The Wartie Stone, Yell, Shetland

Legendary Rock (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – HP 5223 0467

Archaeology & History

Whilst classifying this as a “legendary” rock, it was as much a functional stone that played an integral part of local village life in the 19th century and, most probably, way before that.  This large stone possessed a large cavity in the shape of a giant human footprint, measuring 12 inch by 4 inch.  It could be seen “above the Deeks of Bracon, North Yell, up Hena”, but when first described in 1865, it was said to be “no longer in existence.”  Despite this, when an Ordnance Survey dood came looking for it in 1969, he reported it as “still in existence” and known of by local people.  Is there anyone in the far far north who can tell us?

Folklore

The impression of the large footprint was natural, but the use to which local people made of it is valuable when we seek to understand pre-industrial customs.  The Royal Commission (1946) lads echoed the folklore handed down by J.T. Irvine from 1865, telling that,

“Formerly the people used to wash in dew or rain-water that had gathered in the cavity and stand in it to get rid of warts.  The tradition was that a giant had planted one foot here and the other on a stone on the Westing of Unst.”

Healing stones with such properties can be found everywhere on Earth.

References:

  1.  Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland – volume 3, HMSO: Edinburgh 1946.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Jedburgh Abbey, Roxburghshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 6504 2045

Archaeology & History

A little-known cup-and-ring stone that was uncovered in the forecourt of Jedburgh Abbey by Walter Laidlow in 1903, now lies all but forgotten in the abbey grounds.  Laidlow’s original description of his find was very basic indeed: “a sculptured stone, with incised ring-and cup-symbols… of yellow sandstone, 1 foot 8 inches long, 9½ inches broad, 4 inches thick.”  The Royal Commission (1956) lads did slightly better, saying:

“A slab of stone… measures 1ft 8½in by 9½in by 4in, and bears on one face six cup-marks ranging from 1in to 2½in in diameter.  The largest of these is encircled by a ring 5in in diameter, in “pocked” technique; while slight traces of what may have been a similar ring can be seen around another cup, which is fractured.”

Laidlow’s 1903 photo

You can see from the photograph how the stone has been broken from a larger piece, strongly suggestive of a greater prehistoric design on the original slab—but there have been no subsequent finds that might show us its original form.  In all likelihood, the stone originally came from a prehistoric tomb, but we know not where that might have been—much like the Mathewson’s Garden carving, also in Jedburgh.

The carving apparently still lies somewhere in the Abbey grounds, sleeping, but I’ve not visited the olde stone so I don’t know its exact position.  If any local folk can tell us more, that would be great!

References:

  1. Laidlaw, Walter, “Sculptured and Inscribed Stones in Jedburgh and Vicinity,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 39, 1905.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring Marks and Similar Sculptures of South-West Scotland,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 14, 1967.
  3. 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, 1969.
  4. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  5. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Mathewson’s Garden, Jedburgh, Roxburghshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – c. NT 65 20

Archaeology & History

Apart from the petroglyph found at Jedburgh Abbey in 1903, there’s a distinct lack of known cup-and-ring stones in this area; so when the petroglyph pioneer George Tate was in town in 1860, he was fortunate to find a small “portable” stone with a rather impressive design on it.  We don’t (yet) know the exact position of where the stone was located, as Tate simply told how,

“Lying among a heap of stones in Mr. Adam Mathewson’s garden, I detected, on a much weather-worn block, defaced sculpturing of the same family character as those in Northumberland.  …There are five concentric circles, central cup, radial grooves, and a string of cups around the outer circle.  Forty years ago this stone was built into the wall of a house; but whence it originally came is not known.  Doubtless it belongs to the district, and probably had been connected with an interment.”

His final remark would seem most likely and has subsequently been echoed by several other rock art students.  A few years after Tate’s initial find, the carving was mentioned in Sir James Simpson’s (1867) classic work, who told us:

Dr Falla’s 1866 sketch

“Sometime ago Mr Tate, of Alnwick, discovered in the garden of Mr Matthewson at Jedburgh a stone cut with concentric circles, possibly a sepulchral cist, but peculiar in some respects.  The stone is roundish, but broken off at one side, and about eighteen inches broad.  Its face is covered by five incised concentric rings, and through the central cup pass at right angles two straight lines, which completely bisect all the circles.  The outermost circle is about fourteen inches in diameter.  Some inches to the left of the central cup is a second, with one incised circle around it.  Arranged circularly outside of the outermost circle is a series or ring of points or stars, each cut out—so Dr Falla writes me—”as with a single stroke of a pick, rather than hewn out.” I am indebted to the same gentleman for the sketch of this stone.”

Subsequently all other written accounts repeat the same basic description—and each account remained (as we still are) perplexed as to its original location, wondering where on Earth the Rev Adam Mathewson’s garden was in Jedburgh (surely someone must be able to find out?!).  Thankfully the carving itself has been saved and presently lives in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow.  Whether it ever had any relationship with the petroglyph at Jedburgh Abbey, we don’t yet know.

References:

  1. Laidlaw, Walter, “Sculptured and Inscribed Stones in Jedburgh and Vicinity,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 39, 1895.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring Marks and Similar Sculptures of South-West Scotland,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 14, 1967.
  3. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring and Similar Early Sculptures of Scotland; Part 2 – The Rest of Scotland except Kintyre,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 16, 1969.
  4. 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, 1969.
  5. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.
  7. Simpson, J.Y., “On Ancient Sculpturings of Cups and Concentric Rings,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 6, 1866.
  8. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
  9. Tate, George, “The Ancient British Sculptured Rocks of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders,” in Transactions of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 5, 1864.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Folly Top, Barden Moor, North Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 03536 59756

Getting Here

Folly Top ring, looking E

It’s easier to explain how to get here if you’re coming from the Burnsall-side of the B6160 road that leads to Bolton Abbey.  A half-mile out of Burnsall village you a small woodland with a small parking spot.  From here, a footpath runs up the steep hill above the parking spot.  It zigzags a little and you eventually come out on the south-side of the trees where it meets some tall walling.  Follow this walling further uphill for more than 600 yards (past more woodland) until the land starts to level out.  Hereby, go thru an opening in the wall and less than 100 yards away (west) amidst the overgrown heather, you’ll see what you’re looking for.

Archaeology & History

A large but peculiar site resting on a moorland plateau on the eastern edges of the mighty Barden Moor.  Peculiar inasmuch as it’s completely isolated from any other monument of the same age and type anywhere on these huge moors.  A few miles east, on the moors around Appletreewick, Thruscross and Beamsley we have a plethora of prehistoric sites—but up here on Barden Moor there’s apparently nowt else!  I find that hard to believe….

Inner rubble walling
Rubble walling, looking N

Listed on official websites as being a ring cairn, it’s difficult without a detailed excavation of the site (there hasn’t been one) so say that’s what it is.  But we’ll stick with it for the time being.  My initial impression of the site was that it was a crude form of a collapsed Scottish dun: impressive large circular monuments—buildings if you like—with very well-built large stone walls, usually several yards thick, a little bit like the Scottish brochs (mighty things indeed!).  This thing at Folly Top isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s like a collapsed version of a dun.

Arc of western walling

The site consists of large ring of raised collapsed rubble walling, more than a yard high in places, and about three yards thick all the way round, measuring roughly 21 yards (N-S) by 19 yards (E-W) from outer wall to outer wall.  There are “entrances” on the east and west sides; but there seemed to be little of any note in the middle of the ring, although the site was somewhat overgrown on our visit here.  Outside of the ring there was also nothing of any note.  It’s a pretty isolated monument which seems to have more of an Iron Age look about it than the Bronze Age—but until there’s an excavation, we’ll not know for sure.

It’s well worth checking out—and from here, walk onto the huge moorland above you to the west….

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to the Crazy-gang of Sarah, Helen and James for their awesome assistance on our venture up here.  A damn good day indeed!  Cheers doods. 🙂

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Heugh Well, Blairgowrie, Perthshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 17103 46984

Also Known as:

  1. Mineral Well

Archaeology & History

This little-known iron-bearing spring can still be found in the woodland known today as the Heugh of Mawse, a mile north of Blairgowrie.  It was included in the Object Name Book of 1863, where they referred to an earlier account in the New Statistical Account, which told that,

“On the south end of it is a chalybeate spring much resorted to by the people of the locality. “There are one or two chalybeate springs in the parish; but they have never been chemically analyzed. There is one very fine spring called the “Heugh Well” It springs from the face of the “Heughs of Mause” (a mortar cliff of singular appearance; which descends abruptly into the bed of the river with an almost perpendicular declivity of about 200 feet) and judging from its colour, contains a considerable quantity of ferruginous matter. The use of its water has been found to be very beneficial in cutaneous eruptions, & affections of the Stomach.””

