|10 October 2003
English rock carvings discovery baffles archaeologists
The discovery of a series of mysterious rock carvings in Northern England has sparked a quest among experts to find out exactly what they are. Archaeologists from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, who were alerted to the carvings by a local farm-hand, are baffled as to what they mean or who created them. Fellow experts they have consulted, from bodies like English Heritage and The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, are equally confused. As far as they know, nobody has ever reported anything like them before.
The markings, found hewn into one, isolated sandstone boulder, include a group of concave spherical shapes of around 20 centimetres in diameter, another which resembles an adult footprint, several deep scores and another, heart-shaped marking. People are now being encouraged to come forward with explanations and to help solve the mystery.
Newcastle University researchers were alerted to the markings by a local farm-hand while the team was carrying out fieldwork for a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board looking at prehistoric 'cup and ring' rock art in Northumberland in North East England.
Dr Aron Mazel, research associate with the School of Historical Studies, has been investigating the markings with Northumberland and international rock art authority Stan Beckensall. The location of the site, which, for security reasons, is a secret, is near Wooler in North Northumberland, close to the Scottish border. Despite having over 60 years experience of studying rock art between them, they were unable to identify what they were.
One suggestion is that the carvings were created by the rock having being used to sharpen metal tools, but this has been discounted. Another possibility is that they could be linked to the early medieval monks and hermits who lived around the sandstone escarpments of Northumberland. Experts do not believe that the markings could have been made in recent times.
Dr Mazel said: "We have absolutely no idea what they are, as they are nothing like anything we or anybody else we have talked to have seen before. They are not the cup and ring marks which we have been studying – they appear to be more recent than that. There have been people in the Northumberland area since the start of the Mesolithic period around 10,000 years ago, but I would think that these markings were made after cups and rings, probably during the last 3000 years. But until we know more about these markings it would be hard to pinpoint which era they belong to."
Stan Beckensall said: "As far as I know, these markings are unique and nothing like them exists anywhere else in Northumberland or in the British Isles. That's why we are keen to draw people's attention to them - seeing the pictures of the markings may prompt somebody to come forward with new information, perhaps relating to similar rock art samples they have viewed elsewhere."
Source: EurekAlert! (9 October 2003)
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