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22 September 2004
Concerns over climbing on ancient rock carvings

Experts have voiced their concerns about the future of prehistoric rock carvings on a boulder being used by climbers in the north of England. Copt Howe, a large rock near the village of Chapel Stile in the Lake District, boasts a series of cup and ring markings believed to have been created between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago. The site is used by climbers for bouldering, a hard-going, gymnastically-challenging form of climbing without the use of ropes on boulders and short out-crops.
     Dr Aron Mazel, Research Associate in the School of Historical Studies at the University of Newcastle, is currently working on a project to map examples of Northumberland’s rock art and said that climbing presents a very real danger to the Copt Howe site. "It is a problem," said Dr Mazel. "There is no doubt that it will cause long term damage and it’s something that the authorities in the area will need to do something about." The site is often used by boulderers, who, Dr Aron Mazel says, are putting the prehistoric carvings at risk.  
     Re-discovered in 1999, the Copt Howe site is near the village of Chapel Stile, Great Langdale in the Lake District. A large boulder of volcanic rock, the site has been engraved with a variety of carvings on its east vertical face, including multiple concentric rings, channels forming linear and rectangular motifs, a pecked triangle and several cup marks. The site is made even more interesting by its proximity to the Langdale Pikes and what was an important quarry site for axes in the Neolithic period. In 2003, 3D laser scanning company, Archaeoptics Ltd, scanned the unusual markings and produced a rendering of the data.
     While the scans provide a record of the carvings as they looked in 2003, Dr Mazel explained that they will not preserve them for future generations and in years to come will act as evidence of how much they’ve deteriorated. While it is unprotected at the moment, experts are calling for some sort of ban on people climbing on the carved face of the rock, or at least a sign asking them not to. Many climbers have voluntarily chosen not to use it, but as yet there have been no moves to make it official. For the time being nothing offical has been done to stop climbers using Copt Howe ancient site.

Source: Article by David Prudames for 24 Hour Museum (21 September 2004)

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