He crawled further into the passage; fear slowing his movement, his mind quickening with frenzied imaginings of what might wait in the darkness. He reached out and encountered the chill surface of the stone and there beneath his palm, his fingers crept over an engraving. He peered into the blackness, half-believing that there was someone else with him, watching his progress from the ghostly seat of history, daring him to cast light upon the stone. Shaking, he lit a match and held the bobbing flame out. In the moving light, the carvings looked freshly hewn – the creator lingering over his shoulder, whispering the words hidden in the lozenges and spiral motifs. For the briefest of moments, he thought he knew their meaning but then it was lost.
The above attempts to describe the feeling that most people have on their first encounter with megalithic art. It is at once a frustrating and deeply humbling experience. I recall my first trip to Newgrange tomb, as a child, staring at the carvings that had been so carefully drawn into the stone and willing their meaning to waken from my mind. During the course of my research for Dawn Solstice and my current work in progress, I have spent many an hour considering the motive behind these beautiful carvings. Unfortunately, language and communication relies so much on social context and once that has been removed (especially by a good few thousand years) a given means of expression does not always convey its intention. But…that does not stop us wondering what it can mean, this after all is what writers do best.
There are hypotheses that the carvings are astronomical markings and some suggest they are maps, or names of those gods that were worshipped at the passage tombs. Any of these hypotheses could be true but what always excites me about megalithic art and passage tombs in general, is the global nature and the time span that they present in. Here are some examples:
Newgrange tomb, approx. 5000 yrs old
Galicia Northwest Spain, labyrinth and deer carving 4c BC
Parras, Mexico, possibly older than 10,000 yrs (taken by Joey Hiller)
Inga Stone, Brazil approx. 6000 yrs old
Gavrinis, France, 3500 BC
Motifs such as: zig-zag lines, lozenges, radial discs and spirals crop up very frequently. There is ‘art’ similar in nature from all over the world, a lot from around the same era. We still don’t know what a lot of the motifs mean but it is interesting to compare the similarities between the locations and wonder at the commonality of our languages and means of communication.