Since our enquiry involves Neolithic sites, Ley Lines and St. Michael churches let us try to interlink these facets of our enquiry.
Figure 5 Showing the Lyonesse line from Chapel Carn Brea through St.Michael’s Mount then through Burgh Island to Roquetoire in France.
Exactly halfway along this newly found Lyonesse line, if a line was scribed at right angles to the Lyonesse Ley Line; it forms a tangent to the Avebury circle and Silbury Hill, just south of it. The north-south line also passed in between and tangential to Stonehenge and Bluehenge, passing within a field's breadth of each site. It was evident after finding that it became tangential also to Old Sarum, that it too seemed to be held on course by these nodal points, like a strand of wicker, the Ley Line conceptually appearing to be constrained in place, as if the nodal points on the land were extended upwards as vertical strands in wickerwork. The skeptic will already be wary with any kind of integration between the culture that constructed Ley's and the later cuture that built churches dedicated to St.Michael. I am just pointing these relationships out so that the reader can either dismiss them or see how hard it is not to see a relationship. By the end of the book the reader can judge whether a line which is defined by an ancient monk named Melkin and also confirmed by a Jesuit priest named Father Good 1527–1586 is the same line we are sent to find by way of a set of instructions given in Melkin's prophecy.
Figure 6 Showing the Ley line which runs north at 90° from the Lyonesse line, tangential to Old Sarum, Stonehenge, Silbury hill and Avebury.
The connection between Avalon and the fabled Island of Ictis.
Leaving our geometrical construct for the moment, it is necessary to concentrate our enquiry on another location of which there is no trace in the modern world. The reason for trying to accurately locate the island of Ictis is because we know that it was engaged in the tin trade. If we can establish Ictis as a definitive location today, then we will see how this Island confirms the directions given in Melkin’s prophecy. We know that sometime after the first Roman invasion of Britain that Joseph of Arimathea was a tin merchant as the Cornish traditions have maintained.
Researchers over the last 2000 years have tried to find the location of the fabled ‘Island of Ictis’. The strange coincidence of geometrical directions being given in Melkin's prophecy establish the location of Burgh Island in Devon as the Island of Avalon but they also say that Joseph of Arimathea is buried on the Island. Now it would be a coincidence if Ictis an Island where tin was teaded from can be established as being the one where the most famed tin merchant was buried.
There has been much written and incredible ingenuity used by scholars and commentators alike, to fit facts as they see them, to agree with their own preference for the location of Ictis.
It would appear that for all this effort in the modern era, no one has definitively managed to locate it. The references about Ictis came from many different sources, Greek and Roman over a period of approximately 400 years, but recent commentators have not been able to see the pertinent facts that were related, in perspective.
ICTIS ISLAND, ALSO KNOWN AS AVALON
This search for the Island of Ictis originated due to a Greek named Pytheas, who made a journey by sea, circa 325 BC and wrote a Chronicle of his voyage, which no longer exists. He mentioned the island in his journals and left quite specific references to it, the most pertinent being that it dried out at low tide and was located in Southern England; hence its permanent association with St. Michael’s Mount, just south of Marazion in Cornwall. It is because of Pytheas’s notoriety and the fact that his original writings no longer exist, that over time, references from other ancient chroniclers that mention his journey and his description of the island and its environs have become garbled.... some of the chroniclers simply disbelieving much that he related.
Courtesy of James and Jade
Figure 9 Showing St Michael’s Mount, Marazion, and the rocky foreshore, on which the foreign trading vessels were supposed to land at all states of the tide.
Pytheas was an astronomer and a geographer, who may have been the first Greek to visit and write about the Atlantic coast of Europe and the British Isles. The Latin word Britannia is derived from a word first reported in ancient Greek by Pytheas of Massalia.
It is a shame that his main work, which was called ‘On the Ocean’ is no longer extant, but we know something of his travels through the other Greek historian called Polybius, who lived around 200 BC.
Timaeus even mentions Ictis before Polybius while other ancient writers who mention Pytheas’ voyage are Posidonius, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo, who all wrote before the birth of Jesus.
Strabo relates that Dicaearchus who died about 285BC did not trust the stories of Pytheas but we shall see his mistrust was not fair
Diodorus, who gives a good description of the island and its trade, (much of which can be ascertained to be from Pytheas’ original eye witness description) also tells how large cart loads of tin were brought across a tidal causeway to the island.
