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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsThe Clyde Mystery, A Study In Forgeries And Folklore - VII - LANGBANK
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The Clyde Mystery, A Study In Forgeries And Folklore - VII - LANGBANK Post by :laketahoeusa Category :Nonfictions Author :Andrew Lang Date :August 2011 Read :1882

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The Clyde Mystery, A Study In Forgeries And Folklore - VII - LANGBANK

VII - LANGBANK

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}

 

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}

 

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.

 

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.

 

{34} Proceedings Soc. Ant. Scot. 1899-1900, p. 439.

{35} Proc. Scot. Soc. Ant. 1900-1901, p. 283.

{36a} Proceedings S.A.S. vol. xxxiv. pp. 460-461.

{36b} Munro, p. 256.

{37} Munro, p. 146. Mr. Bruce in Trans. Glasgow Archaeol. Society , vol. v. N.S. part 1. p. 45.

{38a} L'Anthropologie , xiv. pp. 416-426.

{38b} Munro, p. 196.

{38c} Munro, 147, 148.

{39} Munro, p. 218.

{40a} Munro, pp. 219-220.

{40b} Munro, p. 219.

{40c} Transactions , ut supra , p. 51.

{41} Proc. Soc. Ant. 1900-1901, pp. 112-148.

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