The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Ayres Rock, Northern Territory, Australia

Ayres Rock, Australia

Ayres Rock, Australia

Latitude: 25.344683. Longitude: 130.037370. Ayres Rock is a ‘world famous’ natural rock formation (which includes Kata Tjuta) in the Australian outback – the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia, some 208 miles (in a straight line) south of Alice Springs, by road it is more like 280 miles! This sacred sandstone rock is located close to State Route highway 4 (Lesseter Highway) but more often called Uluru Road, a few miles south-east of Yulara.

The Aboriginal people of Australia regard Ayres rock, also called Uluru, as a sacred place. There are many deep springs and watering holes (billabongs) located on and around the rock that are known to have sacred healing qualities, and there are caves with rock-art. Ayres Rock Campground and Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre at Yulara are in a rocky area to the north, spread out over several miles, just east of State Route 4 in The Kata Tjuta National Park. Ayres Rock is now a World Heritage Site. The 19th century explorer Sir William Gosse named the great rock after Sir Henry Ayres, premier of South Australia.

At an elevation of 2,830 feet, 860 metres above sea level, a height of 1,142 feet (348 metres) and a length of 3.6 km (2.2 miles) Ayres Rock monolith is a massive natural rock formation that can be seen a very long way away, sixty miles or more due to the terrain of the Northern Territory. It is ‘said’ to be upto 450 million years old, with a circumference of 9.4km (over 5 miles) and estimated to be 6kms below ground level.

The make-up of the rock, geologically speaking, is very interesting in that it is made of reddish ‘arkose’ sandstone, although seperately Kata (the Olgas) is a conglomerate mix of small stones and boulders fused together with mud etc. Uluru is distinctly reddish at certain times of the day due to the high iron, red oxide content of the rock, but at other times it is grey. The rock also has a rich feldspar content whic adds to the rock’s distinctly reddish hue, although the colours change at different times of the day. Over millions of years there has been much erosion due to weathering and it is ‘this’ that has caused the strange formations of gulleys, ridges and furrows that we see today. The rock is virtually bare with no vegitation whatsoever.

Uluru (Helicopter View) Photo Copyright: Wikipedia

Uluru (Helicopter View) Photo Copyright: Wikipedia

There are many deep honeycomb hollows and, also a number of deep caves in Ayres Rock which have been made over millions of years, especially near the base where some contain fantastic rock paintings made by the ancestors of today’s Aboriginal people, namely the Yankunytjatjara (carpet-snake people) and the Pitjantjatjara (hair-wallaby people) who lived in what was at that time called the ‘Dreamtime’ (Tjukurpa); their paintings depicting scenes from life. These pictographs and paintings are “…..Mute testimony to primitive man’s reverence to Ayres Rock, these archaeological relics add to the majestic beauty of the colossus of the Australian outback” according to the ‘Book of Natural Wonders,’ 1980. And there are, apparently, many sacred springs that seep out from deep in the rock’s surface; these are sacred springs to which the powers of healing have been attributed, and around the great rock there are watering holes (billabongs) for the thirsty – man or beast – for this place is a very hot, unrelenting desert. Water being a matter of ‘life and death.’

The book ‘Strange Worlds Amazing Places,’ 1994, informs us that: ….“As the sun spreads its dawn rays across the sky, Uluru begin to lighten. Shifting from black to deep mauve, the giant monolith gradually becomes more distinct. When the first rays of the sun strike, the stone burtsts into a riot of reds and pinks that chase each other across the surface with startling speed. Shadows flee the hollows until the whole rock is bathed in desert daylight. The colour changes continue throughout the day, and by evening have run the spectrum from golden and pinky reds through ruby to crimson red and purples.”


Book of Natural Wonders, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc, New York & Montreal, 1980.

Strange Worlds Amazing Places, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London W1, 1994.