Diodorus is also seen to be quoting from Posidonius, while Pliny on the subject of Ictis, who wrote circa 50 AD is also quoting from Timaeus (contemporaneous with Pytheas) but not directly from Pytheas.
It is evident that over the period of four hundred years when these Greek and Roman historians were recounting Pytheas’ exploits, mostly second or third hand, an inaccurate account has been passed down about an island that traded tin with a name called ‘Ictis’ that existed in southern Britain.
The effect has been like that of Chinese whispers around a single dinner table without the added difficulty of translating Greek into Latin and we can witness how different the message from the first to the last may be distorted.
Pytheas’s voyage seems to have been intended partly as a commercial venture looking for opportunities in trade with his own city Marseille and the other part scientific.
Pytheas was long before Galileo in attempting to assert that the earth was round and this proof was known by the ancient world.
This proof could only be arrived at by taking sightings of the sun at different latitudes and as Pytheas proceeded North, he observed the change in the length of daylight and he observes “the midnight sun,” confirming he went far up to what he called Thule, which presumably is confirmed by later chroniclers as Iceland.
There is mention of a passage that he made, said to be six days long and this could be one going north to Scotland but many commentators think that he only went up the eastern side of Britain (but this would deny his having described the shape of Britain as triangular). The lost interpretation of the six days could even be an account of the journey to reach southern England from Marseille.
Some ancient writers seem to give it as a quote from the ‘Britains’ about the distance to travel to Ictis to procure tin. The ‘six days inwards’ (introrsus) related
byTimæus, and quoted by Pliny, says, that this Mictis
, “was six days sail inwards from Britain”
and given as a direction supposedly by the Britons to Pytheas on his arrival in Belerion. This confusion has led most Ictis investigators astray and was obviously related out of context, as much of the other information has been.
Pliny’s quotation of Timaeus ’six days sail inland from Britain, there is an island called Mictis in which white lead is found, and to this island the Britons come in boats of Osier covered with sewn hides’ could be a confusion of the six days in which it would take to get from Lands’ end to northern Scotland averaging 70-90 miles a day if indeed Pytheas went up the western side of Britain with no mention of Ireland.
Diodorus’ quotation of Posidonius who travelled in Britain around 80BC describes the metal workers of Belerion carrying their tin to a certain Island called Ictis which acted
as a great trading post for merchants.
This quote coupled with the fact that the Isle of Wight's Latin name ‘Vectis’ being similar to ‘Ictis’, has also led to more confusion as much trade was known to take place from this area.
Some commentators have assumed the 'Six days Inwards' can be applied to the journey along the Southern coast from where Pytheas initially made contact with the inhabitants of the Southern tip of Belerion, all the way to Thanet in Kent, another possible candidate for Ictis, as Kent is mentioned in his Journal.
Pytheas probably did not explore much of the mainland of Thule. but gives an account of sea ice. We do not know from Thule where
southward for the return voyage,
but again this could be another confusion by later cronichlers as they sailed south for six days and
nights before they reached the shores of Britain.
We hear little from subsequent commentators about Pytheas’s return along the eastern shore of Britain as far as Kent, but his expedition returned successfully by the Channel and the Bay of Biscay, back to the mouth of the Gironde if indeed this is where he had started from.
as a ships navigator had mastered the use of the "Gnomon," an instrument similar to the hexante or Sextant as it is known today. This instrument was used by Phoenician and Greek navigators since very early times and Pytheas used it to calculate the latitude of Massalia, which he found to be 43' 11' N, almost matching the exact figure of 43' 18'N for where Marseilles lies today. It seem likely that it was
a committee of merchants
from Marseilles that engaged the services of Pytheas to undergoe his voyage of discovery. He was a renowned mathematician of that city, who was already famous for his measurement of the declination of the ecliptic, and for the calculation of the latitude of that city, by a method which he had recently made known of comparing the height of the gnomon or pillar
with the length of the solstitial shadow. Many of the ancient writers disbelieved Pytheas’ account of his journey and the distances involved and much interpolation, interpretation and rationalisation of subsequent writers has meant that we are now no longer sure of which parts relating to Ictis have been related accurately.
It is 238 miles from the mouth of the Gironde to Ushant, a leg of the trip that Pytheas records “as three days away” by Strabo then one days sail to the Belerion coast.
Pytheas was averaging 79.3 miles a day.
The four days, quoted by Diodorus from the Gironde is indicating he had a quick passage from Ushant, probably sighting the Lizard first only 89 miles away. It was hereabouts at an undisclosed landfall, he made his enquiries to the ‘Britons’ about tin. Pytheas was probably told it was two days further up channel, but Timaeus records that the Britons, said the Tin would be available six days inwards in an island which they went to in wicker framed boats covered with hide, (these wicker boats probably only used locally). It is only fifty five miles from the Lizard to Ictis and if Pytheas did record that the journey in total was six days, Pytheas most probably sailed along the coast for the last two days stopping overnight so that he did not miss the island.
Timaeus recorded Pytheas in Greek, then it was rendered by Pliny the Elder in Latin, influenced by other previous references that were possibly interpolated nearly 300 years later. This stands little chance of being an accurate record with the original detail given by Pytheas.
It seems most likely that, Pytheas’s intention was to give a meaningful reference of six days in total to the Island of Ictis from the Gironde, detailing “inwards” up channel from his present location. This seems to be the obvious solution, but this six day period may indeed be in reference to another part of his trip and the context has been muddled. One can tell that Diodorus is not giving a first-hand account but the ‘we are told’ reference from this next extracted account is most probably referencing details given by Pytheas: Britain is triangular in shape, similar to Sicily, but its sides are not equal. This island stretches obliquely along the coast of Europe, to a point where it is least distant from the mainland, we are told, is the promontory which men call Cantium,(Kent) and this is around one hundred stades from the land, at the place where the sea has its outlet,(The Dover Straits) whereas the second promontory, known as Belerium, is said to be a voyage of four days from the mainland. Is this the four days from the Gironde again, just mis-conveyed by later chroniclers in the wrong context?
The shape of the tin ingots described as ‘Astragali’ in Diodorus’s account seems to have been confused because vertebrae bone or knucklebone were used as gaming dice and went by that name. The shape of any discovered tin ingots from Devon and Cornwall neither resemble cubes or the knucklebone shape. There is little credibility that can be given to this hypothesis. These moulded
convex and bun shaped ingots in different sizes would fit into wooden framed skin covered boats called coracles. The shape of the Ingots would be bun shaped (like those found at the head of the river Erm) with no hard corners for a few reasons and it is to this shape from which we can assume the term astralagi refers.
Naturally moulded tin ingot formed in any convienient dried rock pool next to a river where cassiterite would be mined, would be the first. Consequently, a hemispheroid that would not tear the animal skins of the local traders that transported the ingots to Ictis in their coracles is the second. There would be no need to schampher or to soften the flat surface edges of the convex shape due to ‘surface tension’ of the liquid tin as the mould cooled. By natural design, flat on one side and convex on the other,
seem to be the shape of the majority of existing examples including the recent find of the ingot cargo in the Erm mouth which we will discuss shortly. This shape would make them ideal to fit between the wooden framing of any coracle and present a completely flat interior for its occupants, following the curve of the boat. This would avoid point and weight loading of any part of the skin.
The exterior of the Astragali would always present to the skin face a surface unlikely to rip or damage and be kept in place by the surrounding wooden framing. By placing and packing the Astragali as a removable floor the traders would be spreading the weight throughout the coracle while at the same time creating ballast at a low centre of gravity. This would be the optimum means of transport at sea to avoid the cargo becoming loose during passage.
The shape of the Astragali over time,
was probably standardised by popular agreement and by convieniece to both transporter and smelter.....
in moulds formed naturally eroded by rain or river used by early ‘Tinners’.... hence all the different sizes, but the shape for shipping being a secondary convienient element.
The third reason as C.F.C Hawkes points out, can be deduced from Diodorus’s description of the ingots passage to the mouth of the river Rhone by horse or mule, a passage of about thirty days ‘on foot’.
The ingots would be better shaped for saddle bags on these pack horses. The optimum size of the ingots would have evolved by feedback from the pilots of coracles.
The shape of the ingots probably evolved from lighting fires over dried out rock pools conveniently found everywhere next to the river, from which the Cassiterite was panned by the Bronze Age Tinners and this shape turned out to be the most practical for early sea transport.
