From Ilkley, follow the same directions as if you’re going up to the superb Swastika Stone. Keep walking on the footpath, west, for 65 yards (59m), then walk into the heather on your left. Barely 5 yards in, you’ll see this fallen standing stone or gatepost.
Archaeology & History
First described in one of Stuart Feather’s (1964) old rambles, I first saw this stone in my late-teens and was as puzzled by it then as I am today. Upon an obviously worked stone that may once have stood upright (or was intended to do), two faint and incomplete cup-and-rings were carved – but when exactly? If this stone was cut from a larger rock into its present shape, were the petroglyphs already on it, or were they done when the ‘gatepost’ was created?
It was first described in one of Stuart Feather’s (1964) rambles up here and later included in Hedges’ (1986) survey, where he told it to be a, “recumbent gatepost with one cup with almost complete ring and one cup with vestigial ring.” Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) survey added little more. And when a group calling itself Carved Stones Investigation got itself about £250,000 to “investigate” the Ilkley petroglyphs, I was hoping that they could have at least turned this stone over to see if other carvings were on the stone – but they just revisited all those found by others, made a new list, and took the money to be honest (no website and no book – as they should’ve done). Thankfully, local folk are having a look at this and others and doing the work they should have. Check it out when you’re next up at the Swastika.
Bennett, Paul, Megalithic Ramblings between Ilkley and Baildon, unpublished: Shipley 1982.
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
Feather, Stuart, “Mid-Wharfedale Cup-and-Ring Markings: no.26, 27, 28 – Black Pots, High Moor, Silsden, near Keighley,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 9:10, 1964.
Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to Dave Whittaker for the photo. Good luck with the plans fellas.
Follow the same directions to get to the cup-marked stone on the slope behind Duncroisk Farm. Once here, look up the hillside and about 100 yards above you there’s the fence, and a gate in the fence. Go through that gate and walk uphill for some 20 yards where you’ll meet with a large sheet of flat sloping rock with a stream by its side. The crosses are on this rock sheet at the top left-hand side.
Archaeology & History
Although the stone here is pretty easy to find, the insignia carved on the rock itself can be troublesome to see. The accounts by both Cormack (1952) and Morris (1981) each recommend visiting the site around sunrise, but an hour before sunset is also profitable if you wanna see the design with any clarity. And of course, if you keep the rock-face wet (the adjacent stream is handy here) the carvings stand out even better!
It’s a quite superb carving in a truly superb setting, come rain, shine or mist — but for the cup-and-ring aficionado’s amongst you this one might not get y’ going, as we’re looking at a carving that was probably born of the more recent mythic period. Although there are between two and four faded cup-markings here, the principal designs do not echo the more usual neolithic and Bronze Age carvings scattering this part of Perthshire. Instead we find very worn examples of what have been variously called “solar wheels”, “Greek crosses”, Celtic crosses, etc. We also find simple carved ‘arrows’ at the ends of both natural and man-made lines in the rock; along with very distinct ‘eye’ or vulva symbolism. (Crawford 1957) Added to this is the possibility of human figurines discernible in the carving, very similar indeed to those found in Spain (Kuhn 1956) and elsewhere.
The site was first described by E.A. Cormack (1952) who wrote the following, (slightly edited) piece:
“Examination of the rough and sloping rock surface revealed an interesting group of inscribed figures, confined to an area of about 8 by 2½ feet, four of which included a cross within a circle. The figures are difficult to discern, except when thrown into relief by early morning sunlight, but are clearly demonstrated on a rubbing.
“The crosses may be described in three groups:
“Group 1 — a) Near the upper edge of the rock is a cross within a circle of 8-inch diameter. The vertical axis of the cross is extended below the circle for 4 inches, resting on an ill-defined rectangular base, and upwards for 5 inches to form an arrow-head with 3-inch barbs. At the junction of the shaft of the arrow with the top of the circle is a pair of contiguous rings of about 1-inch diameter. The cross is deeply cut, to about a half-inch depth, with equal arms 4 inches long and 1 inch broad. The left arm of the cross extends beyond the circle, but this may be due to the circle being slightly excentric in relation to the cross. The lower right quadrant of the circle is marred by a natural crevice in the rock, but careful examination shows that the circle does not cut the right arm of the cross.
b) On each side of this figure is a roughly circular marking, one about 4 inches above and to the left, of 3-inch diameter, and the other 2 inches to the right, of about 5-inch diameter. In each there is an indefinite depression across the centre.
