The Bull and the Ram, a forgotten belief. Signs of the Vinca and Cucuteni in Europe and the Aegean

Full text



1 - The Vinča Script...7

2 - The three-stroke comb: sheep/the ram...8

3 - The four-stroke comb: cattle/the bull...20

4 - A unity...31

5 - The lamb model...44

6 - Bull and ram signs in Britain...48

7 - Single and double-chevrons...58

8 - The signs as clan marks or 'Tamgha'...,,...64


Please view in double-page mode for ease of reading.

As my research into these symbols is ongoing, I will continue to update it in light of further evidence. In one such update, published at the beginning of July, I voiced concerns that evidence from a culture that existed some two thousand years after the Vinča may have used the triangle, a key bull symbol, as a sign for 'sheep'. I am happy to report that this concern has now been resolved, after the examination of further artefacts from this culture, which confirm its use in connection with cattle.

Ian Harling July 2013 Introduction

In the following document I will show that:

1) The Vinča and Cucuteni held cult beliefs which were partially based on the idea of a unity of the bull and ram (or cattle and sheep), with each animal representing the masculine and feminine aspects of nature. The bull was signified largely by angular shapes, such as the zig-zag, lozenge; whilst the ram predominantly by a curl or spiral. How deeply this belief permeated these civilisations is unknown, but the symbolism which illustrates it is frequent upon a range of artefacts.

2) Comb signs are found frequently within the Vinca script. Those with three strokes represented sheep/the ram; and those with four strokes, cattle/the bull. In some instances spheres or dots of the same number were used instead of strokes. 3) Some signs found within the Vinča script are composite ram and bull signs, which

seem to have been used in some cases as clan marks (Tamgha) or personal marks.

4) A number of Vinča signs for cattle and sheep had spread to much of Europe by the early Bronze age, and can be found at sites such as Newgrange in Ireland. However, I must stress that I am not suggesting that every later use of Vinča bull


and ram signs means that they shared the same beliefs as the Vinča, but noting that the same dual symbolism and the numerical representations for each animal continued to be used.

The Vinča

The name 'Vinča' comes from their type-site at Belo Brdo ('White Hill'), a mound or 'tell' in a suburb of Belgrade in Serbia, which is composed entirely of the remains of human settlement. It was occupied a number of times from c.5700BC until the medieval period, although the largest archaeological deposits found there are from the Vinča culture, whose metal-refining skills helped drive the change in Europe from the Neolithic into the Copper age Eneolithic. This civilisation and entire region went into deep economic and cultural decline during the middle of the fourth millennium after a period of stagnation. (John Chapman, 'The Vinča culture of South-east Europe: studies in chronology, economy and society'. Oxford: British archaeological reports, BAR international series 117, 1981.)

Figure 1 Simplified map of extent of Vinča culture, 4000 BC Beginning

I began by assuming that a culture that did not seem to have a complete writing system might need to communicate simple ideas, such as which pot was for milk, which for water, etc. using symbols. Ownership would also need to be conveyed by personal marks in what were sometimes large settlements, with other signs perhaps representing a rudimentary counting system. Key goods for the Vinča included flax, wool, cattle, obsidian, and gold, and I felt that symbols for them must also appear within the Vinča script with some frequency.

In trying to identify the meaning of these signs I included material from a wide range of sources. As the Vinča sign-system had obviously enjoyed some success, I reasoned that at least a few of their symbols may have been adopted by other cultures and also have survived into the Bronze age. With this in mind I looked for evidence of their use across a period of around seven thousand years throughout Europe, beginning by collating the symbols which appear at Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia, c.7500-5700 BC., then moving forward in time out from the Danubian Vinča heartland into the British Isles,


Cyprus, Crete and mainland Greece, up until the early Roman period, circa the first century AD.


The first clue came when I noticed that the gold grave goods of the Varna necropolis held many representations of the number three, and that it and multiples of it are found on Vinča amulets and ritual figures.; but the problem was that they also appeared on simpler objects too, such as spindle-whorls and pots. One of the dichotomies of the Vinča script is that the three-stroke comb and other signs were inscribed upon obviously important items in a way that makes them appear to have a 'religious' significance; but, they are also just as likely to be found marked carelessly on objects that have no ritual meaning at all. This pointed to the possibility that the signs represented ordinary things, perhaps produce, that the Vinča were giving thanks for.

Finding what I thought might be a three-stroke comb in the form of a belt around a Vinča figurine gave me the first suspicions that the sign might represent a fibre, and the animal or plant that the fibre had come from. Following this line of thought I discovered strong evidence that showed the sign meant sheep or the ram.

Cattle signs and symbols

In the process of doing this research I also gathered quite a number of symbols that pertained mainly to cattle and the bull. Some of these were based on horn-shapes and easy to identify, whereas others seemed to represent these animals purely because they had been associated with them at Çatal Hüyük, possibly indirectly. Symbols painted upon friezes and cattle skulls in shrines there may originally have been a mixture of individual clan marks, signs for the cow, the bull, the calf and other animals too, but somehow they seem to have become homogenised in Vinča symbolism as meaning the bull, cattle and/or the masculine aspect of nature. In this way, designs from Çatal Hüyük, such as the chequerboard pattern, came to signify 'the bull/cattle' as much as the bull's (or Auroch) primary symbol, the single dot, did.

Once I had understood the meaning of the first handful of symbols it was obvious that, rather than them being inscribed on pots in rows like a written language, they were being used in a much more obvious way to decorate artefacts. This was for me the most important clue in deciphering the signs I go on to discuss - Vinča communication of ideas was not just via the symbols that we call the Vinča script, but also through the actual designs that appear so extensively upon their pottery and figurines.


After I had deciphered a selection of signs representing sheep and a handful for cattle and the bull, I found many examples of Vinča wares bearing designs made up of both sheep and bull motifs. In some cases one half of an object might be decorated with soft, curling designs that represent sheep (or their nature) and jagged bull symbols on the other. This was extremely helpful, as it allowed the identification of unknown symbols by their presence alongside a known symbol.

This dual aspect was undoubtedly important to the Vinča, and there are examples of it on what may be ritual items. Although I will illustrate a number of instances of this type of


sign use on anthropomorphic models, figurines and pottery in the following pages, they should be recognised as just a limited selection of those available.

Elsewhere in Europe

What became obvious and exciting during this exploration was that the same Vinča dual-symbolism can be seen throughout Europe, both in Neolithic and Bronze age rock art and painted tomb decoration, including prominently in a tomb dating to 3500BC in Sardinia, and upon kerb-stones c.3200BC at Newgrange in Ireland. A later explosion of use came with the arrival of the Beaker culture in Britain c. 2475-2315BC; which brought, amongst other things, the ability to refine metal - a skill which had again originated with the Vinča.

