5,000 Year old Rock Carving Uncovered in Scotland
An ancient rock carving showing strange dice-like objects has been uncovered on a mountain bike trail near the small town of Lochgilphead in western Scotland.
The rock carving, is believed to be 5,000 years old, putting it in the late Neolithic Stone Age although some observers have suggested it could be a little younger perhaps dating from the early Bronze Age. For years, the rock art has remained hidden and protected from the elements by a huge tree in the Forestry Commission Scotland’s Achnabreac Forest, however, winter gales blew the tree down in January and a routine inspection by Forestry Commission staff led to the discovery.
The rock sits high above the mouth of Kilmartin Glen and directly overlooks the rock art previously discovered at nearby Cairnbaan. Its close location to the other rock art sites, visual relationship with both sites, and the similar complexity of design suggests all three sites are connected, although experts remain puzzled as to what these symbols mean.
Andy Buntin, Planning Operations forester with Forestry Commission Scotland in west Argyll, said: “It seems this time the damage and disruption caused by the gales has uncovered something good”.
The significance of these sites to the Neolithic people of Scotland is a topic of speculation. During this period sedentary farming practices had been established in the area and the development of hardened, polished stone axes had led to clearing of land for settlement and to establish grazing for domesticated livestock. Perhaps the carvings, represent boundaries between grazing areas, rights of ownership on grazing or point out nearby water sources or good hunting grounds. Many tribal cultures use signs on local landmarks to communicate with other tribes, demonstrate boundaries and provide helpful messages to visitors to the area. For example, some tribes of native American Indians used to carve symbols into large trees or stake skins to the bark to indicate what type of animals could be hunted in the area – a sort of helpful guide to passers by as to what might be on the menu.
The rock is very close to the popular Fire Tower mountain bike trail, the Forestry Commission will re-route part of the trail to ensure the carving is protected and will open up access for people to view the rock.
This part of Scotland would have made an ideal area for a Neolithic settlement, the river Add and the many small lochs would have provided a water source and the opportunity to fish, there was plenty of wood for fuel and to provide cover for hunting and the nearby coast would have enabled the locals to beach-comb in search of shellfish. Although the area is fairly rugged it is sheltered to some extent from the worst of the Atlantic storms by the nearby island of Jura.
The people of the Neolithic were also the builders of the stone circles, the henges and burial Cairns that pepper the landscape of this part of northern Britain. The exact nature or purpose of these monuments is still unknown, but many of them can be explored and it is amazing to re-trace the steps taken by some of the first settlers of Scotland.