UP CLOSE IN THE LAND OF THE GIANTS
“Up Close In the Land of the Giants”
‘Short Term Bliss: ‘Friday’, ‘Mary Mare’ and Smarmore Castle, 1982
Once upon a time— from 1975 until 1982, I lived in a Norman castle in the Irish countryside. Naturally enough, as chatelaine of ‘Smarmore Castle’ I had and exercised horses and so became familiar with my neighborhood and neighbors as well as with those outlooks that are only possible for those who ride—seated on my high horse, so to speak. And so it was, on horseback looking over a hedge that I noticed and became intrigued by a large and peculiar stone standing in one of the former fields of the demesne (the castle’s surrounding property). In Ireland, standing stones and earth mounds are usually nothing to write home about. There are so many of them surrounded by sheep, crops and tractors. Not far from my castle, a huge earth mound sits nonchalantly in the center of Drogheda, Ireland’s second largest town; as a recent arrival I had felt this rather promiscuous mixing of ancient with the mundane present already somewhat disconcerting, and so found my own megalithic stone particularly curious and distinctive. Standing 1 1/2 M high, it had a perfect 20 to 25 cm hole drilled in its approximate center. Why? Upon my asking the local post-mistress what on earth this stone was all about, she called it the ‘Hurlstone’ and told me “a Giant threw it there” — of course. Still deeply heeled in the ground, my ancient monolith is two-faced —one still invites, polished like any quarried layer of flaked rock crystal. Its reverse weathered side however fails to please since it is exceedingly rough as well as pockmarked by weather. In fact a wonky ’eye’ hole greets one on its brutalized southern side. Differences matter: the
polished side faces north, greeting those to whom it presents a welcoming invitation to look southward. The stone’s siting is not straightforward. It has been given a slightly diagonal N/S setting in the field (with a compass reading through the aperture that measures 175 degrees South). Looking through the aperture and following this diagonal line exactly on the map, I found the line climbs up over the hill and then, assuming missing satellite stone markers along the way (lost now to barns, houses and roads), its sight- line provides a track straight through the low hills and mountains that brings you straight down to Knowth —the largest, and earliest of the 3 enormous passage-grave earth mounds on the River Boyne. A squint today through the front drilled aperture lines you up to a tree atop the first ridge of these mountains to the south. Chances are that that’s what the sight was also, some 5 or 6 thousand years ago.
Hurlstone Top: front, Bottom: back—down to the River Dee and ford, Right: compass line 175 S to Knowth Thirty-five years later —fondly remembering my Irish days and still beguiled by a relic plump with portents, the stone and its ‘raison d'être ’ came to form both subject matter and object of my series of 6 paintings entitled “In the Land of the Giants.” A mystery rock serving as infrastructure for a body of work may seem a wee bit scant. Nonetheless, after spending 5 days back in Ireland finding all sorts of singular connections, I returned home with enough collateral material to double the number of paintings I might have created. (N.B. augmenting rationales are delivered later). Pockets full, I shall now flesh out some of the findings, along with some of their subsequent, painterly evolutions. What follows arrives in four chunks: first, descriptions of three of the paintings — ‘Dawn,’ ‘Dusk,’ and Time-Line’—second, an ‘Interval’ to further amplify and reveal additional collateral information and meanings for the above. Third, descriptions of the remaining three paintings — “Giants’, ‘Heraldry’ and ‘Royal Families’ followed by an “Epilogue’ to put forward the collateral bits and pieces of the latter three paintings, along with my general conjectures and an ‘Apologia’ (setting out the significance of my fables).
Both ‘Interval’ and ‘Epilogue’ may be understood as expanded footnotes.
DAWN, Installation shot
Here is “Dawn," the earliest painting in the series; it is coupled with the next painting you will see entitled “Dusk. " Both works observe the time-span the Irish so wonderfully call “between the lights," that is, the (usually evening) space between the rising and setting sun’s coast-to-coast passage at the Equinox, a journey observed across Ireland since Neolithic times. Ascending and descending lines on the right side —as well as the horizontal yellow sun-belt below — locate painted forms that, bar the Orkney circle on the stone’s left, offer artifacts map-plotted at their true addresses save for a great block of Irish Midlands. (Impossible to scale here. An imagined geographic presence, it interrupts
the Sun’s bright band with a thin, linear pale yellow ‘absence’). Along side of the climbing black lines visible traces of a number of pre-historic sites are noted from 19th century ordnance maps, where standing stones, circles, pits, barrows and earth mounds along with contemporary river crossings are marked including even graveyards, wells and prominent hill tops. Lines such as these, drawn through and along points of interest on the map are known as “Old Straight Tracks.” They are thought to trace ‘old trader’s routes;’ I believe mine have tracked far earlier highways.
Ballymacdermot circled on the upper left: on the lower right, Clontygora The Maritime Farmers paddled their ships up from the Irish sea through the Carlingford Lough, continued up the long narrow Newry River to journey’s end at The Quays, Albert Basin
An early stripped-down, digital image of what would, in due course become the pair of paintings entitled ‘Dawn’ and ‘Dusk’.
In the sketch above, the upper line from the Hurlstone was plotted first through the nearby ford on the river Dee at Ardee. Continuing on its w unexpected bevy of the map’s descriptive points, clasping Neolithic sites all along its path to terminus. The shorter line going south from the Hurlstone runs to and through equally significant landmarks. On searching (by moving the straight edge around), I found no other consonant lines running north —but south allows a richness of interesting, alternative destinations. Spoiled for choice, at that time I chose to end this southern line at the historic Hill of Slane. Reversing direction our bountiful northern track ends up at an inlet of the Irish Sea where a boat load of some of the first farmers are known to have landed in Ireland, ca 4,500 BC. These maritime farmers spent some 500 years clearing the woods from the hills they farmed, (the lower lands were mostly melted, Ice-Age marsh), and around 3,800 BC, close to their landing in Newry, Co. Down and on either side of my line nearby — they built two ‘Court Passage Tombs’, the earliest form of gravemounds in Ireland at Clontygora and Ballymacdermot. Signature structures, Court Tomb’s semi-circular arrangements of large stones surrounding the low entrances to the long barrow-mounds— beyond donating their name — would have provided a welcoming meeting place for the scanty gatherings of celebrants of that time.
Top: Clontygora Court Tomb, entrance center with roof stone. Bottom: Ballymac Court Tomb, entrance with roof stone behind Barbara and Jo.
Both graves co Louth.
Cairn T, Loughcrew, co Meath: Equinox rising sun
Two Long shots and a close up of Cairn T spring sunrise
Close up Cairn T, sunrise at passage end
Spring-autumn journeys of the Sun were ritually celebrated at Loughcrew in County Meath (‘Cairn T’ barrow) where the rising sun rested for several minutes on the passage grave’s sun-kissed, symbolically engraved end wall. Although all of Ireland’s early Court and Passage Tombs have entrances that face east, no others celebrate the Equinox although at Dowth —one of the three huge Boyne earth mounds, there is a curbstone that replicates the symbols from the above ‘Cairn T’s back wall.
My curiosity was piqued — after all, many places in the world still celebrate the Equinox with harvest and planting day feasts and holidays, although there isn’t a farmer in this world that needs a calendar to know either when to plant or to harvest, so ‘celebrate’ is the operative word here such as Passover, Easter, Succoth, Celtic- Alban Elfed to name a few. Mysteriously, however, after much mining of both Neolithic books and Google I found only one site in England that physically even observed the Equinox, and that, only parenthetically at a late, Neolithic Enclosure at Godmanchester while Scotland’s Orkney Islands, near the Ring of Brodgar had only one menhir — (the ‘Corner Stone’) which aligned its westernmost edge to both the Equinoctal vernal and autumn sunsets. (For the possible answer to my problem, re the above, please see upcoming ’Interval’).
Croak Patrick Mountain,co Mayo,setting Equinoctal sun At dusk the Equinoctial setting sun may be seen (observed if not
celebrated) both on ‘Dawn’s lower left side and in fact at ‘St. Patrick’s Stone’ (also called the ‘Hag’s Chair’) on Ireland’s west coast where a fiery ball can be seen to roll down sacred Croagh Patrick’s mountain. The twice-yearly Equinox light show was especially honored —much later and famously by St. Patrick himself when he announced the advent of Christianity with his Pascal Fire torch aimed at Tara from the Hill of Slane, the highest point on the River Boyne close to the Boyne Earth Mound Cemetery. Thus this quarter-yearly Irish sun’s east to west passage became known as ‘St Patrick’s Band’. Both these paintings allude to ‘Patrick’s sun’ with a yellow lit, horizontal band charted across Ireland — although unrealistically ‘Dusk’ has been east/west reversed and speaks as well of an intruding moon instead (more on this later). In ‘Dawn’, the two up and down straight tracks originate from the Hurlstone on the lower right as before in the sketch. Now, though the northern one runs up through prismatic colors and a beam of light on its way past Cuchulainn’s rock, and on to its termination at the two semi-circular Court tombs (Clontygara and Ballymacdermot) that arc between the white beam and the unbleached, mapped chunk below of the town of Drogheda’s rising sun (see bottom of both photo and paintings of the Millmount Earthwork in background). From the standing Hurlstone the short southern line travels on a track straight over the mountains and down to the afore-mentioned Hill of Slane, the terminus dressed now in red concentric circles. (The Hill of Slain is the Equinox sighting site make famous by St. Patrick in the 5th century, as above).
Center of Drogheda Town, Millmount Earthwork in the background.
Dusk (Bands and End Points)
Installation Photo of “Dusk“ ‘In the Land of the Giants,’ Stedelijk Museum, 2012
Here is ‘Dawn’s sibling, born both earlier and later: "Dusk" exhibits the obverse of Dawn’s daily cycle with a turned over image of itself east to west. ‘’Unversed’ (original) ‘Dusk,’ below, was my first complete sketch/drawing intended as the painting for the primed 163cm x219cm canvas stapled to my wall. Standing back, holding the sketch up to visualize its future— horror of horrors —I found the canvas obviously too small to contain such a drama; held up to my white, 220cm x300cm wardrobe at the opposite wall it looked exactly right. And so it was that daytime ‘Dawn,’ its canvas at the ready had to be and was re-conceived on the spot.
Dawn, Sketch before Reversal
1st Sketch ‘Dusk; with moon map in yellow line instead of rising sun
‘Dusk’s’ double-line passages are standing now on the left instead of Dawn’s curved, black standing stones (from Scotland’s Orkney Islands of 2,000 BC). ‘Dusk’ also, in contrast furnishes a darkening ambience for the transposed black stones with their twilit, flaming torches and is now the larger painting by far. Falling night always requires plenty of room to work its magic. Twilight — a profoundly liminal state ushers in changes also appropriate to nighttime’s moon and stars. The Moon now appears in the Equinoctial settingsun’s band, replacing Dawn’s rising sun-lit passage grave offering up, in its place, a special image: here ‘Dusk’ pictures the first known map of the moon depicted on a stone orthostat supporting the passage roof in the great mound of Knowth. Orthostat 12 boasts this carved image, (a visiting astronomer recognized the moonscape).
Left : map of the moon center: orthostat carving superimposed on moon Map: right: carving as traced from Knowth’s orthostat 12
Time Line, Studio Installation In the painting “Time Line" three time intervals were notionally clocked — early, middle and late— each with its own geometry and transitional addenda. Three forms were also stalked — the rectilinear, the circular and the oval: a merry dance indeed, as these constructs settled themselves into highly inflected spaces. Briefly: from the top edge of the Hurlstone’s northern line (next to the line’s left side) lies a faintly- present ruin of a stone henge at Belregan, Co. Louth. The site can only be seen from the air, its stones all ‘picked’ so to speak (although now gaining visibility under excavation and construction). On the right side of this same line, nearby, lies a coeval stone henge at Ballynahattin, Co. Louth — this one a construction both larger and earlier than even the great English Stonehenge according to the 17th century English traveler, Thomas Wright
whose drawing of the Ballynahattan prototype survives to this day. In his sketch (and in the painting), its circle serves as a center for the seemingly floral, three ‘petalled’ or ‘leafy’ scaled drawings of the three rectilinear, court passagetomb barrows that existed further up the line near Newry, Co. Down.
