Archeology Science X-Files

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery

With dozens of grooved spirals, carved indentations, geometric shapes, and mysterious patterns of many kinds, the Cochno Stone, located in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, is considered to have the finest example of Bronze Age cup and ring carvings in the whole of Europe.

Buried for safeguarding it from vandals, a rock slab carved with Stone Age carvings is maybe one of the most ignored prehistoric sites of the UK.

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery General view of the trench from the north, with planning going on in the foreground Photo© University of Glasgow

Archaeologists in Glasgow, Scotland, briefly excavated and then reburied a 5,000-year-old slab of stone that contains incised swirling geometric decorations.

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A MysteryPhoto © University of Glasgow

The Stone, which measures 13m (42ft) by 8m (26ft), is covered in nearly 90 carved spirals as well as indentations popular as cups and rings. Even the petroglyphs also incorporate a couple of 4 toed feet and a ringed cross.

At present, the experts are utilising state-of-the-art 3D imaging technology for recording the old artwork for allowing them to examine it in more detail.

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A MysteryThe huge 42 feet long stone slab was first discovered in 1887. It features around 90 cup and ball marks carved into its surface. The pictures above show the marks highlighted using white paint. Photo: Historic Environment Scotland

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery

The stone slab was fully unearthed in West Dunbartonshire by Rev. James Harvey in 1887. By 1965, the stone had been vandalized with graffiti and damaged by the elements, so a team of archaeologists buried it beneath the dirt in order to protect the artwork.

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A MysterySadly visitors to the rock slab damaged it before it was reburied by carving their names (pictured) and other markings into the slab, potentially damaging the ancient rock carvings etched into its surface

The re-excavation also revealed 19th- and 20th-century graffiti etched alongside the swirls, as well as painted lines intentionally made by an archaeologist named Ludovic Maclellan Mann, who worked at the site in 1937. Mann painted lines on the Cochno Stone to help measure the prehistoric artwork and see if there was a link to astronomical phenomena, such as eclipses.

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery

Mann “was trying to prove that the symbols could predict eclipses and were marking movements of the sun and moon in prehistory,” said Kenny Brophy, an archaeologist and senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, in a video released by the university. He said that Mann’s own data ended up disproving the archeologist’s theory.

The meaning of the artwork is still unknown, said Brophy, adding that the vast amount of data gathered, in time, allow archaeologists to better understand the artifact. He said that the graffiti is also of interest and will help archaeologists better understand what people who lived in the local area thought of the artwork during the 19th and 20th centuries and how they incorporated it into their lives.

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery

History researcher Alexander McCallum, who has lobbied to have the stone uncovered, said there were multiple interpretations for the carvings.

“Some people think that the Cochno Stone is a map showing the other settlements in the Clyde Valley – that’s one of the theories. I think it was probably used for lots of things; it was never used for just one thing and over hundreds of years it changed use,” said McCallum. “As far as the symbolism goes, some believe it’s a portal, of life and death, rebirth, a womb and a tomb – people believed in reincarnation, so they would go into the earth and then come out again.”

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery

While archaeologists had to rebury the swirling prehistoric artwork in order to protect it, Brophy said he hopes that one day it will be possible to create an area where the rock art can be permanently revealed for both tourists and people in the local area to see. Funding will have to be obtained to build a protective area and visitors centre so that people can view the prehistoric artwork without damaging it.

Cochno Stone: 5,000-Year-Old Ancient Rock Art In Scotland Remains A Mystery
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