The work of Ludovic McLellan Mann is almost unknown today. In the 20’s and 30’s however, about the time of Alfred Watkins’ Straight Track Club, Mann was collecting evidence for the existence of a hitherto unknown prehistoric civilization skilled in astronomy, chronology, metrology and landscape surveying. Unlike Watkins, Mann never published more than a brief outline of his theories – the details were always “left for another occasion”. His projected book A Lost Civilization was partially set up in type, but owing to the long delay before publication the printers melted the type down. Only a few chapters survive either in typescript or as an appendix to Earliest Glasgow. For lack of evidence it is therefore impossible to judge Mann’s work as a whole. The I.G.R. is publishing these notes in the hope that fresh research will be carried out to prove or disprove his theories. I am grateful to Mr. George Applebey of Glasgow for a copy of Ancient Measures, and for lending the original typescripts of the articles published here. Mr. Applebey also provided information about Mann’s life and work. I thank Mr. J. Scott of the Glasgow Archaeological Society for a copy of Craftsmen’s Measures, and Mr. Nigel Pennick of the I.G.R. for a copy of Archaic Sculpturings.

Biographical notes

By profession Mann was a chartered accountant, and chairman of the insurance firm Mann, Ballantyne and Co. He was well-known as an amateur archaeologist and, despite his unorthodox theories, he also contributed conventional articles to the journals. He was President of the Glasgow Archaeological Society for 1931–33, and served on the councils of other bodies. However, this “establishment” background did not make it easier for him to publicize his theories. After 1939, probably disheartened by the failure of his book and the long controversy over ancient measures, he published nothing more. <But see Addendum.>

1898 — Became an Associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
1899 — Invented the system of “consequential loss” (insurance of profits against fire) now universally adopted.
1911 — Organized prehistoric section of the Scottish Historical Exhibition in Glasgow.
1914 — Archaic Sculpturings in Dumfries and Galloway.
1918 — Queen Mary of Scots at Langside (proceeds of sale donated to the war-wounded).
1919 — The Barochan Cross.
1927 — Projected date of A Lost Civilization. Unfinished and unpublished.
1930 — Craftsmen’s Measures in Prehistoric Times.
1931 to 1933 — President of the Glasgow Archaeological Society.
1934 — Organized exhibition of Italian Old Stone Age relics in London.
1938Wrongly 1935 in 1977 editionEarliest Glasgow.
1938 — Ancient Measures; their Origin and Meaning (reply to critics).
1939 — The Druid Temple Explained (newly-discovered earthwork near Glasgow).
1955 — Died on 30 September.

Craftsmen’s measures

Mann’s theories are set down briefly in Craftsmen’s Measures and Ancient Measures. He claimed to have discovered two units of length, which he called the alpha unit (15.72 mm) and the beta unit (14.06 mm). The use of <these measures in> artefacts was universal.

“Investigation of many thousands of objects has shown that drawings and carvings, and worked objects of bone, antler, stone, baked clay, glass, vitreous paste, and metal, of prehistoric, proto-historic, and even historic times, bear traces of having been made by craftsmen strictly disciplined to employ certain stereotyped, artificial, and unalterable units of length. … The writer has in addition examined many thousands of objects in the principal British, American and Continental museums. Relics belonging to every known archaeological field have been examined, including remote and now uninhabited Oceanic islands. Everywhere the same moduli and system of measurement have been traced. Thus to the enormous range of the system in time must be added its surprisingly wide range in territory. Prehistoric man had obviously to follow the dictates of a law stringently imposed upon the whole world.” (CM, 1–2).

In Craftsmen’s Measures 76 objects are illustrated as examples of the prehistoric measures. Mann stressed the importance of measuring the dimensions of an object at right-angles to each other, which could be achieved by placing it on a rectangular grid of alpha and/or beta units. “If … by a kind of guess-work method the object is measured in each of its dimensions, separately and independently, and without the guidance of a box-like rectangular figure, failure will usually occur.” (AM, 9).

The ancient craftsman used gauges in order to make his measures conform to the system, and according to Mann many such gauges have been discovered. Also, “on 21 September 1937, at Kirkhouse, Strathblane, a prehistoric tomb was discovered. Incised upon the cover-stone were noted the ancient lineal scales set at right angles and with perfect accuracy.” (AM, 8).

“Scores of Collectors and Museum Curators have sent to me Certificates that the ancient relics in their possession have dimensions in agreement with the scales now constructed. These Certificates may be seen at any time.” (AM, 24).