More than a thousand years later the same sign-pairings were being used to decorate pottery and artefacts in the Bronze age by the Minoans, Mycenaeans, and later the Greeks too. How much these subsequent cultures knew of their original meaning will undoubtedly be limited - but that they were used over a large area for an extended period of time is certain.

Figure 2 Dispersion of the Vinča haplotype.

“...The people of Vinča culture, are likely I2a1 in Haplogroup I, who may also have formed the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture. I2a1 and are still living in the area today. This population reaching its peak in the Western Balkans, most notably in Dalmatia (50-60%) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (up to 75%), especially in the Croat population of Bosnia and Herzegovina...”

(John Chapman, 'The Vinča culture of South-east Europe: studies in chronology, economy and society'. Oxford: British archaeological reports, BAR international series 117, 1981.)


Figure 3 Simplified map of the cultures of Old Europe 4000 BC:

• Green: Funnel beaker Culture (TRB - a descendant of the Linear Pottery culture) • Blue: Linear Pottery Culture (LBK)

• Orange: Lengyel Culture

• Purple: Vinča, including the Karanovo cultures of Bulgaria, c. 6200-5500BC • Red: Cucuteni. Full later extents not indicated.

Vinča symbols on pottery from mainland Greece

Proto-geometric style, c.1050-900 BC: These wares represent the return of craft production after the collapse of the Mycenaean Palace culture. Vinča symbols, such as the roundel and chequerboard, began appearing. This pottery influenced much of the rest of Greece, especially Boeotia, Corinth, the Cyclades (in particular Naxos) and the Ionian colonies in the east Aegean.

Geometric style, 900-700BC: Further Vinča symbols came into use during this period, with a more frequent appearance of chevrons, zig-zags, triangles, the chequerboard motif, etc. breaking with the previous traditions of Minoan and Mycenaean design.

Middle Geometric style, c. 850-770 BC: This style heralds the appearance of figurative decoration, where animals, often in pairs, are drawn between bands of Vinča geometrical decoration in the style of the earlier pottery.

Late Geometric style, 900-700BC. All of the symbols and characters from the previous eras become more tightly packed and stylised.

Wild Goat style, southern and eastern Ionian islands, c. 650-550 BC: Widespread throughout Asia Minor, many of the animals and symbols found in previous eras are still present in this last major style of the period. There are few human representations, and the style is made up predominantly of wild animals, swastikas, roundels and other bull-signs.


1 The Vinča Script

Figure 4 A selection of Vinča symbols. (Font by Sorin Paliga ( of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of Bucharest, Romania.)

In all, some 230 signs have been catalogued and are variously called: 'Old English Writing', the 'Vinča-Tordos Script', the 'Danube Script', or, as I will term it here, the 'Vinča Script'. At first thought to be a proto-writing system, subsequent analysis of the script has shown that this is unlikely. Although I had been swayed by that conclusion myself when I began looking at the signs, I have since seen examples where I feel that the intended meaning of some groups of signs may be more complex than we currently understand.

Figure 5 Drawing of a clay vessel unearthed near Vinča. (Wikipedia Creative Commons License

-Nikola Smolenski.ča_vessel.png)

We know that:

• The Vinča created symbols by drawing on a limited sub-set of signs, rotating, repeating or mirroring a single sign to make a variety of others.

• Around 85% of inscriptions consist of one symbol.

• 28% of symbols are found on or near the base of pots. This would imply that these may be personal identification marks showing ownership and/or the intended contents of the vessel.


2 The three-stroke comb: sheep/the ram

Figure 6 A selection of Comb variants. (Harling I. 2012)

As the comb-signs, above, form a large part of the Vinča script, I first compiled a list of comb signs and variations in the 'Inventory of the Danube Script' (Shann M.M. Winn), finding that the most common comb signs have, in order of frequency, three, two, four, then five teeth. Being conservative, of the 230 signs in the OEW sign-list, around thirty four can be attributed to two and three stroke comb variants. As the two three and four-stroke combs were obviously of importance I focussed on collecting all instances of their use on Vinča and Cucuteni artefacts to see if any useful comparisons could be made.

Figure 7 The 'Lady of Turdas'.

(Winn S.M.M.1981 - M. Merlini).

Looking at the above Vinča figurine I noticed that it had a cord or belt around its waist ending in six vertical lines, which seemed too precise to be a random detail. I wondered if this indicated three fringes on each end of the belt, and if it might symbolise a three-stroke comb of the type shown to the right of the figure. This was certainly a tenuous link, and just one of many that I was following, but the idea led to the identification of a series of signs.

On weaving related items

Previous research has shown that the Vinča made cordage from a variety of natural fibres, including bindweed, nettles, hemp etc., but in terms of woven textiles they initially used primarily wool and a little flax, later turning to mainly flax (2 -Chapman J. 1981 pp.84-116) If the comb signs did represent fibres, then their use on loom weights and spindle whorls would not have been entirely decorative, as flax and wool need to be treated differently in the weaving process - one requiring a lighter loom weight than the other. Although there are Vinča spindle whorls that are inscribed with complex markings that include two or three-stroke signs, the below shows a fairly unambiguous use of them in isolation.


Figure 8 A loom weight from Valea Nandrului, Romania, bearing two-stroke combs.

(Fig. 5.283, spindle-whorl VI.1059, Photo Merlini 2007)

Figure 9 Vinča loom weight from Petretsii with two-stroke signs in the shape of a swastika on its main

face, 5500-4800BC. (After Luca 2001a, fig.


The use of the sign both upon this weight and that in the previous illustration is prominent, and shows that the two-stroke comb – and possibly the three-stroke comb too - may have had an important meaning with regard to the weaving process. I found other examples too from Neolithic Britain, Spain, and elsewhere. The following are from Troy, c. 1300-950BC. Although they might be taken as a random decoration, designs made from three lines are in the majority of comb marks used on spindle-whorls from Troy. Three examples below have a three-stroke comb and a swastika, the latter I discovered to be a bull or cattle sign.

Figure 10 After Schliemann (pp.816 Fig. 61 - pp.816 Fig.64. - pp 812 53 and 54; Wilson T.)

On animal models and in conjunction with animal depictions

Finding these and other spindle-whorls decorated with three-stroke decoration and motifs I looked for instances of two and three-stroke combs or dots on Vinča and Cucuteni animal models, and within plant-like designs on pottery. I found both three and four-stroke combs (or dots of the same numbers) appearing in isolation upon animal models – both bulls and sheep - too often for it to be chance. Finding examples of ram models marked solely with double-chevrons and/or three-stroke combs, and none with exclusively two/four-stroke combs, helped give initial evidence that the three-stroke comb represented sheep or a ram. Finding three-sphere marks and four-stroke combs together on items such as the bull model in Plate 5, Figure 94 added to other evidence


that showed that the four-stroke comb represented cattle or the bull.

