seems to me less improbable than that "a round tower with very thick walls, {52b} like the brochs and other forts of North Britain," was built in the interests of the navigation of Clyde at a very remote period. {52c}

But really all this is of no importance to the argument. People lived in these sites, perhaps as early as 400 A.D. or earlier. Such places of safety were sadly needed during the intermittent and turbulent Roman occupation.


Suppose the sites were occupied by the watchers of the ford. There they lived, no man knows how long, on their perch over the waters of Clyde. They dwelt at top of a stone structure some eight feet above low water mark, for they could not live on the ground floor, of which the walls, fifty feet thick at the base, defied the waves of the high tides driven by the west wind.

There our friends lived, and probably tatooed themselves, and slew Bos Longifrons and the deer that, in later ages, would have been forbidden game to them. If I may trust Bede, born in 672, and finishing his History in 731, our friends were Picts, and spoke a now unknown language, not that of the Bretonnes, or Cymri, or Welsh, who lived on the northern side of the Firth of Clyde. Or the occupants of Dumbuck, on the north side of the river, were Cymri; those of Langbank, on the south side, were Picts. I may at once say that I decline to be responsible for Bede, and his ethnology, but he lived nearer to those days than we do.

With their ladder of fifteen feet long, a slab of oak, split from the tree by wedges, and having six holes chopped out of the solid for steps, they climbed to their perch, the first floor of their abode. I never heard of a ladder made in this way, but the Zunis used simply to cut notches for the feet in the trunk of a tree, and "sich a getting up stairs" it must have been, when there was rain, and the notches were wet!

Time passed, the kitchen midden grew, and the Cymri founded Ailcluith, "Clyde rock," now Dumbarton; "to this day," says Bede, "the strongest city of the Britons." {54} Then the Scots came, and turned the Britons out; and St. Columba came, and St. Kentigern from Wales (573-574), and began to spread the Gospel among the pagan Picts and Cymri. Stone amulets and stone idols, (if the disputed objects are idols and amulets,) "have had their day," (as Bob Acres says "Damns have had their day,") and, with Ailcluith in Scots' hands, "'twas time for us to go" thought the Picts and Cymri of Langbank and Dumbuck.

Sadly they evacuate their old towers or cairns before the Scots who now command the Dumbuck ford from Dumbarton. They cross to land on their stone causeway at low water. They abandon the old canoe in the little dock where it was found by Mr. Bruce. They throw down the venerable ladder. They leave behind only the canoe, the deer horns, stone-polishers, sharpened bones, the lower stone of a quern, and the now obsolete, or purely folk-loreish stone "amulets," or "pendants," and the figurines, which to call "idols" is unscientific, while to call them "totems" is to display "facetious and rejoicing ignorance." Dr. Munro merely quotes this foolish use of the term totem by others.

These old things the evicted Picts and Cymri abandoned, while they carried with them their more valuable property, their Early Iron axes and knives, their treasured bits of red "Samian ware," inherited from Roman times, their amber beads, and the rest of their bibelots, down to the minutest fragment of pottery.

Or it may not have been so: the conquering Scots may have looted the cairns, and borne the Pictish cairn-dwellers into captivity.

Looking at any broch, or hill fort, or crannog, the fancy dwells on the last day of its occupation: the day when the canoe was left to subside into the mud and decaying vegetable matter of the loch. In changed times, in new conditions, the inhabitants move away to houses less damp, and better equipped with more modern appliances. I see the little troop, or perhaps only two natives, cross the causeway, while the Minstrel sings in Pictish or Welsh a version of

"The Auld Hoose, the Auld Hoose, What though the rooms were sma', Wi' six feet o' diameter, And a rung gaun through the ha'!"

The tears come to my eyes, as I think of the Last Day of Old Dumbuck, for, take it as you will, there was a last day of Dumbuck, as of windy Ilios, and of "Carthage left deserted of the sea."

So ends my little idyllic interlude, and, if I am wrong, blame Venerable Bede!