“Group 2 — a) About a foot below and to the right of Group 1 there is a boldly cut cross within a 7-inch circle. Again the vertical arm of the cross is extended above and below the circle, downwards for 5 inches to a curved arrow-head with 4-inch barbs, and upwards as an equal armed 5-inch crosslet above which is a 4-inch circle with the central axis continued through it. (The junction of this axis through the circle with the top of the small cross is slightly angled.) The main cross and circle are cut to fully half an inch in depth and one inch in breadth, but the upper part of the figure is much less distinct.
b) About 8 inches to the left of the upper part of the above figure is a very faintly incised cross within a 2½-inch circle. It is difficult to discern on the rock, but can be seen in the photograph and is very clear on the rubbing. It also appears to have an arrow-head above it.
“Group 3 — a) A foot below and to the right of Group 2 is a clearly cut cross within a 6½-inch circle. A natural cleft in the rock has been used for one axis of the cross, which lies obliquely to the others already described, and this axis terminates in an arrow-head 3 inches below the circle, and another slightly smaller arrow-head is cut 2 inches above the circle; in each case the angle formed by the arrow being towards the circle.
b) Immediately below the last cross is a curious hieroglyph not easy to make out on the rubbing, but clear in the photograph. On an 18-inch vertical axis can be seen from above downwards an arrow-head, an oblique line to the left, a faint 2-inch circle, a transverse stroke, and finally two oblique lines to the right. A natural crevice to the left of the figure rather confuses the picture.”
Ron Morris’ (1981) description wasn’t as detailed and he was initially hesitant about using the site in his rock art survey of the area, as he thought it “most likely to be early christian” in nature and period. He changed his view after talking with an associate at Bergen University, who pointed out that the symbols found here up Glen Lochay were “exactly the same as Norway’s second commonest symbol, the ‘Cross-ring’, which is contemporary with their cup-and-ring series.” Morris described the carvings here as:
“3 ‘cross-rings’ and 7 other rings, some of which have traces of crosses within them. There are also grooves, some extending from a ‘cross’-line to form an ‘arrowhead’, and one group, with ring above, rather resembles a ‘man.’ Largest ring diameter, 20cm (8in) and greatest carving depth, 1cm (½in).”
Examples of the artistic symbolism found at this ‘Duncroisk Crosses Stone’ are scattered throughout western Europe from the Bronze Age period onwards: notably at Dowth and Clonfinloch in Ireland (Brennan 1983; Coffey 1912); Jonathan’s Cave, Fife (Simpson 1867); Valcamonica, Italy (Anati 1961); and all over Norway and Sweden (Coles 2005; Gelling & Davidson 1969; Janson 1966). In more recent times we find these curious symbols etched inside the prehistoric chamber of Ty Illtud (Grinsell 1981) — but these are thought to be later additions. However, the universal nature given to such interconnecting symbols such as those found here is, simply, ritual magick. We find it across the Himalayas, Africa, north and south America – just about everywhere. It would be quite wrong to believe that the presence of an encircled ‘cross’ on this stone relates it to a christian belief system, as such a motif is found in many non- and pre-christian societies with a mythic nature akin to that of the swastika, i.e., of a world unfolding or emerging from a centre-point and the arms of the ‘cross’ outwards defining the directions and boundaries of any specified cosmology: be it landscape, heavens, spirit worlds, pregnant belly, etc.
As Cormack (1952) described, the respective groups of carvings are integrally linked by an interconnecting line that joins the symbols in the respective groups to the other symbols. The fact that the connecting ‘lines’ are natural is meaningful in the relationship between humans and Nature; but moreover, the connecting line linking the symbols strongly implies sequential reasoning and magickal import. Indeed, these three distinct clusters (see Cormack’s rubbing) are functionally akin to magickal sigils, examples of which are found across the ancient and modern world. This is a notion that must be given serious consideration as a function in the carved stone of ‘Duncroisk 4’. Equally we can see in one section of the carving what may be a dancing human figurine, very much like rock carvings found elsewhere in Europe and beyond.
