“…round and round…” Well I am not sure that it was rock art doodles that the 1980’s songstress Belinda Carlisle was referring to or whether she  was an enthusiastic rock art hound and despite her name she was probably not from Cumbria.

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However, out here on the sand there are no boundaries limitless space with far horizons leading the eye to distant lands and letting the mind wander. An inspiring place a blank canvas – moved by  to leave a mark – perhaps the same feeling as that which drove prehistoric man, on finding a smooth tactile rounded slab to peck some cups into into its surface.

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Seen across the Solway Firth distant Dumfries and Galloway, hilly territories marked with cups and rings. Perhaps travelers from Ireland across the sea, to this island in Neolithic times following the coast and estuaries, eventually making their way up to Eden. But here in the Cumbrian Mountains the cups have no such rings, another tribe, another time – the cup makers?

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The small depressions where razor clams live starts things off – a pleasing pastime engrossing and mesmerising, had it been a warmer evening there might have been many more.

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The casts of worms and hollow of clam guiding gatherers to what lies beneath this surface,

From present to prehistoric, people have wandered these strands – searching.

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The foot print, a temporary mnemonic of people’s passing.

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Walking, back in time, from three million years

Laetoli, Tanzania to Formby Point, Lancashire,

Nearer in time and place.

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Wildfowl tread lightly, tiptoeing across the sand, more food for hunters past.

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In the distance, shingle banks, source of flint to tip their fowling arrows.

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To the tidal rhythm of the moon, time seems more fluid here, like the sculpted waves transiently formed in crunchy crystaline sand.

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 Patterns, inspiring prehistoric minds, changing forms from lozenge

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To rivulets returning to the sea.

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On shingle banks polished pebbles, rolled round.

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Amongst them, set silicate – flint from the sea floor.

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Collect the colours, toffee to purple to grey to black.

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Find an anvil and knap; whack – shatter.

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Random razor sharp edges and crushed dust,

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The prize, find the keenest edge, thinnest blade; the blacks brittle, toffee’s the sweetest.

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Whats left – a cup!

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A bird wanders off, no arrows here today

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Pete

Notes

The ancient footprints made in soft esturine silt or mud that hardened and was covered over with further sediments have now been identified in several places in Britain and across the world the most famous of which  were the Laetoli footprints, over 3 million years old and discovered by Mary Leaky.

There are doubtless many reasons and uses of what have become known a portable cup marked cobbles, but the finding of “anvil stones” in seashore contexts leads one to the conclusion that these were part of the primary seashore knapping process; like this one found by Morcambe Bay Archaeology Society. Other examples can be found in the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological society.

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A grand post from Heritage Landscape and Creativity on Scottish artists from the nineteenth century AD to the third millenia BC!

heritagelandscapecreativity

‘They are the faults of archaeology rather than art’

LunulaEarlier this year I was privileged to see The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe by George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel (1890) in the excellent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  Only seeing the original painting does it proper justice and I urge you to visit the Kelvingrove to see its full wonder.

The DruidsThe painting was supported by interpretative signage, one of which explained:

Hornel Landscape Needless to say this required further investigation.

In his biography of Hornel, Smith notes in relation to the composition of The Druids,

The half-sphere of the moon on the background is reflected in the curve of the hill and the shapes of the priestly insignia, all echoing the cup-and-ring markings‘.

Looking at the Druid Landscape, Smith underplays the extent to which the lunar has been evoked through the cool silvery quality of the light…

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Mystery in the mist;

Glinting in a clint,

Offered to the mountain?

Well traveled whiteness.

Void between volcanic rock,

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Exploded out of the earth the dust settles

In water forming

Patterns of the past

Layered

In

Deep

Time

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A light released from the land

The hand moves to draw

With chalk of childhood

Sediment writes itself

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Alien fragment on lofty Pike

Released from bony white matrix

In Grimes, Wolds, Wessex or Antrim

Remote lands – with still echoes

Of times long gone

Hidden in hollow hills.

Mind wanders to downs and dales

Memories held guide the hand

Moved to make a mark,

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Diamond lozenges, tightening skins

Scraped by flakes,

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The beating bodhran calls

Rhythm of the wind – resonating rock

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Through heavy brow

Owl eyes bring a sharper focus –

Clouds clear

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Elemental tumbled sculptures emerge

Mountains making their own art

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Look close – layered,  lichen

Reflecting  clasts cast in stone

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No scribe engraved these forms.

