28 February 2006

Yeah, but is it art??

This is an old chestnut, but it's easy to start seeing these ancient rock carvings from a modern perspective as 'ART' with cups and multiple rings as the best examples etc. This kind of superficial imposition is not very helpful in any real study of the rock markings and attempts to move the study forward. A while back Paul Frodsham reviewed the Boughey/Vickerman West Yorks rock carvings book, for the prehistoric society, and urged researchers to take the next step beyond taking endless photographs of the carvings, ie to start looking at frameworks for interpreting the sites. We have had over 100 years of photographs and drawings, so is anyone now looking at the bigger picture? Link to Paul Frodsham's book review http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prehistoric/reviews/04_06_boughey.htm

27 February 2006

Covered but not forgotten

Hi Folks, Its great to see the pictures of one of the best rock art panels ever carved, Broughton Mains 2, this panel matches any panel found anywhere in the uk..Thanks to Maarten we have the pictures to look at, the site was covered up in 1990 to protect this valuable group of carvings. Perhaps one day permission will again be given to take a little look, until then lets enjoy the fantastic pictures.. http://rockartuk.fotopic.net/p19587936.html (Jan: Picture added; click tumbnail to enlarge)

25 February 2006

Night excursion with Hob

Hob emailed me some impressive artificially-lit images of his home-made rock art and phoned in response to my last post about help with photographic techniques. Realising that his obsession with rock art is even more advanced than my own, I rang him the following week and he kindly agreed to accompany me on a night-time excursion to Millstone Burn. I had been practicing all week with some rocks in the house and was desperate to try the real McCoy. It was a bitterly cold night with clouds continuously covering the star-lit sky (impressive away from the light pollution of the city) but at least there was no rain or snow. We were armed with my jumped-up camera-phone (Canon Ixus) and Hob's more professional-looking, mega-pixel beast, tripods and an array of light producing devices including a camera flash, big lamps and a small head-light. I wanted to see if artificial lighting could reveal some motifs that we had been unable to see in the day, even in oblique winter sunlight. One such panel is 6d where Stan has illustrated a complex, three-ringed structure around a cup. We had a good try on this panel but the motif still refused to reveal itself either to the eye or camera although we did get the smallest hint of a groove. Maybe this motif is a sub-millimeter carving which can only be seen by rubbing. Perhaps it has been greatly reduced over recent years by erosion. We tried a combination of long exposure times and illumination of the rock surface with lateral flash and/or torch-light. Painting the rock surface with directional light with the shutter held open for several seconds produces some great effects. Lots of shots don't work but with digital photography at least you are only limited by battery power and data storage. For comparison I have included two photos of 2h; the top one taken by Hob with flash and torch illumination and the second (here) taken by me using flash from two different directions. The obliquely-directed artificial light greatly improves the profile and helps to cut out the lichen which obscures much of the rock art in day light. It takes away some of the difficulties posed by poor natural light and having no control over the direction of the sun. Some interesting effects and colour-combinations are also possible and Hob has posted one of 6c where the rock shines like gold against a navy-blue sky. This and other of our photos have been posted on TMA. On the down-side though, it was very cold, the panels can be hard to find even when we thought we knew where they were, and rough ground is more difficult to cross. The highlight for me was seeing a shooting star burning up below the cloud level in a shower of sparks. "Meteorite over rock art"; now that would have been some picture!

19 February 2006

Old Photo

I was trawling the archives of the Newcastle Society of Antiquities, and found an article on cup marked stones from the Birtley area of Northumberland, from 1883. Surprisingly, instead of the illustrations I'm used to seeing from the likes of Mr Tate and Mr Bruce, there were a couple of photographs. The second was mostly iron age querns, but the first (this one here) is undoubtedly portable rock art found in the walls of Iron age structures. Is this possibly the earliest photograph of prehistorc rock art? If not, I'd love to hear of others. (Jan: Click tumbnail for full size photo)

Possible NEW rock art find!!!

Hi Folks, After doing our Milton project today we decided to take a look around a beach so that a certain young lady could look for some pebbles...lol. I decided to take a wonder round looking at the rocks....and here is what i found!!! Let me know what you think, i am certain...looks right, felt right!

14 February 2006

Traprain Law, more than just one look a like...