The following bowl from a tholos tomb, Almeria, Spain c. 3200-2600BC, has three dots over a horned animal. The horns seem to be made up of a double-chevron, an important sign that also appears upon many Vinča and Cucuteni artefacts, such as on the chest of the large ram's head in the model beneath it in Figure 12, and in Figures 14, 16 and 18 on Plate 1.

Figure 11 Vessel from Almeria, Spain. (pp.57. Fig. 94. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 12 Gradesnica, NW Bulgaria, 5000-4500BC. (pp.76 Fig. 118 Gimbutas M.)

Further instances of three-stroke and double-chevron motifs can be seen in the examples in Plate 1, Figures 14, 16 and 18. Other sheep models are marked with three incisions across their noses, as the examples at Figures 13 and 15 on Plate 1.

As mentioned in the introduction, many Vinča and post-Vinča artefacts bear both sheep and cattle signs; the examples at Figures 14, 15, 17 and 18 each have a lozenge – a cattle symbol - upon them.



Figure 13 Ram/sheep model from Karanovo, Bulgaria, 5000-4500BC. (pp.118. Fig. 121Gimbutas M.)

Figure 14 Vinča, from Pristina, Kosovo, 5000-5200BC. (pp. 76, Fig.117,3. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 15 Vinča sheep model (pp. 76, Fig.117, 2. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 16 Vinča vessel, 7000-3500 BC. Banat culture.


Figure 17 Vinča pot from Serbia.


Figure 18 Vinča model, c.5th millennium BC. Heavily restored.


Ram symbols in association with curls, spirals or 'ram's horn' shapes

As might be expected if the number three signified sheep, it can be found alongside designs that incorporate curling thread-like shapes that could logically indicate wool, as on the terracotta model, below.

Figure 19 Designs on a middle-Bronze age pot, Garla Mare culture, Romania, c1500BC. Spirals at 'c.' are topped with a three-stroke design, others at 'b.' can be seen above a ram's horn design at 'a.'.


Figure 20 and Figure 21: Serbia Museum - European Virtual Museum :

A three-stroke mark can also be seen beneath the neck of the animal head at the front of the model. Although the creature depicted looks very bird-like, it is a development of the lamb's head design found on many Vinča models, which I will deal with in a later section on lamb figurines, which are very common in some Vinča settlements.

Figure 22 Vinča lamb model. (


The Vinča standing lamb model, above, has curls inscribed upon its front, its shape stylised to represent a fleece. The spindle-whorl from Troy in Figure 23 also bears spirals and curl-shapes.

The Bronze age figurine in the following example is decorated wtih a number of different curling signs and a set of ram's horns on the rear, with a stem that appears twisted and thread-like. There are also three lines around the top of the head and three more inscribed on each of its sides. The sign upon its chest, a curl emerging from a filled triangle, can be found both in and Vinča and later Greek designs.

Figure 24 Early Bronze age grave goods from the Novo selo-Karna culture, Bulgaria.

(Serbia Museum - European Virtual Museum:

More spirals and three-stroke combs can be seen on the following two examples from Greece and Crete.

Figure 25 A black on red decorated dish from Dimini, Greece, c. 4500-4000BC

(pp.94. Fig. 156, 1. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 26 Middle Minoan. S. Crete, 2000BC.

(pp.94. Fig. 156, 2. Gimbutas M.)

Spirals and a soft zig-zags can be seen upon the faces of this Neolithic ball from Towie in Aberdeenshire, with three depressions at the centre of the object between the faces. Other similar stones found in Scotland and dated to the late Neolithic c.3-4000BC, conversely bear exclusively bull chequerboard and roundels designs


Figure 27 (Sir John Evans. The Ancient Stone implements, Weapons & Ornaments of Great Britain.

Longmans, Green & Co. 1897. P. 421. - Wikipedia Creative Commons License).

Vinča signs in Crete and Cyprus

Decorated with Vinča symbols, such as the roundel, spiral, chevron and chequerboard designs, the Cypriot style of pottery called 'Red-polished ware' was the dominant form of pottery on Cyprus from c. 2300 until1650. Minoan pottery too, from the eastern town of Gurnia and of a similar period, (roughly EMII/EMIII)*, was the first to use the same Vinča signs and symbols on Crete. Also, metal seals found at the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (or Oxus civilisation) of central Asia, dating to c. 2300-1700 BC, frequently bear Vinča signs, many of which are later used as designs upon Minoan and Greek pottery. This contact with Vinča art also gave the Minoans, and later mainland Greece, perhaps their best known architectural motifs, the 'Greek Key' and the swastika. Although I can not claim a connection, it is interesting to note that a second wave of Vinča symbolism reached Britain via the Beaker culture at about the same time as appearing in Cyprus, Crete and central Asia, c. 2475–2315 BC.

*(Pre-Palatial (EM III/MM IA) 2300-1900 BC (Vasilike, Myrtos, Debla, Mochlos)

As Vinča symbols form a good deal of the content of the first Minoan seal-stones, c.2300-2100 BC, it gives some indication that they may not have been thought of as mere abstract designs.

'...In this part of the island (Cyprus) momentous changes took place around 2500 BC, perhaps precipitated by the arrival of refugees (the Philia culture) from southern Anatolia who were escaping from earlier catastrophes....'

Figure 28 Red polished-ware vessel. ( Illustration and text:


Core Sheep signs

After a comparative study of these and other artefacts from cultures throughout Europe and the Aegean I arrived at the signs below as a selection of the key designs used by the Vinča and others to represent sheep or the ram. Of these, none are leaps of logic in terms of design, as two are based on horn shapes (which can vary with locality), two on wool-curls.

Figure 37 Selection of primary sheep signs. (Harling I.)


I would like to propose that the three-stroke comb or three dot/sphere mark signifies the ram/sheep for the following reasons:

• The three-stroke comb is found placed prominently on figures and rams/sheep models and images, signifying its close relationship to the animal.

• The sign is found marked on spindle whorls, showing that it may have had relevance to weaving.

• Three-stroke combs are found both inscribed prominently on Vinča ritual objects, and also scrawled carelessly on the base of pots that are discarded in middens. Wool, or mutton are both something a culture might give thanks for, but that also had a more mundane meaning in the Vinča day to day world too, giving a reason for this apparent dichotomy in sign usage.

• It is present on artefacts from other cultures contemporary with, and later than, the Vinča, and used in the same context, i.e., in association with ram/sheep illustrations/signs etc.

The Number Three

The Varna necropolis, Bulgaria (c.5000BC) contains two-hundred and ninety-four graves, some containing the oldest worked gold ever found. Six of the graves did not contain bodies (so-called 'cenotaph graves), but were the richest in grave goods. A total of three thousand gold artefacts were found, with a weight of approximately six kilograms. Grave 43 from the site contained more gold than has been found in the entire rest of the world for that epoch. The abundance of groupings of three gold artefacts in these burials may mean that the grave goods interred there were dedicated to sheep/the ram – or that the deceased is being conferred with the peaceful qualities of the sheep.


