England's Rock Art
August 6, 2008 9:45 PM   Subscribe

England's Rock Art. "Amongst the outcrops and boulders of northern England keen eyes may spot an array of mysterious symbols carved into the rock surfaces. These curious marks vary from simple, circular hollows known as 'cups' to more complex patterns with cups, rings, and intertwining grooves. Many are in spectacular, elevated locations with extensive views but some are also found on monuments such as standing stones and stone circles, or within burial mounds. The carvings were made by Neolithic and Early Bronze Age people between 3500 and 6000 years ago." [Via Life in the Fast Lane]
posted by homunculus (17 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Tattooing the skin of the Earth
posted by stbalbach at 9:57 PM on August 6, 2008

Southeast Alaskan petroglyphs
posted by D.C. at 10:00 PM on August 6, 2008

Similar rock carvings or petroglyphs in the American southwest.
posted by netbros at 10:09 PM on August 6, 2008

Read it as 'England's Art Rock' and came in expecting some Roxy music or something...

On a more relevant note: here
posted by shoebox at 11:16 PM on August 6, 2008

Tattooing the skin of the Earth

As long as we're talking body mods, Gaia would have ears like this, no?
posted by homunculus at 11:42 PM on August 6, 2008

yeah, those are probably for blood.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:24 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bloody vandals!
posted by asok at 3:22 AM on August 7, 2008

Tattooing the skin of the Earth

On a related note (on the other side of the earth), scarification of Aboriginal peoples matches rock art. Wish the Discovery article went into more depth, but the concept is very interesting to me. I wonder if the neolithic inhabitants of England practiced a similar custom through tattoo or scarification.

posted by Heretic at 4:42 AM on August 7, 2008

crap. italics off. more coffee.
posted by Heretic at 4:43 AM on August 7, 2008

thanks for this, homunculus - my sweetie & I spent a few weeks one summer wandering from Avebury to Inverness looking for carvings just such as these & we had an amazing time - it's fantastic to see that more have been discovered

there's quite alot of them, along with a great number of tombs & megaliths in Kilmartin Valley, Scotland
posted by jammy at 4:55 AM on August 7, 2008

It's frustrating to bind this art with moden geographic bounds. This type of art is found all along the Atlantic edge of Europe. Restricting it by modern political constructs does not help understanding it.

Most of the examples in England are isolated and difficult to really interpret. There are a few significant collections. Often called 'ritual landscapes' (ie we know they mean something but dont know what) the best examples are, as Jammy said, at Kilmartin but also at knowth in Ireland.

I found Knowth fascinating; the art can be seen in context. Different symbols/shapes are put in different positions (sunrise/sunset, in/out, start/finish etc) and you really get the impression that there is much more to it than just pretty shapes.

It is a very intriguing time in history; people were just starting to take control of the world around them, to try to create sustainable patterns (fields, crops, houses, boundaries) and to work out how to live together in a settlement. The first evidence of settlements show the rise of massive defenses, but then, quite suddenly in the record, these disappear and 'religous' artefacts start to appear; stone circles, ritual landscapes etc. This does seem to be more prevalent in Northern Europe; because of the long times spent inside waiting for the rain to stop/the night to end possibly?

The symbolism and meaning behind this art is not simple, and is not trivial. I've been interested in this period of history and these artefacts for a long time and what strikes me is the language used here, and the subtle and numerous meanings which this art has. The closest analogy I've seen to it would be Buddhist mandalas where there is no single interpretation but the meaning carried by the art can go to the profoundest levels.
posted by BadMiker at 5:47 AM on August 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


[I mean, archeological material without some crazy pseudoscientist claiming alien influence it's boring]
posted by darkripper at 6:11 AM on August 7, 2008

Truly awesome post.
posted by hecho de la basura at 6:56 AM on August 7, 2008

The first evidence of settlements show the rise of massive defenses

Really just depends on if the 'raging barbarians' option is checked or not...
posted by wfrgms at 7:31 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

C'mon people: it's obvious to anyone with eyes that those are primitive UFO landing pads.
posted by ornate insect at 8:06 AM on August 7, 2008

No one knows who they were, or what they were doing.
posted by Flashman at 9:14 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Something to do with dolphins wasn't it? Using crystals?
posted by BadMiker at 4:42 PM on August 7, 2008

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