Both Erich Neumann (1973) and Alex Marshack (1972), for slightly different reasons, would also see the images carved here as early expressions of human development: either through i) the emergence of archetypal patterns and the interpretative interplay of the ego, or ii) the intellectual evolution of magickal appliance, whereby imagery and human action are recognized as meaningful in a wider natural sense. In the case of Duncroisk 4 it would more likely possess magickal import, as symbols were much more than ‘art’ and possessed meaning on several interconnecting levels, one of which being ritual function — an element that modern archaeology is slowly learning to incorporate into its analyses.
A more in-depth comparative essay is really needed to give a clearer exposition defining the nature of this carving… My personal view is that the carving represents, not some solar design, but one of Britain’s earliest artistic examples of human beings, in this case dancing and beating a drum or bodhran. It may indeed be the earliest pictorial example of a bodhran in the country. I’d say so. There is also the distinct possibility that the dancing figure is a shaman. We have many petroglyphs from all over the world that highlight such a character, integral to all early cultures—and this is as likely a contender as any for such a figure. (see Gough 1999; Whitley 2000, etc) It may however, be a warrior with a shield. You see the problems we can have with these damn carvings! 🙂
This carved rock is said by local people to have been where a ‘Celtic’ saint delivered sermons to the heathen populace. The saint concerned is likely to be the one who tradition tells gave his name to the small glen immediately across the track from here: St. Charmaig. Halfway up the small glen is a small cave, barely accessible, with untouched remains of dried roots and other elements of human habitation therein. A few hundred yards to the north in old Finn’s Glen, is the forgotten Waterfall of the Oracle which sometimes isn’t even there!
Anati, Emmanuel, Camonica Valley, Alfred Knopf: New York 1961.
Brennan, Martin, The Stars and the Stones: Ancient Art and Astronomy in Ireland, Thames & Hudson: London 1983.
Coffey, George, New Grange and other Incised Tumuli in Ireland, Dolphin: Poole 1977.
Coles, John, Shadows of a Northern Past: Rock Carvings of Bohuslan and Ostfold, Oxbow: Oxford 2005.
This supposedly 10-12th century carving — found in the early 1940s and handed to the Scottish National Museum in Edinburgh by Mr A. Sanderson — took my interest by virtue of the distinct swastika design carved on the face of the stone.* The fact that it’s etched onto what’s thought to be the remains of an old christian cross shouldn’t be too surprising: we find it on numerous other old stone crosses, church bells and other religious remains.
This example was only carved on one side of the stone, which measures some 18-inches high and just 9 inches across. The top of the stone has a design typical of many early crosses from between the 9th to 14th century; whilst the curvaceous line on the lower-right also typifies imagery found on many crosses from this period — some of which appear to be based on cup-and-ring imagery. However, no such cup-and-rings seem to have been in evidence where this cross-remain was found. Very little else is known about its history.
Although it aint quite as old as Ilkley’s Swastika Stone, this is still a fascinating carved stone indeed!
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Peeblesshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1967.
Stevenson, Robert B.K., ‘The Inchyra Stone and some other Unpublished Early Christian Monuments’, in PSAS 92, 1961.
* To those who don’t know, the swastika symbol has been used by people from around 20,000 BC onwards and has only very recently gained a bad press. It’s a symbol that needs to be reclaimed, through education, and put back into its proper mythic place where it belongs – away from any Nazi dip-shits, whose retarded actions pale into insignificance when it comes to the primal archaic nature of this old form.
From Ilkley, head up the road towards White Wells and keep going along the road. Shortly before the road becomes a dirt-track, just over a small stone bridge with gorse all around, there’s a noticeable footpath that runs west onto the moors, going roughly parallel to the wealthy houses by the moorside. Keep going along this footpath and you’ll hit the recently unneeded modern creation of a large sandy trackway (and excessive litter that it’s created) that takes you straight to the curious railings stuck upon some rocks a quarter-mile away. That’s where you’re going!
Archaeology & History
This famous carving was first described as a ‘swastika’ by a Mr J. Thornton Dale around 1880 – and the name seemed to catch on damn quick! The stone had become established with this title at the end of that decade, and seemed immortalized with the name when J. Horsfall Turner wrote about it in the very popular history book he co-authored with the reverend Collyer in Ilkley Ancient and Modern. (1885) By then, comparisons had already been drawn with the acknowledged swastika symbol in Tossene, Sweden, and by the time Harry Speight described it in his colossal Upper Wharfedale (1900), other near-identical European swastika carvings had been found in Valcamonica, northern Italy. (though these lacked the ‘tail’ found on Ilkley’s carving)
Earlier images of the swastika symbol can be found in most continents, but the earliest known example appears to be the paleolithic swastika carvings from the Ukraine, etched on pieces of ivory and dating from between 18,000-15,000 BC. Some swastikas have been found carved on mammoth tusks!
