Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cup and Ring Mark; A Prehistoric Art

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The term Cup and ring mark or carvings are a range of rock carved symbols, which have been considered as a prehistoric art that have been found mainly in northern England and Scotland though similar types of these carvings have also been found in other locations all across the world.

The carvings in Britain are estimated to be around 4000 to 5000 years old dating them back to the Neolithic and the Bronze era.

Cup and Ring Mark 2
The best known examples are at Balnachraig – Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, Beauly near Iverness and Dalgarven Mill near Kilwinning. Cups and ring marks had been sculpted in local stone slabs some of which were quite basic with primitive decorations while others were made with great precision and style.

Most of them have concentric rings like ripples on water. Some examples are of portable rock art where cup and rings marks have been carved on huge stones which are movable.

The carvings generally occur as circular hollows which are cut into rock surfaces like cup marks and these are either single or in groups. The cup mark is surrounded by a circular channel like cup and ring mark and these too appear as single or multiple rings. There are also complex designs which involve cups, cups and rings together with grooved channels which are linked or enclosed parts of the design.

Cup and Ring Mark Symbols Pecked on Surface with Pointed Tools

Cup and Ring Mark 3
These descriptions cover most of Britain’s rock carving though other types of motifs also exist like the spiral channels, cups in rosette patterns, ladder, chevron channels, grid and comb like motifs.

On close observation of un-eroded carvings, it shows that the symbols were pecked on the surface of the rock with the use of a pointed tool of around 0.5 cm in diameter with the possible use of a metal, flint and deer antler, as tools materials.

Archaeologists have carved a new cup and ring which has been created with the use of a deer antler pick where the stone has now been put on display in the Manor House museum, Ilkley, West Yorkshire and the modern carving also portrays how the symbols would stand out against the darker rock surface when they were first carved.

The Meaning and Purpose of Cup and Ring Mark Symbols – A Mystery

Cup and Ring Mark 4
Presently the meaning and purpose behind the symbols is not known while several theories have been suggested though no valid reasoning has emerged.

Most of the rock carvings are placed close by or incorporated in cairns and burial mounds indicating that the symbols in some way could be connected with burial practices and possible beliefs with regards to ancestors and an afterlife.

Cup and Ring Mark 5

Moreover, the symbols were also found carved on standing stone as well as at stone circles presuming that these places could have been used for religious as well as ritual purposes during that time.

Carvings also occurred on outcrop rock where site seems to have been chosen for a specific purpose to give an interrupted view over the surrounding area.

Many people have made attempts to comprehend the symbolism of these cups and ring marks and speculate about its original significance.

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