Provisionally, and for the sake of argument merely, may I suggest that the occupancy of these sites may be dated by me, about 300-550 A.D.? That date is well within the Iron Age: iron had long been known and used in North Britain. But to the non-archaeological reader, the terms Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, are apt to prove misleading. The early Iron Age, like the Bronze Age, was familiar with the use of implements of stone. In the Scottish crannogs, admirably described by Dr. Munro, in his Ancient Scottish Lake Dwellings, were found implements of flint, a polished stone axe-head, an iron knife at the same lowest level, finger rings of gold, a forged English coin of the sixth or seventh century A.D., well-equipped canoes (a common attendant of crannogs), the greater part of a stone inscribed with concentric circles, a cupped stone, and a large quartz crystal of the kind which Apaches in North America, and the Euahlayi tribe in New South Wales, use in crystal gazing. In early ages, after the metals had been worked, stone, bronze, and iron were still used as occasion served, just as the Australian black will now fashion an implement in "palaeolithic" wise, with a few chips; now will polish a weapon in "neolithic" fashion; and, again, will chip a fragment of glass with wonderful delicacy; or will put as good an edge as he can on a piece of hoop iron.

I venture, then, merely for the sake of argument, to date the origin of the Clyde sites in the dark years of unrecorded turmoil which preceded and followed the Roman withdrawal. The least unpractical way of getting nearer to their purpose is the careful excavation of a structure of wood and stone near Eriska, where Prince Charles landed in 1745. Dr. Munro has seen and described this site, but is unable to explain it. Certainly it cannot be a Corporation cairn.


We now approach the disputed and very puzzling objects found in the three Clyde sites. My object is, not to demonstrate that they were actually fashioned in, say, 410-550 A.D., or that they were relics of an age far more remote, but merely to re-state the argument of Dr. Joseph Anderson, Keeper of the Scottish National Museum, and of Sir Arthur Mitchell, both of them most widely experienced and sagacious archaeologists. They play the waiting game, and it may be said that they "sit upon the fence"; I am proud to occupy a railing in their company. Dr. Anderson spoke at a meeting of the Scots Society of Antiquaries, May 14, 1900, when Mr. Bruce read a paper on Dumbuck, and exhibited the finds. "With regard to the relics, he said that there was nothing exceptional in the chronological horizon of a portion of them from both sites (Dumbuck and Dunbuie), but as regards another portion, he could find no place for it in any archaeological series, as it had 'no recognisable affinity with any objects found anywhere else.'"

"For my part," said Dr. Anderson, (and he has not altered his mind,) "I do not consider it possible or necessary in the meantime that there should be a final pronouncement on these questions. In the absence of decisive evidence, which time may supply, I prefer to suspend my judgment—merely placing the suspected objects (as they place themselves) in the list of things that must wait for further evidence, because they contradict present experience. It has often happened that new varieties of things have been regarded with suspicion on account of their lack of correspondence with things previously known, and that the lapse of time has brought corroboration of their genuineness through fresh discoveries. If time brings no such corroboration, they still remain in their proper classification as things whose special character has not been confirmed by archaeological experience."

Sir Arthur Mitchell spoke in the same sense, advising suspension of judgment, and that we should await the results of fresh explorations both at Dumbuck and elsewhere. {61} Dr. Murray said that the disputed finds "are puzzling, but we need not condemn them because we do not understand them." Dr. Munro will not suspend his judgment: the objects, he declares, are spurious.


I remarked, early in this tract, that "with due deference, and with doubt, I think Dr. Munro's methods capable of modification." I meant that I prefer, unlike Dr. Munro in this case, to extend the archaeological gaze beyond the limits of things already known to occur in the Scottish area which—by the way—must contain many relics still unknown. I

"Let Observation with extensive view Survey mankind from China to Peru,"

to discover whether objects analogous to those under dispute occur anywhere among early races of the past or present. This kind of wide comparison is the method of Anthropology. Thus Prof. Rhys and others find so very archaic an institution as the reckoning of descent in the female line,—inheritance going through the Mother,—among the Picts of Scotland, and they even find traces of totemism, an institution already outworn among several of the naked tribes of Australia, who reckon descent in the male line.

Races do not, in fact, advance on a straight and unbroken highway of progress. You find that the Kurnai of Australia are more civilised, as regards the evolution of the modern Family, than were the Picts who built crannogs and dug canoes, and cultivated the soil, and had domesticated animals, and used iron, all of them things that the Kurnai never dreamed of doing.