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Drumtroddan Carved Rocks, Port William, Dumfries And Galloway, Scotland

Drumtroddan Cup and Ring Marked Rocks (Photo credit: Roger W. Haworth - Geograph)

Drumtroddan Cup and Ring Marked Rocks. Photo credit: Roger W. Haworth (Geograph)

Os grid reference: NX3626 4474. Some 2 miles to the north-east of Port William, Dumfries and Galloway, are three outcrops of rocks known as Drumtroddan Carved Rocks, that are said to have been carved in the Bronze-Age. These prehistoric carvings are located 200 metres south of Drumtroddan farm to the east of the B7085. White Loch of Myrton is just to the south; one of the carved rocks is located in a wooden area close by. And a further 400 metres south-east of Drumtrodden rock carvings there’s an alignment of three prehistoric stones, one of which lies on the ground. The town of Whithorn is 6 miles east on the B7021 and Glenluce is 12 miles west on the A747.

There are said to be between 80-90 well-defined cup-and-ring carvings spread out on the three natural rock faces, the majority being tiny or small, well-prounounced cups with medium and larger concentric rings, with some linear lines (grooves) linking one to another; and there are spiral deigns and other curious (unknown) symbols. The cups have either two, three, five or six rings. Although simple in their design, these carvings are very ingenious. But some might see the carvings as graffiti, or scriblings, though they were, in fact, very carefully and accurately carved at the time – some 4,000 years ago. They remind us, perhaps, of when a stone is dropped into a pool of still water and then we get the ripple effect with circles getting bigger as they move outwards. Another rock with cups-and-rings can be seen 1.4km to the east at Gr NX3776 4438.

The authors Janet and Colin Bord in their book Mysterious Britain,1984, look to the author John Foster Forbes writing in 1939 with regard to Drumtroddan. He believed that “There is an affinity between these cups and the nature of the stars. A star is a generator and transmitter of Cosmic Energy in spiral form. These cups could be used as micro-cosmic examples of spiral-staral energies.”

400 metres to the east (Gr NX3645 4429) an alignment of three stones (fenced off), two are up-right but one, the central stone, has  fallen down. These stones were probably placed here at an earlier date than the rock carvings, but no doubt they are in some way connected. The two standing stones are around 10 foot high and there is a space of 40 feet between each stone. It is thought that a fourth stone stood on the alignment which is orientated NE to SW. The south-west stone now leans at an angle out of true vertical.


Photo copyright: Roger W. Haworth (Geograph). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Bord, Janet & Colin., Mysterious Britain, Paladin (Granada Publishing Ltd), London W1, 1984.

Ancient Monuments – Scotland – Illustrated Guide, Vol VI, H.M.S.O, Edinburgh, 1959.

The Map Stone, Fylingdales Moor, North Yorkshire

The Map Stone (Copyright English Heritage)

The Map Stone (Copyright English Heritage)

OS grid reference approx NZ 935 010. In the late summer of 2003 during the the devastating fires that destroyed up to two-and-a-half kilometers of Fylingdales Moor to the south-west of Ravesnscar, north Yorkshire Moors, a round-shaped flat piece of stone was uncovered by archaeologists from English Heritage bearing strange shapes and lines. This stone has been referred to as The Map Stone or The Fire Stone for obvious reasons. Today a cast of this curious stone can be seen in Whitby Museum. The actual site of the find is ‘protected’ and now covered over again with heather and grass, but it is ‘roughly’ just north of the A171 near Flask Inn which is 6 miles north-west of Ravenscar. [Please keep to the designated footpaths across the moor]. At the time of the moorland excavations many other artefacts were uncovered including a smaller stone that has tiny hollows or cup-marks carved onto it.

The carved stone with its strange map-like patterns, zig-zags or chevrons and linear lines is now considered to date back to the Neolithic period some 4,000-5,000 years ago, according to English Heritage archaeologists, though some historians place it in the Bronze-Age? It was found underneath the burnt heather and turf set within a low ring of boulders forming a cairn, and next to it was a smaller piece of stone with cup-marks. The thinking at the time was that the stone, which was originally larger, was a sort of map of the area showing tribal settlements, mountains and other features, but it is now thought by archaeologists to be a funery grave-cover with depictions of the after-life. The stones were recorded and photographed in situ and then the turf and heather re-laid to protect the artefacts from further erosion. In all some 2,400 artefacts and other sites were found exposed in the area of devastation (up from a previously-known 150) – ranging from Mesolithic flints, 185 carved stones, ancient trackways, watercourses from the local alum industry, to slit trenches from World War II.


