Tree Stone, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid-Reference – SE 1043 4702  

Archaeology & History

One of the first photos, just as the mud had been cleared
One of the first photos, just as the mud had been cleared

This carved stone was rediscovered by Michala Potts on the rainy afternoon of August 26, 2011, on a Northern Antiquarian excursion to explore some of the cup-and-rings on Ilkley Moor.  The entire stone was totally covered in soil and leaves, and Michala spent some considerable time carefully clearing the dead vegetation to unveil the carvings beneath.

Close-up of cups & scars
Close-up of cups & scars

This carving has at least 12 cup-marks on its slightly inclined surface, with several artificial carved lines and some that are obviously geophysical in origin. (we really could do with a geologist with a cup-and-ring fetish to accompany us on some of our outings!)  But the main feature of this carving — as the photos here illustrate — appears to be the natural crack that runs up through the middle of the stone, either side of which have been etched a number of cup-markings attached by small lines or ‘branches’, giving the distinct impression of a tree.  Whether this was a deliberate artistic feature (a tree), or just another Rorscharch response to non-linear systems on our behalf (more probable), we’ll never know.  On the moors northeast of here on the other side of the Wharfe valley, the Tree of Life Stone acquired a similar association due to its design; but this Ilkley design, sadly, aint quite as good as the one on Askwith Moor.

Tree Stone, showing modern industrial scars
Tree Stone, showing modern industrial scars

There are some puzzles on this stone aswell.  Other lines scar the rock which are definitely man-made, but they are of a different nature and age.  The marks have been scarred by more modern metal tools, or were caused by heavy metal machinery that have rested on the rock at some time in the not-too-distant past.  You can see the curved deep scratches in the photo here to the right.  It seems likely that when the modern houses were built straight across and above here, this cup-marking was damaged by the workers — although they didn’t know it was here as the stone had not been catalogued by the Ilkley archaeologists.  But there’s also another peculiar feature on this stone.  Someone a century or two ago also carved other fainter features into the stone, seemingly lettering, on the northeast edge of the rock.  They can be seen faintly on the second photo, above.

The other basic cup-marked stones were found 2 and 5 yards north and northeast of this carving.  We know from other evidence found that the carvings here were related to a prehistoric enclosure, but there also seemed the distinct possibility that they had some association with a previously undiscovered tomb.  A number of carvings in this region have direct associations with cairns or tombs of one form or another, so this is not unusual.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 


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  53.919219, -1.842687 Tree Stone CR

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