Looked at closely, the traditional ornaments on parchment and stone
that have come down to us from the early Christian period in Northern Europe, as well as
the knotwork of the Mediterranean, disclose an underlying unity: organized on grids; based
on dots connected by lines in diamond-arrangements, as in knot design; or by lines in
diagonal-cross arrangements, as in Celtic square-spiral or maze patterns.
The main constructions use age-old motifs that were
indigenous to Eurasian cultures as far back as the Beaker and Axe peoples, at least, as
demonstrated by Marija Gimbutas.
The structural unity of primitive ornament was outlined in
the last century by J. Romilly Allen who revealed the syntax and the grammar of the form
language of primitive patterns. While Romilly Allen drew largely from Beaker pottery
design, Gimbutas has drawn evidence that the same pattern system was used extensively
in Old European civilization. It is likely that when this system appears in pottery
of the fifth millennium BCE, it had already been fully developed as a syntax of
symbolic geometry, a precursor to script.
Before going further into this, however, we need to revise
our ideas about the nature of decorative art and of the symbolism of simple, primitive,