Early sketch with Stonehenge’s red Cursis in background, Knowth floor plan in gray with its18 satellite mounds
Belregen Henge, Dundalk Bay, Co. Louth
GREEN PETALS Ballymacdermot Court Tomb, Co Louth Below left: Annaghgora Court Tomb, Co. Down; right: Clontygora Court Tomb Co. Louth
The earliest Irish Neolithic farmers preferred and built long rectilinear, chambered timber houses, duplicated by long passage-chambered graves. Later challenged by incomers, in England especially they expanded this predilection for length to constructing exceedingly long earth works (3-10 Km), which appeared in landscapes as processionals, or ‘cursus’.’ These were often interfered with by later groups; newly arrived later farmers, those who came from Continental Central Europe favored instead the circle and the round in both house and mortuary ritual. In fact they even built round wooden henges right on top of the long walkways, so destroying their ritual usage.
Stuckley drawing of England’s Stonehenge cursus I also incorporated on the middle right a long, red, bright line lifted from an 18th century (b/w) drawing of Stonehenge’s 3 Km linear earthwork monument, the ‘Cursus’ processional as a case of the ‘rectilinear’ become extreme, although pit holes for standing poles were recently discovered which in their locations suggest their shadows showed the exact location to build the stones that bear witness to Stonehenge’s Solstice Suns. Summing up, in this painting, we are looking at how an age-old record of contrasting, geometrical preferences for constructed shapes influenced and were influenced by religious and social practice. The term ‘houses of the dead’ is not a metaphor: the Neolithic house form was applied to the cemetery haunts of their dead-of-the day, the chosen shape carried on to appease their departed ancestry (a well known practice even now).
Working digital.3 Drawing of Time Line, red line cursis, round and long houses and 18 round satellite mounds.
In ‘Time Line,’ the painted Hurlstone stands both above and below to point you both north and south, only now with co-ordinates that chart a Neolithic duet of long barrows and long houses versus round passage mounds and round huts. The early rectangular timber house was accessorized with landscapes of lengthy processionals and causeways, the new European immigrants by round huts and giant circles of timber and stone. This Hurlstone, sighting through its ‘keyhole,’ also offers a new southern destination, one that ends at the great cemetery tumulus of Knowth rather than at “Dusk and Dawn’s” neighbor, the Hill of Slane.
Top: Aerial photo of Knowth, Co.Meath; below: floor plan of the mound and its 18 round satellites.
In the Knowth photo one can see the West passage entrance in the shadow on the right of the tomb and also, above it, top, a rectangle chimney opening for the ritual corpse smoke that would have emanated from the functional cruciform basins of the East Passage (both passages almost meet underground in the center.)
The flat, gray ground plan of Knowth’s Passage tomb with its 18 Satellite round mounds embodies much of this painting’s conceptual thrust. Originally a rectangular long house stood on the site beneath the gigantic earthwork of these past 5,000 years before—around 3,800 BC, a mound was built in its place. This early mound’s stone orthostats, when reversed, built much of the (still later eggshaped) New Grange ca 3,200 BC and the still newer-fangled yet, ca 2,500BC long passaged (oval) Knowth. Numerous round satellite tombs were also built surrounding new Knowth. Nearby, at Slieve Breagh on the highest hill above the area, is a cemetery of some 11 long barrows, (as well as several later houses, and an Iron Age fort). The barrows signify early gentry in the neighborhood, i.e. 11 family units where the long barrows functioned as both their funeral parlors and graveyard. We speak of them on the same page as Knowth’s 18 round satellites here, but almost 2,000 years separates them in actual time. Time wears down the edges of everything—curves rule for a while and the circle is ‘perfect’ (if sometimes lazy).
Slieve Breagh very old long barrow
Map of cemetery and surroundings
Early on at ‘Site 1’ —Knowth’s re-incarnated nomination, an ovoid compromise was no doubt engaged retaining its two long, un-welcoming, narrow chambered passages —these, most likely conserved from worship’s primeval pitch-black caves, shamanistic sensory-deprivation-needs and long barrow graves. The circular, over-hauled satellite’s change in shape form and function were, in all likelihood a religious accommodation that reflected the newly shared circumstances of an increasing population. Those final18 (chieftain’s?) shortpassaged and very round mounds surrounding Knowth would seem to bear witness to such a time of growth factored settlement, whereby management by individual kingpins occurred and counted for more than previously. And so Knowth’s eventual, new earth mound —oval now in shape and still sporting two long, rectilinear passages—would seem to be the compromise of iconic, religious antagonists in an ongoing affair between competing tombs. Knowth’s antique shape still denied public access to its smoking spirit-basins via the blocked elite entrances and low, chambered passages. Against this conservative rectilinear earthwork, open henges, i.e., open stone and timber circles erupted accompanied by numbers of small round burial mounds, evincing the new sodality of individuals housed in the huts of a newly stratified population. (Round huts continued in use, in Ireland over the next 3,000 years).
From Brittany to Ireland #2 and #3 (Neither 1st nor Last)
Interval What I found fascinating throughout this project were the glimpses of emergent, present-day social practices strewn about the Stone Age neighborhood.
Dugout canoe bringing Neolithic Package to Ireland 1. Of Peasants and Aristocrats My people— the Newry to Hurlstone to Boyne River bunch—had boated in from the Moriban region of SE Brittany (c.a. 4300/4200 BC) equipped with the Neolithic Package, sub-clade “Breton Atlantic”, an archeological bundle of identifying artifacts known as the ‘Corded Ware’, ‘Battle Axe’ or ‘Single Grave’ cultures. As well, the group was known for their long barrow tombs and rectangular timber houses and barns — buildings that generally clustered together in small communities. These timber houses ranged from small rectangular square or oval structures to 24 m long linear halls. Communal residences of the 1st and 2nd generation early farmers, they were most likely built to offer security while their communities became established. (They might well have needed fortified shelter from distressed Irish natives as they were cutting down large swathes of the forests to prepare arable land). Fresh from Brittany, they carried the latest technology— polished flint axes capable of felling the oak and elm necessary to build their huge, highceilinged houses.
Reconstructed Neolithic Timber House
Wales and Scotland — often referred to as the “Insular Atlantic
Genome” shared domestic and funerary architecture that differed from SE England, who was cruder in its praxis. Ireland, with possibly the greatest amount of forest had the largest number of timber long houses (80 discovered so far), outranking Scotland and Wales, while England built almost none. The earliest Irish long timber houses of the first and second.
Top: working axe, Co. Claire Bottom: ritual, polished axes, “Malone-Hoard”
Generation were in use for about 1,000 years while the later plank-built rectangular houses of the 3rd to 4th generations persisted for only 55- 95 years. Distinctively, these latter-day houses were ritually burned along with many valuable buried objects—such as ritual axes for trading and funeral purposes made of exotic stones like porcellanite [chert] from Northern Irish ‘factories. The sites were then covered over with ashes or rubbish — a custom that recalled that of their ultimate homeland, in a ten to five thousand year old sacrament first enacted at Gobekli Tepe, Turkey arund 8000BC, later at Malta’s 5,000 BC temple, and finally taken up again at Scotland’s 3,000-3200 BC Orkney Islands buried ‘cathedral‘ at the Brodgar of Ness. As above, all sank back into the earth, buried in sand, ash or garbage.
Above,Temple Mnjandra, Malta, below, Orkney ‘Cathedral’
Gobekli Tepe, “ Cathedral on a hill.” At the same time as the incineration of long timber houses was taking place ca 3,600 BC, the earliest ‘Causeway Enclosures’ were introduced. These were
gigantic structures, in essence large round meeting places, and though overwhelmingly popular in England, were rare in Ireland as were the later circular henges of wood or stone. 2. Hut Versus House (What? conflicting religions in Ireland?) There is Neolithic evidence of warfare between some groups of early and later colonials as the round-housed people arrived from Continental Europe to settle in SE England (many) and (far fewer) in Ireland, where new predilections and needs flowed over both islands. Conterminous with this time, about a thousand years after the early farmers had established themselves, new cousins—who favored circular mounds for funerary rites and stone-walled round huts to live in—flooded into these islands from the Continent. Along with Scotland’s lost temple complex at Orkney, England and Ireland still retain vestiges of the war of geometries that ensued especially in England where long narrow (not round) causeways suddenly erupted everywhere, seemingly in resistance and defiance of the new circular landscaping that was going on: in southwest England, Cranborne Chase in east Dorset boasted a ‘cursus’monument almost ten kilometers long, while the ‘linear earthwork’ at ‘proto-Stonehenge’ extended a good three kilometers. (Egg-shaped NewGrange sported a short one-kilometer earthwork cursus nearby.) Nobody seems certain how these mysterious monuments were employed, although there are those who claim that the outer ditches of these processionals also served as boundary-marking walls over which the subsequent wars were fought. The long promenades were only in use for about five hundred years —some for only fifty —possibly because the newcomers built round wooden henges and stone circles on top of them. The timber circles had
very short life spans too, but many of the stone circles (along with roundish Newgrange and Dowth) are still enshrined in the earth. Oval Knowth, with its two long passages and eighteen round satellite mounds looks very like a ceasefire compromise. There is much evidence that the above ‘architectural’ war — that is, the visual signature of 2 diverging societies —morphed into the real thing for several hundred years: many skeletons with embedded flint arrows and bones and great punctures from spear and rock have been found. The outcome of hostilities was an overwhelming victory for the round -house builders —whereas the older way of life as well as its religion and warfare itself was abandoned as eventually a 300-year peace prevailed into the Bronze Age. This epic of emerging, alternating ‘rectangular versus round’ was writ-large mostly in England, but has been a common world-wide phenomenon arising for perhaps comparable reasons: smaller, elite populations could afford to build the elegant square whereas the useful circle saw to the poor or larger populations with their more open, public social groups. Of course, truly large populations (cities and towns) now find the four-sided absolutely necessary but then cities were once privileged dwellings as well. In like ways the ‘houses of the dead’ have always reflected the dwellings of the living in time and form, provoking some archeologists to remark on the form of the timber long hall as ‘monumentalized’ into mounds and barrows or of others saying the opposite: linking the timber long house, domestic architecture to the ‘long ceremonial enclosures and causeways such as the cursus, that extreme latter-day aggression whereby tombs were built by ‘rectilinear’ conservatives. With their long dark passages they continued to emulate 25,000 years of Paleolithic cave ritual in their mounded ‘houses of the dead.’
As to grave purposes, bone as well as form: one commentator, Anthony Wier, on ‘Mythical Ireland’s website writes “…the ancestors were effectively trapped in stone houses while the living, who inhabited wooden dwellings, organized cults around them,,,” and “which…suffice it to say the tombs are obviously houses — or cages for the dead and records for their progeny.”
Portal Tomb, King’s Ring, Ballynatty, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
In 2015, female bones from a 3,300 BC small portal tomb at Ballynahatty, Co. Down (100 km from Smarmore), furnished a complete genome, the 11s burial to yield such early DNA info in Ireland. The bones were of a 23 year old woman whose fragments of cremated bone carried her father’s Near Eastern genes that
go all the way back to Sardinia, promising dark eyes and hair coupled with fair skin. Her mother’s earliest Mesolithic segment was located “somewhere between the Neolithic heartland and north east Ireland. It shows a slightly higher affinity to a Luxembourger Mesolithic genome than to Hungarian or Spanish equivalents… although … Her HVO, a clade with highest frequencies found in Early and Middle Neolithic groups from Germany and France alerts us to a line, commencing several generations back as ‘hybrid’ Irish” [Brandt, G. Science, October, 2013]. Her maternal K1a1b1 is most common in NorthWest Europe such as Ireland, Belgium, Netherlands, Iceland, and Denmark etc., which probably means that, her Breton father’s line, ‘newly arrived’ had 1st married out. The J2 male gene of her father’s line is the more common of the 2 male haplon genes that occur in most of the first farmers all across Europe. From Sardinia, timing and place would seem right for it to take about 1,000 years for the Mediterranean’s mound-building, marine temple builders to continue to coast through Gibraltar and become the ‘North Atlantic Maritime Peoples’ on their way to our neighborhood of mound and bone. In fact, there is a question as to who travelled with all the men in their narrow paddling dugouts—sails were not used and women and children would have been less than useful for the hard work although there is some evidence that, as animals and seeds were drawn behind the canoes on rafts, perhaps a few children and women travelled on them to calm the animals and ensure the seeds were safe. Some descent of this sort also seems possible and although Ms. Ballynahatty’s maternal genome carried a French Breton marker along with her Irish genes she must have still been of some importance and of early stock to be interred in a passage tomb rather than suffering the usual dispersal of bones.