Heugh Well on 1867 map

Subsequently highlighted on the 1867 OS-map, a singular footpath led to the site and no further.  It was mentioned by the regional historians J.G. McPherson (1885) and John MacDonald (1899), albeit briefly, where they respectively told that its waters were “formerly much resorted to by persons in the neighbourhood.”  It possessed considerable medicinal properties which, according to tradition, were “found very beneficial for skin diseases and derangement of the stomach”!  Doubtless such attributes will still be effective.

References:

  1. MacDonald, John A.R., The History of Blairgowrie, Advertiser Office: Blairgowrie 1899.
  2. McPherson, J.G., Strathmore: Past and Present, S. Cowan: Perth 1885.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Ballakelly, Santon, Isle of Man

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SC 32144 71990

Also Known as:

  1. Oatland

Archaeology & History

This carving is one that was found inside the remains of a chambered cairn and so, as with all things petroglyphic, it deserves its very own site profile.  It’s been mentioned before—in fact many times before, from the legendary J.T. Blight (1868) to our modern researchers—although it was curiously absent in Ron Morris’ (1989) otherwise excellent survey.  When Mr Blight described the tomb, he told us that,

“Its outer ring, of which but three or four stones are left, was about 45 feet in diameter; the inner one 15 feet, with a kistvaen in its midst.  As on the external face of one of the uprights of the inner circle there are rows of cup carvings … it may be presumed that this was always exposed to view.”

Position of cups in the tomb
E.L. Barnwell’s 1868 sketch

The same year, Barnwell (1868) mentioned the same carvings—albeit briefly—telling us “that one of the stones has several rows of the curious cups.”  The design faced to the north, which is the traditional direction relating to Death in most northern hemisphere cultures.

As you can see, this design is similar to other petroglyphs that some students have suggested have a numeric nature (see the Idol Stone on Ilkley Moor for example).  You can understand why!  The basic linearity of the cups, in rows, certainly gives that impression and indeed it’s not unreasonable to make such an assumption—but, as always, we simply don’t know.  A similar design was found on a stone at Ballagawne in the parish of Kirk Arbory, but the cups were much deeper and deemed as being a medieval game played on stone, known as Nine Man’s Morris.  The original function of the game may have been divinatory.

References:

  1. Barnwell, E.L., “Notes on the Stone Monuments in the Isle of Man,” in J.G.,Cumming (ed.) Antiquitates Manniae, London 1868.
  2. Blight, J.T., “Stone Circles and Megalithic Remains,” in Gentleman’s Magazine 1868.
  3. Cubbon, A. M., Prehistoric Sites in the Isle of Man, Manx Museum: Douglas 1971.
  4. Cumming, J.G. (ed.), Antiquitates Manniae, Manx Society: London 1868.
  5. Gale, J. & Darvill, T., “A Survey of the Ballakelly Chambered Tomb,” in Darvill, & T. Billown (eds.), Neolithic Landscape Project, Isle of Man, 1997, Bournemouth University 1998.
  6. Henshall, A. S., “Manx Megaliths Again: An Attempt at Structural Analysis,” in P. Davey (ed.), Man and Environment in the Isle of Man, BAR: Oxford 1978.
  7. Kermode, P.M.C., “The Ancient Monuments of the Isle of Man,” in Archaeologia Cambrensis, volume 84, 1929.
  8. Kermode, P.M.C. & Herdman, W.A., Manks Antiquities, University of Liverpool 1914.
  9. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Grey Wether, Ewes, Langholm, Dumfriesshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NY 37616 92734

Archaeology & History

Grey Wether in 1911

This is a site that requires the attention of some local antiquarians, as there are conflicting reports as to whether or not it still lives in its old haunt.  Very little has been written about it and its whereabouts seems to have been completely missed in the radars of all megalithic guides.  The Langholm historians—John and Robert Hyslop (1912)—who wrote about the place in their gigantic history work more than a hundred years ago, would no doubt be shaking their heads at such lackings.

