Saturday, 23 May 2015

Let there be Rock .. Art! - Northumberland and the briefest of archaeological adventures.

"One night in a club called the shakin' hand
There was a forty-two decibel rockin' band
And the music was good and the music was loud
And the singer turned and he said to the crowd
Let there be rock'

Let There Be Rock, (1977) Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott

Not just a dirty trick to get a cheap rock reference into a blog post about Neolithic Rock Art .. this was the song spiralling in my head, as we climbed the short ascent towards the Lordenshaw Iron Age hill fort; excited at the thought of exploring the cup and ring marked sandstone boulders that can be found on the slopes around and beneath it.

Contrary to our usual preparedness on such days, we lacked an O/S map for this particular area; thus relying on mobile technology we exploited the information provided by the Rock Art Mobile Project [RAMP] which can be found at: Rock Art on Mobile Phones and the more than useful QR codes attached to the way-markers on site, from which we downloaded specific directions for each of the three primary stones of interest: the Main Stone, Horseshoe Rock and Channel Rock.

 These rocks contain a mosaic of hand-carved motifs, of cups, rings and grooves.

Main Stone
Main Stone - detail
Main Stone - detail

carved stone - south of Main Stone

The Horseshoe Rock is so named because of the curved horseshoe lozenge which contains within its central space numerous cup holes. Tracing of spirals and grooves also occur on this rock.

Horseshoe Rock

Horseshoe Rock - detail

Horseshoe Rock - detail

Horseshoe Rock - detail

The largest rock the Channel Rock being spectacular in the depth and length of the central carved groove which flows downslope from a close series of rings at the top edge of the stone.

Channel Rock - from above

Channel Rock - from below

Channel Rock - detail

Carved rock Or natural water weathering?

Carved rock - faint cups and associated  carved Or natural water channels?

There are over a 100 carved rocks at Lordenshaw ( 2011), which are dated between the early to late Neolithic period some of the stones incorporated into or associated with later Bronze Age burial cairns (Frodsham, P. 2006).

Lordenshaw rock art sits within a close knit and wider archaeological landscape incorporating the Bronze Age cairns, Iron Age hillfort (occupied later with Romano-British settlement), and the remnants of a medieval Deer Park wall (Rock Art on Mobile Phones).

The richness of the archaeology was more than matched by the soundscape of moorland birds, competing for our attention, as we explored the rocks. Serenaded by multiples of competing skylark (Alauda arvensis) in full song, and the constant shrilling "chip-chip", "chip-chip", "chip-chip" of parachuting meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis). Overlooking the moorland of Garleigh Hill we enjoyed the bubbling song of curlew, as they flew between the valley and the hilltop, whilst buzzard (Buteo buteo) and kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) hunted above them.

A distant cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), called it's own name in the woodland to the south, the first of our year and long overdue. Heading back downhill towards the car park, we disturbed a young hare (Lepus europaeus), which promptly disappeared to ground only metres away from us? The briefest of hare searches called off as a red grouse (Lagopus lagopus) croaked on Simonside, and we headed across the road and uphill to find the bird itself. With our eye eventually in, we managed to find three red grouse, within a short distance of each other, along with a smart male wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) it's white arse flashing in sharp contrast to the moorland heather.

Red grouse - record shot only (cropped)


Bradshaw Foundation (2011), (Online), Lordenshaw, Rock Art, Northumberland Found at:

Frodsham, P. (2006), In the Valley of the Sacred Mountain, An Introduction to Prehistoric Coquetdale 100 Years after David Dippie Dixon, Northern Heritage Publishing, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Rock Art on Mobile Phones (Online), Lordenshaw, Found at:

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