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"The strata are composed of—


(1) Grass, turf, and sandy peat, about
(2) Yellow peat ashes, about 5 or 6 inches.

(3) Decomposed charred wood, about 4 or 5 inches.
(4) Subsoil, red gravel, and rock.

"The axes were found in the charred wood layer.

"About eighty or ninety years ago, previous to his house being built, a bank of peat, about 4 feet thick, had been removed from the site of the house and the knoll, and this may account for the shallow depth at which the relics were found." (Proc. S. A. Scot., vol. xxix. pp. 7 and 49; xxx. p. 39.)

On making further search in the knoll, three vessels or urns of steatitic clay, some more stone implements, and a pair of saddle-quern stones were found. Fragments of the so-called urns show that the pottery was about half an inch thick, and made of very coarse materials mixed with small stones and what looks like the stalks of withered grass. The whole of the Modesty relics, consisting of nine polished stone axes of diorite, porphyrite, or hornblende, and fourteen oval knives of differently coloured porphyrites, are now preserved in the National Museum. Also, from the same place are two masses of heavy clay, apparently moulded or kneaded by hand, and fragments of charred faggots of branches or roots, from 1 to 1 inch in diameter. With regard to this find there are a few points which claim attention.

(1) The urns would seem to presuppose burial, but not necessarily, as the vessels might have been used for domestic purposes. Hence, I would provisionally suggest an alternative hypothesis, viz. that the green knoll was the site of a wooden habitation which had been destroyed by fire, thus accounting for the amount of peat-ashes and charcoal as the embers of the fallen roof, which originally consisted of rafters and turf. This hypothesis cannot be summarily set aside on the ground that wood no longer grows in Shetland, because at the bottom of many peatbogs in that locality remains of timbers several inches in diameter are to be found. Now, in the case of the Modesty habitation, the purport of the evidence goes to show that the remains belonged to a period anterior to the growth of peat in that locality; so that brushwood, or even trees,

sufficiently large to be utilised for the construction of huts, might have been then growing in this part of Shetland.

That forests, with trees probably of no great size, formerly grew in Shetland there can be no doubt. Wandering one day over a peat-moss near the town of Lerwick, I saw heaps of decayed bogwood, with stems and roots up to 5 or 6 inches in diameter, which had been collected by the peat-cutters and left there to dry.

Mr George Low (Tour, p. 146), while passing through the parish of Delting On his way to the island of Yell, writes thus " as proof of trees having been here at some remote period":

The p. 103),


"Observed near the kirk of Scalsta, in the bank where the sea had wore away the earth, a continued stratum of large pieces of wood, in a horizontal position, a few inches above the hard gravel, covered with about 10 feet of This stratum is continued as far as I could search the whole length of this worn bank, and probably round the bay; it consists of pieces from 8 inches to an inch diameter, roots, stocks, and in a word, all parts of a tree; Hazle and Aquatick woods, but so much rotten that no part can be In many places of Orkney and Shetland the peat-diggers often find ps even of the leaves of trees."


great hea

same author, in his description of the island of Foula (ibid.

makes the following remarks:—

they sho

"They have many traditions of there having once been wood in their island; us a valley, now a moss, which they affirm was covered with it, and to this day, in cutting peats often find large pieces of both trunks and branches


Tradition says the Lewis-men in their plundering parties thro' the

isles landed here, and after pillaging Foula burnt the wood, lest it should be

a shelter

to the natives in future times."


All the knives in the Modesty group, though nowhere thicker than half an inch, have the appearance of being thicker and coarser than their analogues elsewhere, and also the peculiarity of thinning gently


the back towards the cutting edge- thus coming under the

category of semilunar tools. Moreover, the cutting edge has the further peculiarity of being retouched by chipping on one face, with the ex


of one which is chipped on both sides. This chipping process is probably the same feature which attracted Low's attention when he describes one of his specimens with "edges canelled on both sides like a

carpenter's axe" (see page 9). Indeed, a large number of these knives show more or less of a serrated edge which in some instances may have been due to re-sharpening the instrument.

(3) As to the antiquity of the find, the evident conclusion to be derived from the association of so many of these knives and of so many ordinary stone axes of Neolithic types, with a saddle-quern, kneaded portions of clay, fragments of three coarse vessels, together with such abundance of peat-ashes and charred wood, is that it dates back to the Stone Age, whatever the chronological horizon of that period may be in these northern latitudes.

Sir Daniel Wilson, in his Prehistoric Annals of Scotland (vol. i. p. 183), gives the following information of the discovery of these curious knives in the valley of the Forth, which is the only recorded instance of their having been found outside of Shetland :-

"In the Shetland and Orkney Islands especially, stone knives are common ; and in other districts, knives of flint, styled by the Shetlanders Pechs' knives, are found. These are shaped like a shoemaker's paring knife, with the semicircular line wrought to an edge, while the straight line is left broad and blunt. Others are oval or irregular in form, and thinning off to an edge round the whole circumference. One of the latter, in the Scottish Antiquarian Museum, formed of a thin lamina of madreporite, was found at one of the burghs or round towers of Shetland. It measures 4 by 4 inches, and does not exceed, in greatest thickness, the tenth of an inch. Similar implements, in the collection of the London Antiquaries at Somerset House, are mentioned by Mr Albert Way, as probably the ancient stone instruments transmitted to Sir Joseph Banks by Mr Scott of Lerwick, in Shetland, and communicated to the Society, March 9, 1820. Sixteen were found by a man digging peats in the parish of Walls, Shetland, placed regularly on a horizontal line, and overlapping each other like slates upon the roof of a house, each standing at an angle of 45 degrees. They lay at a depth of about 6 feet in the peat-moss, and the line of stones ran east and west, with the upper edge towards the east. A considerable number of implements, mostly of the same class, were found on the clay under the ancient mosses of Blair- Drummond and Meiklewood. Some of them are composed of slate, and others of a compact greenstone. They are