On 2 March 1933 Mann gave a lecture in which these measures were mentioned, and which was reported in the press (Scotsman, Glasgow Herald, Express) the next day. This marked the beginning of a bitter controversy with Professor J. B. Bailey and other geologists at Glasgow University, who had perhaps taken exception to Mann’s opinion that the controversial “eoliths” must be of human and not natural origin, since the measures are found in them. After an exchange of several letters in the press, a nine-man committee was set up on 12 June to investigate Mann’s theories on ancient measures. The Glasgow Archaeological Society and the Glasgow University Geological Society nominated four members each, and Mann agreed (“unwisely” he wrote later) that the geologist Bailey should act as impartial chairman. Over four years went by before {3} the Report appeared on 9 October 1937. The majority verdict was unfavourable to Mann, but in their minority report his archaeologist supporters Davidson, Maxwell and Waddell attacked the methods adopted by Bailey.

“Lack of cohesion in the work of the Committee has been … disastrous, and the compilation of the measurements of some 150 artifacts over a period of more than 3½ years is eloquent testimony to its futility.” <(AM, 3)>

In Craftsmen’s Measures Mann had assumed a tolerance of 1/40 of an inch (0.6 mm) below the theoretical dimensions, to allow for the wearing away of the object. He measured objects depicted in Sir John Evans’s Ancient Stone Implements of Great Britain (2nd edition) with the following results:

 ExaminedIn agreement with unitsPercentage positive
Length measurements45631669
Breadth measurements45639085
Thickness measurements23721892

If accurate these figures are convincing evidence for the alpha and beta units. The committee however allowed a tolerance of 1 mm on each side of the theoretical value. The mathemetician J. Galbreath commented later: “The result of this excessive tolerance is that fortuitous agreement in measurement is enormously increased and illegitimately so, and it would appear that this is deliberately done in order to discredit Mr. Mann with regard to the true coincidence of measurement.” (AM, 13).

The committee also failed to take measurements at right angles, although Mann had stated that this was essential. But the majority report admitted that “Greek vase measurements may have been based on the Mann scales”.

Meanwhile Mann’s friend J. Jeffrey Waddell had measured a number of illustrations in Evans. In a letter to the committee he reported: “I went over a good many of them with Mr. Mann’s grid and they seemed to score a considerable number of fits; but I could not convince myself that this was first class evidence either for or against Mann’s theory. I therefore abandoned the task.” I have tested some of Evans’s illustrations (which are mostly stated to be half-size) and had the same experience as Waddell. There were several impressive fits, but many of the artifacts did not agree with the units at all. In any case, it is obviously better to work with the actual objects rather than illustrations, which may not be drawn precisely to scale.

More Metrology

Besides the above small alpha and beta units, Mann stated that there were alpha and beta “feet”, made up of 24 small units and measuring 14.85 inches (377.2 mm) and 13.28Wrongly 12.28 in 1977 edition inches (337.3 mm) respectively. These measures have survived into historic times, as shown by a few examples selected from Craftsmen’s Measures:


Phoenician cubit=1.5 × 14.8 inches 
French aune=5 × 14.84 inches 
Danish rode=10 × 14.8 inches 
Austrian klafter=2 × 14.93 inches 
“Egyptian” foot (very widespread)=13.2 to 13.3 inches
Old English and Scottish foot=13.22 inches
Chinese chih=13.29 inches 

Recently the mathematician Maria Reiche has found a unit of 1.35 metres used in the geometrical figures at Nazca, Peru. This equals 4 beta feet.

In the layout of prehistoric sites Mann found that a unit of 20.425 feet was frequently used. This occurs for example in the Celtic settlement at Kilbride near Loch Fyne. Reporting on the excavations there, G. A. Frank Knight wrote: “The tape-measure applied to different essential points in the architectural scheme invariably brought out this unit and its multiples, much to the astonishment of the spectators.” According to Knight, Mann was able to reconstruct the geometry of the site, with barely the error of an inch. At the predicted geometrical centre, although nothing was visible on the surface, excavation revealed a stone-lined hole which had once held a large post.

2/15 of this unit of 20.425 feet gives 2.723 feet, equal to the megalithic yard discovered by Thom. In other words Mann’s unit equals 3 times the “megalithic rod” of 2.5 megalithic yards. Thom shows for instance that the trilithon circle at Stonehenge has inner and outer perimeters of 45 and 48 rods, i.e. 15 and 16 Mann units. Thus, had Mann published detailed evidence for his unit, he might now be credited with anticipating part of Thom’s work by 30 years.