Figure 38 Grave at the Varna necropolis.

As I have only been able to study these collections via photographs, in some cases the groups I list below may not be accurate representations of the numbers found, but the result of pairings made during the display of the objects.

Figure 39 Varna gold artefacts.

Found at the Varna necropolis:

• 33 Half-spheres.

• 30 sheep symbols.

• 36 large beads are arranged (above left) as two bracelets. • 9 beads make up the handle of the hammer.

• 2 vertical lines of 3 'buttons' were arranged at the waist.

• The domes in the lower part of the illustration were arranged in the grave in groups of 3 on the hips and elsewhere of the skeleton.


• 2 sets of three earrings for the lower ear.

• A bone 'plaque' with 9 holes, some with the gold domes that were originally inserted into them still in place.

The dominance of gold ram's horns found may further indicate that the goods found in some of the graves at Varna may have been symbolic offerings to the ram or sheep. Other items, from pottery to bronze goods, also bear groupings of three upon them, in some cases as a key part of a design, and in others as an additional motif inscribed on a pot near its base after it was made.

Figure 40 Vinča potsherds gathered at Tordos or Parta.

(Winn S.M.M. 1981 - -

The first bears three and four-stroke combs, but also a design made up of three groups of three dots, creating a lozenge-shape which, as I will show, is a dual bull-ram symbol. This design is also found upon Minoan pottery and artefacts. The second example seems to bear the same design.

Figure 41 A bronze spearhead from Brandenburg, Germany, with a triskelis made up of sheep curls;

also swastikas and bullseye roundels with three and four-dot designs. (pp.863 Fig.201. Wilson T.)

Figure 42 Bone talisman with groups of three holes. Italy C.6300-5900 BC.


3 The Four-Stroke Comb: Cattle/the bull

Unfortunately, although again the Minoan seal-stones, below, and other similar examples, do show some evidence of a link between four dots/circles and cattle or the bull, as with the seals depicting rams, the complexity of signs inscribed can make the association less than certain.

Figure 43 Four spheres and bulls upon A CHIC XIII 011-1; c. 1700-1500. Figure 44 Two smaller seal stones with four-spheres in the facial designs.


However, by cross-matching uses of four-stroke combs and signs from Çatal Hüyük it is possible to firmly identify at least some of the symbols that were used to signify cattle or the bull by the Vinča. Many are obvious as they are created from horn-shapes: but, as in the case of the ram, these creatures and their horn-shapes are not the same across all cultures and eras, so identifying them can be less than straightforward on occasion.

After gathering and analysing symbols found in close association with images of cattle and cattle horns I arrived at a core set of signs (Figure 46 & 47) used by both the Vinča and Cucuteni. These symbols are surprisingly common, particularly upon Cucuteni-Trypillian wares, and are sometimes all found together in one form or another upon the same piece of pottery.

Figure 45 Cucuteni-Trypillian pot. (Museum of the Institute of Archaeology, Chisinau, Rep. of Moldova.) Figure 46 Cucuteni-Trypillian vessel with bull horns around a cross.


The above examples of Cucuteni-Trypillian pottery have a bull motif and roundel/eye design made from three concentric circles. This same symbol was used to represent the eye on many examples of Vinča bucrania (bull heads made from clay, or clay-covered cattle skulls) of which around thirty have been excavated from Vinča houses in Serbia over the years. (3). (Soasic M.)

An important factor when identifying inscribed bull signs is the central bump between the horns, which can be seen to have its origins at Çatal Hüyük. This protuberance is always present on later models, and can be seen on the Vinča bucrania,below.

Figure 47 Bucrania.



The first group of signs I gathered came from the bull, bear and sheep shrines at Çatal Hüyük. They and their derivatives were adopted by the Vinča and Cucuteni, remaining in use throughout Europe until at least the end of the Bronze age.

Figure 48 Selection of Çatal Hüyük signs. C7000BC (Harling I.)

The precursor of the chequerboard design, a frequently used bull-motif in later cultures, can be seen painted on the bull skulls, above. Other signs that endured include: the bullseye roundel (a circle with a dot in the centre), the cross and single line, which can all be found in the panel beneath them. In some examples these same signs are found drawn in a round space in the palm of a hand design. Although it is conjecture, I feel from the examples available that these each may have originally signified individual clans at Çatal Hüyük, and that they were all later amassed together as signs associated with the bull by the Vinča due to their use there.



Figure 49 Shrine at Çatal Hüyük c7000BC.

(pp188, Fig.286. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 50 Çatal Hüyük.


Figure 51 Çatal Hüyük. (pp.307 Fig. 486 Gimbutas M.)



Figure 52 Reconstructed designs on a bear carving at Çatal Hüyük.


Figure 53 Shrines at Çatal Hüyük. A bear figure with a protrusion on its stomach below the arch on the left.

Figure 54 Another can be seen in the illustration on the right.

(Both illustrations, 'Western walls' Mellaart. 40 & 37 (

Figure 55 A bear and a calf, both with bumps at the midriff.


Figure 56 Vinča cattle and bull symbols. (Harling I.)

Figure 57 Selection of Cucuteni-Trypillian cattle/bull signs. (Harling I.)

The majority of Vinča symbols, above, are simple developments of Çatal Hüyük motifs The number of symbols representing cattle increases with the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, but again, most are derived from a small set of base symbols taken from Çatal Hüyük and the Vinča. The main signs at this point are primarily: the eye, four-stroke comb, horns, dotted-triangle, cross, lozenge and the chequerboard.

The shrines at Çatalhüyük may also give some understanding of the thinking behind these signs. In the following examples, a bear is depicted with a dot/protrusion at its midriff and also other bull symbols on it and around it. The aim seems to be to show that the power of the bull is at the centre of the bear – and perhaps other animals too – perhaps 'balancing' depictions of animals with a sign for the bull. In the following example, the lines around the dot are arranged in the same way as they appear on clay seals and friezes found in the area.

Figure 58 A clay stamp from Çatal Hüyük. Figure 59 Çatal Hüyük seals with dotted-lozenge designs. (pp.144, Fig. 222. Gimbutas M.)

As representing masculinity and femininity?

Though the bull appears to be dominant in some cultures, for the Vinča and others to the west, the bull and ram seem to represent two aspects of a single whole, the ram feminine, the bull masculine. As an example, the female figure seated alongside that of a male at the centre of the Gumelnita dish has a sheep-spiral on her lap, and the male appears to have a continuation of the chequerboard design on his.


Figure 60 This Gumelnita culture dish, called 'The Lovers', 5Th millennium BC, Romania.


This idea may have spread along the Silk Road and led to the emergence of Taoism, as the same theme of balanced energies is also present within it. That the key sign for Taoists, the 'yin and yang' symbol', can be found on the sides of some Cucuteni huts and with the same connotations, many hundreds of years before Taoism's earliest known origins, may support this. The centre of each of the ram spirals bears a bull symbol, creating a sign with bull-ram equality.

