The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Ballygowan Rocks, Argyll and Bute, Scotland

Ballygowan Cup-and Rings (Photo Credit: Wikimedia*)

Ballygowan Cup-and Rings (Photo Credit: Wikimedia*)

Os grid reference: NR8162 9778. In Kilmartin Glen, Strathclyde region, Argyll and Bute, near to the village of Slockavullin there is a fenced-off area with an outcrop of rocks called Ballygowan Rocks, which are covered in prehistoric rock-art, dating back thousands of years to the Bronze-Age. The site is located beside a path and close to woodland about half a mile north of Tayness Cottage, Ballygowan, half a mile south-west of Slockavullin village and, to the north-west of the B8025 and A816 roads and Kilmartin burn. Ballygowan is a solitary little hamlet with no more than a few cottages. Kilmartin is one-and-a-half miles to the north-east and the town of Lochgilphead 10 miles south on the A816. This area is particularly rich in prehistoric rock-art, so you don’t have to go far before you come across rocks covered in cup-and-ring markings. It is well-worth the long trek, in the end at any rate!

The Ballygowan cup-and-ring markings are carved onto the flat face of an outcrop measuring 2.5 metres. There are said to be at least 70 small, medium and large cup-and-rings here, some having radial grooves that link up with the cups, while other enlarged cups seeming to go into the natural cracks in the rock, and many having slightly deeper rounded centres than their counterparts. One cup-marking in particular resembles a horseshoe with several rings that stop at a ‘junction’ and then go outwards from the cup itself, while larger cups (some oval-shaped) go off into the naturaly-formed cracks in the rock’s surface; also there are ‘radial’ grooves or gulleys which link-up with other cups-and-rings. This type of rock-art is said to date from the Bronze-Age, around 2,500 BC.

But why were these strange cup-markings and other patterns designed like this, and for what reason were they carved? Were they used for aligning the stars and constellations, or perhaps the setting of the moon. Maybe they were to ‘align’ features on the horizon, such as hills, mountains and valleys? Maybe we will never know for certain, we can only guess. But they must have mean’t something to our ancient ancestors as they wouldn’t have spent so much time carving these strange shapes.

There are other cup-marked rocks in Kilmartin Glen at Achnabreck, Cairnbaan, Kilmichael Glassary and, further to the north at Buluachraig, all well-worth visiting.

Sources:

Darvil, Timothy., Glovebox Guide – Ancient Britain, The Publishing Division Of The Automobile Association (AA), Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.

Canmore Site No: NR89NW 99 & ID 76384 http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/76384/textcontribution/ballygowan/

*Photo Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ballygowan_Cup_And_Ring_Marks_20120414_detail.jpg

The Megalithic Portal: http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1863884826


The Oakwood Stone, St John Lee, Northumbria

OS grid reference: NY9361 6582. The Oakwood Stone is a prehistoric lump of stone that has cup-and-ring markings. It can be found inside the church of St John in the hamlet of St John Lee at Acomb on the north side of the A69, 1 mile north of Hexham. It is a stone of great antiquity that dates back to the Neolithic Age some 2,000-4,000 years BC, and what a very nice bit of rock-art it is.  Also, the early 19th century church houses a Roman altar. The present day church is dedicated to St John of Beverley, a hermit who became bishop of Hexham and, later York, and stands on the site of several previous churches – the first was built back in the 10th century AD. St John founded a Saxon monastery on the site of the church in the late 7th century AD. The ruins of St John’s hermitage and oratory stand at the bank of the church.

English: Cup and ring stone in St John Lee church

The Oakwood Stone in St John Lee church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 1 foot high lump of stone just inside the baptistry door is curved at the top and rounded at the edges, but the bottom part is obviously broken away and missing, so could there have been a few more cup-and-ring carvings? It was accidently ploughed-up from a field beside a clump of trees at Oakwood farm on the Oakwood road just north of St John Lee. Historians believe that it once formed part of a capstone or grave cover from a burial cairn (cist) that stood on a ridge of land; there are other ancient mounds and cairns in the same area. There are five cup-and-ring carvings, four of these are small, but the fifth is much larger and has five concentric rings. It is thought to date from the Neolithic period or the beginning of the Bronze-Age, perhaps? So that could make the stone upto 6,000 years old.

Also in the church at the right-hand side of the baptistry door there is a Roman altar stone that has been used as a font for Christian baptisms. The altar may have come from a Roman fort beside Hadrians Wall, a few miles to the north.

The Oakwood Stone, St John Lee, Northumbria