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27 November 2006
Authenticity of Ilkley rock carvings challenged

Elaborate rock art which for years is believed to have been created by prehistoric Ilkley man (West Yorkshire, England) was probably only created about 170 years ago, it has been revealed. A Victorian workman could have been responsible for some of the markings on one of Britain's most famous examples of prehistoric rock art.
     Ilkley archaeologist Gavin Edwards says he has proof which suggests the cup and ring markings on the town's internationally-known Panorama Stones were tampered with by a workman called Ambrose Collins in about the 1870s. He said the ladder-shaped markings are what has made the design on the largest of the three stones, the most elaborate example of bronze-age' art in the UK - but he seriously doubts they are the real thing. He got suspicious when he was studying sketches of marked stones which were donated to the town museum in 1880. He said: "The ladders were not on the drawing. Because I feel the ladders are so prominent it's difficult to believe they could not possibly have been noticed or been omitted by artistic licence. There has been talk of this Victorian embellishment before but people have really not wanted to acknowledge or admit tampering could have happened. It will cause a debate but the bigger, the better."
     Mr Edwards, who works at the Manor House museum for Bradford Council, said he had more proof from an article in a 1913 edition of the Ilkley Gazette. He said a report of a lecture given by Ilkley Moor bailiff T C Gill made mention of the previous bailiff telling him about a workman from a convalescent home called Ambrose Collins who spent his time "carving and ornating' rocks. Mr Edwards said: "No one seemed to pick up on this at the time, no one has ever questioned it. I think we should be celebrating it because it's a wonderful story. It doesn't deny the authenticity of the stone, it's just another element of its design with an extra story added to it made even more fascinating by the fact, we may know who has done it - Ambrose Collins."
     The Panorama Stones - which are now scheduled monuments and have recently been scanned in the hope of ageing the markings - were brought down from the moor by a local man in the 1890s who saved them from being destroyed when a reservoir was built and paid 10 for them. They are now in a railed enclosure near St Margaret's Church in Queen's Road.
     Ilkley historian Bill Godfrey said: "There are lots of myths and legends floating about the most elaborate of the Panorama Stones but I don't subscribe to the theory the ladder markings are fake. "There are a number of articles from around the 1880s by very responsible people who accepted these ladder markings were genuine and I'm sure at that time they would have been able to tell if they had been so recently added." Rock art expert Dr Keith Boughey, of Baildon, said: "Evidence that some of the markings are fake is logically plausible but it could be that the ladder markings weren't included in the pencil drawings either because they were never distinct enough to be noticed by the artist or that the person who drew them was only looking for cup and rings so ignored the other markings. "There's also another rock still in situ on the moor that also has a ladder on it. There's no hard evidence either way. The jury is still out but I feel the weight of evidence is on Gavin's side."

Source: This is Bradford (23 November 2006)

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