Hi Folks, Just noticed after seeing the pictures of Traprain Law, and looking at the photos i took of Burnswark Hillfort, how similar they look, again looking very similar to Dunadd. Brian (Jan: Brian refers to: http://rockartuk.fotopic.net/c858716.html)

13 February 2006

R.A symposium Bristol

This looks like might be a wonderful weekend .Can't make it myself grrrr. <https://www.bris.ac.uk/archanth/continuing/conf>

12 February 2006

Stan's Newest Book

Hi Folks, Received a message from Stan that his latest book: Place Names and Field Names of Northumberland was published last Friday by Tempus. I'm sure the names of fields with rock art like Hare Law Crags, Snook Bank, Lemington Hill and hundred others will be nicely explained! Cheers, Jan


Tertia gave me some homework this week on the Northumberland & Durham rock art project. At least it beats going out in the rain. It's the last remaining panel we are recording from Snook Bank, although there were still a few we couldn't find in the field. The stone is now in custody of the landowners and was originally recorded by Stan as a portable, reused stone from a disturbed burial mound in the NE of the area. It is panel 5f in the Beckensall Archive (http://rockart.ncl.ac.uk/panel_detail.asp?pi=463). The rock shows a cup of about 5cm diameter surrounded by a double ring (10 and 16cm diameter) and another two cups, one connected to the ringed cup by a groove. Our team has now moved about 1km west to Millstone Burn and are likely to be there for some time. If any photography buffs out there would be able to advise on the use of oblique lighting or oblique flash for use in the field that would be of interest. The visualisation of rock art in the field is often a problem and we can't always wait for the sun.

11 February 2006

Cup Marks upon Tyne

Just thought I would try out this new fangled blog thing. So here I go: The water-level was low and the tide out last week, and George (the collie) and I were browsing along the exposed river bed of the Tyne just below Close House, west of Wylam, him looking for sticks (and dead fish) and me for Neolithic hand-axes. The latter were in their usual short supply. In the river bed we came across a possible cup-marked water-worn cobble face up in the river bed (see attached photo). It appears to be at least superficially similar to the one found at Allen Banks (with photos in the Beckensall Archive http://rockart.ncl.ac.uk/panel_detail.asp?pi=797) and now in the Museum of Antiquities. I will try to get there soon to compare it directly although I have the horrible feeling they might just tell me it's an eroded half-brick. As we all know, cup marks of this type are not always artificially made and natural erosion is clearly possible in this case and situation as the cobble has clearly been some time in the water which is still tidal at this point. Meanwhile this find makes a great addition for my growing rock-art shrine but as it is a true portable, I am likely to have it about my person to show you at our next meeting. As there are a large number of stones of similar size on the Tyne river-bed I will probably be lucky to ever encounter another. George has agreed to accompany me on another foray soon, when situations are suitable. He would dearly love one of those carved reindeer-bone spear-heads but I would happily settle for a 9th century gold coin.

03 February 2006

MIlton Rock Art Project

On Saturday 28th of January 2006 i started work on a new project based around Milton farm near Kirkcudbright.I made contact with Mr Picken the farm owner after meeting him through a work related item, asking him for permission to look over the area. The area of Milton farm has been the subject of a number of various investigations over the years with the most recent works done by the like of Morris, Van Hoek and Naddair. Unfortunately due to the confusion over the numbering of panels this has now resulted in the exact record of rock art panels at Milton being incorrect. Milton farm is situated near to the army base at Dundrennan and also backs onto the fields of Townhead farm. Also close to Milton we have the famous rock art at High Banks, Newlaw Hill, Low Banks, Galtway, Balmae, Milton Parks and others, which gives you an idea of how important this area of Dumfries & Galloway must have been to our ancestors. This project with the help of Suzanne, Jan & Gus will attempt to correctly identify all the known panels and also discover any possible new panels, which we believe a possible new panel was discovered at part of the site known as Milton quarry, (top picture). Most of the known rock art panels are located in the fields behind and near to Milton house and bungalow, with some panels also located near to the farm itself. The number of documented rock art panels at this area is thought to be more than twenty. In the coming weeks and months we hope to produce the most accurate record of rock art ever made at Milton.

01 February 2006

Mesolithic cups?

In the lovely PRANYM book, the mention is made (first time I've seen such in print) of the idea that the simple cup mark may predate more complex motifs to such an extent that some of them may have been made in the mesolithic. I'm intrigued by this idea as I habitually keep an eye out for possible mesolithic sites in the landscape when I'm out. It's sort of based on the idea that there may have been some kind of oral/folkloric tradition reagrding ancestral sites. It's would be a fairly functional thing, as it would be a way for a preliterate, but domesticated society to record good places to stop off when out hunting. Does that make any sense? I doesn't go anyway towards explaining what the heck the cups were put there for, but given of the global distribution of cups (and grooves), it make san awful lot of sense to me when I see someone arguing that this means they must stretch back to a time when human behaviour wasn't as culturally differentiated ( in a global sense). I don't know if any of the English speaking academic RA researchers have mooted the idea in print, though I suspect some of them think that late neolithic/bronze age is a bit of a conservativly recent date for all british RA. But you know what tehy're like, cards close to chests an all (-; On the tma forum, George mentioned lithc scatters at Torbhlaren, are these mesolithic? Anyone else know of any where I could find out more about RA and flinty finds?