But these immigrants were distinctive. They had and held a history dating back to the time of their departure(s) from Anatolia, CA 8-7,000 BC. Islandhopping farmers, they carried a cultural package that doomed them to follow the ice melt: always on the move along new coasts, they were mariners to the bone because wherever they settled to farm —sooner rather than later —the land wore out. The vast number of early farmers who also advanced across Europe probably moved on for similar reasons: the wooden plough of their time could only cultivate the thin topsoil while crop rotation was still unknown, (in fact Ireland’s notorious bogs were created by these Neolithic de-foresters, the loss of canopy allowing Ireland’s exceedingly wet western winds to acidify the abandoned fields). As well, even as their land became less fertile large families had become the rule: the resulting over-population would have required some males to move on. Organized military to kill off extraneous young men did not exist at that time. In time of storm and a high sea, mariners more than most need to know where they are. In Neolithic Ireland, the sky was their text and it is likely that our ‘Atlantic Breton’ group kept their maritime knowledge close. Unlike their land-faring neighbors in England interested mainly in the solstice, the Irish sailor/farmer/astronomers studied the Equinox as well. They made eternal what appears to be an ad infinitum, engraved projection of eclipses of sun and moon on Knowth’s 128 kerbstones. These may illustrate phases of the moon along with movements of the stars and zodiac, perhaps even long-range precessions of the earth. This erudition would have been employed at the Equinox as the sun’s rise (or fall) touched the earth when they could take note of — tally and relate— the changes occurring in specific heavenly events, a practice that effected an inestimable power: the ability to
3 More Paintings “In the Land of the Giants (Spirals and Stars)”
In the Land of the Giants (Spirals and Stars) Giants. ‘Dawn’ and ‘Dusk’ offered a sort of poetic couplet —painted elegies that referenced a past so distant only melancholy can touch it. “Timeline,” however, along with these next three paintings all sailed on a different tack, more meditation than delineation. ‘Giants’ owes its inception to that time when I first became curious about the Hurlstone and was told a giant “threw it there.” I immediately fell in love with the thought….
When Giants walked the earth is truly an irresistible conceit, (while Myth often fleshes out the fanciful metaphor). When this suite of 6 paintings was first exhibited (at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2013), one of the guards asked me if the upper figure in ‘Giants’ was Zeus on the mountain throwing stones at the earth (a tale I knew but had forgotten). To my great pleasure, however, when I googled “Greek stonethrower” the image came up as a member of the genus ‘Hurling Colossii’. (Greek Giants, however were less conceit than incipient archaeology: the country’s continuous earth fractures and quakes still throw up, amongst ancient giraffes, rhinos etc., occasional mammoth scapula’s, femurs and tibias which are gigantic dead-ringers for the nominated human bones).
South American Shaman’s Basket Taking this a bit further, did you know that rocks thrown by gods and giants must always travel in a Fibonacci Spiral? This is a spiral which illicit mandatory growth paths that are obligatory for snail shells, egg shells, hurricanes and galaxies, all of which must follow the logarithmic ratios of width to force. Moreover, unlike ‘Hurricane Jo’ tossing cars into trees, ‘fabled objects’ of course must also land in other dimensions. And finally, sometimes gods eat those who displease them. For example, Zeus father, Kronus breakfasted on 9 monthly, newborn usurpers.
Who would not be tempted to grace their Pantheon with such a huge voracious figure eating his son as appetizer?
Early sketch of ‘Giants’ with a Feasting Kronus and an Outlined Orion Moving over to the painting’s bottom left corner, a tourist checks out the ‘elephant in the room’: a monumental stone penis commanding and prominent on the flat plain of Louth. Contemporary with our Hurlstone, and at 3M twice its size, this gigantic menhir was a powerful visual aid to those travelling south to Newgrange and Knowth. Some 3,5000 years later it was named the ‘Stone of Cuchulainn’ after a hero who walked and fought amongst Giants. His story begins and ends in Iron Age Co. Louth (1st century A.D.) where the mortally injured Cuchulainn ties himself to
the gigantic phallus so that he could die standing. Just above, the Raven of Death watches over him as he travels, immortalized to Orion, the preferred heavenly destination for most warriors’ spirits and/or cremated smoke. For further (more realistic) thoughts on this souvenir from Giant Land see Epilogue.
Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son”, part of the ‘Black Paintings’ series.” Athena Battles Mamouth
Heraldry (Posts and Spreads) With “Heraldry” the subject changes radically. I was fascinated by the historical trajectory of these Neolithic colonizers and their huge continuity with their past. For over 8,000 years, those who had become Irish mound-builders perpetuated cultural traces and paralleled equivalents of their very ancient forerunners which extended from rites to structures, to ‘trademarks’ and even, seemingly, to social mores. Prominent among the conserved customs was the predilection to preserve and manipulate ancestor parts, particularly skulls that
were kept apart and seem not to have been cremated with the rest of the bones. But certainly pride of place must go to heads themselves: deformed often in sculpture and in life, lime-plastered and cowrie-eyed in death, the excarnated sculls kept under floors and beds, crowning doorways, enriching shelf tops and walls—heads are even the plaything of vultures as portrayed in 7,5000 BC frescos at Catal Huyuk.
Headgear is one of humanity’s most telling ways of identifying or differentiating oneself from others. On the painting’s top shelf, on the right there is a plastered skull from 7th millennium Jericho. Jericho’s skulls are unique. Discovered in a clay cache of 10, they are said to be the first known example of portraiture. Jaw bones and backs of heads discarded, human skulls were then modeled, lightly plastered and painted with a pinkish ochre skin tone to reconstitute the individual’s features. Eyes are cowrie shells and some upper teeth remain. These ancestors could be lived with and spoken to and were also used to offer guardianship of property and proof of property rights. Jericho has claims to be the 2nd-place candidate for the origin of agriculture (of cereals, anyway), ca 9,000 BC, and although the farmers J2a1 genome is well represented in the area, as the J2a1’s were domesticating herdsmen who came from the Caucasus, perhaps Jericho’s J2a1's were perhaps later intruders.
. Left, cache of skulls found in Jericho, one of which is plastered up and does duty in upper right of painting Right: stone portrait, Neval Cori 9,000BC
Other genetic early strangers however are noted. It is quite likely that over the years Anatolian and Caucasian farmers continued to coast and settle along the southern Med past Jericho to Egypt, Tunis and even Gibraltar. In fact, overland trade routes to Jericho, carrying western Anatolia’s valuable obsidian go all the way back to 12,000 BC. Jericho’s unique, harrowing school of portraiture was probably more true to the cult’s original Anatolian root-stock (see Novali Cori’s 9,000 BC sculpted portraits below) than to the art of the later Maritime European’s branch. On the left of the toothy, shell eyed portrait is a young female’s skull from the ‘Tomb of the Eagles’ in Orkney, Scotland, circa 3500 BC. Her head, along with many others was violently smashed in while she was still alive. Hers’ was one of some 30 skulls found in a special chamber in a cairn whose main floor was
littered with 16,000 human bones —male and female, child and adult, the remains of over 1,000 years. This tomb ( of ‘The Sea Eagle’) appears to be exceptional. Some of our Breton bunch did settle these far northern islands but this charnel house went way beyond their heritage, so far as it is known. Out of the skulls studied in the chamber, 20-40% had evidence of trauma and violent attacks, some obviously from warfare. Moreover, in the large bone room a significant number of the injured also showed some disability in life, with deformities of cranium and hip, (possibly the result of interbreeding among a small insular population?) The tomb also contained 70 Sea Eagle talons, perhaps as a protective send –off to the Afterlife.
At the top of the painting, towards the center, a terrifying image of a stone head is appliquéd to a brown painted pillar (the original pillar is 1.60m, about my height). His head is a photo of a limestone sculpture from Nevali Cori in Turkey (9,000 BC, now under water from a modern dam) a settlement just 45 km from the huge ‘temples’ at Gobekli Tepe. The pillar’s new ‘body’ is one of numerous sculpted pillars built into in the walls of Gobekli Tepe temple enclosures. A fierce lion roars on his ‘chest’. To the right of this figure another similar, gray pillar standing in a red stone wall
Top,2 Ain Ghazi potraits, 9,000BC; bottom, Gobekli Tepe 9,000BC (above)
First full length human statue , stone carved
Jericho sculls, 7000BC, said to be mankind’s first portraits!!
Stone portraits Nevali Cori, ‘Greek’ woman, all 9,000BC shows a carved bas-relief of a descending lion above a wild boar. At Gobekli Tepe, other pillars, engraved with a lethal zoo of deadly animals and insects
stand alternately, inserted around these circular enclosures. The nooks they create on the rocky wall furnish a useful bench most likely for the laying out of corpses.
1 Detail grey pillar standing in redwall, S.A shaman’s’hourglass’ basket
Almost grinning appalled, the man looks out, into the abyss: perfect furniture I think for the death-cults’ sepultures of those times. The last head is a Knight’s helmet from 1550 AD advertising aristocratic gladiators. It belongs to the family that owned my rented castle. They seized its donjon in about 1200 AD when, as Normans from Wales, they took part in the invasion of Ireland. They managed to man the ramparts and add to and keep the castle until 1982 laying down a worthy chunk of history. The other Irish relation in this inventory of ‘that which ‘immortalizes’ are the engraved kerb stones from Knowth that stretch across the middle background
behind their foreground of white quartz and black granite ‘dragon’ stones. It is a ritualistic field, stones patterned such as these, looking very like the black and white ash and charcoal of bone found in the huge basins in the depths of the tombs. Such black and white stones mark the entrances to long passage graves. In the center the pale lines of an hourglass hold the painting. A Brazilian shaman's woven pot stand, the drawing entangles a Catal Huyuk, 5,000 BC vulture with his headless human playmates. They romp now at its hourglass waist, where of course birds properly belong as facilitators between the upper and lower worlds. Vulture walls, Catalhyok, Anatolia, ca 6,000BC
Above, archeologists lunch with the vultures, bottom, totem Urfa Museum
“Royal Families (“Curves, Points and Little Ones)”
.. “In those days stones were as alive as trees and mountains” I once wrote, though we should be mindful that only a short 5,000 years separates us from our Stone Age Irish mound builders who were, in most ways, much like us (lacking only the written word along with metal and a wheel or two). But for sure, since the time of the caves humans have developed the need to record, carry and communicate information both near and far — even if stone and bone was all that was available to hold their meaning. For some 23,000
Paleolithic year’s, needs were met by endowed artists using a rich vocabulary of signs, symbols and forms. Clearly, for small populations the engraved, painted, carved and sculpted were sufficient. The Hurlstone with its ‘turn left at 750 S degrees, tree on ridge’ is one example. No longer pagan, our modern minds have no faith in [stones].. “as alive as trees and mountains,” although in the Neolithic this was likely a very real construct, wherein a stone likeness could be spiritually animated — be sometimes even ‘alive’ enough to allow a visiting follower to negotiate with, praise or damn. Such beliefs, hardly confined to Stone Age stones and skulls, continued well into the historical world. If Jesus, a somewhat literary construct can look after you, then so too could your grandfather’s skull, while in Classical Greece, Athena was thought to inhabit all her statues be they marble or wood. (Why else would you build or donate a statue?) And so too Court Tombs —the earliest graves found in Ireland, three of which, (out of some 300) feature on our ordnance mapped ‘Old Straight Track’ as well as in the painting ‘Royal Families’. Somewhat arrow shaped (broad at the front tapering to a narrow back), these burial mounds are chambered gallery graves whose eponymous and most defining feature is a welcoming oval forecourt that accommodated ritual, audience and participants. Of particular interest, ‘special’ large stones stand in welcome on each side of the tombs’ entrances having shapes that convey and celebrate their importance as the embodiment of rectitude, nobility and most likely guardianship of the precious bones within. They were not any old rocks. Extracting these stones out of the earth, carving, finishing and then transporting their bulk was serious business. All three of our tomb’s surrounding entry stones exemplify the same
countenance: ‘blessed is the ‘nuclear family’ i.e. the coupling of the gendered male- female pairs; but somewhat surprisingly, in this endeavor these early Court Tombs still used the vocabulary of ‘classic’ shapes from paintings and carved Paleolithic objects to display their meaning.
left :Ballymacdermot right: Annaghmare
Mama, Papa and Baby Make Three (The other side of the photo, no vegetation obstructing the third stone). Ice Age(Upper Magdalainian) European pendants,batons and beads Left: late partial sketch for Royals: Facing, Cleaving and Turning all overlay grave-stones. Right: 1st sketch of Royals, overlay in upper rt. corner
JO BAER Triptych 1975-1980: ’Facing (toward/away)’; ’Cleaving (apart/together’); ‘Turning (into/about)’ each 213.5 x152.5, o/c All the images in my “Irish Triptych’’ paintings of 1975-80, began as tracings of photos of paintings and objects found in books of Paleolithic French and Spanish cave sites, ca, 25,000 BC.