Figure 61 Cucuteni model of a house, decorated with a Taoist 'Yin/Yang' symbol.

'Encyclopedia of the Trypillian Civilization', Dr. Burdo N., Dr. Videiko M. ).

Figure 62 A ram model from the Danubian Boian-Gumelnita cultures of Bulgaria

and Romania, 4300–3500 BC ( )

A clear division can be seen on the body of the model, above, between angular bull symbols on the left, and soft sheep curves on the right.


It may have some relevance to note that Beaker burials tend to follow the same format in each case, where males are buried with their feet to the west and faces to the south; women are buried with their feet facing east and their faces again to the south. Could this type of burial be a reference to the masculine and feminine animals of the east and west?

Bull-marked artefacts

Figure 62b The Vucedol culture, classic (orange) and late (pink) phases, from Vucedol c.3000BC.


Many items from the Indo-European Vucedol culture, who occupied parts of the Vinča territory and further west onto the coast of the Adriatic from 3000BC to 2500BC, were decorated exclusively with symbols for the bull, particularly roundels and lozenges. Many of the same signs can be found both on Vinča wares and on Minoan seal-stones some three hundred years later.


Figure 64 Vase Detail.

(Both illustrations:

Examples like this aid in cross-referencing signs, and identifying previously unknown types. The nested shapes at 2d and 7b are cattle horn designs.

The importance of the signs in earlier cave-art

A key aspect of many symbols that originated at Çatal Hüyük is the dot or cup-impression, which is usually placed within a geometric shape, such as a lozenge, triangle or circle. There is a feeling with these dotted signs that the shape of the surround is to some degree unimportant, and that the design serves to focus or contain the power of the dot or dots within it. (Neolithic 'Cup and ring' designs found in Britain and elsewhere may be a reflection of this same idea). The research below gives an indication of how important the lozenge was in the Neolithic:

"...In 1992 a project named 'research and documentation of the rock art of Upper-Austrian Salzkammergut' was started, sponsored by FWF (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung) total 227 rock art panels at 44 sites (were studied)...

Completed in 1999, the study found that, "...Among the great variety of signs only four of them occur more than a hundred times: simple crosses, cup marks, rhombi and ladders. With 13 % representations of rhombi range at the third place of frequency. I do not know any other rock art region with such a high frequency.

In the research area of Upper Austrian Salzkammergut, rhombi can be found at 32 of 44 sites (73 %). Thus it is the sign with the widest distribution. Other frequent signs like ladders or “Radkreuze” are present only at 20 % respectively 25 % of the sites.

Werner Pichler: (ALMOGAREN XXX/1999, Institutum Canarium, Institutum Canarium


All of the symbols mentioned above can be seen at Çatal Hüyük and within the Vinča and Cucuteni sign-sets, and can be shown to have associations with the bull. In another study, begun in 2010, researcher Genevieve von Petzinger analysed all examples of cave art from 140 sites in SW Europe, finding that the four-stroke comb with a joining bar at one or both edges first appeared around 25, 000 years ago and made up over 15% of signs.


• Crosses were found at 20 sites.

• Cross-hatching/chequerboard designs were found at 27 sites. • Semi-circular horn shapes were found at 28 sites.

Other findings made by Von Petzinger show the regard for the signs, above:

“...von Petzinger has found one set of five symbols – "II ^ III X II" – to be especially common, appearing on walls like a recurring motif. Intriguingly, she has recently found the sequence in another, unexpected location. "At St Germain de la Rivière, north of Bordeaux, the skeleton of a young woman – dated as being around 15,500 years old – was discovered with a necklace made of the teeth of red deer," adds von Petzinger. "Three of those teeth have markings on them: 'II ^' was on one; 'III' on another; and 'X II' on the third. We have our five common symbols appearing on a necklace...At this time, there were no red deer in France and it is thought the necklace teeth came from Spain, possibly as items of trade between different tribes..."


Combs and dotted-lozenges

A common Vinča combination cow and bull sign, a four-stroke comb and a dot – or a four-stroke comb and a dotted/un-dotted lozenge – can be seen upon many artefacts up until the late Bronze age.

Figure 65 Cucuteni figurine fragments c 4000BC(

explain=type&filter=Type&id=8&page=13 )

Figure 66 Dupljaja charioteer, Dubovac culture, Serbia c1500BC.


Above, one of the Dupljaja charioteers from the Dubovac culture, Serbia c1500BC. The four-stroke and dot design around its neck and the swastikas and roundels beneath it are also bull/cattle signs. Variations of this design can be seen on the two spindle-whorls from Troy, below.

Figure 67 Four-stroke and dot design inscribed as horned animals, fromTroy

( pp.826 Fig's.100, 101. After Schliemann).

Figure 68 Inscribed stone from Vadu Rau, Romania


This inscribed tablet from Vada Rau, Romania, was found in a cache of similar items. It bears two dotted lozenges over a four stroke comb, a combined bull and cow symbol. It is easy to imagine in light of a society that may have venerated cattle that this would be an amulet. The same symbols – four-stroke signs and a lozenge – appear upon a tripod vessel from Macedonia, c. 5200BC.

Figure 69 Anza, Macedonia, Vinča culture, c. 5200 BC.


Figure 70 Another stone from Vadu Rau, Romania.


What may be natural holes in this stone would make it a powerful talisman. The round hole signifying the bull - the horn shaped scoop from its upper edge, perhaps bull horns or, if inverted, the ram. The lozenge (in white) and the sun (yellow) are both cattle related; the sign in red may be a hoof symbol. It also bears a sheep sign (blue), a 'plant' sign (light blue). The lozenge is flanked by lines (in green), perhaps personalisation marks. (see the section on 'Tamgha').


4 A Unity

As I was verifying the cattle signs I found that I was continually seeing them alongside signs for sheep, supporting the notion that the beliefs of at least some of the Vinča may have been based on a ram/bull unity, where images of one would frequently be used in conjunction with signs for the other. I am not suggesting that in every instance where ram and bull signs are shown together on items from later cultures that it means that they too followed the same beliefs as the Vinča or Cucuteni, or even that it was prevalent amongst either of these two cultures themselves, but simply that the signs have been adopted and used in a similar way for thousands of years.

With some evidence of a ritual regard for the bull and the ram as a unity found at the Vinča sites in Parta (Serbia) and Vadastra (straddling Romania and Bulgaria), signs for both animals together should – and do - occur quite frequently.


Figure 71 Vinča altar at Parta, Serbia.


Figure 72 Ram and bull model. Fired Clay Vădastra, 5500–5000 BC

(National History Museum of Romania, Bucharest) (

In Figure 71, Vinča depictions of what may be a ram (left) and a bull upon an altar, c. 5000 BC, at Parta, Serbia. The second example is more obviously a ram and bull, and it has sheep spirals and a bull chequerboard design across the chests of both animals.