Red rememberings of hard nicked hands that

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Split sharp hornstone,

Ancient prospector for mysterious XI,

Its unknown source – found?

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Cris-crossed with rhombic faultlines

Weathered scallops patinated to grey

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Crack,

Hiatus,

Time shifts

Settles again

Present

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Falling back into the earth

Joining the ancestors

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Scattered all around,

Crag-high memories now burnt bone offering

Crumbling to constituent carbonates

Merging with the future

Acknowledgements, notes, etc

This chance meeting with a flake of chalk took place on top of Scafell Pike, a place full of modern monuments and offerings, to the dead mainly, many of whose ashes lie around the summit cairn, and older structures that could be interpreted as monuments; the Neolithic Axe working sites. There is a continuity here in this wild place, others have discussed the offerings left by people in the Neolithic period at prehistoric stone working sites including Peter Topping, but here we have a modern offering – for reasons unknown. More recently I was reminded of this by a paper given at BRAG by Andy Merion Jones and Marta Diaz-Guardamino which directly inspired this blog following my serendipitous encounter with the white rock. The title of their presentation was Making the Mark: Imagery and Process in Neolithic Britain and Ireland and included a discussion on the Folkton Drums, below.

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The motifs of the owly heavy browed eyes and lozenge hatching are now being found more regularly as a symbol in the Neolithic period from the West Country to Orkney.  But I was particularly impressed by the detail revealed on the Folkton Drums,see here. Although probably not actually representing drums, these were found in a Neolithic round barrow by the good Canon Greenwell in the Yorkshire Wolds, which region demonstrably had a strong connection with the Cumbrian Mountains on account of the large numbers of Cumbrian Stone axes found there, and this got me thinking…

Pete

…in modern times walk unto the West Country’s fair city of Bristol, our footsteps echoing off the soft-light-brown-sugar sandstone buildings,  Georgian elegance,  reflecting its rich history and not so sweet past of wealth built on slavers. But times have changed in this vibrant cosmopolitan city, we were here for the annual British Rock Art Group (BRAG) Conference in the finely crafted University buildings – not as old as they look.

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Now exotic feet figured in stone found on Stellae in Sardinia which were spoken of here, but  these red fellows are homegrown from a cist slab in Somerset which now resides  in the kids play area in Bristol Museum… feet feature quite a lot in rock art too…from Scandinavia to Scotland where the early Kings of Alba were crowned at Dunadd; stood in stone carved footprints of their ancestors.

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But this being Bristol, there were connections drawn between rock art, superimposition and graffiti in Bedouin culture, so it was inevitable that local lad Banksy got a mention.

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Listening to sounds – lithophonics to be precise – the well known (at least on Tiree) Balaphetrish Gong Stone was rung, you can see this here, and since I am intrigued by this subject in relation to Cumbrian cup-marks and have banged-on about this before (see here) I listened intently to rocks being knocked – well it was a rock art conference after all.

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As you see the kist slab also had cups on – perhaps the prima-face marks – which would undoubtedly made a noise when made, but it was the shape of the cups on the ringing stone that struck me and sent my mind wandering back to the stone I had recently dug at the stone circle known as Long Meg and Her Daughters in Cumbria (although there is a fine circle at Stanton Drew also!).

Long Meg excavation 050

 

Now , although straying somewhat from the subject of upland  archaeology – it is in an elevated situation and commands a wide vista – this collapsed stone made up part of the the circle here, built on the earlier ditch of the ?Neolithic enclosure. The top end of this rock had a large smooth rounded hollow on its underside, a natural feature formed from a solution hollow?

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When its presumed base was uncovered there was a cup-mark, or two? Now there was inevitable debate as to whether this was also a cup mark -which came first – as they were on opposing sides and ends only one end could have been marked as it stood.

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Problems; so what if it was actually a reused cup marked stone or at least one end, it could even have been a “gong stone” perched on a block it would surely resonate – as demonstrated on those columnar dolerite blocks from the Precelis. Either way this particular rock was probably reused, it had a history of its own before being incorporated into the monument.

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So it goes on, cup-marks, found around the world yet their meaning poorly understood in prehistoric Europe. So I set about  pondering the intangible in relation to Lake District rock art and concluding the perhaps in-conclude-able; that these were memorable places well known to people partly through the creative process of cup-marking and partly through other stuff that happened there that is invisible archaeologically – to speculate is to accumulate, knowlwdge at least, appropriate perhaps in the light of recent events to paraphrase a Capitalist mantra…

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…oh no not again.