It is not even clear whether Pytheas when he refers to coracles is referring to the foreign traders.
This seems unlikely but seems to refer to the suppliers from the different river mouths transporting their tin to Ictis along the coast to the central agency described as an 'Emporium'. Certainly this would have been the easiest way to get ingots from areas downstream of the rivers running from southern Dartmoor to convey them to Ictis. The river Avon however, the effluent from which exits by the trading post of Ictis is a different story, as the tin came down by cart from Dartmoor as witnessed by Diodorus’ description of Pytheas’ eye witness account as we shall establish later.
It becomes evident that Diodorous when he writes,‘and a peculiar thing occurs concerning islands near, lying between Europe and Britain. For at high tides, the passage between being flooded, they appear as islands, but at low tide, the sea recedes and much space being exposed again dry, they are seen to be peninsulas’
; has completely misled those investigators looking for the fabled island of Ictis.
The word “near” when referring to neighbouring islands has made it impossible to find a relative location on the South West coast of Devon and Cornwall. The most probable explanation of this confusion.... which leads
to an impossible location to match its description…… is that it is a combination of Pytheas’ original eye witness account with that of a later traders account of passing the Channel Islands.
Upon setting out from the French coast in the morning, one would see islands before dark while passing the Channel Islands, then probably having slept through the night one would arrive at another island next to the coast…… could be an explanation, but it is more likely that it is a mixture of two accounts.
Ictis is a single Island of Pytheas’ account but was misconstrued by Diodorus and other chroniclers from eyewitness accounts of traders that obviously were referring to the Channel Islands and this reference to other islands being ‘near’ is a later interpolation and misunderstanding of Pytheas’ account.
Alternatively, a passenger not accustomed to navigation, the sea or the speed at which a boat travels, might lead him to believe those other islands to be in close proximity to the one at which he has arrived if they travelled through the night.
It is highly probable that Diodorous has accurately conveyed from Pytheas the detail concerning the island drying out, but then inserts his own information narrated to him from one of the overland traders who might have made the voyage to Ictis or even heard of an account or seen the Channel Islands en route to ictis.
Diodorus as a Greek Sicilian from Mediterranean waters is already struggling with the concept of ‘tides’ and in his narration he deems the whole notion as “peculiar”.
So having made this error and misunderstood that Ictis is situated “near” other islands, these other islands then in the same ‘peculiar tide’, become plural peninsulas’ in the narrative. To find such a location on the British South West promontory ‘near Britain’ would be impossible. However one might view the confusion of the plurality of Islands, we know that Pytheas is talking of a singular Island called Ictis to which wagons cross over when the tide recedes.
However, with the many garbled references let us stick to the account in Diodorus’s ‘Bibliotheca Historica’ for the moment and see what he has to say in the following passage relating to the Island of Ictis
and the British tin trade;
“We shall give an account of the British institutions, and other peculiar features, when we come to Cæsar’s expedition undertaken against them, but we will now discuss of the tin produced there. The inhabitants who dwell near the promontory of Britain, known as Belerium, are remarkably hospitable; and, from their intercourse with other peoples merchants, they are civilized in their mode of life. These people prepare the tin, in an ingenious way, quarrying the ground from which it is produced, and which, though rocky, has fissures containing ore; and having extracted the supply of ore, they cleanse and purify it, and when they have melted it into tin ingots, they carry it to a certain island, which lies off Britain, and is called Ictis. At the ebbing of the tide, the space between this island and the mainland is left dry and then they can convey the tin in large quantities over to the island on their wagons. A peculiar circumstance happens with regard to the neighbouring islands, which lie between Europe and Britain, for at flood tide, the intermediate space being filled up, they appear as islands; but at ebb tide, the sea recedes, and leaves a large extent of dry land, and at that time, they look like peninsulas. Hence the merchants buy the tin from the natives, on Ictis and carry it over into Gaul (Galatia); and in the end after travelling through Gaul on foot about a thirty days journey, they bring their wares on horses to the mouth of the river Rhone.”
