Cup and ring mark

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Cup and ring marks or cup marks are a form of prehistoric art found mainly in Atlantic Europe (Northern England, Scotland,[1] Ireland, Brittany, Portugal and Galicia (North West Spain)[2]) and Mediterranean Europe (North West Italy, Thessalia Central Greece, Switzerland) although similar forms are also found throughout the world including Mexico, Brazil, Greece, Israel, and India's Daraki-Chattan.[3]

They consist of a concave depression, no more than a few centimetres across, pecked into a rock surface and often surrounded by concentric circles also etched into the stone. Sometimes a linear channel called a gutter leads out from the middle.

The decoration occurs as a petroglyph on natural boulders and outcrops and also as an element of megalithic art on purposely worked megaliths such as the slab cists of the Food Vessel culture, some stone circles and passage graves such as the clava tombs and on the capstones at Newgrange.

India[edit]

A replica of an unusual cup-and-ring-marked stone from Dalgarven, North Ayrshire, Scotland.
Typical cup and ring marks at Weetwood Moor, in the English county of Northumberland (Google Maps)
In Fennoscandia the cups are wider. Cup-marked stone of sacrifice from Hartola, Finland
Large cup and ring petroglyph at the 'Laxe das Rodas', Galicia, where hundreds of stations are known.
In Piedmont there are many cup marked stones. Pera Crevolà of Val Susa, Italy
Coppelle, Val Camonica, Italia
Deer and cup-and-ring motifs, Tourón, Ponte Caldelas, Galicia.
Cup-and-ring mark at Monte Tetón, Tomiño, the largest one in Galicia

Canaan[edit]

The site of Atlit Yam, abandoned circa 6300 BCE and now under Israel's Mediterranean Sea coast south of Haifa, features cup marks engraved into megalithic stones, some of which are set upright to form a semi-circle which has been referred to as resembling the UK's stonehenge but smaller,[4][5][6] with ceremonially buried bodies at the site, and potential alignments to the solstice, and/or to other stars, still being hypothesized as the site was only discovered in 2009 and undersea sites are difficult and expensive to explore. Further inland, dating to at least 3000 BCE (exposed) and estimated up to 4000 BCE (unexcavated layer, under the layer which is exposed), is Rujm el-Hiri, a cairn (tumulus) type of megalith, consisting of concentric circles (as cup marks also are concentric circles, but much smaller than Rogem Hiri) estimated to contain 40,000,000 kg of stones moved by humans, with an opening in the outer circle which aligns to the summer solstice (just as sites throughout Eurasia also align to solstices) and which has a burial chamber in the center, with thousands of dolmens nearby, a "dolmen" being a 3rd and younger type of megalith found elsewhere in Eurasia, the oldest of which, thus far, are found in the UK, but date only to the 3rd millenium BCE in Israel.[7][8]

The cup marks are still present in other proto-Canaanite sites as recently as the Chalcolithic Age, for example at several sites in and around modern-day Modiin dated to the forth millennium BCE[9] and the third millennium BCE,[10] and in the City of David, Old Jerusalem. Tel Gezer has more up-ended megaliths dating to only 1550 BCE which are aligned to Earth's north and south physical poles, but Tel Gezer's cupmarks have only recently been surveyed (2012) and do not appear to have been dated (as to whether they were made before, concurrent to or after the 1550 BCE megaliths) yet;[11] however, excavations at Gezer are ongoing as of 2014.[12]

Greece[edit]

Italy[edit]

Numerous cup marks have been discovered in Val Camonica (Italy) associated with rock drawings.

Many engraved blocks are visible in the north west region of Italy (Piedmont); the best known are Val Susa, La Bessa[13] and Valchiusella.[14]

Galicia (Spain)[edit]

Similar patterns are known in Galicia,[15] which has given them the name of 'Galician style'. These types, the cup-and-ring, cup-and-ring with gutter and the gapped concentric circles motifs are shared between this part of Iberia and the British Isles, manifesting, together with other cultural expressions like megaliths or Bronze Age culture, a cultural link along the coasts of Atlantic Europe.[16]

United Kingdom[edit]

Precisely dating megalithic art is difficult: even if the megalithic monument can be dated, the art may be a later addition. The Hunterheugh Crags cup and ring marks near Alnwick in Northumberland have recently been demonstrated to date back into the Early Neolithic era through their stratigraphic relationship with other, datable features. Some cup marks have been found in Iron age contexts but these may represent re-used stones.

Where they are etched onto natural, flat stone it has been observed that they seem to incorporate the natural surface of the rock. Those at Hunterheugh are mostly connected to one another by gutters that can channel rainwater from one to the next, down the sloping top of the stone. It has been suggested by archaeologist Clive Waddington that the initial Early Neolithic impetus to create the marks was forgotten and that the practice fell into abeyance until a second phase of creation continued the basic tradition but with less precision and more variability in design. The markers of this second phase moved the art from natural stones to megaliths as its symbolism was reinterpreted by Later Neolithic and Early Bronze Age people.