Mann pointed out that the ratio between the alpha and beta units was √5 : 2, i.e. that between the diagonal and long side of a double square. Ivimy has noticed the same ratio between the megalithic yard and the Egyptian royal cubit. According to Mann, 4/3 times the beta unit equals the Egyptian digit (1/28 of a royal cubit), and 100 alpha units equal the xylon of 3 royal cubits.

An important part of Mann’s system is that measures of length symbolize measures of time. He hit on this idea when studying the Ilkley swastika.

“On a hard sandstone outcrop on Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire, is a prehistoric carving of a curved swastika. The medial line of its winding band, a carefully cut gutter, measures 85.393 inches. This emblem was used in Europe in prehistoric times and continued in vogue in the Far East and India until recently when it signified the Sun, an emblem of good luck, and the journey of the Sun is one year. With this hint I inferred that if the length of the band was divided by 365.243 … the ancient linear measure associated with one day could be determined. The measure thus secured, 0.2338 inch, was thereafter applied to various ancient objects and to artificial curvilinear gutters found on ancient sculptured rock-surfaces in various countries. … There may be left over for another occasion the story of why the particular space-value of 0.2338 inch became associated with the time-value of one day. The explanation lies in the domains of geodesy and astronomy.” (AM, 25–26).

{5} In Ancient Measures Mann has a table showing the alpha and beta measures corresponding to various measures of time. In each system there are measures representing the radius and circumference of a circle, giving four units of length for each unit of time. The perimeter of the Ilkley swastika corresponds to one year in the alpha-circumference system, so the alpha-radius for one day is 0.94514 mm. The unit of 20.425 feet mentioned above is the alpha-radius for the Saros (eclipse) cycle of 6585.7 days. (This makes one day correspond to 0.94531 mm, so Mann’s figures are consistent.) The alpha and beta feet are supposed to be radial measures corresponding to Jupiter’s synodic period of 398.9 days. The beta-radius for an “artificial year” of 360 days is 11.98 inches, which Mann takes to be the origin of the British foot.

Landscape features

As early as 1914 Mann had written in Archaic Sculpturings: “The apparently isolated cairns, the groups of standing stones far distant from each other, and the detached sets of rock carvings well removed from each other, may all form part of one widely spread design. … A scrutiny with the aid of ordnance survey charts of certain sacred areas, covering great stretches of ground both in Scotland and Ireland, … demonstrates that locations marked by the erection of cairns and standing stones and by rock scribings and by prominent topographical features or points (often later chosen for the site of forts) are arranged in an exact geometrical relationship. The enquirer may, for instance, conveniently obtain evidence of this by drawing lines between such locations and salient points on the map of the Boyne district which prefaces Messrs Coffey and Armstrong’s New Grange.”

Thus Mann, like W. H. Black and others, came well before Alfred Watkins in pointing out the interrelationship of ancient sites, although Watkins was the first to write extensively on the subject. An example of Mann’s research is given in Earliest Glasgow:

“The neolithic philosopher and astronomer laid out the Glasgow area on a plan similar to that of a clock-face and like a gigantic spider’s web, but rigorously geometrical. Its radii, usually set out on a nineteenth divisional system (sub-divided at times into 38ths and 76ths) dictated the positions, and ran through loci, of prehistoric importance. These lines were counted anti-clockwise, beginning at the south-going radius … The 31st radius (on a dial of 38 radii) proceeds from the Cathedral to St. Enoch’s Square, and passes in direct line through the centres of several sacred areas. … The unit used was 20.425 feet and its multiples.” <(EG, 10–11)>

Mann includes among the measures that might be interpreted in terms of time “the lengths of British pre-Roman trackways, some now represented by field boundaries and trunk and other roads”, and continues:

“From the long measures have come the modern British mile and its subdivisions and the group of some forty foreign miles. They may be detected in Ordnance maps, divisions of land and stretches of old roads. There are many other Long Measures and universally in prehistoric times such as those corresponding to the Sun cycles of 3600, 3780, 3843½, 4750 and 25920 years. These may be seen when Ordnance Survey sheets are analysed.”