Pete

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the organisers of BRAG 2015, George Nash and Aron Mazel; a user friendly group of rock art individuals. The following papers are mentioned here: Paul Devereux – Winning the Cup: The problematic relationship between cup markings and lithophonic rocks; George Nash – Something Completely Different: the politics of Bedouin marks in the Negev, Southern Israel;  Cezary Mamirsky – Sardinian statue-menhirs revisited: a central Mediterranean perspective; Peter Style – Visceral places and Volcanic Voids: a consideration of Lake District rock art as ceremonial sites. The excavation at Long Meg was a community project run by Altogether Archaeology based in the North Pennine AONB and led by Paul Frodsham.

A survey in two halves.

Carrock Fell on  the north east flank of the Cumbrian Fells has a rough crown of rocky ramparts encircling its summit; a prehistoric enclosure overlooking the expanse of the Eden Valley, the Neolithic nexus of North West England.

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At its foot lies Caldbeck Common, a landscape strewn with glacial debris and the bouldery tumble from its gabbro crags. Miners have disturbed this debris in extracting the lead ore, mounds of glacial gravel have been quarried for road-stone, yet amongst this industrial intrusion into this land still nestle prehistoric enclosures, settling back into the earth, and burial cairns thrown open, stripped of their contents to now resemble ring-cairns.

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East of the wall; marking the land again.  Only recently here, the gaze has been drawn away from monumental mounds to the more prosaic remains of pastoralists.

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The enclosures incorporate megalithic elements, happenstance or planned, boulders in banking; in the centre 5 ton rocks, dragged from the field on sleds by oxen in post-medieval times or part of the original form?

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The intake wall bounding the common is built on something older; the embankment that once divided the prehistoric enclosure now reused to form the new intake enclosure of the meadow dividing it from the rough grazing of the common.

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The lazer shoots from here –

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To there –

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Bouncing back again…

The approaching cloud –

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Colours cluster

Behind embanked boulders –

Backs to the wind

Shelter from the rain.

Pete

Notes: This enclosure was found recently along with other features by Tricia and her team in a walkover survey of  Caldbeck Common carried out by the Lake District National park Authority Archaeology Volunteer Network. It’s period is debatable but it is most likely to have its roots in the Iron Age period.The area has much else in the way of prehistoric archaeology to explore in the well named locale of Weasel Hills just to the north. The enclosure on the summit of Carrock Fell, once considered to be of Iron Age date is now considered to be Neolithic; so at least a couple of millenia older than formerly thought and so contemporary other Causewayed Enclosures  such as the Cornish Carn Brea and with that nearby at Green How.

Bleak boggy moors on a drab dull day, east wind blows bringing a chill cloudy mood.

Walking across the centuries; imprints of people on the land, from summit  down to col and valley.

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Cairn,

Lank Rigg, isolated , a focus;

Axial,

Stone rings surround,

Ring cairns on Ennerdale Fell, Lank Rigg and Whoap   beyond

Springs flow

Down,

Encircling

Water,

Life:

   Red Gill

Hole Ghyll

Swarth Beck

Caplecrag Beck

Latterbarrow Beck

Ya Gill

Long Gill

Whoap Beck

Worm Gill

River Calder.

Rebult enclosure and cairns, Whoap

Places named by Shepherd and Herder for millenia,

Treading this land:

Poukes Moss

Lankrigg Moss

Beck Grains

Boat How

Grey Crag

Caple Crag

Tounge How

Town Bank – homestead

Sheilings – steadings,

Names now forgotton

Marked only by stone, re-arranged,

Cleared clitter ring cairn, Whoap

Cleared clitter ring,

Overlooking sacred summit

Lank Rigg Round Cairn and Nuclear Sellafield

Cairn with a view,

Mans modern nuclear monument – or folly everlasting

Memories in bone and stone

Memories in bone and stone

Gaze to our future.

Cairns, Latterbarrow

Latter-Barrow

Stone cairns static, sentinel

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Watching, a calm reminder for the future from the past

Tranquility in rock under a darkening sky.

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Homeward bound

Guided by an equilibrium of rock and moss.

What are we waiting for?

Pete

Notes: The Western Moors of the Cumbrian Fells are liberally scattered with the archaeological remains of pastoralism from, arguably, some of the earliest days of agriculture in Britain. Lank Rigg like its neighbour Seatallan, see my previous blog, are both crowned with large prehistoric cairns.

The suggestion that this was a “sacred summit” to the prehistoric locals here is also supported by the fact that is surrounded by at least  a dozen ring cairns and it also has a similar number of round cairns and some long cairns to boot on its slopes and the adjacent fellsides. The more ephemeral features which also found here and have been identified other areas of the Lake District (see here) and elsewhere in Britain, where they are associated with Neolithic and Early Bronze Age features, they have also been recognised in many upland regions of Ireland, see here.

The majority of these features are recorded in the wide ranging and excellent publication by  Jamie Quartermaine & Roger H. Leech. Cairns, Fields, and Cultivation: archaeological landscapes of the Lake District uplands, other features mentioned were located more recently by myself. 

The term clitter is a descriptive term I am particularly drawn to; describing the litter of stones left around the landscape in areas of moorland, coined  I believe, by Bender, Hamilton and Tilley on their research on Bodmin Moor and published in their fine book Stone Worlds.

The clitter-fields of Lank Rigg and Latterbarrow like those on Bodmin Moor are scattered with small ephemeral disturbances many with no apparent function others as potential shelters. Latterbarrow in particular has over ten cairns that are quite incongruous for such a diminutive summit, unfrequented by modern walkers.

The splendidly named Whoap, an adjoining summit above Ennerdale, certainly sounds like a name form an ancient culture

Says a farmers wife to the farmer “should we show him our treasure” a minute later, on cue an axe emerges  from a Morrisons carrier bag wrapped in bubble wrap, its home in recent years.

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This is a big one! Quarried a few miles away or even closer, it emerged one day form the fill of a drystone field wall that had rushed. Fortunately, as the farmer said, his wife was on hand to recognise that the hand of man had been at work here, stopping him chucking it back into the fill of the wall from whence it came.

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But before it was built into this wall where had it been? In the field perhaps, ploughed up like so many other axes hereabouts and picked up by the ploughman following his horse and tossed to the side of the field eventually to be built into the wall when the mass enclosures were in full swing and walls were being built in the blink of an eye or two.

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Before that; perhaps it was lost, left or buried. An offering back to the earth from where with fire and water with stick, stone and bone it had been split from the rock face high in the mountains.

Now we value the object for the histories it holds within it.

Others will value it for the the cash they can make out of it, much greater than its scale; offering it to that modern god, ebay.

Pete

Note: I came across this rough-out axe as I was asking leave to walk some fields surveying for rock art, not quite what I was expecting to find; however later in the day I did find a new cup-marked slab, a god day all round!

Locally a wall rushing is an apposite descriptive term for  the collapse of a drystone wall.

This is most probably a Group VI Cumbrian Axe. Its broad blade suggests it may have been intended as an adze. Other axes that have been polished and are of these proportions have been found within Cumbria notably one found at Mechi Farm near Aspatria comes to mind. These are different to the thinner butted and waisted  iconic “Cumbrian Club’s”, it is possible that these morphological differences could relate to differant social groups rather than purely functional, but that is perhaps the subject of another blog.

A fine little secluded valley with some interesting archaeology.

Upland Pete

A bitterly cold surveying day in Bannisdale A bitterly cold surveying day in Bannisdale

Today was mostly spent shivering in the icy wind blowing through Bannisdale in the Lake District. I was instructing volunteers from the Lake District Archaeology Volunteer Network in the dark arts of surveying archaeological earthworks. The site in question was an enclosed hut circle settlement at Lamb Pasture that is scooped into the hillside on the north side of this small relatively isolated Lakeland valley. The site is a scheduled monument and as part of ongoing management and conservation works  the Lake District National Park Authority require detailed surveys (which the volunteers will in future undertake) of this and other similar vulnerable sites.

Lamb Pasture enclosed settlement in Bannisdale Lamb Pasture enclosed settlement in Bannisdale

Cold cold volunteers Cold cold volunteers

Surveying at Lamb Pasture enclosed settlement in Bannisdale Surveying at Lamb Pasture enclosed settlement in Bannisdale

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Thought provoking observations here

pondering the past

Unstan approachMoving among the monuments.

Passage directed, guided

Constrained

And ordered

Entrance guarded

As with knowledge.

Maes Howe entranceAn ordered landscape

In past as in present

Feet directed

To the important places

Gaze averted

From the spaces in-between.

OrkneyAncient and modern

Intertwined

Touching the past

But separated still

‘Stand back’ ‘Don’t go there’

‘Ancient monument that way’.

SignApproaching sacred space

On pilgrimage paths well trod

To stand

To gaze

To move among the monuments

And then to depart.

Ring of Brodgar distant view

All images were taken during two visits to the Orkney Islands last summer. For more information about Orkney itself and its amazing archaeology see http://www.orkneyjar.com/index.html or http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/heritage/worldheritage/world-heritage-sites-in-scotland/neolithic-orkney.htm

The archaeology on Orkney is truly amazing, but as I walked around the monuments last summer my thoughts turned to the control and directionality exercised by the way in which the monuments are set out and fenced in. My experience was very much directed and often the fences…

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Dunmail Raise, an axial point in the Cumbrian Mountains crowned with a massive cairn, mythically associated as the burial-place of the last King of Cumbria, but variously described as a memory cairn, boundary marker between Westmoreland and Cumberland or prehistoric burial cairn. It could perhaps be all these things, yet it is now sitting ignominiously in the central reservation of the A591 which also truncates it somewhat.

Dunmail & Green Burn Survey 05.2013 190

However in the light of a recent field survey south of the pass there is a strong suggestion that it may well have prehistoric origins. Here we recorded dozens of cairns many apparently pasture clearance cairns but others more structured are perhaps more likely to be burial cairns. In particular a group near the top of the pass clustered around a large boulder in close association with the spring rises on the west side of the pass and within sight of the Dunmail Raise Cairn.

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It is clear that this natural route-way dividing the Lakes – the Coniston Fault – must have seen use from prehistoric times; cup-marked rocks and a stone axe were found at the north side of this pass at Wythburn, shown above – now largely submerged. So it appears this pass was “marked” at least from the Bronze Age.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHistorically thee was more accessible land at the head of Thirlmere prior to the flooding of the two lakes of Leathes Water and Thirlmere by Manchester Corporation. Whose aqueduct burrows under this route, and in their wisdom the AA still maintain their phone box adjacent to Raise Cottage, the old Isolation Hospital; on a cloudy day almost as bright as a West Cork Cottage.  Surely an iconic place in the landscape!

Dunmail Standing Stone, Thirlmere, Shoulthwaite encl 014

Old mapping shows stones recorded at Dunmail Raise, which was variously written as Dunbalrase, Dunmel Raise and Dunmel Wrays, but does this refer to the cairn, lost boundary stones or even prehistoric standing stones.

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The symbol used was synonymous with that used to describe the Three Shires Stones at the summit of Wrynose Pass where the historical counties of Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire met; both shown here on John Speed’s map c.1611.

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These were shown on Saxton’s 1579 map and described at the time as three small standing stones about one foot high; more recently engraved recumbent stones and the modern standing stone, erected in the nineteenth century, have been placed there. But the symbol used suggests that there may have been upright standing stones present on Dunmail Raise at the same time.

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So were there ever any such standing stones on Dunmail Raise? There is certainly a naturally upright outcrop at the summit of the pass which this symbol could refer to.

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But during the survey I noticed a tall  “gatepost” in the enclosing wall of Raise Cottage, rather unusual as it was set in line with the wall rather than at right angles, like most gate stoops. It was also apparent that this was considerably more weathered than is seen on other gate posts such as this old example bored for poles instead of a gate.

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Could this be one of the stones referred to in the mapping? This had clearly been present for some time, unlike that seen next to the phone box which had been removed for safety reasons from the dividing point of the carriageway since the survey.

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We shall perhaps have to keep musing on this stone, but on a recent visit it was apparent that an unfortunate accident had befallen it and now stands at half its height, not even a shadow falling from its former self on this dull day.

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Further up the fault-line at Castlerigg there are stones that stand in a more convincing prehistoric pattern. Elsewhere on the fringes of the Lakes there are other prehistoric standing stones like this fine pair at Kirksanton, apparently cup-marked and marking the northern moonrise and southern moonset during a major standstill every 18-19 years.

Although we must still be a little wary of pairs of stones as they may not always be what they seem. Like so many stones that stand – sometimes its just hard to say where the truth lies.

Pete

Acknowledgements and Notes: Thanks to University of Central Lancashire and The Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society for providing funding for the Field Survey of Dunmail Raise and Greenburn Valley. Thanks also to The Urban Prehistorian for intriguing posts, to Roaringwater Journal, and Douglas Scott for the Archaeo-astronomy information  .

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