The antiquities of stone and bronze found under Blair-Drummond moss were exhibited at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland on March 13th, 1871, and I understand from Dr Joseph Anderson, who was present and examined the collection, that it contained no stone implements that could be mistaken for any of the Shetland knives. (See Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot., vol. ix. p. 179.)

from four to six inches long, flat and well polished. There were also along with them a number of stone celts and axe-heads, mostly made of the same hard greenstone."

Of the sixteen above referred to as being found in a peat-moss in the parish of Walls, two are in the British Museum and figured by Sir John Evans in his Ancient Stone Implements (figs. 262 and 263). Besides these there are several other specimens, from various localities in Shetland, preserved in the Museum. "A note attached to one of them," writes Sir John Evans, loc. cit. p. 310, "states that twelve were found in Easterskild, in the parish of Sandsting. An engraving of one of them is given in Hora Ferales (Pl. II. 15.)”

Mr J. W. Cursiter of Kirkwall, who owns a large and well-selected collection of antiquities from Orkney and Shetland, has kindly sent me the following notes on the Shetland knives in his possession :—

"There Shetland, are in my collection 21 knives whole and 9 portions, all from and I know of none but sandstone ones having been got in Orkney. They are nearly all formed of quartz-porphyry, the exceptions being two of felstone, one of striped gneiss, and one of hornblendic gneiss. There are one or two specimens which my limited knowledge prevents my finding a mineralogical niche to put them in.

"Only a hoare,

One of those in my possession, so far as my notes show, formed part of one of five found at the back of the Scarvester,

Sandsting, in 1885; the other four being in Mr Umphray's collection. Nearly all my specimens were obtained from crofters who had them in their possession for some time, and who as a rule found them in course of their agricultural operations. They are very averse to part with them, for such as that they serve to avert lightning, that condensation on them foretells rain, etc. I send four outlines of my largest specimens to give you an their size.” Their dimensions are as follows: (1) by 5 inches, (2)8 by 52, (3) 71 by 5, (4) 8 by 41. No. 1 is semilunar, and all the others more or less oval."


Mr J

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Goudie, Montfield, Lerwick, writing on March 3rd, 1906,

informs me that he possesses ten specimens of the Shetland knives, of

which the following particulars are known :

No. 1.

13 in. by stone;

This is the largest specimen I have seen, measuring no less than 6 in. It is semilunar in shape, and made of a dark grey, polished found in walls.

Nos. 2 and 3. Two of a group of five found under 6 feet of peat moss, near



Loch of Greesta, Tingwall, and measuring 10 in. by 4 in. and 9 in. by 5 in.; both are semilunar in shape.

Nos. 4 and 5. From Northmavine; dimensions 6 in. by 4 in., and 54 by

4 in.

Nos. 6, 7, and 8. Three of a group of four found near Sandy Loch, Lerwick, and all measuring about 4 inches in length and 3 in breadth.

No. 9. From North Hammersland, Tingwall; 5 in. by 3 in.

No. 10. From Northmavine; 4 in. by 3 in.

"These implements," writes Mr Goudie, "share with the Celts a certain, though inferior, superstitious respect. They are frequently found in groups and usually at a considerable depth in the subsoil under the moss. Among those in my possession are two, found at Loch of Greesta, which are notched and flattened on the back, as if to be used with a shaft. When found they were placed on edge. Other two from Northmavine formed part of the Esheness group, the larger portion of which was secured by Mr Haldane, now in your possession. The very large knife in my possession, No. 1, was said to have been used for flenching whales."

In addition to the stone knives in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries, London, already incidentally referred to, Sir John Evans states that there are some fine specimens from Shetland in the Ethnological Museum at Copenhagen; and no doubt careful search would disclose the existence of a few more in private keeping.

Summarising the somewhat scattered details of the various discoveries thus brought before you, it will be observed that 10 were hoards, each containing from 4 to 16 specimens-79 in all. Of these, 25 are in the National Museum, viz. Esheness 7, Uyea 4, Modesty 14,-the other 54, except the few in London, and in the collections of Mr Cursiter and Mr Goudie, having been dispersed. The total number at present known may be stated in round numbers at 100, thus accounted for: 52 in National Museum, Edinburgh; 30 in Mr Cursiter's collection; 10 in Mr Goudie's collection; and 8 (approximately) preserved in museums in London and Copenhagen.

It may also be mentioned, as a point of further specialisation of these knives, that none of them is formed of flint; nor is there any record of any of them having been found out of Shetland, with the exception of the Blair-Drummond specimens (if such they were) referred to by Sir D. Wilson. The special purpose for which this class of implement was originally intended is still a matter of conjecture. It is clear from their

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