Fletcher, Terry., Dalesman, February 2005 Volume 66 No 11, Dalesman Publishing, Skipton, North Yorkshire.

Click on the link



Roughting Linn, Bar Moor, Ford, Northumberland

Roughting Linn Cup-Marked Rocks, Northumberland (photo credit: Ronald Sheridan).

Roughting Linn Cup-Marked Rocks, Northumberland (photo credit: Ronald Sheridan).

Os grid Reference TN 9839 3672. About 2 miles east of the village of Ford is the prehistoric, sacred site of Roughting Linn or Rowtin Linn, on Bar Moor, where there are many cup-and-ring markings or petroglyphs on a long, sloping slab of fell sandstone beside a quarry that was in use pre 1950. The site can reached to the north of the B6525, beside a lane between Milfield and Lowton near Roughting Linn farm. Walk a short distance into Linn woods where there is a waterfall on the Broomridgean Burn and also an Iron-Age hillfort (the rock carvings lay at the east-side of the hillfort). The coastal town of Berwick-on-Tweed lies 12 miles to the north-east and the town of Coldstream is 13 miles to the west.

The long, domed-shaped slab of light grey sandstone forming the rocky outcrop with some very impressive rock-art is approx 20 metres in length and, thankfully the rock carvings have not been much disturbed by the adjacent quarrying. These prehistoric carvings are “thought” to date back over 4,000 years to the Neolithic to Early Bronze-Age periods. Luckily recent quarrywork activity has not caused too much damage to the cup-and-ring marked rock, apart from the western section, and the site remains the best known in the county of Northumberland and is the largest carved rock in northern England. There are “said” to be 160  or so rock carvings ranging from ordinary single cups, cups-and-rings with well-defined grooves, linked grooves, radiating lines, inverted arcs, maze-like carvings and keyhole-type motifs all spread out across this huge, long slab of fell sandstone that at first sight has the look of limestone – but it is not!

Counting the carvings is difficult, but there are apparently 60 or more lesser-known ones (ordinary cup-marks) and 100 or so carvings that are much more interesting and more stunning to the eye. Many of the cup-and-rings are similar to rosette patterns with a small hollow in the middle and concentric rings running around that, and other carvings that are often seen on mazes. We don’t know what the radiating lines were for but maybe they were a way of connecting up each carving, or as a pointer system for directional usage, like the solar system with stars in alignment, which the ancient people would have known about at the time. The place was probably associated with spirituality, birth, death, magic and ritual. And there was undoubtedly a prehistoric community of beaker people living here that saw the rock and its growing number of carvings as very sacred.

The site was first discovered back in 1852 by Canon William Greenwell who wrote about the carvings in two pamphlets for the Archaeological Institute at Newcastle, but unfortunately these were never published. Then later in 1865 Mr George Tate did the first drawings of the site. There are two more cup-and-ring marked rocks about 1 mile to the west just below Goatscrag Hill.

Just beside the rock carvings stands an Iron-Age promontory fort with some very impressive ramparts at the south-eastern side, and there are the ditches of an ancient enclosure between the fort and the rock outcrop. But what connection this fort has to the rock-art we do not know. Maybe the Neolithic beaker community and, later Bronze-Age settlement were taken over by Iron-Age people who strengthened and built-up the place for their own security, but they too would have been well aware of the sacredness of the place, just as we are today!


Bord, Janet & Colin., Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books, 1991.

Greenwell, William Revd., On the rock carvings at Roughtin Linn (un-published pamphlets 2 vols), The Archaeological Institute of Newcastle, 1852.

Click on the following link:

Newbery, Elizabeth & Fecher, Sarah., Ford And Etal – A companion guide, Ford and Etal Estate, Ford, Berwick-on-Tweed, 1995.

