Castleton (3), Cowie, Stirlingshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid-Reference – NS 85700 87971

Archaeology & History

Ron Morris’ 1980 photo

40-50 yards southwest of the Castleton (11) cup-and-ring stone, beneath the marauding mass of spindly-killer-bushes (or ‘gorse’ as it’s known in the common tongue) could once be seen another  impressive cup-and-ring, etched along the edge of the small rocky rise.  But Nature has done Her bit and hidden the old stone for the time being.  A pity – for as the old photos and sketches show, it’s quite a good one.

Listed in several archaeo-surveys, the best descriptions of this carving are from the reliable pens of Messrs Morris (1981) and van Hoek. (1996)  Morris first told us that,

“Leading S from near the farm to Bruce’s Castle (a ruin) is a greywacke ridge, up to 7m (24ft) high on its SW, but at ground level elsewhere, partly turf-covered.  Faint cup-marks, some possibly ringed, can still be traced at various points on its top.  On a shelf about 7m by 2½m (23ft x 8ft), sloping mostly 20° W, near the steep SW edge, are:

“7 cups-and-complete-rings — in one case broken off at rock edge — one with five rings, 2 with three, and 4 with two rings, up to 51cm (20in) diameter and 2cm (1in) deep.  The cup-and-five-rings has a cup-and-two arcs budding from it.”

Fifteen years later, when van Hoek visited the place, it was already “becoming overgrown with gorse,” but fortunately he was able to give us a slightly more detailed description.  “There are two engraved surfaces” here, he wrote,

van Hoek’s 1996 sketch
Sketch from Morris’s text

“The north part slopes 9° to the north and has two cups with two rings each.  The smaller is clearly unfinished and possibly the pocking of the east part of the outer ring caused a part of the ring to flake off.  Undescribed (by Morris, PB) are a very small cup and one complete ring, and a faint cup with incomplete ring in between the two larger devices although Morris…gives a clear photograph of all these features. (above)  The south group is dominated by a large but worn cup-and-five-complete-rings on a sloping surface 16° SSW.  It is encircled by four rather distinct cup-and-rings and one very faint cup with one incomplete ring, which has never been reported.  All single cups drawn on the plan are very doubtful and probably all are natural, especially the small ones.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean to say that these “probably natural” cups had no bearing on the man-made designs; such elements have been given mythic importance in traditional cultures elsewhere in the world, and some ‘bowls in the UK possess curative folklore of their own.

Due to the importance of this carving, effort needs to be made to clear it of the gorse and so allow fellow students the ability to contextualize it and probably uncover yet more cups-and-rings further along the surface of the rock.

References:

  1. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties – part 2,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1968.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.
  4. van Hoek, M.A.M.,”Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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