White Island on the Ocean
Seven Landscape Mysteries of Bronze Age Britain, A Unified Theory
By William Glyn-Jones
Here we shall look first at seven British landscape mysteries, and then describe the treasure hunt that brings them together, the detective story that leads to a really rather surprising unified theory. The piece follows on directly from the earlier Forum post :
The Balance of the Two Lands: Ancient Egypt's Division According to the Ratio of Triangular Equilibrium (16 April 2008). It could be viewed as Part 2 of that discussion.
Finally I will pose a riddle and invite you to doing some sleuthing of your own, emailing your solutions to email@example.com
Mystery 1:Beads and Barrows
Faience is a type of fired sand paste which when treated with certain glazes creates a vivid blue-green effect. It was first made in Egypt and the Near East, and beads of it were given a name in Egyptian which means "good luck". For this reason it was commonly buried with the dead to assist them on their journey.
It wasn't long before faience found its way to the British Isles, where, similarly, it was placed with other funeral goods in certain round barrows.
There are other examples of British Bronze Age grave goods curiously similar to those of Egypt. In 1955 a burial tomb in the Hill of Tara Complex in Ireland was opened by archaeologists to reveal a necklace of amber and faience beads. Qualified Egyptologist Lorraine Evans has said that this is remarkably similar to necklaces found in royal burials in Egypt, such as that of Tutankhamun. This is interesting enough in itself, but interest becomes sheer fascination as we note, as Evans did in her book Kingdom of the Ark, that an old Scottish myth traces the ancestry of the High Kings of this Tara site back to a daughter of a pharaoh who, according to this myth, lead an expedition to the British Isles. The site where the necklace was found - Tara - has always been associated with this dynasty. An almost identical necklace (again similar to the Egyptian, in other words) also turned up in a tomb in Devon, England, in 1889.
The Gold of the Grail Kings: The stunning gold shoulder cape found in a 4000-year-old burial mound in Wales, and, right, an image of the ka of an Egyptian wearing a similar adornment in a tomb painting.
Gold collar on a ka statue from the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Then there is the extraordinary Mold Pectoral, one of the most amazing finds of British archaeology, and the largest single piece of worked gold ever uncovered at a British ancient site. It was found in a Bronze Age burial mound in Mold in Flintshire, North Wales, in 1833. Evans noted that it bares an uncanny resemblance to gold pectorals that formed part of the funeral garb of high-ranking members of Ancient Egyptian society. Even the use of a beaded pattern worked into the surface of the gold was familiar to the British Egyptologist. The gold collar of Egypt was purely funerary, and was held to bestow new life and fertility to the occupant of the tomb who wore it. The British example, despite incorporating such a large amount of solid gold, was surely also made only for the Afterlife, for its form would have completely restricted upper arm movement and so could not have been intended for use by a living person. As such the Mould Pectoral represents a phenomenal investment in the welfare of this individual in the Afterlife. So not only does it resemble the Egyptian collars, but it also clearly had a similar purpose.
What was the source of these cultic connections? Evan's suggestion is not unlike that cry of "wolf" that went up the third and final time from the boy in the old fable. Because the previous calls had been false, no-one believed the true one. With a religion and classical literature in neither of which Britain figured, our recent British ancestors attempted to correct this cultural dislocation by imagining themselves to be first the New Trojans, to link themselves to the richest literary traditions of the Classical World, and later inventing the British Israel movement, to link themselves to the Bible upon which they had been spoon-fed. The culture of a nation must interpenetrate its landscape, and every culture must have a mythology, even if it calls it "history". However, false histories never have the same resonance as those which have levels of truth; an abducted Helen will lead to a fallen Troy. How ironic would be if the Egyptian claim actually turned out to have historicity?
Evans did not allow her enquiry to probe back before the Middle Bronze Age period, but the Tara tomb itself (although probably reused) was early, and there is much else from the earlier period that we should take into account, and our business here is to look at that.