A puzzling piece of very old sculpture

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A puzzling piece of very old sculpture

Postby Alan Masterman on July 29th, 2012, 8:21 am 

http://www.stmarysjersey.org.je/about-t ... church.php

The granite carving embedded in this wall has certain interesting (and perhaps paradoxical) features. I have some ideas about it but, in the interests of objectivity, I would like to hear other members' views before giving my own. The device at the right hand of the central figure is a six-pointed star; at the left hand, a capital 'X' (or Greek 'chi'). Would anybody care to make a hypothetical analysis of the meaning and probable style/period of this carving?
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Re: A puzzling piece of very old sculpture

Postby Alan Masterman on July 29th, 2012, 8:42 am 

A couple of other points which I ought to have mentioned! It's not obvious from the picture, but if you saw the stone at first hand, you would see that the head is surrounded by an elaborate carved pattern which might variously be interpreted as a hood, or a halo, or a coiffure. Secondly, the interpretation offered on the web page is fundamentally flawed. The devices are most definitely not a chalice and a fish, they are indeed a six-pointed star and a Greek 'chi'.

I have a better photo which I took myself, but I can't quite figure out how to insert an image into a post, as yet...
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Re: A puzzling piece of very old sculpture

Postby yadayada on July 29th, 2012, 11:22 am 

A relic of ... early medieval times, ... is an incised stone of Mont Mado granite, now lying sideways at ground level near the west door. It bears the likeness of a man holding a chalice and a fish, the earliest symbol of Christianity. It was certainly a priest's tombstone, callously re-used as building material.
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Re: A puzzling piece of very old sculpture

Postby Watson on July 29th, 2012, 11:38 am 

The devices are most definitely not a chalice and a fish, they are indeed a six-pointed star and a Greek 'chi'.


I hope you can upload your picture. Does the above interpretation change the suggestion it was a head stone? Even today, interesting materials get incorporated into the building materials and used for the visual interest, and story behind it. It likely had much more detail at the time.
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Re: A puzzling piece of very old sculpture

Postby weakmagneto on July 29th, 2012, 9:38 pm 

Jesus Christ??? In short, Fish is an anagram in Greek for Jesus Christ... Chalice represents Jesus. X in Greek means "Chi" kinda like the "X" in Xmas meaning Christ. Guessing 3rd century AD?
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Re: A puzzling piece of very old sculpture

Postby Alan Masterman on July 31st, 2012, 4:55 am 

Thanks for your replies, guys.

I have read the original text, from which the webpage text is taken, where the authors say it was "certainly a priest's tombstone". The context makes it fairly clear that this is no more than a very tentative hypothesis, unsupported by positive evidence, based solely upon the fact that today the stone is part of a church wall.

The wall into which the stone is built dates from about 1840. There is actually no firm evidence that the stone had any association with this church at all before this date (though it seems highly likely); it might, for example, have been dug up out of the ground when the footings were excavated.

But for me, the main problem is the representation of the central figure. Figures carved in this style (which is Celtic) can be found on a number of other stones in Northern Europe, and they are all dated to 5th-3rd Century BCE.

So I would suggest that this was originally a piece of pre-Christian Celtic carving. It is probable - though not certain - that the star and the cross are later Christian embellishments. Not certain, because the six-pointed star was actually a very common motif in Celtic art; it never had any very strong association with Christianity (or with Judaism, for that matter). There is also nothing exclusively Christian about the cross; however, taken together, I think they do imply a Christian significance.
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