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The Swastika Stone

Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art


Is the Swastika Stone really prehistoric?

The Swastika Stone is always held up to be the classic example of Bronze Age rock art in Britain, but is it really that old?

Whilst there is strong evidence for the use of the swastika symbol in general going back to the Neolithic, I'd make a case that the fylfot design of the Ilkley Moor Swastika Stone is mediaeval in date.

In a small church on Anglesey I recently came across a 13th Century gravestone with a carved image that is virtually identical to the Swastika Stone. I've attached a picture here.

Rock art is notoriously difficult to date, unless it is overlain with other datable material to give it context. Most dating is done on stylistic grounds. Since the fylfot design appears in a firmly dated mediaeval context on Anglesey, I'd argue that it is a mediaeval design. This means that a mediaeval date for the Swastika Stone is entirely possible, even probable. The chance of the design persisting almost unchanged across 2,500 years and from one side of the country to the other can be discounted.

I'm happy to be challenged on this, but in the absence of any positive evidence I would not regard the Swastika Stone as ancient.
Dunstan Posted by Dunstan
16th March 2008ce

Comments (7)

Hi Dunstan. A question rather than a comment. Do you recall the name of the church in Anglessey and/or the town where this carving can be found?
Many thanks in advance for any info. With regards, Geoff Barnes.
Posted by Geoff Barnes
16th December 2010ce
I don't know if it's just the one in Anglesey you're interested in, but I know of another that's part of some graffiti in Sutton church in Bedfordshire. It's on the chest of a rather strange figure with mad hair labelled 'Tom'. There's a rubbing of it in 'English Medieval Graffiti' by V Pritchard and also it's reproduced in Alan Garner's 'The Guizer'. Dunno if that's of interest to you?! Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th December 2010ce
There is also fyflot swastika design on Great Canfield Church, Essex, alongside carvings of Odin with his ravens whispering in his ear, on pillars on either side of the porch door. Must be 11th/12th century Scandinavian, very striking an old pagan god welcoming you to a christian church....... moss Posted by moss
16th December 2010ce
Moss is too modest to mention that she's written about Great Canfield Church here - - well worth a visit if you're in this neck of the woods. Littlestone Posted by Littlestone
16th December 2010ce
That is exceptionally cool, Moss. But wouldn't Odin only have one eye, otherwise how would we know it was Odin? (not arguing or anything). Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
17th December 2010ce
Yes I thought about that, but given that churches are so different here in Essex to Wiltshire, and that part of Scandinavian history was played here, its not likely to be a christian god with doves on his shoulder (given the pointy hat). Also the snake/serpent on the other side looks like the 'ragnorok' serpent, the symbolism is very strong, especially adding in the other carvings which are not Norman. Plus Colin Coulson agreed with me;) moss Posted by moss
17th December 2010ce
Hi Geoff - sorry for the delay in replying - hope this is still useful.

The church on Anglesey is in Maenaddwyn, a few hundred yards up the road from Maenaddwyn standing stone (directions on this site).

The church itself is easy to find, but getting the key can be challenging! My only advice is to ask locally or visit on Sunday during a service. The stone itself is in an alcove in an old side chapel.

All the best

Dunstan Posted by Dunstan
16th April 2011ce
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