Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: England's Rock Art

England's Rock Art


Baildon Moor, Yorkshire - Photograph: B Kerr/English Heritage, via The Guardian, UK

Long time readers know that I'm passionately interested in ancient rock art (as can be seen under that category link on the left side). It's been a while since I've written about the many exciting discoveries I keep reading about on the net.

Last week, thanks to British Rock Art Blog I read about the launch of ERA: England's Rock Art on the Web. The main page has a slide show of beautiful photographs, a bit slow so give it some time, then check out the other great links to information and more images.

Amongst the outcrops and boulders of northern England keen eyes may spot an array of mysterious symbols carved into the rock surfaces. These curious marks vary from simple, circular hollows known as 'cups' to more complex patterns with cups, rings, and intertwining grooves. Many are in spectacular, elevated locations with extensive views but some are also found on monuments such as standing stones and stone circles, or within burial mounds. The carvings were made by Neolithic and Early Bronze Age people between 3500 and 6000 years ago. The original meaning of the symbols is now lost but they provide a unique personal link with our prehistoric ancestors.

Concurrently while I was thinking about this blog post, blog pal A Mouse in France, knowing how I love great photos of rock art on the web, posted a link directed to me for the Guardian's page and slide show of Britain's prehistoric rock art and the same heritage site! Again, gorgeous slides plus an article by Jonathan Jones.

I recognized several images especially the above image of a rock on Baildon Moor, Yorkshire from a wonderful and authoritative book I bought secondhand several years ago: Jean McMann's Riddles of the Stone Age - Rock Carving of Ancient Europe (Thames and Hudson 1980). It was the first in my small collection of books on rock art and is still a treasure.

I admire the work of the photographers for I know these subjects are not always easy to capture well, from my own experiences here in BC and Alberta. Like Mouse, I'd like to visit these petroglyphs and so many other rock art sites in the UK, and elsewhere... anywhere in the world! So, these kinds of websites are wonderful for armchair travellers like me.

Marja-Leena | 04/08/2008 | 11 comments
themes: Rock Art & Archaeology


The photographs are really impressive. I missed this completely, so thank you for the information.

Olga, glad this is of interest! You are so close to these sites so I imagine you've seen some in person?

Yes, and often they are in quite inaccessible places, from which of course they should never be moved, as they would lose so much by being taken away from their natural context...

My mother lived in a bungalow on the fringe of Baildon Moor where her ashes are now scattered.

Amusing how titles can mislead. When I was still, theoretically, a rock climber I took out a book from the library called "English Rock". Guess how disappointed my sub-teen daughter was when she opened it at a picture in which a Lycra-clad athlete, powdered chalk bag dangling from his belt, clung by his eyelashes to a cliff probably in North Wales.

Lucy, absolutely! I'm always horrified to read about the damage done to so many rock art sites by vandalism, expanding construction, mining and so forth.

Barrett, that's interesting about your mother. Did she know/see this stone? It often seems that only a few know, in the interest of preservation.

Yes, titles do mislead. So often it's thought to mean rock music, as you say, but I didn't think of rock climbing! It's just so complicated to say: petroglyphs, pictographs, standing stones, geoglyphs, etcetera.

Mayhap we could spend a couple of weeks touring the British sites together sometime?
And a trip to The FVH to spend time amongst the menhirs and megaliths of Brittany?
I think thnat would be a lovely way to spend a holiday????

Oh Mouse! That would indeed be a lovely way to spend a holiday, thank you! Now I will dream about it and hope that it will come true!

(oh, and sorry to be so late in replying. I just found your comment in my junk mail!?)

Junk mail? Where else would a Mouse be scurrying but amongst the trash? :-)

Heh, Mouse, that's funny. Yet I was a bit mortified that she would be there. Good thing I checked and saved her.

Thankyou for this. Great images. I know several friends who will enjoy, so shall pass the links on.

herhimnbryn, I'm glad this is of interest to others!