Away In A Manger - Part Three

Logic and folklore explain enigmatic landscape features and uncover the real meaning of 'the Stations of the Cross'. Wed 15 June 2022

Pedra do Sino (Bell Stone) and 'rock tombs' at Necropole de São Gens, Celorico da Beira, Portugal. Source

The sparsely populated hills around the upper reaches of Portugal's River Mondego are pockmarked with individual and clusters of rock tombs.

Rock tombs are also reported in Spain, England, Ireland and the Isle of Man. But only in Portugal and Italy are they found in large clusters:

Two of 60 rock tombs at Fornos de Algodres, north Portugal.

Rock tombs in England and Portugal are dated to medieval times. Italy's rock tombs are credited to both medieval times and to the mysterious pre-Roman Etrurians. The Romans allegedly conquered the Etrurians from around 500 BC onwards.

La Necropoli dei Morticelli, Vasanello, Italy. Source

Many Italian clusters - Etrurian and otherwise - can be explored along the early Roman 'Via Amerina' road 50km north of Rome.

Maybe some sort of industry?

Rock band Black Sabbath brought England's one known rock tomb site to the attention of 1970s youth:

Rock tombs at St Patrick's chapel, Heysham, Lancashire. Source

Heysham's rock tombs are unique among ignored clues to humanity's past.

From Britain Express: St Patrick's Chapel, Heysham:

Several of the graves have carved sockets at the head end that probably supported stone crosses.

They mean a second socket just beyond the head end of the tomb:

Tombs and sockets at St Patrick's chapel, Heysham. Source

Six of Heysham's eight tombs have a second cross socket in addition to the 'head notch' so characteristic of rock tombs.

So why don't rock tombs in other countries have separate sockets for stone crosses?

If the 'sockets for crosses' explanation is correct, then perhaps Portugal's occasional circular 'head' notches supported crosses made from tree trunks:

Head notch at Sepultra da Cova da Moira, Carregal do Sal, Portugal.

In all countries, the official explanation for notched rock tombs is they were carved as tombs for rich medieval children and for the remains of elites.

However, many Portuguese rock tombs show signs of deliberate destruction. A good example is the Sepultra da Albergaria rock tomb just south of Carregal do Sal:

The sign says Albergaria rock tomb was destroyed.

It took hard work to smash out the rock sides of the Albergaria tomb. Photographs don't do justice to the damage. Nor to the work required:

And anyway, why so much effort to smash a child's tomb?

Of the Carregal do Sal cluster, the Albergaria tomb is the tomb closest to town and closest to the road leading to the River Mondego. It was the easiest tomb to get at and probably the tomb most often passed after its creators stopped using it.

Also unexplained is why rock tombs are so often found near ancient quarries:

Quarry face below Heysham rock tombs. Source: Phil Platt/Google Maps

The shaped boulder at bottom right in the former quarry at St Patrick's chapel is reminiscent of 'Pedro do Sino' - the curvaceous boulder that overlooks rock tombs of Portugal's Necropole de São Gens:

It is just possible that rock tomb complexes were bathing stations for quarry workers. But given their positions so high above quarry sides, this seems unlikely.

Fortunately, Portuguese folklore applies Maslow's Razor 1 to this enigma and begins to explain what 'rock tombs' were for.

From Enchanted Moura:

Rock cut tombs called Masseira... the place where the mouras knead bread.

'Mouras' are supernatural females somewhat like northern Europe's witches but with a distinct 'local manageress' role. They are everywhere in northern Portugal's folklore.

'Masseira' means 'trough' or 'manger'.

Southern Europe's artisans still use long troughs:

Massaging the mass in a manger. Source: Tradition of Open-Air Pig Slaughter Abides on Spanish Island

They are preparing the filling for blood sausages.

Blood sausage is made throughout Europe:

French blood sausage before cooking. Source: Blood Sausage

Francisco Ubilla photographed this process in 2018. See more of his images at Tradition of Open-Air Pig Slaughter Abides on Spanish Island.

England's variant of blood sausage is "Black pudding". This combination of grains, meat, fat and blood is most popular in England's north and west - in places like Heysham, Lancashire.

From Black Pudding:

Black pudding is a distinct regional type of blood sausage originating in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is made from pork or beef blood, with pork fat or beef suet, and a cereal, usually oatmeal, oat groats, or barley groats.

Each ingredient that goes into blood sausage has its own processing and hygiene requirements. Tools and structures were created to help with this. Their remains on the ground and their folklore tell us which processes rock tombs were built for.

From The Facts of Crucifixion:

Flogging, or scourging, was done before every crucifixion.

Blood loss was considerable.

How long he lived depended mostly on how severe the scourging was.

Blood collection bowl at a crucifixion. Source: The Templar Knight

Christians say 'cross'.

Butchers say 'gallows'.

Gallows: the device that gave its name to 'hallows', 'hallowed', 'All Hallows Eve' and 'Halloween'.

From Roman Forms of Crucifixion:

Roman historian Seneca the Younger indicates:

"I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in many different ways: some have their victims with head down to the ground"

Seneca is describing production in an artisanal environment.

In a modern industrial environment, blood sausage makers use mechanised gallows:

Gallows and troughs still go together. Source: AMI: Tour of a Pork Plant

Modern carcass processing volumes are very high. But the volume of product per carcass - and their individual handling requirements - remains more or less the same as it was in the old days.

Butchering an adult human releases about five liters (1.5 gallons) of blood and lengths of slippery, hard-to-handle intestine:

  • Adult human's large intestine: approx 1.5m (5ft) long.
  • Adult human's small intestine: approx 6-7m (20–25ft) long.

Intestine management means hygiene management:

The word 'tomb' comes from 'tumbling'. Source: AMI: Tour of a Pork Plant

Blood and offal must be collected and the intestines kept separate.

Intestines destined for blood sausage must be squeezed clean. It must then be cured either in a trough of salt water or by drying.

While they dry, they must be kept clean and undamaged:

Modern artisans use trees. Source: Tradition of Open-Air Pig Slaughter Abides

Old-time artisans used crosses:

"An interesting way to learn about one’s culture and religion." Source: Best Coloring Pages for Kids

From eastern Europe into Russia, a variant of this image looks like an intestine slung over a cross. It's called "Julia's Rope".

Locations discussed in this evidence collection

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  1. Maslow's Razor: Animals prioritise physical needs before spiritual needs. Ancient relics reflect this. 

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