Mount Batten in Plymouth, a peninsula just off Cattwater, has been posited as a possible contender for Ictis, but it doesn't dry out at low tide and it could never have been kept secret as Strabo infers and one can see geologically it has never been separated by tidal flow....
or insular, to fit with Pytheas’ description. The source of the Plym is at Plymhead, on the high open moorland of Dartmoorand the river from Higher Hartor to Cadover Bridge which has concentrated evidence of early settlement including burial mounds and Bronze Age hut circles.... would possibly put Mount Batten as a contender for Ictis, if indeed it had dried out at low tide to where carts could cross, as related by in the original description by Pytheas. The strip of land leading to Mount Batten was splashed on a high tide before the modern breakwater was built but this hardly results in the description of an island. Even though there is a small natural harbour.... why, one must ask was the tin taken to the island that Pytheas witnessed, but for the insular protection and the ease of landing and then loading a vessel.... both of these conveniently found at Burgh island.
Pytheas correctly estimated the circumference of Great Britain as 4000 miles and also knew the distance to be sailed from Marseille as 1050 instead of the actual distance of 1120, so he was accurate in his own estimations and figures if these are his figures. His original account would have been without error because he experienced it, unlike later second hand accounts, some of which were written by chroniclers that thought his exploits and observations not credible and actively set out to discredit him.
The Belerion mentioned by Pytheas is most likely defined as the southern promontory of Great Britain probably commencing with Salcombe in South Devon, stretching all the way down to Lands’ End. This ‘promontory’ clearly depicted on a map geographically adheres to Pytheas’ description. More rationally we can understand his definition as the start of the south west peninsula or ‘promontory’
as a description derived from a Navigator. There is also the fact that the name of Belerion tends to suggest the area defined by a people and that same area would then latterly become known as Dumnonia which included both Devon and Cornwall.
By Pytheas’ understanding, he was explaining the area south west from Salcombe and describing Belerion as such, being defined by a people. ‘The natives of this promontory area’ is the intonation from his original account discussing the people he found there....... being more than the norm, ’friendly to strangers’..... a trait still evident in the modern era. However as we move through this investigation in later chapters it is a possibility that Pytheas' promontory was defined more locally as the area extending south from a line between Torbay and Plymouth i.e the river valleys running south of Dartmoor.
Just west of the entrance into Salcombe estuary, about 2.5 miles west of ‘Bolt tail’, there lies a small island called Burgh Island which fits Pytheas’s description exactly. Bolt head and Bolt tail (probably derived from Bel) being easily recognisable from miles out to sea with its prominent plateau like formation.... would
make landfall at Ictis for any early trader relatively simple ‘eyeball navigation’.
If one considers that, to navigate in these tidal currents that relentlessly flow, (sometimes flowing in the opposite direction on the outskirts of the channel to the main mid channel flow) makes navigation hazardous. Once having passed the Channel Islands on a trip from the French coast or from an approach further west, the navigator is open to the vagaries of the current and weather.
The first compasses were made of lodestone, a naturally-magnetized ore of iron. Ancient people found that if a lodestone was suspended so it could turn freely, it would always point in the same direction toward the magnetic pole. These were later adapted as compasses made of iron needles, magnetized by stroking them with a lodestone. It is highly probable that the early navigators that were plying their trade in tin, even before Pytheas made his voyage, used these lodestones to locate the escarpment of Bolt head and Bolt Tail. There is an old mine at the base of Bolt head known as Easton’s mine in which Mundic is found (an oxidisation of pyrites).... while the unfortunate miner had hoped to find Copper. These lodes of Pyrites crystals are found throughout the whole cliff and there are several well documented accounts of Ship’s compasses being ‘swung off’ by the mass of Iron rich lodes found in the headland. The Captain of the Herzogin Cecilie fell foul of this phenomena by hitting the Ham stone.... while the ancients may have used this to their advantage in conjunction with a swinging lodestone.
Figure 10a Showing the tin Valley of the Avon, high above Ictis on Southern Dartmoor.
Old style tin streaming between these two rivers was the main industry in prehistoric times, due to the geological formation of a river on each side of a central granite escarpment.
Tin is smelted from ‘cassiterite’, a mineral found in hydrothermal veins in granite, which is what had been separated by constant erosion from the Quartz, Mica and Feldspar that constitute the Granite.
This area just north of the South Hams
is where we find the earliest beginnings of what was to become a global supplier of tin to the ancient world.