As to traces of Totemism in Scotland and Ireland, I am not persuaded by Professor Rhys that they occur, and are attested by Celtic legends about the connection of men and kinships with animals, and by personal and kinship names derived from animals. The question is very obscure. {63} But as the topic of Totemism has been introduced, I may say that many of the mysterious archaic markings on rocks, and decorations of implements, in other countries, are certainly known to be a kind of shorthand design of the totem animal. Thus a circle, whence proceeds a line ending in a triple fork, represents the raven totem in North America: another design, to our eyes meaningless, stands for the wolf totem; a third design, a set of bands on a spear shaft, does duty for the gerfalcon totem, and so on. {64a} Equivalent marks, such as spirals, and tracks of emu's feet, occur on sacred stones found round the graves of Australian blacks on the Darling River. They were associated with rites which the oldest blacks decline to explain. The markings are understood to be totemic. Occasionally they are linear, as in Ogam writing. {64b}

Any one who is interested in the subject of the origin, in certain places, of the patterns, may turn to Mr. Haddon's Evolution of Art. {64c} Mr. Haddon shows how the Portuguese pattern of horizontal triangles is, in the art of the uncivilised natives of Brazil, meant to represent bats. {64d} A cross, dotted, within a circle, is directly derived, through several stages, from a representation of an alligator. {64e}

We cannot say whether or not the same pattern, found at Dumbuck, in Central Australia, and in tropical America, arose in the "schematising" of the same object in nature, in all three regions, or not. Without direct evidence, we cannot assign a meaning to the patterns.


My private opinion as to the meaning of the archaic marks and the Clyde objects which bear them, has, in part by my own fault, been misunderstood by Dr. Munro. He bases an argument on the idea that I suppose the disputed "pendants" to have had, in Clydesdale, precisely the same legendary, customary, and magical significance as the stone churinga of the Arunta tribe in Australia. That is not my theory. Dr. Munro quotes me, without indicating the source, (which, I learn, is my first letter on the subject to the Glasgow Herald, Jan. 10th, 1899), as saying that the Clyde objects "are in absolutely startling agreement" with the Arunta churinga. {65}

Doubtless, before I saw the objects, I thus overstated my case, in a letter to a newspaper, in 1899. But in my essay originally published in the Contemporary Review, (March 1899,) and reprinted in my book, Magic and Religion, of 1901, {66} I stated my real opinion. This is a maturely considered account of my views as they were in 1899-1901, and, unlike old newspaper correspondence, is easily accessible to the student. It is not "out of print." I compared the Australian marks on small stones and on rock walls, and other "fixtures in the landscape," with the markings on Scottish boulders, rock walls, cists, and so forth, and also with the marks on the disputed objects. I added "the startling analogy between Australia and old Scottish markings saute aux yeux," and I spoke truth. Down to the designs which represent footmarks, the analogy is "startling," is of great interest, and was never before made the subject of comment.

I said that we could not know whether or not the markings, in Scotland and Australia, had the same meaning.

As to my opinion, then, namely that we cannot say what is the significance of an archaic pattern in Scotland, or elsewhere, though we may know the meaning assigned to it in Central Australia, there can no longer be any mistake. I take the blame of having misled Dr. Munro by an unguarded expression in a letter to the Society of Scottish Antiquaries, {67} saying that, if the disputed objects were genuine, they implied the survival, on Clyde, "of a singularly archaic set of ritual and magical ideas," namely those peculiar to the Arunta and Kaitish tribes of Central Australia. But that was a slip of the pen, merely.

This being the case, I need not reply to arguments of Dr. Munro (pp. 248- 250) against an hypothesis which no instructed person could entertain, beginning with the assumption that from an unknown centre, some people who held Arunta ideas migrated to Central Australia, and others to the Clyde. Nobody supposes that the use of identical or similar patterns, and of stones of superstitious purpose, implies community of race. These things may anywhere be independently evolved, and in different regions may have quite different meanings, if any; while the use of "charm stones" or witch stones, is common among savages, and survives, in England and Scotland, to this day. The reader will understand that I am merely applying Mr. E. B. Tylor's method of the study of "survivals in culture," which all anthropologists have used since the publication of Mr. Tylor's Primitive Culture, thirty-five years ago.


What is admitted to be true of survivals in the Family among the Picts may also be true as to other survivals in art, superstition, and so forth. I would, therefore, compare the disputed Clyde objects with others analogous to them, of known or unknown purpose, wheresoever they may be found. I am encouraged in this course by observing that it is pursued, for example, by the eminent French archaeologist, Monsieur Cartailhac, in his book Les Ages Prehistoriques de France et d'Espagne. He does not hesitate, as we shall see, to compare peculiar objects found in France or Spain, with analogous objects of doubtful purpose, found in America or the Antilles. M. Cartailhac writes that, to find anything resembling certain Portuguese "thin plaques of slate in the form of a crook, or crozier," he "sought through all ethnographic material, ancient and modern." He did find the parallels to his Portuguese objects, one from Gaudeloup, the other either French, or from the Antilles. {69}

Sir John Evans, again, compares British with Australian objects; in fact the practice is recognised. I therefore intend to make use of this comparative method. On the other hand, Dr. Munro denies that any of my analogies drawn from remote regions are analogous, and it will be necessary to try to prove that they are,—that my Australian, American, Portuguese, and other objects are of the same kind, apparently, as some of the disputed relics of the Clyde.