About 3600 BC, five hundred years after the first Court Tombs, Knowth,
the largest passage mound in the Boyne Valley developed and dramatized magical celebrations of fertility with an early appetite for what appears still, on closer looks, to be ‘nuclear families’. In the Knowth illustrations below, note the small stones in blue between or next to their parental exemplars. Moreover, on reflection I believe that what we have here is more than parenting; we are observing the images of an early, if not first manifestation and development of class and power through lineage and land, history’s ‘Royal Families’. And so Velasquez and ‘Las Meninas,’ (the only example of an illustrated Royal Family that I was familiar with); and then Picasso playing with it; and then, if he (artist) can play, then so (artist) can I. Home from my fact-finding tour of the Irish border counties, I took some giddy pleasure in building Royals, my new painting applying semi-opaque images from my own 1975-80 paintings around photos of those ancient stones I had just touched and examined. The megaliths had reinforced my hunch that my ancient neighbors were intent on using at least the forms and vocabulary of the previous 20,000 Paleolithic years, although they added one new factor— the child (but left out half the heritage: the art of painting seems to have eluded these Neolithic artists, drawing too). The deep preference appears to be for material: (sculpted) forms of bone, stone and abstract or linguistic renderings. Profoundly conservative, nonetheless their fate was to become the operands of a bridge to modern times.
The tumuli featured in this painting —Knowth, significantly have 2 entrances. In this instance, West is best. It features very large sexed stones resident in front of an entrance whose passageway is partially blocked by a huge engraved stone, a kerbstone that is carved in horizontal lines which are split by a central vertical line (like a middle parting in one’s hair, or maybe even like the slit that women manage between their legs). When the sun touches the earth at Equinox sunsets, the male stone becomes magical as his shadow cleaves the passage stone’s central line and enters, presumably to facilitate the occupying ancestors safe journey to the heavens, (the heavenly powers now phallic, commandeered and nicely engaged). But note the ‘baby’ or 2 (or 3?) between mom and pop.
Gigantic kerbsone blocking the entrance to Knowth’s West Passage
East Passage stairway, modern route to entrance (corrupted (by earlyChristains) Knowth’s East Passage is probably for the workers: It enjoys only a splash of ritual black and white cobbles and quartz spread out in front of its entry area and worse, only a small male stone to apply his entering shadow onto the blocking- stone’s center. This kerbstone offers, instead of the single split, a group of four or five mid-lines for the shadow to range across, differing probably because the rising sun, which is magically engaged here, has broader properties to be manipulated like planting and harvesting days perhaps. Adding insult to injury though : one of Knowth’s 18 small satellite earth mounds was built to intrude right into the tumulus next to the passageway entry, half in and half out of the mound, so trashing any or all dramatic intentions. Small, hand held power tools have also been found one in each of
Knowth’s passages, just inside their entrances. In the Eastern ‘church,’ a mace-head used to kill and batter enemy brains and brawn. Eastern passage disciples maybe soldiers and sailors, (as before).
left : Mace head, East passage right : Dildo, West passage In the Western passage and handy to hand, there was a beautifully carved spiral dildo (as per the Knowth museum’s name card). As I cannot really parse this description in context, I reckon it’s a scepter —although others name it wand or phallus. Still, the museum staff must have pondered the gendered mise en scene, contemplated the object and in an unusually rare but exotic episode may have cut loose in so naming it. Almost scurrulous: where—why —and how did they think it was to be used?
Epilogue 1. Hurlstones
left: The Doagh Stone: County Antrim, Northern Ireland; r: backside Hurlstone .
1. The Stone and the Straight-Edge I had thought to use this final section as a place to write on my conclusions, supplemental to the 6 paintings gathered here. But going back through the research I discovered a surfeit of new and pertinent particulars, amongst them a few regarding the Hurlstone. 1. On review I found several suggestions for what are classified as ‘holedstones’: first, and easy to dismiss is the notion that the Hurlstone was the door of a dis-appeared wedge tomb, i.e. the hole made for the spirit of the dead to leave their tomb and travel up to the heavens. Such door-stones are not uncommon around the world, but all the examples shown are doors with very, very large holes providing ample room for these journeys. The Hurlstone, like that of several other Irish holed stones is wanting in this respect. (Although it’s about the right size to accommodate male fertility rites: above, the ‘Doagh Stone’ and supplicant in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland). The Hurlstone’s aperture is reported measuring 25 cm, but others say 20. Looking carefully now at photos one can see they are both correct. There is a scraped and widened hole (almost 10 inches) on the smoother side that sights south to the Boyne Valley. Being wider and then narrowing down to a smaller outlook this sculpted opening provides a sort of focusing stone lens that directs any roving eye through it onto a chunk of the landscape which can pin-.point something as special as a particular tree on a ridge.
A 2005 photographer lines up a tree through its sight hole“..at last!” he writes, deducing the aperture’s proper application. . 2. The Stone, The Pond, the Track The Hurlstone as ‘junction’ was meticulously located and then set diagonally to exploit two geological features: the track beginning at Newry, Co Down, (at the northern catchment area of the 2 early court tombs), which runs south on a line that goes between the two enormous (Dundalk) henges, progresses across the plain of Louth with its widely visible phallic ‘milestone ‘and then arrives — at its most useful destination at the ford on the river Dee. (It could have been kilometers away to find another crossing)… The walkway from the river Dee —crossed, then up the small hills that lie
along its southern bank might well have been otherwise than one that follows the same line but for a second consideration: the Hurlstone field has a huge spring-fed pond in it just meters away from the stone. 19th century Ordnance maps indicate both stone and water, while Google Earth’s satellite also clearly shows field, pond and the Hurlstone nearby. (When I was there it had cows wading in and drinking from it).
Above: your choice of photo maps hurl and pond 1 and 2 Below: Google Earth
A large body of water is a great reflecting antenna for daylight travelers heading home —walking back north over the hills from the Boyne Valley along with other
traffic such as those coming up from the Barrow Grave Cemetary at Slieve Breagh, or from the huge tumulus farther west at Mount Fortescue —all heading to the stone, proceeding north down to the ford “80 perches (perch=5 M= ¼ of a mile) west of Ardee”. Additionally, helpful farmers told us of another later Ordnance mapped stone that until recently stood at the top of the field’s western hill on point to the Hurlstone. Perhaps this side marker also brought south-of the-rive, or east or west travelers to the Hurlstone’s sign posted pathway to the south since it specified the best route down through the terrain, avoiding some rigors of the ‘Mount Oriel/White Mountain/Slieve Breagh’ hike down to the Boyne. After writing this and on reflection I thought to find a terrain/roadmap of the area to see how well the recorded 175 S degree’s projected Hurlstone’s track to Knowth handled the mountains and valleys. To my absolute astonishment the Hurlstone pathway joins up and EXACTLY walks directly on my road from Smarmore Castle south on the road-mapped motorway, through the valleys and passes as far as Leaby Cross. Here the present road turns west to go on to Slane while my line still continues—walking sans any modern road now straight on to Knowth and New Grange.
Road and (very) Old Straight Track from Hurlstone through the Mountains The Hurlstone looks to have played more than a useful part as a full-on junction of megalith plus reflecting pond. In its turn-left capacity it’s even mapped a present day auto -route still in use some 6,000 years later.
2. Tumuli and Suns and Moons
The three earth mounds at the curve of the Boyne together with the ‘Mound of Hostages’ at Tara across the river were conceived and built as an Astronomical Machine, each tumulus responsible for specific celestial movements and measurements. Knowth was tasked with the Equinoxes providing East and West Passage entrances where dramatic shadow plays on stones exactly measured Spring and Fall, sun rises and sets; this precision allowed noteworthy calculations for tracking star constellations on the horizon, particularly on (the still dark) sunrises. Next door, New Grange sported the incredible winter solstice -engineered ‘light box’ that was calibrated perfectly for the entire period when the ‘sun stood still’. Across the river, Tara offered the less useful summer solstice measurements while most intriguingly, ‘Dowth Mound’ (further East and next to New Grange) coordinated all of the above helical and sidereal measurements with the vicissitudes of the moon — its rises and sets, stops and starts at full quarter and new —all this accessorized with eclipses predicted for centuries to come including those of the sun. Finally, Knowth was additionally blessed as the recorder of the group’s garnered information — the mound provided 134, or some say 129 encircling kerbstones engraved with this gathered data in an eternal ‘sign-language’ encyclopedia.. Mound building for these people began with earthwork and stone edifices emulating Paleolithic caves wherein after-life sacraments for the ancestral dead were practiced for over 25,000 years. Across later trans-continental parts and localities, in Bretonic Ireland these ‘houses of the dead’ were modified, converted and finally transformed with great expense into the monumental earthen clocks described above.
I found the purpose of this ‘eternal clock’ puzzling as do most of the sources — books and articles I thumbed through looking to find out of what use such a huge astronomical project as the Boyne Valley Cemetery served. I found nothing but a few ‘perhaps’. And ‘possibles’ couched in very weak sentences celebrating the astronomical intentions, inventions and expertise of the builders but nothing speculating as to the value of this knowledge for their populace. Missing or forgotten:’ Eco Homo giganticus…’ They built it because they could.
3. Gobekli Tepe
Temple excavation top of hill, quarry in foreground
Close up of (later oval and square dig). My Neolithic neighbours’ religious observances were first made manifest at Gobekli Tepe in 11th century BC Turkey —or at least a conserved number of their customs and ways began there: not only is it the first known ‘temple’ in the (Western?) world, but it was also the nearby home of einkorn and emmer wheat, the first domesticated cereal grains of beginning Agriculture. Description in the words of the temple’s discoverer: Klaus Schmidt (2010):
“Göbekli Tepe ... is a tell, an artificial mound dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. It was not used for habitation; it consists of … sanctuaries in the form of round megalithic enclosures. The site lies about 15 km northeast of the Turkish city of Sanlıur- fa..and is a landmark visible from far away. Its enormous deposition of layers, up to fifteen meters (50 feet) high, have accumulated over several millennia over an area of about nine hectares… Remarkably, no residential buildings have been discovered. However, at least two phases of monumental religious architecture have been uncovered. Of these, the older layer is the most impressive. The main features are T-shaped monolithic pillars, each weighing several tons. Most were erected to form large circular enclosures at the center of which twin demi-god 5M pillars towered over all… The site was used as early as 14,000 BC but the excavated structures, those with Radio Carbon dates, are from the early Neolithic of ca10, 000 BC…” and were built by Mesolithic villagers in the hunting gathering time — before farms, potters or dray-carts wheels were even dreamt of.
