RUDE STONE MONUMENTS
SEVERAL learned works have appeared of late years upon the subject of those mysterious stone monuments, the dolmens, or cromlechs, and the stone circles, their ages and uses. The perusal of the most recent authorities is not a little disappointing, as will be seen from the extracts we subjoin, which are fair examples of the opposite conclusions to which archaeologists; have arrived. “Amidst all the triumphs of well-directed archaeological research, there still remain a great group of monuments at our own doors, regarding whose uses or dates opinions are nearly as much divided as they were in the days of rampant empiricism in the last century. It is true that men of science do not now pretend to see Druids sacrificing their bleeding victims on the altar at Stonehenge, nor to be able to trace the folds of the divine serpent through miles of upright stones at Carnac or at Avebury, but all they have yet achieved is simple unbelief in the popular fallacies, nor have they hitherto ventured to supply anything better to take their places. They still call the circles temples, but without being able to suggest to what god they were dedicated, or for what rites they were appropriated, and, when asked as to the age in which they were erected, can only reply in the words of the song, that it was long, long ago.’“ “There is no passage in any classical authors which connects the Druids, either directly or indirectly, with any stone temples, or any stones of any sort.” “No writer of any age or country suggested their being pre-historic or even pre-Roman before the age of Stukeley — say 1700. ” “If, however, the pen has been reticent and hesitating in its testimony, the spade has been not only prolific but distinct. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that three-fourths of the megalithic monuments — - including the dolmens, of course — have yielded sepulchral deposits to the explorer, and, including the tumuli, probably nine-tenths have been proved to be burial-places.”
The foregoing extracts are from the exhaustive work of James Fergusson, Esqre., D.C.L., F.R.S., etc., entitled “Rude Stone Monuments in all Countries: their Age and Uses: with 234 illustrations.” 1872. KIT’ S COITY HOUSE, or Cotty House, the celebrated cromlech, near Aylesford, in Kent, is by far the largest monument of its class in this part of England. It forms a small chamber open in front, and consists of four blocks, three of which are uprights, and the fourth laid on them as a covering-stone.
Of the two side stones, one measures 7 feet by 7 1/2, and is 2 feet thick, the weight about 8 1/2 tons. The other is 8 feet by 8 1/2, weighing about tons. The capstone is 12 feet by 9 1/2 feet thick, and weighs about 10 1/2 tons. The sandstone of which they consist belongs to the geological formation of the district.
Like others of its class, Kit’s Coity House was no doubt originally a sepulchral monument, though the legend which makes it the tomb of the British chief Katigern, killed here in a battle with the Saxons, must probably be discarded. Kitt ’s Hill on Hingstone Down, Cornwall, and Kite ’s House on Dartmoor, are names also given to ancient tombs; perhaps from the Celtic ked , a hollow. Kit’s Coity may thus be ked-coit — the tomb in the wood (Brit.), which once spread over the hill-side, and of which the venerable yews are relics. It hats been suggested that the battle was traditionally fixed here from ancient recollections connected with the site, which recent research has proved to be that of a great British cemetery — the “Carnac” of Kent. — From Murray ’s “Handbook for Travellers in Kent. ” 1892. “
STONEHENGE is a circular group of gigantic standing stones on Salisbury Plain ..…situated in the midst of an extensive group of prehistoric barrows of the bronze age. The circle of stones, which is about 100 feet in diameter, occupies the central portion of an area of about 360 feet in diameter, enclosed within an earthen rampart and ditch.” Here follows a lengthy description of the relative positions, sizes, etc., of the various stones, for which we have not space. The article proceeds to state “the many and various theories propounded as to the purpose or uses of the structure. It has been attributed to the Phoenicians, the Belgae, the Druids, the Saxons, and the Danes. It has been called a temple of the sun, and of serpent worship, a shrine of Buddha, a planetarium, a gigantic gallows on which defeated British leaders were solemnly hung in honor of Woden, a Gilgal where the national army met and leaders were buried, and a calendar in stone for measurement of the solar year. “The opinion of Sir John Lubbock, expressed in his ‘Prehistoric Times,’ is that there are satisfactory reasons for assigning it to the bronze age, though apparently it was not all erected at one time, the inner circle of small unwrought ‘blue-stone,’ being probably older than the rest. By most archaeologists it seems to be accepted as an exceptional, development from the ordinary type of stone circles, used as burial-places by the bronze age people of Britain, though some regard its exceptional development as due rather to a religious influence than to the mere idea of the common commemoration of simple burial. But whatever may have been its origin or purpose, it is sufficiently interesting as the grandest megalithic monument in Britain.” — Condensed from Chambers ’s Encyclopedia.
We must let a later writer (Reverend Lewis Gidley, M.A.), have the last word, as he may be referring to Mr. Fergusson, among others, when he says: — “There are so many proofs of Stonehenge being a Druidical temple, that it seems remarkable that any antiquarians are not satisfied that this was the case. He is also as pronounced in his opinion that it was not “erected to commemorate a battle fought there;” nor was it “a kind of superior cromlech, or sepulchral monument.” The title of his book is, “Stonehenge viewed by the Light of Ancient History and Modern Observation.” 1873. 8vo.