Page images

This discovery permits of the following suggestion being made as to the line of military signalling and communication from the north-east along the line of the lochs.

Starting from Craig Phadric, which commands a far view of the Moray Firth, communication could be carried to Dunreachie Fort on Ashie Moor. The stones of which Dunreachie is formed are of a very refractory nature, as the district belongs to the Old Red Sandstone, and no vitrification appears there.

From Dunreachie the fort at Castle Urquhart was visible, and would be now, were it not for the tall trees in Erchite Wood.

From Castle Urquhart, Dunjardel is well in view, and there is a clear though long line to Tor Duin, near Fort Augustus. It may be that there was another fort somewhere near Glen Moriston. But the discovery of that and of the communication south-west from Tor Duin remain for further investigation.




At the request of their owner, R. C. Haldane, Esq., seven of these knives are now presented to the National Museum.

The following letter from Mr Haldane sufficiently explains the reasons for which these interesting objects were put into my hands, as well as the conditions on which they henceforth become national property.


24th March 1905. MY DEAR Dr Munro,- 1 send to-lay, by parcel post, seven scrapers. They were found at E-heness, Northmavine, in making a road, 9 inches deep in a gravelly subsoil. They were packed closely together with the edges upperinost. There were eleven in all, but several were broken, and I bought the best. The other four I did not see, and do not know what became of them. Nothing else was with them, and they appear to have been a store which had not been disturbed. There was no trace of any building near, but the Brough of Priesthoulland was about half a mile distant. Before these were found the superincumbent peat had been removedl. The tinder thought a total depth of 4 feet of peat and soil had covered the scrapers. There are said to have been two or three Picts' houses not far away, one at a place near the churchyard called Saebrig and one at Hogaland. They were found in the year 1900.

When you are done with them, if they are of sufficient interest, please present them to the Museum from me. If they do not care to have them, I will keep them. Should they keep them, I would like them all kept together.

I am afraid I can give you no more information about them, and musi leave it to you to spin out their history.-Yours sincerely, R. C. HALDANE.

A mere glance at these objects shows that they possess certain characteristics which place them in a special category among ancient stone implements. They are large thin blades made of volcanic rock known as rock-porphyry, irregularly oval or subquadrangular in form, and highly polished on both surfaces, with the margin all round ground to what may be called a cutting edge.

With the assistance of Mr B. N. Peach, LL.D., F.R.S., whose knowledge of the geology of Shetland is unrivalled, I have drawn up the following descriptive details of each specimen in this hoard, so as to

make them available for comparison with similar discoveries elsewhere recorded :

No. 1. The rock of which this implement is made is quartz-porphyry, and shows double pyramids of quartz and porphyritic crystals of orthoclase in a crypto-crystalline ground-mass. It is subquadrangular in form, with a portion broken off at one end, and measures 5 by 5 inches.

No. 2. This specimen (fig. 1) has the same composition as No. 1, but in addition shows platy flow-structure oblique to the flat surfaces of the


Fig. 1. Oval Knife of Quartz-porphyry (No. 2) from Esheness, Shetland. (1.)

implement. Its shape is oval, with a good cutting edge all round, and it measures 6 by 4.5 inches.

No. 3. All the remarks made on the mineral structure of the two former are applicable to this specimen, with the addition that some layers are spherulitic. Oval in form, with one end nearly straight. Its diameters are 55 and 44 inches.

No. 4. Made of very fine-grained quartz-porphyry with few porphyritic elements, suggesting that it came from the chilled outer edge of the volcanic mass. This implement (fig. 2) is irregularly quadrangular, three sides being nearly straight, and the fourth curved out

wards, with a rectangular notch half an inch deep. The margin of this notch is, however, ground down to an edge like the rest of the perimeter of the implement.

No. 5. This specimen has the same composition as No. 33, but the flow-layers are nearly at right angles to the surfaces of the implement. Spherulitic structure well developed. It is oblong in shape, having a corner portion broken off, and measures 6 by 3 inches.

No. 6. Like Nos. 2, 3, and 5, but strongly spherulitic, and structure


Fig. 2 Knife of Quartz-porphyry from Esheness, Shetland. (1.)

better seen.

This implement has one end broken off, and the other is rectangular. The remaining portion measures 4 by 4 inches No. 7. Porphyritic and spherulitic elements well shown.

It is an irregular oval and a thicker specimen than any of the others, having a maximum thickness of nearly half an inch. Its greatest and least diameters are 45 and 3] inches.

Porphyritic rocks are abundantly met with in Shetland, and it would appear that all the above-described implements had been manufactured from the same quarry. Dr Peach informs me that this kind of rock, on long exposure to atmospheric agencies, breaks up into thin laminæ, like

slaty materials, so that in reality nature performs the first and most difficult stage in the manufacture of these knives. It

may also be noted that their position under a depth of 4 feet of peat, together with the whitish layer of patina which covers them all over, gives them, prima facie, a claim to considerable antiquity. Though no two specimens are precisely alike, there is a general, indeed striking, resemblance between them all ; and only in one instance does the ratio between their longer and shorter diameters go beyond 6 to 4 inchesthe exception, No. 5, measuring 6 by 3 inches.

I shall now proceed to inquire how far the characters of the Esheness implements, and the circumstances in which they have been found, tally with the records of other discoveries which come under the general category of Picts' knives, as they are called in Shetland.

The earliest notice of this kind of implement which has come within the range of my knowledge is to be found in Low's Tour through Orkney and Shetland, 1774, pp. 82-4. After describing and figuring what was shown him as a “thunderbolt,” but which is nothing more nor less than an ordinary stone axe, he goes on to say that he was shewn likewise a stone instrument quite differently shaped from that described on the

This was broad and thin, much shorter than the other; seemed to have been made use of as a knife, or instrument for cutting by the hand, as the other for striking. Its edges were all well sharpened, and was supposed by the owner (Mr W. Balfour of Trenaby) to be a knife made use of in sacrifice. I procured one of the latter, the figure of which follows." This figure shows a subquadrangular implement, 5 by 32 inches, with one corner knocked off. The sides are described as “ well ground,” with “a fine edge.” “ The greatest thickness of this instrument,” he writes, “is scarce three-tenths of an inch, the edges canelled on both sides like a carpenter's axe.” 1

On landing at Vaila Sound, near Walls, from Foula, Mr Low writes as follows:

other page.

? These stone objects were shown to Mr Low at the house of Sir John Mitchell at Sandhouse, parislı of Aithsting and Sandsting.

« PreviousContinue »