If I succeed, one point will be made probable. Either the Clyde objects are old, or the modern maker knew much more of archaeology than many of his critics and used his knowledge to direct his manufacture of spurious things; or he kept coinciding accidentally with genuine relics of which he knew nothing.


Again, I must push my method beyond that of Dr. Munro, by considering the subject of Magic, in relation to perforated and other stones, whether inscribed with designs, or uninscribed. Among the disputed objects are many such stones, and it is legitimate for me to prove, not only that they occur in many sites of ancient life, but that their magical uses are still recognised, or were very recently recognised in the British Folk- lore of to-day.

A superstition which has certainly endured to the nineteenth century may obviously have existed among the Picts, or whoever they were, of the crannog and broch period on Clyde. The only a priori objection is the absence of such objects among finds made on British soil, but our discoveries cannot be exhaustive: time may reveal other examples, and already we have a few examples, apart from the objects in dispute.


Dr. Munro classifies the disputed objects as Weapons, Implements, "Amulets" or Pendants, Cup-and-Ring Stones, "Human Figurines or Idols."

For reasons of convenience, and because what I heard about group 3, the "amulets or pendants" first led me into this discussion, I shall here first examine them. Dr. Munro reproduces some of them in one plate (xv. p. 228). He does not say by what process they are reproduced; merely naming them . . . "objects of slate and stone from Dumbuck."

Dr. Munro describes the "amulets" or "pendants" thus:

"The largest group of objects (plate XV.) consists of the so-called amulets or pendants of stone, shale, and shell, some fifteen to twenty specimens of which have been preserved and recorded as having been found on the different stations, viz., three from Dunbuie (exclusive of a few perforated oyster shells), eleven from Dumbuck, and one from Langbank. Their ornamentation is chiefly of the cup-and-ring order, only a few having patterns composed of straight lines. Some of them are so large as to be unfit to be used as amulets or pendants, such, for example, as that represented by no. 14, which is 9 inches long, 3.5 inches broad, and 0.5 inch thick. The ornamentation consists of a strongly incised line running downwards from the perforation with small branch lines directed alternately right and left. Any human being, who would wear this object, either as an ornament or religious emblem, would be endowed with the most archaic ideas of decorative art known in the history of human civilisation. Yet we can have no doubt that the individual who manufactured it, if he were an inhabitant of any of the Clyde sites, was at the same time living in a period not devoid of culture, and was in possession of excellent cutting implements, most likely of iron, with which he manipulated wood, deer- horn, and other substances. These objects are nearly all perforated, as if intended for suspension, but sometimes, in addition to this, there is a large central hole around which there is always an ornamentation, generally consisting of incised circles or semicircles, with divergent lines leading into small hollow points, the so-called cup-marks."

I shall return to the theory that the stones were "ornaments"; meanwhile I proceed to the consideration of "cup-marks" on stones, large or small.


As to cup marks, or cupules, little basins styled also ecuelles, now isolated, now grouped, now separate, now joined by hollowed lines, they are familiar on rocks, funeral cists, and so forth in Asia, Europe, and North America (and Australia), as M. Cartailhac remarks in reviewing Dr. Magni's work on Cupped Rocks near Como. {73a} "Their meaning escapes us," says M. Cartailhac.

These cups, or cupules, or ecuelles occur, not only at Dumbuck, but in association with a Scottish crannog of the Iron age, admirably described by Dr. Munro himself. {73b} He found a polished celt, {73c} and a cupped stone, and he found a fragmentary block of red sandstone, about a foot in length, inscribed with concentric circles, surrounding a cup. The remainder of the stone, with the smaller part of the design, was not found.

Here, then, we have these archaic patterns and marks on isolated stones, one of them about 13 inches long, in a genuine Scottish crannog, of the genuine Iron age, while flint celts also occur, and objects of bronze. Therefore cup markings, and other archaic markings are not unknown or suspicious things in a genuine pile structure in Scotland. Why, then, suspect them at Dumbuck? At Dumbuck the cups occur on a triangular block of sandstone, 14.5 inches long and 4 inches thick. Another cupped block is of 21.5 inches by 16.5. {74}

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