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The frond in Herb. Sloaneanum (vol. 100, p. 52) is figured in Plukenet's Phytographia (p. 282, fig. 3), and described by Petiver in his Almagestrum (p. 250), the locality of West Indies, which is given on the page mentioned, being corrected in the mantissa (p. 78, para. 4) to "ex Hibernia." Ray (Historia Plantarum, vol. iii. p. 79, 1704) gives the mountains of Mourne, in county Down, as the place where the specimen above-mentioned was obtained, Plukenet's figure and description being quoted. In the third edition of Ray's Synopsis (1724) the editor, Dillenius, suggests (p. 127) that the fern may be a cave-grown form of Asplenium adiantum-nigrum. This view is endorsed by Newman, who says (British Ferns, ed. 1844, p. 259): “Sprengel, Willdenow, and Sadler all of them give an Asplenium acutum, which I think must be identical with Ray's Filix minor longifolia."
With regard to the specimen in the Sherardian herbarium at Oxford, Mr. G. C. Druce kindly informs us that it is labelled “gathered in ye mountains of Mourne in ye county of Down." On this label (? in Ray's handwriting) is written : “This is a very rare and elegant plant, and deserves a proper name.” Accompanying it is a nature-printed sheet from the same specimen, and probably of nearly contemporaneous date. Sibthorpe, when professor at Oxford (17841795), labelled this specimen “ Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, L.”
The British Museum specimen, which R. LI. P. has examined, is practically identical with the Kalothrix form of Athyrium filix-fæmina, and with the Oxford specimen. Professor Vines writes us: “I have compared the enclosed (a cultivated frond of Kalothrix) with the Sherardian specimen from the Mourne Mountains, and have no hesitation in saying that they are identical, excepting the differences that are to be referred to the fact that one plant is wild and the other cultivated. The Sherardian specimen is certainly · Kalothrix,' i.e. a barren plumose form of Athyrium filix-femina.”
cimen from dentical, exceptis wild and thie, i.e. a 1
oume Moting the difter the other bare
Hymenophyllum tunbridgense, Sm. Growing on trees in Tollymore
Park, Ferguson; on Slieve Donard, above Donard Lodge, Dickie (Flor. Ulst.). H. wilsoni only appears to grow in the district now, and both the above records are believed to be erroneous.
ON “SICKLES” (SO CALLED) OF BRONZE, FOUND IN IRE
LAND: WITH A LIST OF THOSE ALREADY DIS-
[Read JUNE 27, 1892.)
A CUTTING implement of bronze (Pl. xII., fig. 10) was placed in my hands by Rev. Mr. Lawrence, of Lawrencetown, Co. Galway, which had been obtained some years since in the deepening of the ford of Meelick, on the Shannon, a locality where numerous bronze weapons were discovered, and also stone celts of remarkably rude form as well as other specimens of fine polished workmanship. Similar weapons of bronze are usually described as “ sickles " in our Museum collections, but the result of my investigations has led me to question this attribution. As they are seldom found in Ireland it is desirable to figure and place on record every example which occurs here, and especially to preserve the history of their discovery so far as it can be ascertained, for I regret to say, in many instances, we have no details of this description with reference to the majority of our specimens.
This specimen is composed of an oval socket, from one side of which springs a curved blade, measuring four and a-half inches from point to hilt, one inch in width at its broadest part where it joins the socket, and tapering to a rounded end similar to an ordinary dinnerknife, being about three-fourths of an inch across near its termination; the hollow socket measures one inch in width, by half an inch transversely; it is perforated by small apertures so placed that a single rivet passed through from side to side would secure the bronze blade firmly to a wooden handle. Both edges of the blade, and the rounded terminal part are sharpened in the same manner as the cutting edges of our bronze swords and daggers; and similar to what is observed in other bronze weapons, the cutting edges are made thinner than the rest of the blade. We notice in all varieties of these alleged sickles, no matter how much they vary in form, that they agree in having both edge and point of the weapon equally sharpened.
Implements of this class are always composed of true bronze, a definite alloy of copper and tin, and when discovered associated with other articles these are, without exception, also made of bronze; in fact they are as typical of the so-called “ age of bronze” as celts, palstaves, spears, and leaf-shaped swords. Corresponding to what is noticed in several of these classes of weapons, whilst many “ sickles” have no traces of decoration or ornamentation, a few display patterns varying from simple ribbing to more elaborate workmanship; of this latter there is a fine specimen preserved in the Museum of the Academy, which was discovered many years since in the county of Westmeath, and is figured in our published series of photographs (Pl. XII., fig. 1) Ornamental decoration is, however, exceptional, which would lead us to surmise that the greater number of such weapons ought to be referred to an early stage in the manufacture of bronze.
Sir J. Evans, in his classic work treating of Bronze Implements, divides the “ sickles " into two principal varieties :
1. Those possessing sockets closed above, similar to palstaves and spear-heads of bronze; he considers this shape peculiar to Britain and the North of France.