Another researcher, Major Tyler, claimed to have found a landscape geometry unit of 950.4 feet and commented: “To arrive at such a result was only possible using the little unit of measure, {6} called by its discoverer – Mr. Ludovic Mann – the alpha unit, and attributed by him to an origin in Palaeolithic times.” Tyler’s unit is 3 × 28 <i.e. 768> alpha feet. Incidentally Tyler was also in contact with the German researcher Josef Heinsch, and it would be interesting to know if Heinsch and Mann knew of each other’s work. Similarities between the two are (1) rejection of Lockyer’s theory of alinement on stars, (2) the double square and the angle of 26½ degrees, (3) the number 19 used in landscape geometry (but in quite different ways), (4) radius- and circumference-units of measure. In Earliest Glasgow Mann wrote:

“The ancients … sought to explain the celestial happenings and the regular <intervals in the> movements of Sun, Moon, Planets and Stars. A picture of the heavens was sketched by means of earthworks over large areas suitably situated like the area whereon Glasgow is now placed. Photostat copies of the Garth surrounding Glasgow Cathedral, on a large scale, have recently been published to demonstrate the astronomical lay-out of the kernel of the area of Glasgow.” <(EG, 15)>

He gives further examples in the article on Salisbury Plain, and states that he was not the first with such theories. In recent years Douglas Chaundy has pointed out the strong resemblance between the pattern of long barrows on Salisbury Plain and a star-map of the northern sky.

Cup-and-ring markings

Describing his early researches into these markings, Mann stated: “Much to my astonishment I found that instead of the markings being all higgledy-piggledy, they were arranged in a most precise, mathematical, and geometrical manner.” (AS, 11–12). Later he found that the alpha and beta units were used in cup-and-ring designs. Thom considers that some at least of the designs were based on the “megalithic inch”. This equals 1/40 of a megalithic yard or 20.7 mm, and has no apparent relation to Mann’s units. According to Thom, ellipses and Pythagorean triangles can be detected in the designs. Mann also put forward the theory that cup-and-ring designs record eclipses of the Sun, seen in the region where a design was made. In the Glasgow Herald, 17 September 1930, he described two cup-marked slabs which record an eclipse seen in the Glasgow district in 2983 BC. (This article has been reprinted in the Journal of Geomancy, Vol. 1, No. 1.) Nature drew attention to his article on 8 November 1930 and four weeks later reported: “Mr. Mann states that his investigations of these old stone records have occupied him for some 25 years, and he promises to make his results accessible to students at an early date.” As far as I can discover, this promise was not made good, and the method of reading the cup-marks has been lost. The basic idea seems to be that the central point of the design must be located and the marks are then read like a clock-dial. On the two Glasgow stones for instance:

“The day index is in either case the chief south-west cup-mark, a common feature being the surrounding rings. These cups point out the thirtieth day of the ancient year, counting anticlockwise on the dial, which begins its reckoning at the south, or at our “six-o’clock”. The same mark indicates both the hour of the day and the day of the year. The cup-mark is placed at a point five-eighths of the whole radius, counting from the centre. It corresponds to 3PM, the hour of the eclipse.”

The year began on our 26 February. The cups and rings also mark long cycles of time, notably 3600, 2843½ and 4750 years. Perhaps the theory is that by knowing the number of years elapsed in two cycles one can fix the year of the eclipse inside an overall cycle of {7} several million years, i.e. unambiguously for practical purposes. The epoch is also indicated by cup-marks which portray the star-group culminating at midnight on the first day of the year.

It is unfortunate that Mann did not publish a full description of his method of reading cup-and-ring markings, since the theory could then have been checked as new designs were found. If in future the theory is proved valid, it will be of use to astronomers, because the long-term action of the Moon in slowing the Earth’s rotation is still not fully understood, and data on the precise time of ancient eclipses would be welcomed.

Other theories

In Archaic Sculpturings Mann discusses the mythology and symbolism underlying the curved crosses and Pictish stones of Scotland, and these ideas are applied to a particular monument in The Barochan Cross. Earliest Glasgow describes the connexion of the city site with the (female) St. Enoch (St. Tennach, or the Moon goddess Danu) and her son Kentigern (Cean-Tigh-Ern, Head of the House of the Moon).

Studying landscape geometry and individual structures Mann found that the north–south axis of the design was nearly always a few degrees west of true north, and that the amount of deviation gave a clue to the date. In cup-and-ring markings two axes, one true and one deviating, were often found. He tried to explain this by supposing that the poles had moved relative to the continents, thus also altering the latitude of the sites. This theory should be rejected because of (1) the lack of any explanation for the change, which is at least 1000 times faster than the proven continental drift; (2) the presence of the true north–south line along with the deviating line; (3) inconsistency with the layout of the lunar observatories discovered by Thom, which show no evidence of changes in latitude or true north. This is not to dispute Mann’s observation of a westerly deviation, but another explanation is required.

Mann also claimed to have solved the problem of Mayan chronology, but his solution is different from that of Goodman and Thompson which is backed by excellent evidence and is now generally accepted. However, these faults do not invalidate the whole body of Mann’s work.