The Swastika: The Earliest Known Symbol & its Migrations
Dispersion of the Swastika
was somewhat similar to that of the Bronze Age peoples, and many of the implements had great resemblance, but with sufficient divergence to mark the difference between them. There were different stages of culture among the Etruscans, as can be easily and certainly determined from the tombs, modes of burial, pottery, etc.
The Swastika appears to have been employed in all these epochs or stages. It was undoubtedly used during the Bronze Age, and in Italy it continued throughout the Etruscan and into the Roman and Christian periods.
While it may be doubtful if any specimen of Swastika can be identified as having belonged to the Neolithic Age in Europe, there can be no doubt that it was in common use during the Bronze Age. Professor Goodyear gives it as his opinion, and in this he may be correct, that the earliest specimens of Swastika of which identification can be made are on the hut urns of central Italy. These have been considered as belonging definitely to the Bronze Age in that country. Fig. 183 is a representation of one of those hut urns. It shows upon its roof several specimens of Swastika, as will be apparent from examination. There are other figures, incised and in relief. One of them is the celebrated "burning altar" mark of Dr. Schliemann. This specimen was found in the Via Appia near Rome, and is exhibited in the Vatican Museum. Similar specimens have been found in other parts of Etruria. The author saw in the Municipal Museum at Corneto many of them, which had been excavated from the neighboring cemetery of the prehistoric city of Corneto-Tarquinii. They are pottery, but made as if to represent rude huts of skin, stretched on cross poles, in general appearance not unlike the cane and rush conical cabins used to this day by the peasants around Rome. They belonged to the Bronze Age, and antedated the Etruscan civilization. This was demonstrated by the finds at Corneto-Tarquinii. Tombs to the number of about 300, containing them, where found, mostly in 1880-81, at a lower level than, and were superseded by, the Etruscan tombs. They contained the weapons, tools, and ornaments peculiar to the Bronze Age --- swords, hatchets, pins, fibulæ, bronze and pottery vases, etc., the characteristics of which were different from Etruscan objects of similar purpose, so they could be satisfactorily identified and segregated. The hut urns were receptacles for the ashes of the cremated dead, which, undisturbed, are to be seen in the museum. The vases forming part of this grave furniture bore the swastika mark; three have two Swastikas, one three, one four, and another no less than eight.
These remarkable urns were first found in 1817 on Montecucco, near Marino, and at Monte Crescenzio, near the Lago de Castello, beneath a stratum of peperino (tufa) 18 inches thick. They were embedded in a yellowish volcanic ash and rested on a lower and earlier stratum of peperino. (3)
Curiously enough, the three or four pronged mark, called "burning altar" by Dr. Schliemann, is on both hut urns in Dennis' "Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria." Dr. Schliemann argues strongly in favor of the relationship between Swastika and the "burning altar" sign, but assigns no other reason than the similarity of the marks on the two objects. He appears unable, in "Ilios," to cite any instance of the Swastika being found on the hut urns in connection with the "burning altar" sign, but he mentions the Swastika five times repeated on one of the hut urns in the Etruscan collection in the museum of the Vatican at Rome. (4) The photograph of the hut urn form the Vatican (fig. 183) supplies the missing link in Schliemann's evidence. The roof of the hut urn bears the "burning altar" mark (if it be a burning altar, as claimed), which is in high relief (as it is in the Dennis specimens), and was wrought in the clay by the molder when the hut was made. Such of the other portions of the roof as are in sight show sundry incised lines which, being deciphered, are found to be Swastikas or parts of them. The parallelogram in the front contains a cross and has the appearance of a labyrinth, but it is not. The other signs or marks, however, represent Swastikas, either in whole or in part. This specimen completes the proof cited by Schliemann, and associates the Swastika with the "burning altar" sign in the Etruscan country, as well as on the hill of Hissarlik and in other localities.
Dennis supposes the earliest Etruscan vases, called by many different names, to date from the twelfth century B. C. to 540 B. C., (5) the latter being the epoch of Theodoros of Samos, whose improvements marked an epoch in the culture of the country. He says:
These vases were adorned with annular bands, zigzag, waves, meanders, concentric circles, hatched lines, Swastikas, and other geometric patterns.
1. "cities and Cemeteries of Etruria," I, p.69. [Back]
2. Ibid., II, p. 457. Back
3. Annali dell' Instituto, Rome, 1871, pp. 239-279; Bulletino Instituto, Rome, 1871, pp. 34-52; Pigorini and Sir John Lubbock, "Notes on Hut Urns and other objects from Marino," London, 1869; virchow, "Die Huttenuruen von Marino," Berlin, 1883. Back
4. "Troja," p. 122. Back
5. "Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria," I, p. lxxxix. Back