Climb through Portal Stone found on ground (to enter Enclosure) But no dreams here—what took place in those circles was a shadowy grim reality of underworlds where burial rites and death rituals held sway. Plain or animal decorated portal stones (as the one above) were set in the sanctuaries’ outside walls as the only entrance — the gateway to the Netherworld in the bowels of these faux caves where it is probable the dead were laid out on the altar-like bench-alcoves in between each wall pillar. After a time, heads were separated and sequestered before bodies were removed to the outside for avian delectations (or if roofless, perhaps the vultures cleaned the bones up on the benches).
Choose between above and here Excoriation, headless above. Portals themselves—the stones lodged in front of the long passage tunnels and barriers that formally allowed (a crawling) difficult entrance to the underworld— were confirmed here when Schmidt, questioned as to his reading of the stone’s function replied: “Similar objects are well known, e.g. from crawl through, megalithic barrows of Atlantic Europe.” [Turkish Documenta praehistorica XXXVII (2010)]. Aside from being somewhat lurid, much of the particulars describe those of my much later mound-building neighbors. As prototypes go, a number of additional similarities give a pretty close patronymic fit. Here is a small list of analogues I found: 1). Mound and megalith building, especially the interior cruciform patterns of tomb and passage that echo-ed the altar-like partitions of the original Gobekli Tepe. . One instance: the floor plan of Malta’s Taxien Temple, Mnjandra, ca 5,000 BC resembles — with accessorized changes— the last, oval-rectilinear phase structures of Gobekli Tepe which were ironically built only a few hundred years before (8000-7500 BC) the whole 15 M high Turkish mound was abandoned —completely buried, in sand, never to be used again.
Temples: Malta and, Orkney buried in ashes and garbage
The above burial act appears to have become a religious custom— a most peculiar, conserved deed where other great temple complexes were also deliberately buried under sand, as was done continuously over 5000 years at Gobleki T; once or twice with ashes in the Orkney Islands, and at least once with a mixture of ashes and midden (i.e. garbage) over the great temple of Taxien in Malta. Even in early Irish days the colonial Irish immigrants’ first timber houses were burned, buried and then rebuilt. Why invent such a custom finally ‘killing’ their antecedent’s entire monument?
At Gobekli Tepe, after farming had begun in the area it would seem that at that time such a singular large, religious convocation had become unnecessary and obsolete. The whole region surrounding Gobekli Tepe —whose religious practice is said to have begun in Mesolithic 14,000BC, began to build its own ‘cult centers’ around 9,000 BC, with much scaled-down filial versions of the great temple. Populations were still small enough to find mates nearby, whereby much traveling became neither necessary nor desired as the new farm-steading
required attention at home to field and animals: both cereal and livestock domestication with communal storage bins had began in this region. Nevali Cori cult house,
For instance nearest (45 km), and dearest Nevali Cori, an early settlement on the banks of the Euphrates River fashioned large, long squared off cult houses featuring small T pillars in 9,000 BC. Another, highly notable (but still unexcavated) example at Karahan Tepe —referred to as Gobekli Tepe’s sister, features some 266 in situ T pillars, showing 50-60cm ‘profile heads’ above the
ground in parallel rows. This site dates back 9,000 years at least; the field and ridge mound is 60 km from the town of Urfa, Gobekli Tempe’s close neighbor. By slightly later (7,200-6,600 BC) Cayanu, a settlement on the banks of the Tigris in Upper Mesopotamia provided cult buildings similar to those of Navali Cori, but by then they had domesticated both pig and auroch (cattle), inventing large safe, shared containers for the towns’ cereal storage as well. About the time Gobekli Tepe was covered over for good, its nearby panoply of ‘church’ town regions were experiencing expanding populations along with decreasingly fertile land, leading to the necessary dissemination of their superfluous numbers in all four directions — to the Caucasus and India, Mesopotamia, northern Europe and to the Middle East and Africa —all places where some of their (early farmer) genes still linger on.
2) Bone and skull play in a developing ancestor worship was conserved, an activity which in its later observances was perhaps useful to validate land rights.
3) Institutionalized excarnation, (later on cremation, stripped down from earlier communal corpse and bird play).
4) Regular challenging interchanges between circular and rectangular buildings both sacred and mundane (including intermediating ovals) connecting homes and ‘houses of the dead’ in both space and time.
5). On discovery, all of Gobleki Tepe’s huge central pillars were said to have faced south towards the constellation Orion. Or maybe not —as several studies
subsequent to its excavators’ first looks now say ‘nay’ to that as only Orion’s belt of 3 stars with its dagger and Nebula will have been meaningfully visible ca. 9,000-8,000BC, due to the precession of the stars at that time. Specific info here provides an interesting assessment. The central pillars of each of the [excavated] enclosures were re-orientated as they were built. In descending order of time: ca.10, 000BC Enclosure D saw a starry ‘pyramid’ and Orion’s ‘belt’ not far above the horizon at (Vernal) dawn, while a similar scenario played out in Enclosures C, in ca 9,500 BC and Enclosure B, ca 9,000BC. But mysteriously, Enclosure A at ca.8, 500 BC found that the belt of Orion, including his genitalia-like Nebula and Sword no longer rose above the horizon before dawn broke, while at about 8,150 BC the entire belt of Orion remained below the horizon at dawn’s Vernal Equinox. Increasingly ‘hidden’ it had finally disappeared. (An aside: who knows how significant a bright constellation’s three starred ‘belt’ and‘ sword,’ including a continuously dematerializing Nebula might have been to the builders of that demi-Mesolithic, hunting-gathering time)? Excepting a number of tiny ‘cabinet’ sculptures, in over 20,000 years of Paleolithic wall painting human males were seldom portrayed—the caves show as little interest in detailed renderings of 2-dimensional masculine forms as have all the later, three dimensional‘ stick-figure’ male pillars. Still it might be said that although for sure, portraiture had begun earlier than the carving on these anthropomorphic pillars in this Anatolian time and place, —with no faces on the pillars, one singular example in Gobeklli Tepe’s Enclosure D offers something new: a tripart engraving of human clasped hands above a belt and its dependent, foxtail loincloth on one of its central pillars: this must be the first time a demi-god has been given human features, if not a face.
Close-up and night shot of anthropomorphic pillar, Gobekli Tepe, Enclosure D The three starred belt and its dependent ‘nebula and ‘sword’ would have been the star attraction, a prime sidereal appropriation. Moreover one might doubt these people would have even read the triangle made by stars Betelguise, Mellisa and Bellatrix as a human head above the constellation’s invisible, truncated body. The twin pillars of course still face south even if to a fugitive constellation. None the less, several writers have disputed the Orion contention although perhaps we have a lucky ‘two for one’ here —a serendipitous state of affairs where critics argue that the huge central pillars actually ‘face the other way’ —i.e. north to the star Deneb in Cygnus the Swan (a.k.a the Northern Cross). This theory has one fact already working for it: Deneb is a polar star, meaning it is always in the sky, revolving with the seasons, while Orion is a winter constellation seen only in full for three months of the year. I see no reason why the singular, all-seasons conjunction of a north and a south fronting should be an either/or proposition, rather than a helpful heavenly coincidence.
One of the (north) theorists explains the ’south-facing pillars as a nonstarter since according to him ‘south facings’ merely provide entries to the northern walls’ sacred altars and stars that ‘face’ and confront the entrant as the north polar star Deneb does in Cygnus. Deneb was the leading star in a winged constellation that had become important to both early and later tumulii and temple builders: the design of New Grange’s long cruciformed passage is said to stem from Gobekli Tepe’s side benched alcoves (although this would have been modeled from a later oval Enclosure rather than that of an earlier circle). The chambers are said to replicate the wings of the swan (vulture in the Middle East) in its cruciform configuration that is incidentally also the form of the later
. Irish cross. Left: New Grange chambered passage. Center and Right: mother with baby buried in swan’s wing.
JO BAER—(Stretch and Flex) “At the Back of the North Wind”);swan-cradled baby left center), o/c, 1990, 255 x 342.5 cm
The ‘chambered,’ passage grave Mound plan also occurs in other monuments in Ireland and Europe as do myriad Swan cults in many parts of Europe from very early days. In a painting I made in 1990 (“At the Back of the North Wind ”), touched, I used an image uncovered in a 4,000 BC Danish burial of a new born baby cradled in a swan’s wing. Birds have always been the spirit carriers between the heavens and Earth.
(Snakes like the other direction). Here is a photo reconstruction of Enclosure D. The central pillars point north precisely to Deneb.The two other tall stones in the far background await their unfinished outer upper wall above the benches. In the unfinished wall’s center a familiar stone replaces what, in the normal course of building would have been their third wall pillar. The shaman in the guise of a vulture is carved on the left wall pillar.
9,800 BC Gobekli Tepe Turkey “…This holed sighting stone was found in the north-northwestern perimeter of enclosure D’s wall, standing around five feet (1.5m) tall …the stone has a hole some eight inches (20cm) in diameter bored through it horizontally at a height of around four feet (1.22m) .. one of its wider faces facing the center pillars…”
Here is County Louth’s ca 3,500 BC Hurlstone facing south-south east (175 degrees south). The Hurlstone stands 1.5 m tall and its aperture measures 20 cms.
So what just happened here? (Parenthetically, there is a also a [broken] second holed stone in the adjoining Enclosure C. Altogether these three megaliths present a pretty good case of ‘conserved forms having variable functions,’ attesting a profound longevity for their structure. Meanwhile, of what use is the sight- hole in Enclosure D? You can’t just walk to Deneb in the sky as you would to the Hurlstone’s milestone-tree on your pedestrian way to Knowth. [For answers see section 7] 6. Hide and Seek Facing south again around 5-4,000 BC Orion has gathered himself and his stars together and finally appears in full regalia with shield, or rather bow in hand (a newly-certified Neolithic weapon). A ‘back from the grave’ Orion, it is said that in Ireland they built sacred sites ‘tracing’ the star’s image on earth to bring the celestial warrior down to do their bidding. Some of the ‘beatified’ sites, evincing this creative desire to capture the constellation still exist in counties Meath and
Louth. A family heirloom, this Orion- Sardinian- Irish meme was early but not unique: Pharoh’s Egypt, Teotihuacan Mexico, even Arizona’s Hopi Indians all ‘transferred’ the constellation down to Earth. Hubris had yet to be invented. Here’s what I found as I began to scrutinize the Ordnance maps to see if this was just another tale or an actual endeavor. To start, due to the habitual precessions of the heavenly constellations I had to find what Orion looked like in 4,000BC. Only then (downloaded) could I begin to place and scale the project. The red star Betelguise(1) I placed at Smarmore, at the image’s left shoulder because this then lines the image up along the ancient road south. From earlier reckonings I knew for certain this walkway was also contemporary at that time where it goes directly down to the Bend of the Boyne, a crucial piece of real estate for their celestial abduction which eventually included their famous earthworks Knowth, New Grange and Dowth. I used this direct track for the orientation (if not the scale) of the image since paralleling the ancient road would always give me the correct angle of possible sites on its path for the entire image. On the hunt, equipped with my measuring stick locked in, I began to search for the locations displaying Ordnance map-points indicating mounds and standing stones that would coincide with the constellation’s main stars. Surprisingly, after much fooling around with size and slightly angled tweaks (pardoned by topographical variations), I found an outlined Orion that verged on—within a margin of geographic error —a confirmation yielding only two serious shortcomings (imperfections) for the overall kidnapping. The answer to these
defections and their mending are informative. The first problem in this whole undertaking involves a cautionary tale: I had first launched Betelguise (1) from a mound north west of Smarmore, found at Mandistown but some time into this project I suddenly remembered that the castle itself also once had a mound — the farmer who rented my land had bragged to me one day that one of the high fields had boasted a huge earth mound that he had ploughed away, and very pleased he was to tell me of this destruction. (So I asked him if “the ghosts had bothered him much since then?”) Not a nice farmer —shot your dog if he had a grievance your way. After this mound-memory, re-surfaced I moved Betelguise(1), Orion’s anchoring star to Smarmore. Suddenly, to my delight it became a wonderful allignment of the whole image as the ascending north east line began and fell exactly on the Hurlstone and its other standing stones while another stone stood at Kirkpatrick on the way to a perfect fit at Mullacury, which still features 3 standing stones AND a mound to celebrate the star “Meisse’(2) at the apex of Orion’s head. Turning the equilateral corner at ‘Meissa’(2) southward, down to Rathescar Middle and the star Bellatrix (3) —usually interpreted as Orion’s eastern shoulder and good right arm stretching out to his bow— presents a different story. First of all this star is not commemorated anywhere on the present map although it seems likely Bellatrix’ mound might well have suffered the same farmer’s fate as did Smarmore’s. However, there are no ancient remains either to mark his arm’s lengthy journey all along the band that ran from his shoulderstar to starry-bow at the Irish Sea (one exception: a lone stone standing near the sea like a ‘land milestone’, midway between Dunany Point and the harbors of Clogherhead (4).