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Copt Howe, Great Langdale, Cumbria

OS grid reference: NY 3140 0583. Copt Howe is 1 mile north-west of Chapel Stile village on the B5343 Langdale fell road and 250 metres south of Harry Place farm. The town of Ambleside is 4 miles to the east. Close to the road and opposite Langdale beck, a huge glacial erratic boulder has cup-markings and other forms of rock-art carved onto it that could well date back to the Early Neolithic age. The large rock is quite accessible from a footpath and stile beside the main road. There are other boulders close by that have cup-markings, but whether these were more recently carved, is open to conjecture. But for certain those on the large boulder are made by the hands of prehistoric people.

Copt Howe boulders

Copt Howe boulders (Photo credit: Je_roen_D)

The large glacial boulder has a smooth, flat surface that displays numerous rock carvings near it’s base. There are some tiny cup-markings, but also concentric circles, strange half-moon shapes, strong lines and very thin lines going off in different directions, at least 11 larger cups with many rings, triple grooves and what could be a chevron-like symbol. One cup marking, in particular, has at least 11 rings around it and lines going off from it in a strange sort of way and terminating suddenly further down the rock face. These prehistoric carvings are said to date from the Early Neolithic age upto 6,000 years ago. They could, in fact, represent a sort of Stone Age map of the Langdale fells, the stone itself sited at a strategic point on the approach to where the rock-outcrops and crags can be visibly seen on the horizon; something akin to ley-lines, perhaps. Nearby there is the site of the Langdale axe factory where there have been some superb finds.

However, some sceptics think the carvings were done in the Victorian age. True, possibly some of the cup-marks on other boulders, may have been carved in recent times by some copy-cat or hoaxer, but the carvings on the large glacial boulder were almost certainly done by the hands of Neolithic people, rather like some of us draw graffiti on walls. They were leaving their mark as it were. Other rock carvings may well lie still undetected on the rocks around the Copt Howe area – just waiting for some intrepid rock-art enthusiast to come along and find them.


Rivington Cup-Marked Stone, Anderton, Lancashire

Rivington Cup-Marked Stone (Photo courtesy of Simon Mortimer)

Rivington Cup-Marked Stone (Photo courtesy of Simon Mortimer)

OS grid reference: SD 6153 1400. The small cup-marked boulder used to stand in a rock garden in the carpark of Anderton Hall Lodge on New Road just to the east of the village of Anderton, about halfway between the M61 motorway and Rivington reservoir. It had stood forlornly in front of a modern-day standing stone and a collection of non-discript rocks, and could have almost been overlooked. But the little boulder displays prehistoric cups and cup-and-ring markings, dating back thousands of years. Anderton village is a tiny suburb of Adlington, 1 mile to the west, while the town/city of Bolton is 5 miles to the north-west. The stone has recently been taken to the Anderton Leisure Centre further along New Road, close to the shores of Rivington Reservoir, I am now reliably informed.

Rivington Cup-Marked Stone, Lancashire (photo credit Mary Chester-Kadwell)

The small cup-marked boulder was found in the bank of Rivinton Lower Reservoir in 1999 when the water level was quite low; it seems that it had been used in the actual building of the reservoir back in 1850, but no one had noticed the significance of it at the time. It is said to date from the Neolithic age 2,000-3,000 BC. There are 14 tiny cup-marks and 1 larger cup-and-ring that forms an almost perfect curve, though now rather worn. The small boulder is roughly 1 foot 7 inches high and 2 foot 7 inches in length.

But one must ask the question, what is it doing in the the Anderton Leisure Centre – why is it not in a museum where it can be properly protected and examined by specialists in the field of rock art. Really this ancient carved stone should be in the Bolton Museum. But, it seems this very fine prehistoric artefact has been forgotten or, perhaps, just ignored. For the time being it looks as if it will have to remain where it is inside the local leisure centre!

[Thanks to my good friend Simon Mortimer for the excellent photo).