Stumbling upon a 'new' cup-marked stone at Shaftoe Crags

We often walk at Shaftoe Crags, in Northumberland - and this time we went in search of Hallion's Rock - which is a recorded example of 'Rock Art'.

It was a beautiful, mild late-February day, with high wispy clouds. Not difficult to imagine the ancient past - and nobody around except some distant boulder-climbers.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring the Hallion Stone description with me - and all I could remember from an online source was that it was near the Jubilee Stone, probably in a North Easterly direction.

We searched nearby, and could not find anything - my recollection was that the stone had cups and channels - but not much in the way of rings around the cups. Drawing a blank, we continued northwards from the Jubilee Stone along the to of the low (15 feet) broken scarp face. After about 100 yards we found a stone sticking out from the scarp face and covered with cup marks and some channels.

But on examining the map later, it is clear that is is Not Hallion's Rock - which is down on the plain in front of the scarp. Indeed, this extensively cup marked rock doesn't seem to be noted in any of the sources I have found - so, here are some more photos.

We sat just above the rock and drank some water while looking out across the plain into the haze, and - as usual - puzzling over this strange phenomenon of cup marked rocks. Given the effect of four thousand years of erosion on this soft sandstone, it is hard to imagine what the original carving were like. And the abundance of this feature even now suggests that there must have been hundreds-fold more examples in the past - indeed, it is possible that most large rocks in suitable places were thus marked.

Was it 'art'? I doubt it. I assume the markings had spiritual significance, and also represented something - landscape features, or perhaps a kind of writing. Although what remains on this rock is simple - some other rocks in the area are very elaborate, and plausibly carried detailed symbolic meaning. Perhaps (given the use of underground burial chambers, and open-air stone circles) this was part of their earth-sky religion?

And it must have taken a lot of work to make even these hollows, 'pecking' them away with a harder stone. A serious business, one way or another.

Some elaborate marking at Roughting Linn, Northumberland


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