There are good grounds for presuming a destroyed mound at ‘Rathescar Middle’. Nearby there is an eponymous, landed English Manor house, owned by people whom I had visited a few times. The place still had a lot of land, in fact featured a ‘haw-haw’ —a sunken ditch to keep cattle out of the house —as well as an observatory complete with telescope. It even starred a number of dining rooms whose several tables still furnished dining remains as the owners just moved on to the next one (you get the picture), i.e it has a history as a ‘place of note’ like Smarmore. More likely, however, a possibile topographical factor may have instigated the lack of attention to the bow arm stretching from Bellatrix (3) to the Irish Sea, a journey that would have been a misadventure in any case. Rathescar is built on a littoral area between high hills and a perfectly flat landscape that is emminently farmable lacking even the glacial drumlins so prevalent farther inland. Reaching all the way to the coast, this arable ground is considered the best farm land in Ireland where stones and mounds would have been happily removed or perhaps never even allowed by ancient farmers. Furthermore, the bow arm from his eastern ‘Bellartix shoulder terminates at the great ‘nowhere,’ a stretch of anonymous coast useless to a ‘Maritime Peoples’ needs. And so, after some research (and a mind bet), I shopped around and concluded that Orion’s arm and its destination to the bow may well have been, both in concept and ritual,‘translated’ to ‘elsewhere’. After all, these people were well aware that his stars had and still did move about, sometimes visible, sometimes not. And so I placed his arm further south at Monasterboice(5), 1/2 way down the line between ‘Bellatrix’(3) and 'Mintaka’(6), the first star of his belt. A heritage venue for sure: Monasterboice furnished a huge, Neolithic ‘cosmic,’
twelve stone circle that was first (historically) described in the18th century, although totally missing from the Ordnance maps along with its large cairn by the 1800’s. Monasterboice’s astronomical, i.e.circular ‘machine of stones’ viewed and recorded moon, sun and stars — navigation aids that seem a fitting blessing for the bow arm’s journey to the coast where this line runs straight across to Clogerhead and its harbors. Moreover, this new arm runs past and through a string of mounds, standing stones and sites on both sides on its way from the hills (but again, also lacking stones or mounds defacing the final chunk of premier arrable land to the coast). Suitable for ritual annexation, Clogherhead (4) has both large and small working harbors that were and are served by this well worn highway. Mention should also be made that although we are dealing with one of the first organized religions in the world, all religions of note are known for finding and using ‘alternative facts’ at will. Monasterbloice(5), now a famous medieval Abby, Church and Tower recalls early religion’s —as well as the Catholic Church’s long known penchant for occupying sanctified pagan sites. (The church really excels in how to take over a site: at the Vatican the Pope’s Balconey stands over the buried temple of “The Great Mother” where priests would slaughter bulls and stand covered in their blood.”
The transfer to Neolithic Monasterboice may have seemed even more than pardonable as the large middle star of Orion’s bow now lands squarely on Clogherhead’s plateau where a sizable earthwork’s remnants remain on top of the cliff overlooking the peninsula’s small southern cove. Significantly, it seems they never gave up their maritime prowess and kept a fleet of working dugouts, whicker boats and rafts. Indeed, most of the stones that built New Grange were
carved from Clogerhead’s cliffs and transported by sea down to the Boyne River, then paddled up to the cemetery complex’s small landing point at Curly Hole(7) and one more place in history. Left: Quarry Clogerhead, Co Louth; rt, Cliffs with Earthwork also on summit
Continuing south from Bellatrix (3),we arrive at Orion’s top ‘Belt’ star, ‘Mintaka’(4) at his eastern hip and right leg. The middle belt star, Alnilam (8) crosses within the figure’s center where beneath it a fuzzy (testicular?) ‘Orion Nebula M72’ sits, blessed with even a vertical depending ‘sword’ (or ‘dagger’) lancing the space further down to a tiny star. The third star of the ‘belt,’ Alnitak (9), in a real surprise, just rests very much unmarked and alone on the western line at Orion’s left hip and leg. It is strange that not one of these three world famous, great historical stars are paid much attention. They seem to have only ‘desolutory notice taken’. The treatment of Alnitak (8) is really curious. First of all, we must remember that they
were building sanctified sites, not looking for them on a map like we are doing and there is literally nothing near or around this star. Even the two closest villages Keerhan and Monknewtown are miles away. Also under-played, Mintaka(4) at the top eastern hip is set near a barrow that still exists at Melifont Abbey— a medieval site that boasts as well an ancient gatehouse whereby the complex could just possibly, with a vanquished former mound, re-claim the missing pagan heritage so beloved of the church. But the center star, Ainilam (5 ) also lies completely uncelebrated and unremarkable at the nearby humble (altitude only 116 Km) Louth Hill. While as above, neither hill, dale nor township is near Alnikan (8).
Accordingly, we must untangle a 2nd conundrum they (and we) faced. Perhaps another ‘Belt’ legacy was holding true: outside of the ‘new’ Boyne River Cemetery, most of this super-conservative clan’s sacred sites were preferrentially built on high ground. Ancestor Gobekli Tepe’s ensuing temple enclosures were always built— over their 5,000 year span on the high ridge visible acoss the land, although during the reign of their constructions the astronomical ‘belt trinity’ —the only visible sign of Orion— was undergoing its shadowy alterations as their three heavenly minions were gradually disappearing, sinking from the horizon over the centuries from 9,000 to 8,000BC. Ritual, if not location had to change. (For a fuller exigesis on ritual see following section 7). Having finally become invisible in the rising sun’s glare and as such no longer available for celestial mapping and measuring, special secret care and ritual observance would have become necessary to continue their affaire with such a fugitive eidelon, a constellation only lately reappearing and back in Irish service.
While scanning the map with an eye on this ‘Belt’’ history, one finds a perfect choice for a discrete, sacridotal ‘relocation’ situated only a bit north of the actual stars’ stations: tucked away nicely and ideal symmetrically, esoterically and geophysically— two mountains and a high hill form a satisfying Isoceles triangle with each other. Mount Oriel (10), 251 m at the apex and center of Orion’s chest is the highest peak in the area and famous for a prehistoric complex that included 5 known barrows and a huge mound on its summit (though recently lost; a certain Lord Mazareene is said to have taken ”a heap of stones” to “drain his land”. [Local folk-lorists A.Murphy and R. Moore]). Life goes on. Fortuitously, Mt Oriel(10) reproduced its religious renown also with a monastary at the Oriel Temple (and grotto) at Black Hill (11) —the Belt star Alnilam’s’(8) providential ‘relocation’. Black Hill (205 m) was known as a sun calendar, a landscape where natural, featured landmarks were used as forsights to mark risings and settings of the sun. Not a coincidence: New Grange is directly south of the Black Hill on the same longitude (Longitude 21) where it famously also celebrates the summer solstice. Sweet. The last, bottom Belt Star, Alnitak (9)’s surrogate, Dunmore Hill (12), (239m) lies right next to the road from Smarmore to Knowth, in the same mountain range as Mount Oriel (11) where the hill has almost equal height but also much fame as the site of the ‘Grave of the three Giants,’ in conrast to poor star Alnitak’s (9) neglect. To my delight, folk-lorists A. Murphy and R Moore get ahead of me in their designation of Orion’s new stand-in site, to quote “The Dunmore Hill is said to contain the graves of three giants,... signifying perhaps the three belt stars of the sky giant… Archiological remains include a barrow, a ring barrow and an enclosed barrow group.” [Island of the Setting Sun, p 255].
2 facing maps of locations
Left: “THE GIANT TRAPPED IN FULL IRISH-BRETONIC GLORY”, ca 3800 BC Right: “UP CLOSE IN COUNTY LOUTH” (named stars in magenta)
Orion has two more major stars that today’s constellation stands on, that is, his feet —but the large modern foot of the blue star Regel lies away to the east and is no part of our image yet. Instead, our 6000 year old model finds its bent right knee visits a barrow on its way to crossing the River Boyne, where it passes
through what looks like a protected lttle harbor for unloading stones at Curly Hole(7). Further down, the crossed knee itself seems bereft of note. Not so its encircling lower leg which provides an embracing circum-navigation of most of the Boyne Valley Cemetary Complex (13) which contains the three giant earth works Knowth, New Grange and Dowth along with many standing stones, a Henge, five other mounds, a castle and (of course) a Catholic Church. Halfway across the circle this right limb almost joins up with its better-half at its very bottom—where his left foot and leg descendent from its hip at the lowest belt star (Alnitak), ‘turns out’ to the left in a slight western deviation away from the Smarmore road crossing the Boyne to the star ‘Saiph,’(14) commemorated with a nearby mound at Rossnaree.There is a wee bit of left foot indicated, (but it should be remembered that all of Orion’s lines are pure artifact, played with by their creators at will (or not, as Regil is missing to provide a proper horizontal base). Or perhaps his lower extremities were just not visible yet below the horizon… If word of these ancient star-gazied sites seem a bit over the top just imagine their sky world of only 5,000 years ago, a magical sky where a strip of the Milky Way completely encircled their horizon in a 360 degree necklace of stars (a wonderous halo that will not happen again for another 170 billion years or somesuch, I’ve misplaced the year). But it is obvious that this much be-jewelled sky would attract serious homo sapient consideration (and it’s no wonder the ‘circle people’ won again at this time —what a mascot)!
Left: modern Orion with Betelguise set at Smarmore; Right: Red figure,4,000BC also begins with Betelguise/Smarmore road to Knowth, but differs from what became my final placement angle and size (now is not then).
1 CENTER: At 4,000 BC Orion rising, much of his lower legs were not really
visible yet below the horizon; RIGHT: today’ s Orion; LEFT 3,500 BC, Regel visible but in the middle of Drogheda? (maybe the city- central’s earthmound had been a buried star, Regel’s site!), or maybe at that time Regel would have been on the other side of the Boyne… 7. Shamans By 8,430 BC neither Belt stars nor Nebula were visible on Golbeki Tepe’s rising sun’s horizon. Orion had disappeared and was no longer observable for Enclosure D’s ‘south faces of the twin pillars’ that for eons had been built to sight him. As before though, all was not lost. Just waiting to step in looking north-north-west to the back side of the pillar’s ‘heads revealed a direrct sightline to the polar star Deneb, swan’s head and brightest star in the constellation Cygnus (aka the Northern Cross). The night sky is rich and wonderful. At this time and place they would have even been able to pin-point Deneb setting on the horizon on nights of the winter solstice. Further enhancing this astronomically revised serendipity is the discovered excavation, in Enclosure D of a north-facing, post-holed stone — i.e. the Hurlstone’s ‘twin’ (illustrated and discussed on page 53 above), which held Deneb in its ‘lens. ’ Intriguing as well, the next wall pillar, adjoining the custom built rock-sight to Deneb featured a large, engraved human in the guise of a vulture— in the photo still playing with a human head. In the Anatolian neighborhood the vulture played the role of swan, stork and even helpmate (preparing the dead for their journeys by excarnation, ie, the cleaning of their bones).
