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6 February 2013
Ancient rock art uncovered in the Scottish Highlands

The highest concentration of ancient rock art ever discovered in the Highlands has been found on hillside farmland in Ross-shire (Scotland). Bronze Age cupmarks carved into rocks up to 5,000 years ago have been found on twenty-eight separate sites on Swordale Hill outside Evanton. The remains of an enclosed henge have also been found on the hill's Druim Mor ridge, which is also the location of a chambered cairn.
     The majority of the cup-marked stones, as well as the henge, have been identified and recorded by Tain man Douglas Scott who says all the evidence suggests the hill was once a 'ritual centre of some significance'. It is thought the cupmarks were ground into rocks with quartz between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.
     Mr Scott has lodged his findings with the Highland Historic Environment Record, the Royal Commission of Ancient Monuments and has produced a photographic guide, Druim Mor Cupmarks, which he has sent to ARCH Highland in Dingwall.
     In 1986, Mr Scott and the late Bob Gourlay, the then Highland Regional Archaeologist, went to Swordale Hill to search for rock art, recording and photographing 14 cup-marked rocks on the ridge. During the last two years, Mr Scott has returned to Swordale Hill to plot the stones he and Mr Gourlay found and has discovered another nine cupmarked rocks, bringing the total to 28. He also discovered a wide circular ditched enclosure, with a small central standing stone next to a cupmarked stone, which suggested it was the remains of a henge.
     Said Mr Scott: "It is the biggest concentration of rock art found so far in the Highland and shows the area was a ritual centre of some significance." His surveys suggested there could have been "general orientations between some cup-marked stones to the rising and setting of the suns at midwinter, midsummer and equinoxes".
     There is also evidence of a connection to the rising and setting of full moons. "The position of the cupmarks between the cairn and the henge suggests that this was one of the most important ritual sites in the area during the Neolithic or Bronze Age," his guide states.
     Mr Scott wants to encourage local people to get a copy of his guide from ARCH or himself to find out more about the ancient rock art there. "This is information for everybody, it belongs to us all," he said. For a copy of the guide contact Mr Scott on douglas.scottt@btinternet.com

Edited from Rossh-Shire Journal (1 February 2013)

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