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The Unrecorded Ages.
REASONS FOR PLACING THIS BETWEEN THE ROMAN PART AND
THE CONTINUATION— PREHISTORIC VESTIGES HOW THEY SUPERSEDE THE FABULOUS HISTORIES—THE GEOLOGICAL CONDITIONS IN WHICH THEY ARE FOUND_REASON WHY SCOTLAND IS PECULIARLY RICH IN ANCIENT REMAINS—ANCIENT FORTRESSES
-THE CATERTHUNS-DUNSINNANE HILL-OTHER INSTANCESTHE VITRIFIED FORTS-LAKE DWELLINGS AND STRENGTHSTHE CATRAIL-THE DANISH DUNES-MYSTERIOUS HILL-WORKS TAPUC OF TORWOOD-THE LAWS-PICTS' HOUSES AND OTHER UNDERGROUND BUILDINGS-ARTIFICIAL CAVES—CAIRNS, CHAMBERED AND UNCHAMBERED-MAES-HOWE-DISPOSAL OF THE DEADURNS AND BURNING-WEAPONS, STONE AND METALLIC -DEFENSIVE ARMOUR - QUESTION OF THE STONE, BRONZE, AND IRON AGES-DECORATIONS-INFERENCES AS TO ART AND CIVILISATION.
It has been found convenient to tell by itself the history of the sojourn of the Romans in Scotland. Their influence on the Scotland which afterwards became a nation, might be said to be rather topographical than political. The recollections and memorials attached to them were like the traditions of a visit in far-off times from distinguished guests, who had left behind them illustrious recollections and interesting relics—the mute memorials of a mighty people whose power had departed. Not but that the Roman empire had a great influence on the constitution and social condition of Scotland. That influence, however, was not imparted by conquest : it came into Scotland in later times, from close alliance with the Continental nations in which the imperial institutions continued to live. Any account of this infusion of Roman institutions does not, therefore, belong to the time when the Romans departed, but to a period far on in history.
The fabulous historians dealt easily with the Roman period, as with everything else. It was but an episode in a history, going as far back as that of Rome itself. Of late years a vast process of legendary fiction has been cut away from the early history of nearly every civilised nation. The fabulous history of nations is abandoned with some regret, as the visible form taken by the aspirations of national pride and patriotism; and it is justly enough said that the fables are part of a nation's history, since they are the narrative of the traditional creed which influenced the people. Undoubtedly they are so, but in this, their new claim to historical consideration, they belong to the period when they were invented and believed, not to that which they falsify. Whatever, therefore, is said of the fabulous history of Scotland, shall be given farther on in connection with the motives for inventing the fables, and the influence exercised by them on the popular mind.
It is unfortunate that many of those who have been busiest in extinguishing these picturesque and venerable fables have been apt to substitute others of their own. These profess to be born of the philosophy of history, and to be steeped in learning and sagacity; but to common minds in search of fact they are not less unreal than the old fables, and only much less
amusing. It would almost seem as if the critics who extinguished the old epics considered themselves bound to fill up the empty space they had made in history, and fell to this task in so exceedingly conscientious a spirit that they have given the world a far very far—larger bulk of literature than they have removed.
There are now but faint remnants of this method of filling history with speculation, and its speedy final disappearance may be hoped for. It has naturally been elbowed off by a new and healthy system of inquiry, which, if it do not supply all that history demands, yet is satisfactory and complete in what it gives. Of this method of supplying the deficiencies of early history we have already seen a little in dealing with the sojourn of the Romans in Scotland. It examines and classifies the real evidence of their existence which the ancient inhabitants of the land may have left behind them, and it draws inferences, feeble and vague sometimes at first, but endowed with that virtue of ascertained truths which fits them to truths coming from other directions, insomuch that patient efforts are sometimes crowned by the completion of an inductive system which fills up a blank in written history.
1 Their way of manufacturing it is this: When they alight on some list of kings or chiefs, whose very existence hangs on an extremely slender thread of testimony, they set each of them up as a historical character, and speculate on his policy, and its influence on his own and foreign countries, as knowingly, and with as noble a sequence of rounded sentences, as any great historian could employ in treating of the policy of Julius Cæsar or Frederick the Great. In like manner, when some sort of office or national or district practice is casually mentioned in any dry old chronicle, which leaves its practical nature in utter darkness, the historical philosopher takes it up, looks at it, and then writes about it at length, crowding his pages with conjectures about it, if his nature be sceptical; but, on the other hand, if he be practical and sagacious, describing the character and functions of the office as minutely and fearlessly as a law dictionary tells those of a Lord Chancellor, a parish beadle, or a chief constable at the present day.
There is, at all events, in this system of inquiry, the satisfaction of having possession of absolute facts, be their ultimate tendency what they may.
propose, then, here to start with a brief account of certain tangible memorials of old times, of which it may be at least asserted that they were made or possessed by inhabitants of Scotland, and are therefore, in some measure, a testimony to practices and capacities that existed among the people. And if in many instances they are yet far isolated from anything that can tell us of the origin and destinies of the people they belonged to, or the
age of their construction, yet others happily assimilate in some measure to the other testimonies of past history, and in all these are specialties and characteristics which are worthy of being known as undoubted facts in the history of mankind."
And first, a word on the general geological and topographical conditions of the country, for these are not only closely connected with the character of its memorials of unknown times, but have had their own special influence on the historical destinies of the people.
It may be said that the proper place for an analysis of the items of what has been called prehistoric matter, should have been placed at the commencement of the book, and before the chapters on the Roman occupancy. The author believes, however, that it will be more clear and effective where he has placed it. The memorials now to be dealt with connect themselves with other occupants of the soil who may have belonged to it any series of ages before the Roman occupancy, or through. out that period, or after it was over, Thus it will be found that these memorials blend into and form a sequence with others of a distinctly later period, and the sequence thus created by the nature of things would have been broken by any attempt at a more accurate adjustment. Such an adjustment would be in reality a breaking up of a natural sequence, by first describing the remains older than the Roman period, then giving that period its due, and on the other side of it reviving the account of the vestiges of the native inhabitants in
a later age.
In the first place, it seems clear that the oldest works of man which have yet been found in Scotland, are more recent than the latest of the geological formations. It is held as admitted that, over the whole world, in the stone strata of geology, no trace of man or any of his works has been found. There is a petrified human skeleton in the British Museum, but this has been an incidental incrustation, like the nests and baskets petrified in springs impregnated with lime or other consolidating matter. The stratified beds which in some great convulsions have kept the impressions of the animals and vegetables of some epoch of the transitions through which the globe has passed, contain no testimony, as heretofore deciphered, to the existence of man. There are, however, formations which, though they are not of stone, are counted geological, as having been the effect of causes no longer in operation. Every water produces changes on the adjoining land by its motions -adding here and abstracting there. The effects thus produced are not to be counted among the permanent geological elements of a country. But there exist large effects, which have been caused by waters, or other forces no longer present to change them ; and these, as they are permanent conditions of the crust of the earth, are counted as geological. Such are the diluvial lands stretching in level tracts from the edges of the chief rivers to the slopes of the nearest hills. Whether caused by the escape of the waters or the upheaval of their beds, their appearance is that of a deposit from waters which have ceased to exist.
Some late discoveries in France have tended to dis