Scottish Rock Art Project

Please note, this proposed project is not being run by the Hidden Heritage team, but we fully support it. If it gets funded (which is very likely), we have no doubt that it'll not only be hugely enjoyable and superbly run, but will also provide some very valuable information and resources regarding Scotland's rock art heritage :) We highly recommend getting involved if you have any interest in this aspect of Scottish Prehistory!

A new project is being developed which will work with local communities to record and research prehistoric rock art in Scotland. The project team would very much like to hear your thoughts on this. The team (c/o Tertia Barnett, see below) is consulting with local people across Scotland to find out whether they might be interested in being involved in the project, and the sort of things they might like to do. You may already be working on a rock art-related project, in which case the team would like to hear about your work. If you think you might be interested in participating, or would like to tell us about your own project, please read the information below, and then complete the short questionnaire using this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9M3M2RF. Your answers will be invaluable in helping us develop the project.

The project will be hosted by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) in partnership with the Glasgow School of Art Digital Design Studio, Edinburgh University School of History, Classics and Archaeology, and Archaeology Scotland. The project will depend on funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). If our funding application is successful, the project should start in late 2016.

What is Scottish rock art?

The term ‘rock art’ is used to describe images that have been painted or engraved onto natural rock surfaces. Rock art was made in many parts of the world from around 40,000 years ago, creating a fascinating glimpse into the beliefs, values and behaviour of people in the past. In Britain, there are many thousands of carved rock art sites dating back to the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (c.4000-1800 BC). We know very little about them, however, and they remain one of our most enigmatic and poorly understood types of prehistoric monument.

Over 6,000 prehistoric carved rocks are known in Britain as a whole, with around 2,400 of these in Scotland, and new discoveries are being made all the time. The rock art is based on simple carved shapes known as ‘cup marks’ and ‘cup and ring marks’. Cup marks are circular depressions, usually made by hitting the rock surface with a stone tool. Some cup marks are surrounded by one or more concentric rings, and some have lines or grooves extending from them. Many rock surfaces are covered with multiple carvings based on different combinations of these simple shapes, and each carved rock surface is unique. You can find more information and photographs of rock art on the England’s Rock Art website: http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/era/  

What will the project do?

The project will explore what was significant about the rock art in the past, and what is significant about it to us today. We will do this by working with local communities to create standardised records of carved rocks across Scotland, and then comparing and analysing records from different regions and different locations. We will also work with project participants to investigate what you find interesting about the rock art, and what it means to you.  

Who can be involved?

Everyone and anyone with an interest in rock art or the historic landscape can be involved! There are many different ways in which you could participate, such as archival research, fieldwork to locate and record known sites or look for new sites, photography and 3D photography (photogrammetry), analysis of the records, stone carving workshops to make replica rock art, discussions on what rock art means to you, and get-togethers to share results and ideas. You can do as much or as little as you want, depending on your interests. The project team will provide expert training, guidance and support, so no previous experience is necessary.

What happens next?

At the moment we are exploring the level of interest in the project, and the ways in which you might like to be involved if the project goes ahead. We have put together a short questionnaire and would be very grateful if you could use this to give us your feedback. The questionnaire can be answered online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9M3M2RF.  

The information you give us will be confidential, and will not commit you to anything. We will recruit participants from across Scotland once the project has started. If you would prefer us not to contact you at that stage, please note this in the relevant section of the questionnaire. The progress of the project will be updated on the HES website.

And finally...

It would really help us if you could complete the questionnaire by 20 June 2015. Please pass this information to anyone you think might be interested.

Thank you for your time!

Dr. Tertia Barnett


For further information, please contact Dr Tertia Barnett: Tertia.Barnett@ed.ac.uk

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