Invariably in modern history it is its mythic association of the swastika to certain political imbeciles which troubles many people, but this needs to be set into a much more ancient historical context. The symbol ostensibly relates to sacred notions of the cosmos in all the non-literate cultures where it appears. Numerous surveys by comparative religious scholars isolated the nature of the design many years ago. The Leeds Buddhist, Steve Hart, said that Ilkley’s Swastika Stone:
“to a Buddhist should be a sonorous gatha (a sutra or verse), a plenitude of transcendental boddhisattvic vision. The swirling wheel of the four arms suggests the four realms as experienced by Jains, upanishadic sages and ancient Buddists. They ARE samsara. The samsara is resolved into the nirvana at the hub. The four realms are the human realm, god realm, hell realm and the nature realm. There are no clear delineated demarcations between these realms. All interpenetrate.”
(Images of the popularised ‘modern’ swastika – a huge misnomer – can be found on several church bells in Yorkshire, where they were used as charms to protect against lightning, following in the mythic fashion of Thor. These swastikas date from the 15th century.)
I first saw this carving when I was 10-years old and it had one helluvan effect on me! I stood and stared at it (or rather gazed, without thought…) for some length of time, knowing that I’d seen this somewhere before* and that it had some considerable importance – though about what, I knew not! The cups in the design align north-south and east-west. The northern line points directly at Simon’s Seat on the northern skyline. The eastern axis points directly at Almscliffe Crag, above which the equinox sun seems to rise from here.
For the real alignment fanatics, check out the alignment from Twelve Apostles to here: on the date of the last major lunar standstill (occurrent every 18.6 years), the moon set over the cairn at Lanshaw Lad. It wasn’t until I got home and checked the extension of this moonset line, that I realised if you follow it further along the course, you hit the Swastika Stone bang on! Though this is probably just a coincidence (we do have hundreds of cup-and-rings on these moors, so it’s bound to hit one or more of them).
In this Swastika Stone, the curious single ‘outlying’ cup-and-ring at the edge of the four spiralling arms is very probably the point from which the four-arms originated and not the other way round. In traditional cultures and early cosmogenic patterns the world over, the cosmos itself emerged from the ’round’, the singular, the point, or uroboros — and this is what this Swastika Stone appears to represent here: the cosmos emerging from the singularity, giving birth to the world and the four cardinal points. Such an element is a simple one and is found in Creation myths the world over. (For those of you who aint into using psychedelics at sites, a good overview of this idea is in Erich Neumann’s Origins & History of Consciousness [although there’s no reference to this symbol] and which should be read by anyone pretending an interest in the nature of the archaic mind. It’s a good work on the psychology of the Dreamtime.)
As some local Ilkley folk are probably aware, a copy of the Swastika Stone carving was executed in the latter-half of the 19th century, probably by a local chap called Ambrose Collins, not far from the original swastika at the edge of the woodland. Some images and a brief history of this copied swastika and associated cup-markings will be published in due course on the Rombalds Moor Project website.
A fella who used the pseudonym of ‘Pad’ suggests that the carving is only a few centuries old, and compares it to other much more recent etchings on these moors, where the erosion has been of no greater or lesser force. The suggestion has been made about other carvings on these moors and whilst I have an open mind about this, if this is the case, we would have to relate the same reasoning to countless other carving on these hills. In which case, a great deal of cup-and-ring art would have to be redesignated as medieval in nature.
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley, Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
Hadingham, Evan, Ancient Carvings in Britain, Garnstone: London 1974.
Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
Pennick, Nigel, The Swastika, Bar Hill: Cambridge 1980.
Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
Wilson, Thomas, The Swastika – The Earliest Known Symbol and its Migrations, Smithsonian: Washington 1896.
* although I’d never seen the carving before, I had of course seen its archetypal manifestation in the shapes in Nature: spiral galazies, polar rotation (I was a budding astronomer as a kid!), hair growth from the crown, petals, swirling clouds, etc, etc. The Swastika, as we know, is representative of the creative spark itself: the life-essence, emerging from the centre and manifesting itself in the four worlds, which are its emergent arms.