Figure 73 A Vinča plaque, Karanovo 4500-4300BC.

(pp.124, Fig.195 Gimbutas M.)

The spiral and chequerboard are repeated on the Vinča plaque, above.ent pairing of the spiral and chequerboard motif. This same pairing can be seen in Neolithic tombs and upon carved stones from Sardinia to Newgrange in Ireland. The central sheep spiral is also off-set by other bull-signs: the chevron and the 'X'.



Numerous clay seals ('pintadera') have been found in Çatal Hüyük and throughout the Vinča and Cucuteni territories, which, on the whole, bear motifs that are either bull or ram-related, or both - although there are some notable exceptions, such as the 'labrynth' designs and bear paws both of which tend to contain 'bull dots'. Common themes include most of the signs previously illustrated as representing the bull and ram, such as: the spiral, concentric circles, zig-zags, impressed dots, parallel lines and the chequerboard, etc..

Figure 74 A Cucuteni seal-stone bearing sheep curls and cattle-signs to the left and right.

Combination symbols

Although obviously any sheep and cattle signs can be paired together, In Neolithic Britain, for example, artefacts and rock art in tombs favour the chequerboard and dotted lozenge as bull motifs, and use spirals to signify sheep. For the Vinča, single and double-chevrons, or the bull-roundel and dual-chevrons might be used instead. The

below is a selection of common pairings.

Figure 75 Vinča and Cucuteni sheep and cattle signs.(Harling I.)

The designs below are a combination of bull and sheep symbols found on Vinča artefacts. These also appear regularly upon Greek pottery in various periods throughout the Bronze age.

Figure 76 Combination ram and bull signs: the chevron and the curl. (Harling I.)

Whilst there are a number of individual bull and sheep signs, there are also many designs that were used to represent the bull which were created from two or three other bull symbols, as in the examples, below. The Vinča signs below again appear in the British Isles, with the exception of the dotted cross and swastika.


The following examples, below and in Plate 4, show the extent to which this dual symbolism permeated Vinča and Cucuteni art. The late-Vinča figurine, below, has a four-stroke comb on its stomach above a Greek Key design, and a three-four-stroke comb over a Greek Key on its rear.

Figure 78 Figurine from Predionica, near Pristina, S Yugoslavia, Late Vinča Culture, c. 4500 BC.

( )

One of at least two similar figurines, the Karanovo model, below, is decorated with bull-lozenges on her thighs and buttocks; and her hair ends in a bull horn design. She also has ram's horns across her chest and arms, and a horizontal wool curl on her pubis.

Figure 79 Karanovo IV, Bulgaria, c.5000BC. (pp.143 Fig.220. Gimbutas M.)

More obvious uses of counter-signs can be seen in Plate 4, where sheep-curls are used together with symbols for the bull, such as the cross, roundel and chevron. The examples of Cucuteni figurines each bear a design made up of four dotted-lozenges to include a cross-shape. This motif can be seen repeated frequently upon Greek Geometric wares alongside other Vinča symbols.



Figure 80 Spiral and lozenge designs on Cucuteni vessel from Pianul de Jos, Transylvania,

Romania. (pp145, Fig.223. Gimbutas M)

Figure 81 Cucuteni, NE Romania, c.3500 BC. (

Figure 82 Cucuteni dish, NE Romania, c.4000BC (pp8 plate 24. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 83 Rear of a Cucuteni figurine.


Figure 84 Cucuteni figurine detail.

(pp.145, Fig. 224, 3. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 85 Fragmented terracotta Pre-Cucuteni-Tripolye A figurine, Western Ukraine.

(Daniela Bulgarelli © The Global Prehistory


Occasionally artefacts are decorated with extensive bull symbols, but will have one sheep-sign somewhere within the design. This pottery vessel from the Tisza culture, Hungary, 5200-500BC, bears extensive cattle signs, and just one single ram sign (below in red) on the right. The Dimini figurines beneath itare strongly themed with three-stroke markings, off-set by the four cattle lines around the base of each model's skirt.

Figure 86 Tisza culture. (pp.22, Fig. 34. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 87 Dimini Culture, Thessaly, c 5000BC. (pp.91, Fig.149. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 88 Karanovo, Bulgaria, 5000-4500BC. (pp.118, Fig. 121Gimbutas M.) Figure 89 A Karanovo

sign for the bull and a Cucuteni combination sign for the cow and bull.

The front of this Karanovo ram model bears a sheep-spiral on its chest, and parallel diagonal lines on its sides, which are one of the Karanovo and Cucuteni symbols for the cow; and a pair of half-roundel horns (the bull) at two of its corners.


A lozenge and ram's horns make up key motifs in the design, below, from a Lengyel culture vase from Moravia, c. 5000 BC. The same design can also be found on the 'Lengyel Spoon'.

Figure 90 Lozenge and spiral/ram's horns design. Lengyel culture vase, Moravia, 5000BC.

(pp.309, Fig. 490. Gimbutas M.)

Figure 91 Female Figurine, terracotta, Pilavo, v. Burilcevo, Kocani region, Eneolithic,

Suplevec-Bakarno Gumno Culture, c. 4000BC


A prominent bull-roundel can be seen on the buttocks of this figurine fragment, with lozenge designs around the knees (Gumno culture, c.4000BC.) The figurine from Hotran, Romania (Figure 92 Plate 5) has bull-roundels around its arms, and three and four-stroke combinations on its chest.



Figure 92 Figurine from Hotaran, Romania.

(Marin Nica Romanaţiului Museum.

Figure 93 A Vinča ram model with four-stroke and three-stroke combs upon its chest.


Figure 94 Three-stroke and four-dot motifs upon a Linear Pottery bull from

Estenfeld Mulhouse, a district of Würzburg, Germany, 5500-4500BC. (



The following Tisza culture figurine from Belgrade, (c.5000-4000 BC), has a number of both bull and sheep symbols within its decoration.

Figure 95 Tisza culture figurine.


Figure 96 Detail. ( Tisza figurine detail:

* Nose and eyebrows in the shape of ram's horns; the arms are cattle horns. * The eyes are bull roundels, with sun variations at the mouth and shoulders. * Spirals of wool on the model's cheeks join at a roundel at its throat.


Opposite designs

The idea of opposites sometimes extends to influencing designs on anthropomorphic figures too in some cases; bull models may bear large spirals – rams, chequerboard patterns and diagonals, the opposite of what might be expected.

Figure 97 Cucuteni model cow bearing large sheep spirals.(pp.266, Fig.413. Gimbutas M). Figure 98 Vinča ram or sheep model with cattle chequerboard designs. (pp. 87, Fig. 1&2. Gimbutas M).

