From East Morton village, take the moorland road, east, and up the steep hill. Where the road levels out there’s a right turn, plus (more importantly!) a trackway on your left which leads onto the moor. Go up this track and keep walking till you hit a moorland ‘footpath’ signpost. Just before this walk due west (your left) into the heather for about 10 yards. Look around! (if the heather’s long and overgrown, you might have trouble finding it) If you find carved stone 109, you’re less than 10 yards off this one!
Archaeology & History
First reported by Stuart Feather and described in a short note of the Yorkshire Archaeological Register* of 1977. This was one of two small carved stones next to each other amidst the “denuded remains of a cairn 3m in diameter and 0.35m high.” The stone we can still see here is a small one, seemingly near the very centre of the cairn, with its carved face looking northwards. The carving is a simple double-ring surrounding a central cup: an almost archetypal cup-and-ring stone.
The other ancient carved stone that was once seen next to this (catalogued as carving 111) has in recent years been stolen by an archaeological thief no less! Any information that anyone might have telling us who’s stolen this heritage piece, or where it might presently reside, can be emailed to me in confidence. Or…the thief who’s taken it can return the carving to the site and put it back where it belongs before we find out where you live. Simple as!
(Soz about the poor photo of this carving. For decent ones of this stone you need to get here when the sun’s in a better position. I’ll hopefully get some better images next time we’re up there when the light’s better.)
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS 2003.
Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
Moorhouse, S. (ed.), “Yorkshire Archaeological Register: 1977,” in Yorkshire Archaeology Journal, volume 50, 1978.
* Does anyone have any idea who you report such new discoveries to so that they can be reported in Yorkshire Archaeology Society’s ‘Register’? I’ve asked ‘em several times about a number of previously unrecorded sites that we’ve located, so that they can make a record of them, but I never get a reply.
Takes a bitta finding this one. From the Twin Towers at the top of the moors (Whetstone Gate), walk east along the footpath, past the towers for about another 100 yards, looking out on the other side of the wall until you meet with some walling running downhill onto Morton Moor. Follow this walling for a few hundred yards till it drops down a small valley; then follow the valley down, keeping to its left-hand side, swerving a little round Black Knoll above you. Cross the dried-up stream and about 100 yards ahead of you (southeast), heading towards the Sweet Well, zigzag about (once the heather’s grown back here, this’ll take some finding!). Good luck!
Archaeology & History
There’s no previous history to this site and archaeological records indicate no prehistoric remains in this region. However, we (that is Dave, Mikki and me) found this and a number of other sites yesterday in a bimbling wander, to and fro, through boggy-heaths and deep heather. It’s a previously unrecorded cup-marked stone, with what seems like an attached burial cairn right by its side (yet again!). The cairn is 3 yards by 2 yards across. Two very distinct cup-marks can clearly be seen near the top of the small stone, with a possible third just below. A curious though natural yoni-like erosion can be seen on the lower side of the stone which may have some significance to people into that sorta thing! Whether it had owt to do with the cup-markings is another thing altogether!
I’m presuming that this burial site is the right one, described in the fine Mr MacGregor’s Peat Fire Flame (1937) as being “by the roadside up near Scallasaig.” There certainly doesn’t appear to be another alternative site close by (though if I’ve got it wrong, someone please lemme know!). This place was, said MacGregor, a site “where the people in olden times used to worship the serpent.”
MacGregor spoke with a local man about the myths here and asked how long it had been associated with serpents.
“Och, about two thousand years,” said Mr John MacRae. “The mound was in the shape of a serpent, and when the chief of the people would die, he would be buried in the head of the serpent..”
He continued, saying, “One from London, that was going about searching things like that, opened the mound, and they found in the mound a big stone coffin with a big stone slab on the top. And there the bowl was found with the ashes of the chief of the people at that time. The bowl was taken to the Manse. That’s about fifty years ago. It was there for a few months; and they took it to Edinburgh, to some museum or something. They were saying that there was a funny noise in the Manse when the bowl was lying there. If there was any treasure in the bowl, or in the grave along with the bowl, it was taken out before. You see, had he any treasure – the chief like – guns and money and the like – I’m sure they wouldn’t be putting much money in the grave. It would be going into the grave with the dead man, so, when he would rise in the next world, he would be ready to start at the same game as he was carrying on here on Earth.”
This sounds a little like the folk-memory of an idea of a heathen afterlife – and of course it’d make sense finding such lore here at a tomb.
I’ve come across references to several other serpent mounds scattering the western side of Scotland, but their exact locations have proven hard to pin down. It makes y’ wonder how many more there once were before the christian paradigm became entangled in the myths of the country people.
MacGregor, Alisdair Alpin, The Peat-Fire Flame: Folk-Tales and Traditions of the Highlands and Islands, Ettrick Press: Edinburgh 1937.