They told:

“The best example of the standing stones in the Eskdale district is that at Meikledale in Ewes, locally known as ” The Grey Wether,” a print of which is here given.  It is about 5 feet in height and its girth is 8 feet 7 inches, and it would probably weigh about two tons.  The stone is the common greywacke, or whinstone of the Silurian series, rough and unhewn.  It stands in the centre of a field in front of Meikledale House, and can be seen from the highway.  The field is surrounded by hills on every side,”

which the writers thought might have been the reason for its erection here, although having more to do with the natural beauty of the landscape than any archaeocentric or geomantic factor.

Shortly after this had been written, Alexander Curle of the Royal Commission visited the area and made note of this “standing stone known as the Grey Wether…situated on the haughland some 250 yds SSE of Meikledale”, but added nothing more.  It was several years later before a Royal Commission (1920) team came here and told that,

“A standing-stone, known as the “Grey Wether,” is situated on the haugh-land, some 250 yards south-south-east of Meikledale.  It is a large whinstone slab, measuring in greatest height 4 feet 8 inches, in breadth 3 feet 5 inches, and in thickness 1 foot, and faces west-south-west and east-north-east.”

Stone shown on 1857 map

But they subsequently reported that, prior to World War 2, some complete dickhead knocked it down, broke it up and dumped it in a nearby stream!  However, in 1980 some more lads from the Scottish Royal Commission revisited the area and alleged that a stone laid in the field 250 yards below of Meikledale farmhouse was our old Grey Wether.  The position they describe is the same spot as the one shown on the 1857 OS-map; and at this very spot on GoogleEarth it seems that a stone there lies…  Are there are any local folk in that neck o’ the woods who could find out…?

Folklore

The Greywethers stone circle on Dartmoor has a veritable mass of folklore attached to it, but its namesake here at Langholm has very little.  The origin of its name has been forgotten.  All we have left is what the Ordnance Name Book in 1857 recorded, telling that “it is supposed to have been erected in memory of some Hero, but no further account of it can be obtained.”

References:

  1. Hyslop, John & Robert, Langholm, As it Was, Hills: Sunderland 1912.
  2. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Dumfries, HMSO: Edinburgh 1920.
  3. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1997.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Cotterton, Moulin, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid-Reference – NO 03818 63692

Also Known as:

  1. Straloch

Getting Here

Cotterton standing stone

Along the A924 road, just over 4 miles (6.6km) NW from Kirkmichael, or about 8 miles (13km) NE from Pitlochry, you’ll hit the large farmhouse of Straloch.  You’ve really gotta keep your eyes peeled!  A few hundred yards west of Straloch itself, a small parking spot is on the south-side of the road, above the river.  From this parking spot, walk a few yards to the fence that overlooks the river and look into the field below you, where you’ll see the stone.  If y’ walk down the slope, you’ll see a gate on the right that leads you into the field.

Archaeology & History

First shown on the 1900 OS-map of the area, this petrified hunchbacked witch-of-a-stone stands on the flat grassland plain (previously scattered woodland when first raised) forty yards from the River Brerachan: a proximity characteristic found at many of the stones along Strathardle.

Cotterton stone 1900 map
Fred Coles’ sketch

Descriptions of the site prior to 1900 seem non-existent (does anyone know otherwise?).  It was the brilliant antiquarian Fred Coles (1908) who, it seems, was the first to mention the old stone — whose very crooked appearance had an unusual effect on him, saying how “such a decided leaning over towards the north…almost make one uneasy when standing beside it”!  It didn’t have that effect on me, but I was mightily impressed by both its appearance and curious hunched gait.  Twas one of those monoliths that had a distinct ‘feel’ about it, which many people report at such places up and down the country.  Whether it was its position by the river, or the color of the landscape, or the silence, or the shape of the stone, or combinations of them all—which ever it was, there was almost a sense of genius loci residing here…

But in that other world of pragmatic measurements, as Mr Coles told us:

“The Stone is at the base an oblong in shape, measuring 14 inches on its east end, 2 feet 7 inches along its south side, 17 inches at the west, and 3 feet 6 inches on its north side—a girth, therefore, of 8 feet 8 inches.  At the middle its dimensions are the same, but the top is rather less.   At its N.E. apex the Stone is 7 feet 8 inches clear of the ground, and at the west edge 7 feet.  In the illustration…I have shown the monolith from the south, with the craggy profile of Menachban in the background.”