The methods employed to extract tin from Dartmoor followed a progression from streaming through open cast mining to much later underground mining. Within ten miles from Ictis there are extensive archaeological remains of these three phases of the industry, and sites still exist that show the stages of processing that were necessary to convert the ore to tin metal. The ordnance survey map provides a snapshot showing the evolution from the early Bronze Age through to the 1300’s AD.
The once very extensive alluvial deposits of tin ore, which were the first deposits to be mined in the two rivers…… once existed in lodes before the errosion caused from the ice melt higher up on Darmoor. The run off has left the steep sided valleys which evidence the vast quantity of ore that must originally have been eroded and gathered on the valley floor. The first occupants, just panning the river beds due to cassiterite’s specific gravity, would have sourced it all the way down the Erm and Avon Valleys.
The legendary island of Ictis which is called ‘Burgh Island’ today, stands at the mouth of the Avon River on the opposite shore to the small hamlet of Bantham.
The Island of Ictis, first heard of in the chronicles of the ancient writers, was probably coined from the Greek ikhthys meaning fish, because up until recently Burgh Island was renowned for the shoals of pilchards that congregated naturally around it in Bigbury Bay. It seems that Pytheas referred to the Island asikhthys island or ‘fish island’ (as it was probably called back then by the locals)…… and then later chroniclers termed it the Island of Ictis. The shoals of pilchards in the bay were legendary well into the 18th century…… fishing fleets said to have made catches of 12 million fish in a single day. The pilchards were cured with salt and were either pressed for oil or shipped by the barrel load to Europe. It seems extraordinary that the one Island described by Pytheas as Fish Island and renowned for its huge shoals that sometimes darkened the whole bay, would not be associated with the Greek word ikhthys…… also being the only tidal island on the southern promontory as described by Pytheas…… and especially situated just 10 miles from the huge alluvial tin deposits that existed on southern Dartmoor.
Tin was transported from this small island over to France by French traders and further by international traders such as the Phoenicians……
since around 1000 BC until around 30 BC. This trade must have been seriously interfered with by Julius Caesar's expeditions in 55 and 54 BC
The recent find of tin ingots at the mouth of the River Erm 2.5 miles distant, confirms Burgh Island as Ictis and its link with the tin trade.
In a small area near Bantham that has recently been archaeologically excavated, Amphorae were found and also other signs of active trade with France and most probably Phoenician traders from an early era.
In another recent discovery on the Eastern shore at Wash Gully, 300 yards off the coast
on the approaches to the Salcombe estuary, divers recently uncovered 259 copper ingots, a bronze leaf sword and 27 tin ingots. The wreck of an old trading vessel found there, dates from around 900BC and measures 40ft long to approximately 6ft wide and is constructed from timber planks. It is thought to have been powered by a crew of 15 seamen with paddles, but it seems likely even at this early stage, some form of ‘windage’ would have been employed in a fair wind.
here is more physical archaeological evidence along this small stretch of coast, between the mouth of the river Erm and Salcombe, to add credibility to Burgh island being synonymous with Ictis and its links with the Tin industry.
The Archeological evidence indicates that there was considerable trade in tin ore and this (according to Pytheas) being shipped abroad from an early period.
Although the copper ingots of the Salcombe wreck are said to have come from Europe; it does not necessarily indicate that the copper was being imported.
A craft of this size may have been on a scouting mission to pick up ingots from Ictis, having heard of it as a tin depot from those further along the coast or the tin ingots could have come from Ictis before it was wrecked.
There is little evidence to show anywhere on the promontory of Belerion that the actual smelting of bronze took place to any industrial degree, but it is possible that these copper ingots found off Salcombe, could have been traded with the locals for the rarer commodity of tin. Although copper was mined to the south-west of Dartmoor, these mines are of a much later date than the wreck in question. The ‘Blow Houses’ found up behind the Avon dam are part of the tin smelting process and were probably only used as such and not employed to make bronze and these also were of a much later date.
Pytheas was one of the first people to give a report of Stonehenge while he visited the British Isles and took measurements of the Sun’s declination in Britain at different points in the year to further his astronomical studies.
He was also probably one of the first Greeks to give an account of the tidal activity which he had learnt (from the Britons), was caused by the moon, the tide of course being virtually non-existent in Mediterranean waters.