Their purpose is unknown although some may be connected with natural stone outcrops exploited by Neolithic peoples to make polished stone axes. A religious purpose has been suggested. Alexander Thom suggested in a BBC television documentary, Cracking the Stone Age Code, in 1970, "I have an idea, entirely nebulous at the moment, that the cup and ring markings were a method of recording, of writing, and that they may indicate, once we can read them, what a particular stone was for. We have seen the cup and ring markings on the stone at Temple Wood, and that's on the main stone but we can't interpret them ...yet."[17] He created diagrams and carried out analysis of over 50 of the cup and ring markings from which he determined a length he termed the Megalithic Inch (MI).[18] This whole idea has been ignored almost completely apart from a critical analysis carried out by Alan Davies in the 1980s, who covered only English sites with cup and ring marks. He suggested "strongest indications...towards the use of a quantum close in value to 5 MI at certain sites" and that "the apparent quantum seems strongly associated with ringed cups."[19] Davies made an initial effort to build on Thom's start, and to answer the question he posed: "Why should a man spend hours – or rather days – cutting cups in a random fashion on a rock? It would indeed be a breakthrough if someone could crack the code of the cups."[19]

Sites[edit]

Sites with cup and ring marks include:

Ireland[edit]

Work at Drumirril in County Monaghan has uncovered Neolithic and early Bronze Age occupation evidence around the rock carvings there and this dating is generally accepted for most of the art. Another particularly rich source of cup-marked boulders is the Derrynablaha townland on the Iveragh peninsula in County Kerry.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.cupstones.f9.co.uk/whatrcr.htm
  2. ^ http://www.whithorn.com/history-local-sites.asp?localsiteID=6
  3. ^ Francis Scott Elliot, George (1915). Prehistoric Man and his story. Seeley, Service. p. 398. 
  4. ^ Marchant, Jo (25 November 2009). "Deep Secrets: Atlit-Yam, Israel". New Scientist (Reed Business Information Ltd.) (2736): 40, 41. ISSN 0262-4079. 
  5. ^ Jerusalem Post: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ObSB-SsFQLEJ:www.jpost.com/Local-Israel/Around-Israel/Israels-Atlantis
  6. ^ Israel Antiquities Authority: http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?sec_id=14&subj_id=139
  7. ^ Oldest archaeological org in Israel: http://www.hadashot-esi.org.il/report_detail_eng.aspx?id=1164&mag_id=115
  8. ^ http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/Dolmens.html#Location
  9. ^ van den Brink, Edwin (2 Dec 2007). "Modi‘in, Horbat Hadat and Be’erit (A)". Hadashot Arkheologiyot 119. 
  10. ^ Tittora ("Brimmed") Hill, described by city's official website (Hebrew; but GoogleTranslate will convert it well enough to see the referenced info)
  11. ^ Mitchell, Eric; Jason M. Zan, Cameron S. Coyle and Adam R. Dodd (31 Dec 2012). "Tel Gezer, Regional Survey". Hadashot Arkheologiyot 124. 
  12. ^ website of Tel Gezer's current (as of 2014) archaeological project; please update [needs update] as the culture who built Tel Gezer's megaliths may be related to/descendants of the same culture(s) up to and including Atlit Yam's.
  13. ^ Rock art and cup marks of Bessa
  14. ^ Arte Rupestre della Valchiusella - Chiusella Valley Rock Art
  15. ^ R. Bradley et al., Rock art and the prehistoric Landscape of Galicia...
  16. ^ M. Stewart, Strath Tay in the Second Millennium BC. A Field Survey.
  17. ^ The Spectator, p. 608. 1970. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 
  18. ^ Systematics: The Journal of the Institute for the comparative study of History, Philosophy and the Sciences, Vol. 6, Number 3, Coombe Spring Press., December 1968
  19. ^ a b Alan Davies in Clive Ruggles (13 February 2003). Records in Stone: Papers in Memory of Alexander Thom. Cambridge University Press. pp. 392–422. ISBN 978-0-521-53130-6. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  20. ^ Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 1970-71. Vol. 103 pp. 33–56.

Further reading[edit]

  • Beckensall, Stan and Laurie, Tim. 1998. Prehistoric Rock Art of County Durham, Swaledale and Wensleydale. County Durham Books. ISBN 1-897585-45-4
  • Beckensall, Stan. 2001. Prehistoric Rock Art in Northumberland. Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-1945-5
  • Beckensall, Stan. 2002. Prehistoric Rock Art in Cumbria. Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2526-9
  • Butter, Rachel. 1999. Kilmartin. Kilmartin House Trust. ISBN 0-9533674-0-1
  • Hadingham, Evan. 1974. Ancient Carvings in Britain; A Mystery. Garnstone Press. ISBN 0-85511-391-X
  • Morris, Ronald W.B. 1977. The Prehistoric Rock Art of Argyll. Dolphin Press. ISBN 0-85642-043-3
  • Papanikolaou Stelios. 600 Written Rocks. Channels of primeval knowledge Larissa <<ella>> Second Revised Edition 2005 spapinvest@yahoo.gr ISBN 960-8439-21-3

External links[edit]