The Swastika

Although the Swastika can be found at Çatal Hüyük, its appearance there is pre-dated by its use elsewhere in cave-art and artefacts dating from at least 25, 000 years earlier. It may be that the design is based on four single-chevrons, perhaps originally representing the horns of the animal. As with other symbols though, there is no certainty that the meaning of the sign has remained the same in that time. It can be found in Neolithic Ireland, and continues in use alongside bull 'suns' (a sphere surrounded by a ring of other, smaller, spheres) on some examples of British Saxon pottery.

Figure 99 One of the chariots found at Duplajaja.Zuto Brdo, Garla Mare, Serbia, dating to

approximately 1500BC. (

This artefact is usually described as a war chariot, but in stead it may represent the bringing of good luck and plenty. The charioteer has a torque around its neck with ram's horn finials; a necklace with an inverted ram's horn sign and a bull sign hanging from it; a curl of wool at each wrist. The creatures pulling it are stylised lambs (see a later


section), each with three bands around their necks. A second similar chariot model found with this one bears wool curls and swastikas upon its chest.

Figure 100 Stone from Kermarie in Brittany, with sheep-spirals beneath a swastika. c. 4000BC.


Spirals and Chequerboards

The pairing of a spiral and a chequerboard design is particularly striking in the Neolithic tomb discovered in Sardinia, shown in Plate 7. Bull's heads were also found carved into the walls alongside spirals. The same design can be seen below, carved into kerb-stones at Newgrange, Ireland, 3200BC.

Figure 101 Newgrange kerb-stone 67 NE side of the mound. Boyne Valley Ireland, 3200BC



Figure 102 A tomb found in Sardinia attributed to the Ozieri culture, dated to c. 3800-2900BC.

Figure 103 (Pictures copyright Antonella Porcu).


Subtle ram and bull signs on Cretan seal-stones

These signs also appear upon Minoan seals as 'secondary' signs (stiktograms'), such as one, two, three or four dots, ram's horns, bull-crosses, etc..

Figure 105 CHIC 295, face c with a cross and three-spheres. Figure 106 CHIC 295 bears a cross and

ram's horns. (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

There are numerous other examples in the CHIC and CMS databases that are inscribed with secondary signs for the bull, ram, or both. I will describe their purpose in full in a following paper.


Interestingly, the designs on the following Cucuteni dish on the left seem to have some close parallels with the vessel shown alongside it, from Susa, Iran, c.4200-3800 BC. Most of the motifs are the same, with the addition of a man, a stylised scorpion at the bottom left, possibly a bird, and the chevrons.

Figure 107 Cucuteni dish.


Figure 108 Dish from Susa, Neolithic Iran, c.4200-3800 BC.


5 The Lamb Model

The Vinča figurines in Plate 8, following, are good examples of a ram or bull artefact being marked with 'opposing' signs. Many lamb figurines are marked with bull-signs, such as a lozenge-shape or a Greek Key. Variants of this model, usually a head or head and torso, are found in abundance in refuse pits at Vinča sites, and many seem to have been made by children. The figure undergoes a great deal of development and variation to the point where it is no longer recognisable as a lamb at all in some cases.

Research into the Tisza culture (4 - Voros I) showed that the majority of sheep were slaughtered before the age of two, with highest mortality in the winter/spring. Did the production of these figures coincide with – or symbolically take the place of - a yearly ritual cull of lambs? If so, the custom may be the basis of the ancient Bulgarian custom of making and giving figurines called 'martenitsa'.

“...Baba Marta is a pagan tradition borne out of the days when heathen peasants believed in higher forces at work affecting the weather, fertility and successful crop growth. Pagans worldwide celebrated the coming of the spring each year, thousands of years before Christ's birth. Spring was renowned as a time of renewal and fertility representing new life and a fresh start after the cold winter. In reality, this meant that food was scarce during harsh Bulgarian winters and people worshipped the spring in the hope that it would bring clement weather suitable for sowing and tending crops.

In Bulgaria, "mart" is the word for March and "baba" means grandma. In old folklore "Baba Marta" was portrayed as a volatile and moody woman. It is believed that when she was happy skies were blue and the sun would shine, but when Baba Marta was disgruntled, she would bring rain and wind to the country.

The colours of the martenitsa symbolise many things. The white wool represents the melting snow and the red twine represents the setting sun, which becomes more and more intense as spring advances. Other associations of the martenitsa's colours are that the white symbolises man and the red woman, or that they represent purity and life or health and strength. Many centuries ago, a martenitsa was regarded as an amulet to protect the receiver from evil and many people still quote the old saying that "if you don't wear your martenitsa, Baba Marta will bring evil to you"....”

Adapted from;

Figure 109 Bulgarian martenitsa.


Note that the first example in the following Plate, the model has a bull-lozenge in the centre of its forehead.



Figure 110 A Vinča lamb head, 4500BC (Ex-Hermann Ginczler collection.

Royal Athens Museum)

Figure 111 Vinča c. 4500. (Ex-Hermann Ginczler


Figure 112 Vinča ( )

Figure 113 Vinča (

Figure 114 Vinča (Ex-Hermann Ginczler (1895-1965) collection

Figure 115 & Figure 116 Vinča lambs. (

Figure 117 Lamb's head with chevrons on its forehead. Gumelnita Culture, 5th mill. BC.


Many of the full body lamb figurines have what may be the first use of the Greek Key design inscribed into their stomachs or lower portions. It is an angular version of a sheep-spiral, and a logical design if one were to try to make a sheep spiral into something that reflected the shape of other angular bull-symbols. However, it might also have come about through trying to represent the spiral in textile motifs.

Although the example, below, is made of terracotta, the design is made up of wiggling lines that are meant to make the item look as though it is from a woven or knitted textiles. This effect appears through the use of an ancient form of weaving called Nalebinding, which was used to make hats, socks and gloves up until the middle-ages. This model displays the sign prominently, perhaps to off-set its ram nature. Other Vinča models, such as the item below it, have a similar use of the Greek Key.

Figure 118 Ram model from Vadastra, 4200BC, SW Romania.

(National History Museum of Romania, Bucharest.)

(Photo: Marius Amarie. -

Figure 119 From Vadastra, Romania, c 4500BC.


Each of the three ram's horn symbols on the above model has a raised single bull dot-sign upon it, with equal space on the model given to both cattle and sheep symbols. The


centre of the model bears a large Greek Key design and a chequerboard containing X's constructed from triangles (b.) on its left and right, both cattle signs.

Lamb figurines often bear a Greek Key, net/chequerboard on their lower portions to offset the lamb theme and to 'balance' its nature. In some models the bull signs might be on the figure's stomach or will cover its entire body.

Figure 120 Late Vinča, 5000BC. (pp26. Fig39. Gimbutas M.) Figure 121 Vinča, Yugoslavia, 4500BC. (pp.12, Fig. 18. Gimbutas M.)

