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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/562

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544
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the large tumulus of Marie-Hroeck, which includes a small dolmen containing rich funerary furnishings. In front of the entrance to the cavern is a rectangular slab that bears on its face a scutcheon containing two crosses, symbolical of power, and several very rudely drawn representations of boats. The engravers of this period were not artists, but stone-cutters, working upon a very hard rock with very poor tools. Unable to figure distinctly what they wanted to, they did the best they could. Handled hatchets were distributed irregularly all round the scutcheons. Does not this epitaph seem to mean that the tomb was erected in memory of a powerful maritime chief by soldiers, his companions in arms?

From these bucklers we pass to generalized feminine representations characterized by concentric necklaces and pairs of prominent globular breasts. Such sculptures, which are repeated in various dolmens and artificial mortuary caves in the valley of the Seine, may be of religious import. They seem to be replaced in the south of France by attempts at statues. Of such character are the two sculptures of the dolmen of Collorgues in Gard, which also have the symbolical cross on their breasts.

Whatever they may be, the megalithic engravings are the earliest graphic historical documents of the country. It is therefore important to collect and preserve them.

They may be divided into simple ornamental motives, which may further suggest interesting resemblances; figurative engravings representing known and definite objects and forming commemorative pictures capable of affording important historical or legendary hints—the most ancient documents in our archives; and symbolical engravings of more difficult determination, and independent of any alphabet.

Among the specimens of the last class, one sort, the cupule, is extremely widespread. It is a very regularly shaped hemispherical cup, generally represented by itself, but sometimes mingled with other figures, most usually occurring in groups without arrangement, but very rarely isolated. Entire surfaces are sometimes covered with this design. It is a very ancient design, as such cupules are found on the dolmens. In the dolmen of Kériaval, at Locmariquer, the lower side of the horizontal slab is starred with numerous cupules, which antedate the construction of the monument, for they appear on the parts that rest on the supports. There may also, however, be more recent cupules. We are totally in the dark as to what they represent.

Cupules are sometimes cut on the surface of rocks in place. Engravings similarly cut have been designated sculptures on rocks, and are found almost everywhere. Those which have been most studied