Jennifer Roberts has kindly submitted this item describing the experiences of the Kirkcudbright Rock Art Group.
The term rock art refers to marks and symbols that have been engraved or painted onto natural rock surfaces. In the UK engravings on rocks generally occur in the North of England and Scotland. One third of all known prehistoric rock art in the UK is found in Scotland. Almost all prehistoric carvings in Scotland are ‘abstract’ symbols, or motifs. The area around Kirkcudbright has a large concentration of prehistoric carvings. These motifs do not represent anything recognisable to us, consequently they are known as abstract rock art.
In September last year Dr Joana Valdez-Tullett gave a talk to the K.H.S. about the Scottish Rock Art Project (ScRAP) The website can be found at www.rockart.scot This is an informative website with an associated database that has been recently set up to record all the rock art sites in Scotland. The area around Kirkcudbright has hundreds of such sites. Rock art has been a sadly neglected area of academic research in the UK. Until recently the majority of sites had been recorded by dedicated and knowledgeable amateurs. In the Kirkcudbright area sites were recorded mainly by F.R.Coles in the nineteenth century and by Ronald Morris and Maarten van Hoek in the twentieth, and as such are recorded on Canmore, the database for Historic Environment Scotland. Many of these sites had been recorded in a detailed and careful way, but as there was no common recording method or a recognised way for doing this the records are not suitable for inputting on a database. ScRAP hoped to rectify this and provide a database that would have the information recorded in such a way that it was useful for research. To this end ScRAP have devised a generic way to record the sites. Each site in Scotland would be recorded systematically with a common written and photographic record. The photographic record will include a 3D image using photogrammetry. ScRAP also hopes to find and record new sites.
Although similar carvings occur throughout the Scotland, the north of England and Western Europe no one knows why these intriguing carvings were made, although there are many theories, some more outlandish than others. It is not known for certain when they were carved, although it is thought that most in the Kirkcudbright area, with the exception of those Trusty’s Hill, date from the Neolithic to Early Bronze Age, so are between 6000 and 4000 years old. By far the most common type of carved symbol is the cupmark – a roughly circular hollow in the rock surface. Cupmarks are often surrounded by one or more concentric rings, and these motifs are known as cup and ring markings. Also common in this area are carved linear motifs, or grooves. There are also a wide range of variations on these simple motifs, such as rosettes (a circle of cupmarks surrounded by a ring), or pennanulars (a central cupmark surrounded by one or more incomplete rings). In some of the motifs it is possible to see tool marks, known as peck marks
Many of the carvings in this area are in situ, but some have been reused in buildings and in dykes. Some are also visible on the megaliths of Cairn Holy.