This was 1800 years before Galileo was taken to task in asserting that the world was round. Galileo was denounced at the
Roman Inquisition in 1615 AD by the Catholic Church, which condemned heliocentrism (the idea that the world was a globe) as ‘false and contrary to Scripture’. This does seem quite extraordinary when the Sun and Moon are obviously round and navigational knowledge had existed for nearly two thousand years.
Some of the ancient writers like Diodorus do not even mention Pytheas by name, but refer to his comments alone. Pliny, who is using Timaeus as a source says, “there is an island named Mictis where tin is found, and to which the Britains cross”. He
uses the word ‘proveniat’ which commentators have assumed as meaning that Tin was actually mined at Ictis but the real meaning is ‘provend’
as a supplier which matches the concept of ‘Emporium’ which many translators, chroniclers and commentators have puzzled over the words meaning in connection with Ictis.
The reasoning behind this choice of word is very misleading, since there was no tin mined at the island as later chroniclers have wrongly intimated. The tin was just stored there, (large quantities of tin being transferred to the island by cart)..... this point being of great importance
as the reader will become aware shortly.
The ‘crossing’, mentioned by most chroniclers is in reference to the sandbar or causeway evidenced today at Burgh island, but Pliny who obviously never went to the island, implying a large stretch of land to be crossed.
Diodorus writes also that tin is brought to the island of Ictis, where there is an Emporium, literally being translated as a ‘marketplace or agency’ and this is the definition which defines the role of Ictis.
Polybius was probably a source to Strabo for some details concerning Ictis and Strabo relates that an Emporium on the Island of Corbulo at the mouth of the river Loire was associated with the Island of Ictis, so here again the real picture is made more difficult to identify Ictis. Strabo also infers that Ictis, and Corbulo are different names for the same island, so there is much confusion as the Chinese whisper effect has confused its location. Possibly, Strabo never saw a copy of Pytheas and sourced most of his material from Polybius. Diodorus on the other hand seems to have read Timaeus,
sourced from Pytheas’ original, which Polybius seems to have read also. It would appear that Strabo did not read Pytheas first hand, (or he would not have referred to Polybius) and is probably accountable for much of the Chinese whispers effect.
Pliny calls the island, Mictis, mictim or mictin which indicates that he has translated directly from Timaeus, changing the case ending from the Greek at different times,
but he was struggling to make the distinction between Cassiteris and Ictis
because he actually writes “INSULAM MICTIM,”.
Other writers such as Suetonius have actually referred to the island as Vectis, which has obviously led to confusion with the Isle of Wight which was known in the Roman world as Vectis and used to be pronounced ‘ouectis’ which obviously sounds similar to Ictis.
It would appear taking into account archaeological evidence of early tin production that one would need to look for an island somewhere between Salcombe and Lands’ End that dries out at low tide and becomes a peninsula.
We should ignore the information about Ictis having been surrounded by other islands close by, as there is no such location near a tidal Island peninsula. We should account it as later misunderstanding of a muddled confusion from a second or third hand account concerning the Channel Islands.
Other considerations to achieve a practical location for Ictis should consider navigational ease or constraints and overland transportation; for by Pytheas’ account, these were large consignments of tin being moved. It would appear therefore, that the story as a whole has become a confused interpretation over the years, comprised of rationalisations and interpolations of the original account.
Diodorus relates that Ictis was dry at low water and “the natives conveyed to it wagons, in which were large quantities of tin”. This and the fact that the Island is connected by a causeway at low tide, across which these wagons convey the tin are the essential facts relayed by Pytheas himself.
The fact that large quantities of tin at this stage in 350BC and more specifically before that, was produced in Devon can be seen archeologically. It makes little practical sense to think that the Isle of Wight, Hengistbury point, Looe island, St. Michael's Mount or Thanet are even viable candidates for the island of Ictis.
The quantities mentioned and the heavy transport loads involved from Dartmoor as far as the Isle of Wight over 100 miles away should exclude any further mention being given as a credible location for Ictis.... especially given the transport risks of such a valuable commodity. The problem with all the previous possible candidates for the Island of Ictis is that scholars or researchers have always used information selectively to support their own views on the location. This has been easily achieved due to corruption or disbelief in Pytheas' original text.
It is known that tin mining had first started in between the Erm and Avon estuary in the early British Bronze Age. There is ample archaeological evidence to show that tin streaming existed high up on the moors behind South Brent at Shipley Bridge on the Avon, at least to 1600BC and probably beyond.