The carved shaman here, with his big human leg and foot, —noticed and noted by Andrew Collins is strangely, in all my research of the Neolithic, the first mention of shamans that I have run across.Yet obviously who else but a shaman could use a focusing stone-lens from which, through the sighting- hole he could space-travel directly as the guide of the dead to their rest (or to further sky adventures). As M. Elliade in ‘Shamanism’ writes, “shamans are always specialized in going between worlds..” They have been part and parcel of us since the Paleolithic where as rarely portrayed (male) humans called ‘sorcerers’ they are seen dancing on cave walls, three of which— goat headed, antlered and a Bull headed one with an enormous erection I’ve used in an earlier painting, (‘colored’ by the artist, “Of a Fearful Symmetry”). Indeed, human shamans still exist in some parts of our world, where I met one in the mountains of Nepal: he was climbing up the hill to
the headwaters of the stream we were crossing because he was not allowed to cross running water. (I was a volunteer with a scientic survey of high altitude villages). Amongst so many other occupations, shamans will have been our first artists, certainly our first painters, our first sculptors too —shaping, drawing and ‘blessing’ the pendants, spearthrowers and amulets that were worn and carried while of course they also staged and performed magical theatre as well as music. Flutes have been found in several caves where surely they were played if not made by shamans to accompany their spells. Even ‘installation art’ was ‘written’ by shamans: passages and cliffs displaying rock art are still found where modern and ancient pictographs share the same walls in the ‘wilderness’ or ‘underworld’ places utilized by shamans of all times in their ritualized ‘quests.
. JO BAER, 1991, o/c “Of a Fearful Symmetry”, 275 x335 cm
[“In a “meditation on the extremes of masculinity” she (Jo Baer)notes that,
historically, only men have clothed themselves in animal pelts to convey power. (“War — the first male sport,” she quips at one point.) Women have “no need” for such costumes, she says. “With a broom in hand, we can even fly.” Talk given (and enjoyed it seems) at Hunter College, 2011.] Of special interest to me is the peek we get of the male shaman becoming ‘priest’ when his magicial powers were carried over and integrated into the new organised ‘religions of the Mound’. (There are more than a thousand passage graves along the North Sea and Atlantic coastlands of Northern Europe so this development will not have been an exclusive Irish phenomenon). Shamans have always owned the poles of behavior, of heal and harm: (to help people, they must be able to harm them). The original healers of heart and body are still with us as doctor and fortune teller, while shaman artists probably prevailed as real makers—engineers maybe, ever liminal. But due to farming’s increased wealth, where mound building was both costly and competitive—there arose a need for shamans sporting new taylor- made, powerful incantations and spells, i.e.priests, accessoried now for the rich chief land and property-owners. The new priestly dominion: the stone Basin. Found at the end of the long passages of (large) earthworks as well as in a side chamber or two, fire-adept shamans now oversaw burning basins of cremated human remains, where due to magical endeavors, the priestly-charmed cooking smoke had the power to elevate the Ancestor to heaven and so to watch over the chief’s estateproperties, hold and prove them safe and moreover, (confident now in their control of the Ancestor) to do no harm to the legaties. This co-optacion of ‘shaman’ to Religion’s ‘priest’ was enabled by the historical fact that “…the shaman always is a specialist of sacrifice with shamanistic sessions of animals being killed.” [Walter Burkert, in “Caves and the Master of
Animals”]. There are, in fact instances of Neolithic basins also found holding small animal bones (as opposed to human remains), the work of perhaps females even then —“Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble..” (but alas with neither “eye of newt.. nor fenny snake” my research notes say only a frog’s leg amongst the other small bones recovered). Tellingly, in using human remains in their elite incantations, this later Neolithic sign-posted another step in our long human journey as Masters of Nature —seed and beast, partners now as well with moon, star, sea and land where the agency of such association was most likely population pressure. Before basins and priestly religious doings the Ancestors were treated more like the quick rather than the dead, their skulls kept next to doors, under floors and on shelves where they were even capable of one sided conversations. But in the latterly organized, priestly phase Ancestors could be magically subdued and de-humanised. Where the living now stood outside of the natural world, their dead became a part of all of Nature’s animals and properties, to manipulate at will. Along with so many other aspects of this new found hegemony over Nature, and due to the virtues of a growing population with its plethora of new hands and minds came the ability to control their animals, crops and even their women who would have been de-valuated into mainly carriers of proven patrimonies. Of Foxes and Leopards. For over some 25,000 Paleo/Meso-lithic years the world was made up of stones, plants, animals and humans. In this world one would think (since these people were us) that women, when differentiated would be treasured for their natural talents— of empathy, perhaps spell casting and certainly for a hardnosed attitude to details of the real world (as primary child carriers). However,
most of the literature —that of the cave art particularly, focuses instead on an erotic, genital interpretation of fertility where-in women are desired and deified for their huge bottoms, vulvas and breasts as Goddesses of first importance during the Paleolithic —this, attested mainly by the wide existence of charms, beads, ‘Venus” statuettes ” and painted cave walls. I beg to differ with the mannly professors. That’s not exactly why they and their parts are so portrayed. .
Above: some of the traditional Ice-Age Venuses: Czech, Austria, France 25,000 years ag
Obviating this clearly modern degradation, two nearly identical clay thrones occupied by fat ladies, found in Turkey – the first from 9,000 BC, Gobekli Tepe and the second from 6,000 BC Catal Huyuk – offer a different message as well,
although the only book that mentions the clay throne figurines shows only one of these ladies, labeled a “Seer” – i.e., a wise onlooker and prophet who “sees” the future, as opposed to a “shaman,” a figure of action and power. But the author only speaks of the later Catal Huyuk model. Intriguingly, although the pair of effigies are almost identical – the one a prototype, repeated by the other yet made two or three thousand years later, the two are also separated by many kilometers and not one but two ranges of the Taurus Mountains. So behold! A conserved and still-telling, pre-historic female eidelon.
The ealiest known Paleolithic Shaman (circa 30,000 BC) was female. Mesolithic ones are also known: a 10,000 BC, northern Israel burial of a female shaman for instance, including body parts of animals such as leopard, tortoises (50 of them), golden eagle, and many small-animal bones and assorted feathers and claws. Looking first at the early Gobekli Tepe fat woman and her armrest spirit animal (she is a shaman, not a seer), why the fox? After all, what does a fox have to say about hunting for its meat because then as now, no one would celebrate eating fox – it’s vermin. Instead, the fox’s legendary sly and clever talent in locating prey would perhaps have been very welcome as a hunting aptitude internalized by the shaman, although I doubt this in itself would be enough to get her a throne. Puzzled yet intrigued, and after some dilligent (veterinarian) searching, I found that fox litters number at least four or five cubs; six is not unusual and even or more are known. So yes, in this case I believe she sits for (a real) fertility. Looking first at the early Gobekli Tepe fat woman and her arm- rest Spirit Animal —she who is a shaman, not a seer — why the fox? After all, what does
a fox have to say about hunting for its meat because then as now, no one would celebrate eating fox, it ‘s vermin. Instead, the fox’s legendary sly and clever talent in locating prey will perhaps have been very welcome as a hunting aptitude internalised by the shaman —although I doubt this in itself would be enough to get her a throne. Puzzled yet intrigued and after some dilligent (vetinarian) searching I found that fox litters number at least 4 or 5 cubs, 6 is not unusual and even or more are known. So yes, in this case I believe she sits for (a real) fertility. Moreover and crucially, (see also the ladies from Czech, Austria and France above) it should be fairly obvious that the exess fat on the ladies of this day (and earlier) was not admired for its sexual desirability but for reasons rather more mundane: most women know that a minimum body-weight is required for any human pregnancy to be carried to term, while easy calories were not in great supply in those days. The seated women are shown pregnant and in labor so any ‘fertiity’ about them would seem to imply they were either symbolic Queen bees tended by their folk, or more to the point I think, portrayals of Shaman ‘brood mares’ whose essential genetic talents would, with care, assure the clan’s future shamans. This was the time of arising small settlements just beginning to appreciate the positive effects of population growth, when farmers, who appreciated large families having lots of children for free labor now noticed the dog fox as a fertility being, equal now to the vixen. A true innovation in that for the fist time they engraved arms and five-fingered hands on one of the huge central pillars in Enclosure D, facing Orion’s belt and nebula. This pillar now represents an anthropomorphic diety who wears a belt from which a foxtail with legs becomes his loincloth covering his presumed genitalia .
Marking the differences of need and century, the eons later model from Catalhuyak sports feline arm rests instead of fox. Interestingly, as the the above professor refers only to this later Catal Huyak leopard (or lioness), his designation ‘seer’ for the seated figurine is very narrow and specific for this society, delivering only ‘clarvoyant leopards’ so to speak. [David Lewis Williams, “Inside the Neolithic Mind”, pp146-47] .
Right: Fat Lady on Leopard Throne (”The Great Mother”), Catal Huyak, Turkey ca,6,000. Left: Fat Lady on Fox Throne, Gobekli Tepe, Turkey ca 8,500 BC. Two animals and two ranges of the Taurus Mountains separated their 2 locations for at least 2,000 years.
Catal Huyak was one of the world’s first proto-cities. Over its lifetime it had an average population of 5 to 7 thousand, sometimes rising up to 10,000 inhabitants and clearly it was no longer in need of the fox ‘s prodigeous profiligacy. Instead, here is the leopard (the shamans spirit animal, totemic then as now) . The animal is legend throughout the world, a highly successful feline (occasionally lacking spots thus also a ‘black panther). It is a superb ‘spirit’ choice that covers anything a huge population might require. Even today African natives believe leopards are animal guides for the spirits of the dead.. My following info for remarks are now furnished (with various parrotings) by the real diggers, Wikipedia’s ‘Catal Huyuk’ archeologists. The siting of the city and its 2-mounded, 18 layered re-buildings reveals the first order of business for a Shaman’s feline talents since the surrounding
countryside still supported vast herds of wild animals —of aurochs, swine and red deer. Although ‘citizen’ farmers’ fields and domestic animals surroiunded the city, hunting and gathering was still a religion in their richly endowed landscape and so still required the shaman’s magic and a‘spirit leopard’s’ totem virtues. The animal’s cunning and incredible ability to solve problems specfically endowed it to magically help plan traps in the landscapes in which vast herds could be caught. (A talent that another author has generally assigned to prehistoric women [H. Pringle, “New Women of the Ice Age”, article, Discover Magazine,1998]. The plot slightly thickens here: Madame Fat ‘Leopard Woman’ on her Throne was found by excavators in a grain bin where perhaps her remit was also, as a ‘spirit animal’ charm, to ensure the harvest and protect the food supply via her plentiful supply of leopard merit i/e. as extra strong, brave, fearless, shapeshifting, etc. However, yet once again the plot twists (see top figure below). Here I believe the professor was right—only wrong in his choice of figures to ponder and write on. His drawing of a similar female seated on a chair of sorts (not a throne) must surely be a ‘Seer.’ (Advisory) panthers sit, paws draped, on each shoulder while her hands cover her breasts. Voila! meet the ‘midwife’ where ‘seer’ and the clairvoyant, prophetic panther totem is a perfect fit (and she need not travel to other dimensions for her power as a shaman must do). Perhaps a good rub on the clay breast- charm would be enough for a seer to read a palm or ‘see’ when a baby was due, deliver it and supervise breast milk or—crystal gaze so to speak, to consult and advise on a proper mate from across the gorge that separated the city’s 2 mounds. The small river that originally sliced the city in half offered 2 separate gene
pools to the city so that interbreeding (with its nasty mutational diseases) was a non-starter: the split allowed for some 3,000 possible mates only a stone’s throw away. Hence the value of a fortune-telling seer —perhaps a necessary sequel, as the enthroned, fat lady’s fat as genetic brood-mare was remaindered to a hunter’s recreational aide and heroic protector of the bread bin.
Time in those days, moving swiftly, could change everything.
Domestication. As with so many things the new gender degradation arose with the ubiquity of farming, a word so generalised it’s real consequence has now been obscured. First off, this ubiquity fails to recall the enormity of the step where human males domsticated large animals, taming them with the newborn ‘Animal Husbandry’ (great name), a practice first and most noteable with the enormous bovine Aurochs —wild cattle who might weigh 700 kilo, stood 155-160cm at the shoulder and had horns 80 cms long that curved both forwards AND sideways.