The stone was mentioned in passing in Hugh Mitchell’s (1923) local survey.  A few years later in John Dixon’s (1925) account he repeated the dimensions of the stone that Coles had cited; and although he found there to be no known traditions of the place, he conjectured how it may have been connected with the numerous battles “that in former days occurred along this entrance to the Highlands.”

It’s a damn good site is this.  All you megalith hunters will love it!

References:

  1. Anonymous, Notes on Strathardle, Strathardle 1880.
  2. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire – Northeastern Section,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, volume 42, 1908.
  3. Dixon, John H., Pitlochry, Past and Present, L. Mackay: Pitlochry 1925.
  4. Mitchell, Hugh, Pitlochry District: Its Topography, Archaeology and History, L. Mackay: Pitlochry 1923.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Castleton (10), Cowie, Stirlingshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid-Reference – NS 85887 88394

Also Known as:

  1. Castleton 1 (Morris 1891)
  2. Castleton 1a (van Hoek)
  3. Gosham Park

Getting Here

Castleton-10, looking S

To reach here from Stirling or Bannockburn, take the B9124 east to Cowie (and past it) for 3¾ miles (6km), turning left at the small crossroads; or if you’re coming from Airth, the same B9124 road west for just about 3 miles, turning right at the same minor crossroads up the long straight road.  Drive to the dead-end of the road and park up.  You’ll notice that this is a crossroads of dirt-tracks.  Walk along the one that heads to the houses you can see on a rise above the fields, eastwards.  About 300 yards on, instead of going up towards the houses, walk thru the gate and along the wall-edge for 85 yards and go thru the gate to your right.  You’ll see a small rise covered in gorse trees 100 yards in front you and roughly in the middle of it all, you’ll find this carving.

Archaeology & History

The naked stone

When John Bruce (1896) wrote his article on the mighty Cochno Stone a few miles north of mighty Glasgow, he left some end-notes about a petroglyph near Carnock (near Castleton) that was “found to bear a few much weathered cups with concentric circles.”  He wasn’t at all clear where the carving was located, merely telling it to be “in the Gosham Park” on Carnock estate.  This may have been the reason why, when the lads from the Royal Commission came looking for it in August 1955, they left without success.  Nevertheless, when Ron Morris (1981) explored this area he located the place-name of Gosham Field and, therein, this multi-ringed carving.  It seems more than likely that this was the carving described by Mr Bruce – and it’s an impressive one!

Despite being eroded by the passage of time, the carved design is still pretty easy to see, comprising of a cluster of archetypal cup-and-multiple rings in close proximity to each other, etched onto a sloping stone.  Ron Morris’s (1981) description told that, 125 yards east of Gosham Field’s western wall,

“is a prominent greywacke outcrop, part of a rocky ridge running NW-SE, exposed in 1969-75 for 3m by 2m (10ft x 6ft), 4m (12) high on its S, but at ground level elsewhere, sloping 15° NE.  On its fairly smooth surface are:

“5 cups-and-complete rings, with no grooves, 3 with three rings, 1 with four, and 1 with five rings, up to 36m (14in) diameters and 1cm (½in) depth.”

Ron Morris’ 1981 sketch

Yet contrary to Morris’ description, there are some “grooves”, or carved lines emerging from some of the rings; faint but definitely there.  You can make them out in the accompanying photos above. (are there any sketch artists out there could accompany us to these carvings, so we get some good portraits of the stones?)  When Maarten van Hoek (1996) visited this carving he also missed these ‘ere carved grooves.

An additional feature that needs to be mentioned is the cluster of small geological deep natural cups, inches away from the carved rings on the southern edge of this stone (completely covered in vegetation in the attached photos).  The same feature also exists on the southern edges of the Castleton 5, Castleton 6 and  Castleton 12 carvings and it probably had some mythic relationship with the petroglyph.

Apparently there’s another cup-marked stone, now hidden beneath the dense undergrowth of gorse, 20-30 yards east along this same geological ridge.  The rock surfaces here need to be laid bare to enable a greater visual experience of the wider Castleton complex.

References:

  1. Bruce, John, “Notice of Remarkable Groups of Archaic Sculpturings in Dumbartonshire and Stirlingshire,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 30, 1896.
  2. 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.
  3. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  4. Ritchie, Graham & Anna, Edinburgh and South-East Scotland, Heinemann: London 1972.
  5. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Stirlingshire: An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.
  7. van Hoek, M.A.M.,”Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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