Strabo relates the fact that the people who control the Island of Ictis took great pains to hide the business of the island from Roman vessels seen on that part of the coast.
It is probable that the early wagoneers who brought the tin down through 'Loddiswell' to the Island of Ictis for sale, could no longer keep secret their route down from Dartmoor after the Romans arrived and this may have been the root cause of the eventual end of the islands monopoly as the place of primary export.
‘Emporium’ indicates that Ictis acted as a market, which indicates some sort of central agency, trading post or even monopoly from which the tin was traded.
This would make sense practically, understanding that a trading vessel would not want to wait around for the tin to be brought down from the various tin streamers up on the moors. This leads to a natural conclusion that Ictis maintained some sort of vault or storage area from which tin was dispersed as trading vessels arrived.
This would also concur with the ‘wagon loads’ of Pytheas' eye witness account. Vessels arriving from abroad, could expedite their business by landing and loading on the sand causeway and if the winds were fair, return home without a long wait in the anchorage at Bantham.
In the early days when coracles or skin covered wooden vessels were used, the pilot of a small trading vessel could take rest in Bantham behind the duned promontory. He could sail across to Burgh Island, dry out on the sand at low tide while loading, securing and making ship shape his cargo of tin ‘Astragali’, to be floated off at high tide for the return voyage. It would seem also that Pytheas had a sound vessel but it is quite possible that his reference to coracles only refers to local vessels engaged in the tin trade bringing tin to the Island of Ictis from local river mouths. This could even include a description of vessels bearing tin from Cornish river beds. If vessels were coming from France no doubt these would have been more sturdy skin covered wooden craft rather than mere coracles.
It may be that Pliny quoting Timaeus ‘to which the Britons cross in boats of osier covered with stitched hides’……is an account originating from Pytheas when he initially asked the Britons where the Island that sells tin might be found.
The reason for positing such an assertion is that I believe that the merchants of Marseille commissioned Pytheas’ voyage because they had witnessed a substance known now as 'British Glass' (which was a by-product of smelting) that was said to have come from the island that sold tin. It is thought by some commentators that Pytheas went in search of Amber which is a fossilised resin, but the nearest thing in the ancient world to describe 'British Glass'.
Modern construction such as clincker that used bronze nails was known at the time of Pytheas’s visit, but we can speculate that most of the cross channel trade in tin would have taken place in vessels built of wood and animal skins to ensure the vessel remained watertight…… this as a natural progression from framed coracles. Of course the Phonecian traders who most probably established Ictis would have had much more seaworthy craft as attested to by the biblical prophets.
There is evidence in France of bronze foundries that may have built upon a long standing trade with Ictis such as
just inland from the Contentin coast not far from Mont-Saint-Michel.
established on a reputation stemming back to pre-Roman times and was one such foundry that eventually became one of the biggest in France in the medieval era smelting bronze for church bells across Europe. This trade being established through the
mainland harbours such as those at St. Père-sur-Mer, Genets and Avranches and St. Malo.
can assume therefore that most of the bronze was founded in Europe as copper became more plentiful from European mines.
It becomes apparent that Ictis acted as the main tin agency for the western peninsular of England, declining from around 50BC until its closure, but until that point, miners upon Dartmoor would have found it very difficult to deliver as demand dictated, without an agency on the shore to deal with the comings and goings of foreign vessels.
There is no question that the tin was traded with Europe, the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C, referring to the tin trade as occurring in the "Isles of the West". A phonecian trading ship (as attested to by Strabo) would want to pick up these large quantities of tin from one location that provided a safe haven for shipping, rather than deal with separate tinners along the coast.
Herodotus in book 3 says ‘I cannot speak with certainty nor am I acquainted with the islands called the Cassiterides from which tin is brought to us….it is never the less, certain that both our tin and our amber are brought from these extremely remote regions, in the western extremities of Europe’. It is highly likely that British Glass(a by-product of smelting)was confused for Amber.
Ptolemy, writing c140 A.D says of the British Isles,’they were peopled by descendants of the Hebrew race who were skilled in smelting operations and excelled in working metals’. Biblical records recording the use of tin as far back as the 'coming out of Egypt' with Moses, Tubal-Cain the instructor of every artificer in works of brass and Iron, and the building of the first Temple.