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These little pits had been made over generations for preparing inks for tattooing – our guide showed us how leaves and the ash extracted from certain fatty nuts were used to prepare the inks.

Recently two of The Modern Antiquarian contributors Jane and Moth took a trip to the French Polynesian islands of the Marquesas, and to quote from Jane Tomlinson’s blog on TMA “… these islands are the farthest from any continent in the world, lying more than 3000 miles from Mexico… the archipelago was first colonised by people in about 100 AD, probably by Samoans. The people remained Neolithic – that is, without metal tools, – until the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century.

It must have been a fascinating time exploring the islands and the remains of stone buildings and ancestor stone statues buried deep amongst a verdant jungle.  But what is interesting about this trip to the far side of the world, is how stone was used in a very similar fashion to what we see in our own Neolithic culture back home.

A giant polissoir stands at the side of track which leads you up to the site

Polissoir stones (which carry the marks of generations of use for grinding implements) tell a tale of Neolithic culture we can find here in Britain  up on Fyfield Downs at Avebury with the polissior stone there, together with the numerous cup marked stones found on the moors of Northern Britain. Stone limits and yet provides the material for so much more. Carved Tikki ancestral forms, their spectacled eyes menacing us gently from the past, are one of the delights to be found on Jane Tomlinson’s blog here, also a flying pregnant stone woman maybe?

Lipona Tikas at Puamau

The ‘London Stone’ is a mysterious block of limestone that currently sits, ignored by passers-by, in an alcove in the wall of a building opposite Cannon Street Station. Already a subject of speculation in the 16th century, subsequently identified in turn as a Roman milestone, as a Druid monument, as the ‘Stone of Brutus’ and as ‘London’s original fetish stone’, it is now considered by some to play an essential role in the ‘sacred geometry’ of London. How have such diverse opinions as to its purpose arisen? – and can we truly identify its date and its original function?

If you take a late lunch on Wednesday you can pop along to the Guildhall Library and find out more in a lecture by John Clarke, a Senior Curator of London, from 2-3pm. Entrance is free, but you’ll need to book in advance.


May 2009

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