Forever Blowing Bubbles

One benefit of enforced inactivity – over zealous mountain biking – is that you can sort through photos and reflect on previous years field work. In this case some prehistoric cup-marked rocks found in Rydal in 2010. These were spotted in January on the way to reconnoitre the upper Rydal Valley for a field survey carried out later that year. I had been targeting various glaciated slabs, mainly roche moutonnée, in the Lake District valleys for man-made cup-marks and spotted this one and took a look; this is as it appeared to me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Up to that time there were hardly a handful of cup-marked slabs known in the Lake District, one of these was Barbers Rock in Loweswater across the fields from our home (below). As children we played here and noticed the curious smoothed hollows and thought these were places where people had ground “things”; I thought little of them for several decades until I realised that child’s-eye view was not that far off and these were made by the hand of man.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So the question everyone asks is invariably “what do they mean?” and the answer is, we don’t exactly know, but we could have a stab at it. Ronald Morris proposed 104 uses for rock art in his book on the rock art of Galloway and this highlights the sometimes speculative nature of the search for meaning in abstract petroglyphs; which were in use for over 1000 years from the Later Neolithic to Bronze Age. But perhaps they give some insight into the cultural references of the time; inspirations revolving around relationships with landscape, the natural environment and their nascent agricultural practices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So to throw a few thoughts out there, we see similar rock markings, caused by erosive processes such as natural cups and here at the entrance to Great Langdale rock ripples.

Caithness 125

Water, fundamental, ubiquitous – ripples – reflections – motion

Rock art at Great Langdale

Rock art at Great Langdale

Quartz  – triboluminescence, glowing when struck together – hammerstones used in cup-making at Kilmartin Glen, Argyll.

Quartz "stone circle" Isle of Man

Giants Fingers the extraordinary remains of a quartz stone circle, Isle of Man

Society probably had vestigial animistic belief structures at the time, so carving on the “living rock” would have had great significance and likely a good deal of ritual associated with it. Was the action of rock-marking perhaps more significant than the end result; a statement of belonging to that spot? A mnemonic for death; the proximity of cairns in some cases could suggest this or were the meanings of marked-places to prehistoric people also multi-facetted?

Rydal High Park CM Plan

But as I start to digitise the most recent finds from the Lake District (above) I am reminded of this picture…

barrow mus-xmas 08 050

…no not Floss!

Pete

Sources

You can read the 104 varieties of rock art in The Prehistoric Rock Art of Galloway and the Isle of Man by Ronald W. B. Morris and they are not all fanciful.

Thanks to Kate Sharpe whose Doctoral Thesis gave some inspiration to look for rock art sites in the Lakes:  Motifs, Monuments and Mountains: Prehistoric Rock Art in the Cumbrian Landscape online at: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do;jsessionid=00502FD1F652A65EEDD012FECB272D99?did=1&uin=uk.bl.ethos.525624

Visualisations and other integrated archaeological artistic endeavours are shown on Aaron Watson and collaborators website: http://www.monumental.uk.com/photography/

Excavations around rock art sites and the associated use of quartz are discussed in: An Animate Landscape: Rock Art and the Prehistory of Kilmartin, Argyll, Scotland by Andy Jones et al.

Advertisements
1 comment
  1. Trevin Bush said:

    Im pretty sure i know what the cup marks represent. They are the spots on a jaguar and leopards head . I have found many of these stones, some with some sort of coloring remaining. These two profiles are extremely familiar. The carving must be super old. The spots were the deepest points and the rest has been lost. I will snap some pics if your interested in seeing them.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The First Ten Words by Rich Larson

Because a guy has to keep his chops sharp

Palaeoman

Living the dream of a prehistoric human

Archaeology and Heritage Digital Recording

Low cost recording technologies

The Stone Rows of Great Britain

Big, Small, Short, Tall, Have we got 'em all?

northshorepottery

studio pottery and ceramic sculpture by Jenny Mackenzie Ross

FragmeNTs

from the National Trust archaeology team in the Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site

Duddon Dig

The survey and excavation of three longhouses in the Duddon Valley

Neil's Mountains

Exploring the mountains and wild places of Britain and Ireland

Archaeology Orkney

Blog for the University of The Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. Please feel free to share any post.

Neolithic And Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium

Annual Conference for Postgraduate Researchers

Stonehenge Neolithic Houses

An English Heritage experimental archaeology project to recreate houses from 2500 BC

%d bloggers like this: