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

Lank Rigg 16.04.15 015

Watching, a calm reminder for the future from the past

Tranquility in rock under a darkening sky.

Lank Rigg 16.04.15 016

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.

Dunmail Standing Stone, Thirlmere, Shoulthwaite encl 034

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.

Dunmail Standing Stone, Thirlmere, Shoulthwaite encl 028

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.

Loweswater, Wythburn cups, Grasmere 026

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.

Dunmail Standing Stone, Thirlmere, Shoulthwaite encl 054

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.

Dunmail Standing Stone, Thirlmere, Shoulthwaite encl 016

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  .

No, not some Mad Hatter-esque question posed at an eccentric tea party in Grasmere, but a serious question that concerns all prehistoric rock art/cup mark researchers. Unlike this picture, today in the Cumbrian Fells this question would be hard to address with a light dusting of snow – the dormice are, well dozing, however the low sun at this time of year is possibly the best opportunity to consider the problem.

Whorny Side cairn 086

“Sun Cup” Loweswater

This came to mind following a field trip to look at some recently reported rock art sites. Among these was a single cup at the top edge of a fine glaciated slab on the side of the valley just above Crummock Water, a site I feel, had it been in Scandinavia would have been covered with ritual carvings of Bronze Age boats or perhaps further north, reindeer.

Buttermere rock art field trip 019

“Cup-marked” glaciated slab, Crummock Water

But this “cup” appeared to sit in splendid isolation in a setting that was somewhat atypical for the locale.

Buttermere rock art field trip 018

Solitary”cup-mark” Crummock Water

It’s base also had a hump, now this in itself does not disqualify it from being a man-made cup, a row of four at Buttermere we had agreed earlier were cups were of rougher manufacture than we expect to see normally, so it could be. But, having previously observed the lower usually submerged slab, when the lake level had dropped considerably a few years ago, it was obvious there were marks that had been plucked out by the glacial action rather than pecked by man. Had these marks been exposed to the elements for many millennia they may well have eroded into what we could see as the single cup mark above. Likewise the four we saw earlier may have eroded smoother had they been on a level rather than sloping surface

Crummock slabs, Ling Crag; Dodd Cairn; Gale Fell; Gable moonrise 016

Glaciated slab, Crummock Water, glacial “plucks” just above pole

So what other criteria do we consider are appropriate to test the veracity of a possible cup mark? One is its landscape setting,  perhaps a little thorny as there are inevitably always exceptions, however we can say with a certain amount of confidence at present that the majority of the sites here are on glaciated bedrock, often roche moutonnée.

Confusingly one of the first sites to be identified in the Lake District on the Langdale Boulders is now appears to be an anomalous site within the region and is surrounded by cupule of natural origin

Allen banks, crummock cups, Castlerigg 022

Eroded clasts, Great Langdale

So what of the actual cupule? Aside from slabs whose surfaces are pitted with eroded glacial gas vesicles or eroded clasts – inclusions of softer rocks – we are left with the case of the odd cup or two that may or may not be of human origin.

Scafell Pike Axe factories 110

Eroded gas vesicles, Scafell Pike

Now a few of these individual cups are of such symmetry that they compare well to slabs where there are numerous other cup-marks.

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“Cup-marked” rock, Mitredale

But some do not quite cut the mustard; this rock reported as cup marked in a survey of Mitredale has many of the attributes of natural features – eroded faults and “cups” with projecting inclusions – which should have suggested that these were natural features.

Mitredale 050

Eroded “cup” Mitredale

So back to the problem, when a cup is not a cup,  when it is an only cup…

A fine natural bowl from the summit of Haycock

A fine natural bowl from the summit of Haycock

or when it’s a bowl?

Pete

 

Notes: Thanks to; Jamie Lund, National Trust Archaeologist, Mark Astley, National Trust Ranger, and Tom Bell, Chester University, for discussions on these sites. If you wish to see the solitary “cup” yourself you can find it directly below LIng Crag, Crummock Water, its a fine walk, there are other sites locally that really are prehistoric cups!

Getting into the Groove (ed ware)?…

shelteringmemory

Literally. We may have found evidence of crushed human bone being mixed into the clay used to make Early Bronze Age pottery. While I was looking at the Moseley Height Bronze Age pottery last week in Towneley Hall Museum I saw something that I thought was very exciting. Large white specks in the body of the pot had a very bone-like appearance. I kept quiet about this in last week’s post because I hadn’t had chance to check it out properly, however…

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This is the surviving portion of Urn C. It is the bit around the rim and, as you can see, it has been fairly intensively restored since it was excavated in 1950. There are big sections where the shape has been reconstructed (or made up) using plaster of paris and brown paint. The rest of it is original Bronze Age ceramic but, to keep it from crumbling, it…

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