Rosette Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 12822 46190

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.128 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.285 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Rosette Carving (after Hedges 1986)
Rosette Carving (after Hedges 1986)

Follow the directions to reach the giant Haystack Rock, then follow the footpath west along the moor-edge, round where it bends keeping along the edge of the stream (Backstone Beck) below.  A couple of hundred yards after the bend, right by the side of the path.  You’ll see it! (if you hit the clearly defined ‘enclosure’ walling, you’ve gone too far)

Archaeology & History

No — not the Rosetta Stone; but it is a lovely carved rock this one.  Best seen (as usual) when the rock’s wet and the sun’s heading for (or just emerged from) the horizon — but much of this image is visible even when She’s cloudy.

Close-up of 'rosette' and other CnRs
Close-up of ‘rosette’ design & and other CnRs
The Rosette Stone
The Rosette Stone carving

First mentioned in literary terms (surprisingly) by M.J. Walker (1956), in a short write-up following one of the Bradford Archaeology Group’s moorland walks up here.  Nearly six-feet along its longest axis, there are more than 30 cup-marks on this stone, at least three with rings; plus a variety of lines linking some cups to others.  At its northern tip is the lovely little ‘rosette’ design, as archaeologists have called it.  Others have seen this part of the design as a solar image; a flower; the Pleiades; a ring — take your pick!  It is a lovely carving though (if you’re a sad person like me, who’s into these sorta things!).  What relevance – if any – it may have had to the ‘enclosure’ within whose edges it sits, is anyone’s guess!

Excavations done close by (focusing mainly on the prehistoric ‘enclosure’ within whose domain this and other carvings occur) uncovered remains of old grooved ware pottery and the remains of flints. (Edwards & Bradley 1999)

The one thing we realise from looking at this design is the difference seen between the ‘accurate’ illustration drawn by archaeologists, and the flesh and blood of the stone itself, in situ.  The living rock has much greater form and expression than anything which our desire for accuracy possesses.  This aint knocking any attempt to portray the cups, rings and lines on paper correctly to show what the design originally looked like; merely that there’s a world of difference between the experiential vision of the carving and that done with graphic accuracy.  But we all know that anyway – so please forgive my little sojourn into speaking the bleedin’ obvious!


  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS 2003.
  2. Edwards, Gavin & Bradley, Richard, ‘Rock Carvings and Neolithic Artefacts on Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire,’ in Grooved Ware in Britain and Ireland (edited by Cleal, R. & MacSween, A.), Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  3. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  4. Walker, M.J., ‘Ilkley Boulders Tour,’ in Bradford’s Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 2, 1956.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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