2. Implements having ring-shaped apertures to receive a handle, a form common over the greater part of Eastern and Western Europe, and found as far North as Scandinavia.
In Ireland both forms are met with.
In addition to these there remains a third variety to be described, which appears deserving of separate classification. In this class of implements, the blade springs from the upper portion of the socket, not from its side, and curving laterally resembles in shape a crook, or the curved end of a walking stick.
There is another difference to be noticed in the shape of these weapons, which seems of some importance for classifying them, namely, that certain examples are distinguished by having sharppointed terminations, whilst in others the ends of the blades are rounded, and comparatively blunted. For, when discriminating between other forms of bronze cutting implements, a marked variation in this direction is recognised, and alleged to depend on their having belonged to different races in legendary times. Thus, O’Curry, in his treatise upon the weapons in use in former ages (and in this respect his views have been adopted by our principal authorities), differentiates cutting implements such as daggers and spears into groups, those which possess broad or bluntish terminations being ascribed to an earlier age, and constituting the offensive arms of that primitive race termed Firbolg, whilst the class of weapons distinguished by more graceful outlines, having acuminated terminations, are traditionally believed to be of later origin, and introduced subsequent to the blunted weapons by invading Danaan tribes.
An examination of our bronze collection of weapons places beyond question the fact that well-marked differences can be recognised in their configurations, and that they admit being placed under separate classifications, whatever explanation we may accept as to the source of this difference, or whether it originated in their being employed by distinct races as tradition reports. This being admitted, it becomes difficult to understand why an exception is made with reference to these so-called “sickles,” some of which, like the Danaan weapons, terminate in acuminated points, and others have rounded ends similar to Firbolg spears or daggers. In both forms, whether blunt or sharp-pointed, the edges are sharpened alike on their convex and concave borders, a useless proceeding, it seems to me, if they were intended for cutting down ears of corn, but perfectly intelligible if designed for purposes of warfare.
True sickles composed of bronze are obtained in considerable abundance on the Continent, especially from the sites of Swiss and French lake dwellings. They appear to fulfil in a satisfactory manner the indications that might be expected in instruments designed for such a special purpose; but are altogether different from the weapons at present engaging our attention, which are far from common in the British Isles, compared with our other bronze articles. Typical illustrations of these Continental sickles are given in Sir J. Evans's work; they consist of short detached blades without continuous sockets; to these blades special shaped handles were adapted, into which they were fastened. Nothing similar to either the blades or handles belonging to such sickles have yet been found in Ireland.
Sickles composed of iron are occasionally discovered here; they resemble in shape those still employed for farm work. I possess one that appears to belong to a remote age, found at Clonmacnois, but it is comparatively modern when compared with the bronze weapons I am describing. When perfect it measured about eight inches or so, the portion still preserved being about six inches in length by three quarters of an inch across the blade ; it consists of a thin flat strip of metal, of which the inner concave edge alone is sharpened as might be expected, and was intended to be fastened to a convenient wooden handle by its projecting spike.
The earliest form of sickle used in Egypt was composed of a curved stick or branch having sharp flakes of thin flint fastened along its concave edge; there are representations of such sickles seen on Egyptian tombs, and some examples are preserved in Museums. They bear no relation whatever to our so-called bronze sickles. Upon a seal of Hæmatite which I obtained from Syria, a reaper is represented cutting down ears of corn; the implement he employs is curved into a hook. We might possibly consider there was some resemblance between the curved bronze blades shaped like a crozier top and the reaping-hook of this Syrian reaper; but beyond question the daggershaped blades, whether with blunt or sharp terminations, must be referred to some very different use instead of cutting down corn.
In seeking a possible solution of this problem, as to the purpose for which they were intended to be employed, we are bound to give due consideration to the stores of information contained in O'Curry's Lectures when treating of the weapons of bronze known to the Ancient Irish, and described in Bardic tales. He mentions, amongst others, certain “Firlanna" or curved blades which are traditionally ascribed to a date so remote as the early battle of Magh Tuireadh. I venture to suggest the “sickles" now under our notice would fulfil the requirements of such a weapon, and furthermore our museums, rich in varied forms of bronze, present us with nothing but these deserving the name of curved blades. If also we place upon a stout ashen staff one of these bronze blades, with a perforated socket, and above this fasten a sharp pointed spear, they would form an efficient and reliable weapon similar to a mediæval halbert. O'Curry likewise refers to a “double spear" which he does not attempt to identify with any implement at present known. There is much to induce us to accept as a reasonable solution of such a compound weapon the balbert now suggested ; its terminal and lateral sharp spikes or blades would answer in all respects to the idea of a “double spear," and the fact that both edges of these alleged “ sickles” are sharpened similar to our bronze spears and daggers, strengthens the supposition that they were designed for purposes of warfare and not for peaceful corn reaping.
When investigating all possible uses to which implements such as these might be applied, it occurred to me, amongst other practical purposes, they would be found of material advantage for cutting down acorns, hazel nuts, and small branches of trees, similar to our bill. hooks; also for grappling objects, aiding in the capture of game or