Interestingly, many of the full-body models of this type excavated thus far have been broken in two, apparently separating the bull and ram (or cattle and sheep) aspect of the model before it was discarded.

This Mycenaean krater, 1300-1200BC, shows how bird-like the ram could become in some cultures after stylisation. An actual bird is shown in a similar style below it.

Figure 122 Mycenaean krater, 1300-1200BC


6 Bull and Ram Signs in Britain

Common Vinča symbols that appear at various sites in the UK from around 3,500BC include:

• The lozenge, with/without a central dot, or a second, nested lozenge. • A lozenge quartered into four other lozenges

• A dot, or a number of dots, within a circle (cup and ring markings) • Zig-zags

• Triangles

• Chevrons, double and single

• Four triangles which make up a square box and cross design.

Figure 123 A selection of British passage-tomb motifs.

(After Herity 1974.

I show a Vinča tablet for comparison, below, which is inscribed with the same symbols as those found upon carved stones from the British Isles.

Figure 124 Vinča tablet from Potporanj – Kremenjak, Late Neolithic.

(The Town Museum of Vrsac.


time when the main phase of Stonehenge was constructed, it is reasonable to suppose that its builders may have been exposed directly or indirectly to earlier, distant civilisations, such as the Vinča. The following item was discovered in the floor of a tomb and associated with other finds dating to c.3600 BC.

Figure 125 Jadeite axe, Ireland.

“...Jadeite axe from the Erris peninsula in Co Mayo, found 2003. It was established that the axe came from...a quarry high in Mount Viso in the Italian Alps....and it was already old – the manufacture of these specialist axes ended around 4,000 BC....It travelled first to northwestern France, where it was polished. Then it made its way, either directly or through Britain, to west Mayo. And similar jadeite axes from Mount Viso were being imported into Denmark and Germany. ”

( Three-sphere marks in Britain

There is a limited use of three-sphere marks in the British Isles in favour of spirals, but that there is use of this sign at all there is significant. Figure 126 in Plate 9 shows bull-roundels broken at the middle-left by a three-sphere sheep mark on a kerb-stone at Knowth, Ireland. There is no proof however that it signified solely sheep in Britain, and may instead have been a blanket symbol for sheep, deer and goats.

Figure 126 Kerbstone at Knowth with the engraving overlaid with one of

Martin Brennan's drawings.


This example from the Holm of Papa Westray chambered cairn, Orkney may be a three-sphere and ram's horn design.

Figure 127 Holm of Papa Westray, Orkney.

Below too, between the chevrons, 'X's, and lozenge motifs on the 'Folkton Drums', the first and third examples again have two spheres below the horns, but in this case there is no third sphere near them. The ram's horns can be seen at the far right of each drawing.

Figure 128 'The Folkton Drums' from Yorkshire, UK.


The design on the centre drum, a ram's horns adjoining a bull-lozenge, is again at the right-hand side of the illustration. This combination symbol can also be found on the Lengyel culture spoon and vase (Figure 90) from 5000BC, also occurring later on Minoan and Greek pottery.

Lozenges, chequerboards and spirals

There was prolific use of a combination of a lozenge motif (sometimes dotted) and spirals in the British Isles, particularly in Ireland, along with regular use of bull roundels.



Figure 129 The entrance stone to Newgrange in Ireland . Loughcrew, Knowth, Ireland.( .

Figure 130 Carved stone at Barclodiad Y Gawres, (Gimbutas M.)

Figure 131 The Westray Stone from Orkney, a lozenge with a dot in its centre at the middle of this picture. (Tankerness House, Kirkwall, home of the Orkney Museum).

Figure 132 Symbols on the Brodgar stone, Stetton, Scotland. (Orkney Library Photographic Archive)



Figure 135 The front panel of the basin in the right recess of Knowth east.


Figure 134 'An old photo of the stone basin in the right-hand recess, Knowth East.'


Figure 135 A Vinča bucrania from Serbia.

((3) Soasic M. 2012 - 'Cattle to Settle, Bull to Rule: on bovine iconography among Late Neolithic Vinča culture communities.' Documenta Praehistorica : 295-308.pp.307 Fig 7)

Figure 136 Bronze age carved rock at Glassonby, Cumbria.


Figure 137 The Knowth Mace Head.(

Made of flint, this elaborately decorated flint mace head from Ireland was found beneath the eastern chamber tomb at the great passage tomb at Knowth. Decorated with ram's horns and spirals, balanced with elongated bull-chequerboards on each end. The stone is extremely hard, and decorating such an item would pose a problem for anyone trying to replicate it without the help of today's power tools.

Incised Stone Slabs

A handful of stone slabs inscribed with Vinča bull symbols have been found in the UK in the vicinity of, or within, Neolithic and Bronze age sites. At least two of these bear Vinča-style chequerboard designs, and two others have bull-roundel 'eyes' that are indistinguishable from their counterparts on Vinča clay representations of cattle skulls. It seems possible, based upon their shape, that even some round barrows may have been intended to mimic a bull-roundel design. Examples of the slabs can be seen below:

Figure 138 From a Neolithic causewayed enclosure in Cornwall, UK, 2012.

(Image: Cornwall Council)

Figure 139 Neolithic stone from Fylingdale Moors, Yorkshire.


The stone slab in Figure 138 bearing a chequerboard design was found in a Neolithic causewayed enclosure in Cornwall, UK (2). The Neolithic stone beside it from Fylingdale Moors, Yorkshire, is decorated with double and single-chevrons isolated in a panel, surrounded by lozenges and dotted lozenges. Interestingly the item below from Romania


and dated to c. 11000 BC is inscribed with quite a similar design to that in Figure 139.

Figure 140 Carved horse bone with chevrons and lozenge designs from Cuina Turcului, Iron

Gates of Danube, W Romania, 11000 BC. (

Approximately four of these stones come from Salisbury Plain, with others from Yorkshire, Cornwall and Scotland. The 'Brodgar Eye' (Skara Brae, Scotland) and the Winterborne stone in Figure 174, found near Stonehenge, are both inscribed with a single bull-roundel design. Two examples were found in King Barrow Ridge: one inscribed with a Greek Key design with a 'tram-line frame', the other chequerboard within a similar frame, were mentioned by Harding (1988), carbon dating of other items in the pits dated the plaques to the early third millennium BC. ((Harding, P, 1988, 'The chalk plaque

pit, Amesbury. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society', 54, 320-27)

Another stone with a chequerboard design was found during excavations at the Ness of Brodgar site on Orkey in 2010. (The Orkney Jar – Orkney Archaeological News:

Thursday, August 26, 2010.)

Good examples too of 'bullseye-roundels' dating to the same period have been found, one in 2009 at the Brodgar Ness site in Orkney.

Figure 141 Winterborne Carne 18b carving, one of two inscribed with bull-roundels from the same pit. Figure 142 The "Brodgar Eye" from structure 10 at the Ness of Brodgar site, Orkney.




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