Wild goat, boar and sheep —all credible adversaries soon followed suit as the procedures and practices of domestication were disseminated. Meanwhile, however, the concept or ability to harness these creatures was lacking and so men also assumed the back-breaking work of the ploughanimal, tilling and overseeing the land and plantations of the newly invented field and grain crop with (only) a wooden plough. Before, while men hunted and women gathered, each gender took part in all these necessary tasks. But farming changed all of that. Alongside of pregnancies and child-rearing, grinding grain and sewing (maybe some spinning/weaving), these duties now kept her inside, no longer an equal in implementing the absolute necessities. Not much has changed for her since. Stepping outside of ‘Nature’ to manipulate its providence stands behind most of modern civilization now, where the two inventions, Husbandry and Agriculture begat the most consequential milestones. This ongoing, now modern cleverness however, may finally be incapable of re-inventing nature’s disappearing bounty of element and material. Last I heard the smart phone and Tesla auto are soon to be in trouble: some exotic, necessary metals are almost gone. Next step, capturing a near by comet or meteor to mine?
8). Odds and Ends. Left: stuc, early West Passage Basin Stone
center, right: functional, Eastern Passage Basin Stone Unlike the functional Eastern basin as above at Knowth, the Western passage also contained a basin although one that is now located about two-thirds of the way down the passage where a lonely sill-stone now blocks an empty, undifferentiated chamber at passage end. 1. Basin Lore. I hadn’t found any photos of this West Passage basin but In proofing my research, I later stumbled on one. It’s a gigantic jar-like shape—see photo, and must have taken a huge amount of time to hollow out its ‘ur-stone’. Built in place before the earlier site’s earthwork gave it a roof, and as it is enormous and stone, it has been found to be too big and heavy to get out of the latest mound (if ceramic it could have been knocked in half. The provenance of the Knowth mound is seldom discussed but it is at least several hundred years earlier than that of New Grange. First on the site was a timber long house [3800 BC or 3700] with altar no doubt, for local celebrants. Next came the basin-endowed, penultimate mound which featured huge carved stone orthostats lining its passages and from which several present stone exemplars were taken—but reversed, their carvings thus obliterated—which are now incorporated into the long passages of both the present Knowth mound and
the new New Grange, (assuring that the Knowth mound is clearly older than even New Grange’s beginning). Knowth is the largest earthwork in Europe and incorporates the greatest amount of artwork as well. However, present day Knowth’s construction is Wikiwritten as 2500-2000 BC, thus allowing New Grange, 3200 -3000BC to rule at the Boyne as the oldest earthwork. (Media can be so unfair) . A huge investment of wealth, it (along with its 18 round satellite mounds) was the ‘last mound to grace the ‘Bru na Boinne.’ But size (or rather dates) matter: the two neighboring mound-‘religions’ (long and round) had conflicting social concerns. Just as in other filthy religious wars of history, up to and including the Sunni and Shia, Hindu and Muslim of today, warfare was always possible in the mix. Ireland, in those days however was lucky. It looks like warfare there was avoided by compromise, unlike the situation across the sea in England where religious and boundary lines coallesced into ca. 300 years of armed and bloody differing. Secondary modifiers —that is, social concerns appear to have operated as religion there, where differentiated, specified observances could only take place within a particular communnion presenting a pre-historical paradigm of the first ‘modern’ religions “starting as they meant to go on”. But I think it time for me to interject a high-school type PDF I happened on that speaks far more clearly than I do (myself sporting the bad habit of ‘bittiness” — a bit here a bit there). I believe the reader at this point could use a single narrative pulling together at least one of my subject matters up to now, in order for us to draw a breath and continue on to the end.
“….Standing stones and henges were introduced around 3300 BCE and
continued to be built for the next 2000 years or so. Their purpose was presumably religious in some way, but that's only a guess (since it sometimes seems that whenever archaeologists can't work out the purpose of some impressive ancient structure, they assume it was religious!) Around 3000 BCE, there was a significant change in burial customs. The old communal tombs ceased to be built and maintained; instead we see round barrows. These were tombs for a single person, but their size shows they were constructed by the labor of many. The dead person was often entombed with valuable grave goods - tools, weapons, and jewelry. This clearly shows that by the late Neolithic Age society had become more hierarchical than before, with a rich and powerful ruling class able to command the services of many ordinary people to build huge tombs for them. This was also the time of the great monuments and stone circles, which again suggests that this new powerful class of rulers had enough resources to embark on such major long-term projects. Maybe there'd be a local noble family - kings or priests or shamans - who organised things, enforced laws, and expected you to work for them a certain number of days per year or supply them with a certain amount of food from your own fields. The details of that, however, we don't know.” [Stephen Tempest, web,“What was it like in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain?”].
In my general appraisal (Jo Baer speaking again), one can actually observe over time the schism developing between the two Neolithics —early and late— in which continuing population increases led to differing desideratum: long barrow graves and cemeteries (quasi- cave passages ) were celebrated where the tribal shaman might have escorted the chosen Ancestor to its heavenly
home gives way to basins-in-mounds, using interceeding priests who manipulate the remains of the ancestor — domesticating them with magic as it were, the dead no longer human but made similar to the animals which have been and can be managed. During the very early northern Neolithic people felt themselves and their dead to be still a part of Nature: there is the 4,000 BC Danish burial discovered of a child enclosed in a swan’s wing, ( see above, page 83), whose graphic bones I have also buried in a large painting [“At the Back of the North Wind” an Irish euphinism for death, o/c,1990]. Cygnus is even painted in the upper right sky. During the latter half of the Neolithic era when before, skulls and long bones had often been saved as part of the tapestry of nature —this respect and loving handling of the departed was lost. In fact the following basin culture itself was shortly superceeded in all its areas by Continental immigrants of the Bronze Age, beginning as early as 3,2000 BC in (Northern) Ireland, where Ms. Ballynattan’s tomb was joined in tomb style nearby, (only a thousand years later) by 3 utterly different Spanish metal workers given a moment of history to celebrate them. 9. More About Shamans. A recent (3/07/14, University of Ottowa) ) scientific paper has “..Unlocked Mystery of Out-of-Body Experiences (aka astral trips). ” They put a woman who says she can float outside her body at will into a brain scanner. “The fMRI showed a "strong deactivation of the visual cortex" while "Activating the left side of several areas associated with kinesthetic imagery, Which includes mental imagery of bodily movement. This is the part of the brain that makes it possible for us to interact with the world. It's what makes you feel where your body is in relation to the world…
It is real in the sense that she's actually experiencing it. The brain scans show that She’s going through what she's claiming…. scientists believe that these out- ofbody experiences are a type of hallucination triggered by some neurological mechanism. The researchers of this paper speculate that this neurological mechanism may be present in other people too and that some people—like this woman—may train themselves to activate it.”
Top image: Significantly activated regions of the brain while the participant was having extra-corporeal experiences. Most significantly activated regions are lateralized to the left side and include the supplementary motor area (F), the cerebellum (B,D,E), the supramarginal gyrus (D,F), the inferior temporal gyrus.
Voila! The shaman and trips to other dimensions becomes ‘real’! (sort of). I do believe that —given, during the enormous 25,000 years or so of Homo sapient Paleo-Mesolithic society, peopled by those as clever and intrepid as we are, they quite likely created genes via Natural Selection (or clever breeding?) for this ‘astral’ ability in order to assure a continual begetting of vital individuals such as the ‘Mistress of the Animals’ who had power over the herds’ and/or all
the others who held magical powers for good and evil over their world. Shamans — a talented genetic race perhaps blessed with a panoply of different destinations? Within their enormous time span during the Paleolithic it would seem shamans would have been well worth ‘breeding’ both for their actual as well as magical talents, not a difficult thing to observe and mandate at that time. Whoa, ‘hold the presses! latest news as we are on our way to publishing (Oct 7, ’17)—. [Cambridge], Science Magazine(2017) ‘Ancient genomes show social and reproductive behavior of Upper Paleolithic foragers,’ M. Sikra el al., … “EVIDENCE from ca 30,000 years ago SHOWS THAT A SYSTEM WAS DEVELOPED TO AVOID INTERBREEDING, not mixing at random where greater evidence would exist.” Conversely, there is also evidence of heavy Neanderthal interbreeding from a 50,000 year old toe bone that shows random mating. The interbreeding Neanderthals however, as well as becoming extinct after mixing with Homo sapiens have passed on all of their consequent mutated and disfunctional genes to many of us alive today. My own 0.04% inheritance numbers 270 variant genes— happily manifest by merely heirloom shoulders from a “direct [German] Neanderthal ancestor, a grand parent to the 250th degree” !! [probably maternal side; ‘23andme’]. Others over the years will not have been so lucky. But back to shamans: that the out of body experience is still, although rarely among us I know as I myself have twice wandered about, looking over shoulders outside of my bored, seated-teen-ager-body in a large lecture hall and later, as a lonely sales girl standing in a deserted bookshop basement reading titles around the walls (who suddenly realized she might not be able to get back into said body and stopped the adventure right then-and-there, as well as ‘never again’. Scared the hell out of me).
In residence: “The Witch of Smarmore”; 37 rooms, no heat; Castle presented by Bessie and Friday 10). Adieu Giants. Around 5,300 years ago Ms Ballynahattan— she of the black hair, dark eyes, light skin and Sardinian/Atlantic Bretonian DNA—was resident in County Down, Northern Ireland where she bore little resemblance to today’s red-haired Irish lass. Only a thousand years later, by 2500 BC her world would be full of the blue eyed people most recently from Spain (originally from the Pontic Steppe at the Black Sea and Ukraine): a large wave of blue-eyed, dark-skinned workers of copper, tin and bronze was flooding into Ireland—where three male burials. Within spitting distance of the lady’s earlier burial-place off the northeast coast at Rathlin Island, genetically represented this Bronze Age influx from 2500 BCE
onwards. “The Irish branch of this migration almost certainly arrived on the island via the already ancient networks of travel and trade established by the agricultural and maritime communities of the Neolithic’s Atlantic littoral, moving up from southern Spain via France as far north as Ireland and Scotland, rather than from some central European transit point. This would associate them with the Bell-Beaker or Beaker culture identified by modern archaeology, which likely originated in the Iberian Peninsula, where it was closely linked to the development and spread of metallurgy.” The research paper [sorry, ‘Altirnomis’, can’t find the source] suggests that these groups were Indo-Europeans, that is the speakers of the ancestral Indo-European language, and that their immediate descendants in Western Europe gave birth to the prehistoric Celtic dialects that eventually developed into contemporary Irish, Scottish, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton.” And finally: "It was a surprise to see several genetic elements typical of the modern Irish genome —of interesting genes but also of more anonymous DNA fragments appearing in the 3 Bronze Age specimens," [ Dan Bradley, Trinity College Dublin] said of the more recent skeletons. "These genomes when taken as a whole are more like modern Irish, Scottish and Welsh - insular Celtic populations. This suggested some large degree of establishment of the genetics of these populations 4,000 years ago. One Bronze Age man even carried the genetic mutation for Hemochromatosis, which is a strong signal of continuity between modern day Irish populations and the Rathlin Island Bronze Age individuals —especially the carrier of the hemochromatosis mutation, which has its highest frequencies in Ireland today. Known as the “Celtic” disease it is a variably penetrant recessive disorder and is potentially fatal, due to excessive retention of dietary iron.”
Unlike my two thousand year-earlier, Atlantic migrants these new Spanish males married out’ (as above) and settled into their new presence whereby ”they survived principally through agriculture and exploiting the natural resources of land and sea. This highlights the anomaly that, aside from metalworking, round rather than rectangular buildings, the gradual development of “hill forts” and other defensive structures and certain changes in burial practices, relatively little changed in the transition from the Neolithic Age to the Bronze Age… “ as they became a serious presence in the Irish genome [ibed]..”.
Conversely, the ‘Atlantic Maritime People’s’ Irish farming cohort, afflicted by a long and profound change in the Irish weather ca. 2000 BC—saw all their land and fields revert to Irish mud and marsh and so all of these ‘North Atlantic Maritime Peoples’ upped and left the Island —their mounds, their stones their tracks forever.
Good thing they kept their boats and maritime smarts… Staying true to their sodality, there is no trace of them in Ireland’s population today, (nor of their Stonehenge cousins in Great Britain).
Jo Baer Amsterdam, 2020