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Mystery messages engraved into Scotland’s rocks up to 5,000 years ago might soon be unveiled using 3D scans

Ian Harvey

Although their meaning has been lost to history, distinctive marks on Scottish rocks from ancient peoples provide a link to our past.

Recently, a new project has launched an attempt to finally solve the mysteries of prehistoric stone carvings. Using 3D scanning to record and examine more than 2,000 carvings around the country, specialists are creating a new digital database of the mysterious etchings.

Cuo and ring marks Photo Credit
Cuo and ring marks Photo Credit

Ring and cup marks are a form of ancient art that found widely around the world. The symbols date back to the early Neolithic, through the Bronze Age, and into the Iron Age.

Many of these carvings have been discovered on outcrops and boulders that overlook ancient travel and trade routes. Their association with water holes and hunting grounds suggests the possibility that they were used to mark these places. They may also have been marks of territorial ownership.

Later examples have been discovered in association with ceremonial or burial locations, implying that the markings might have held sacred significance.


The Achnabreck Cup-and-Ring-Marked Rock Photo Credit
The Achnabreck Cup-and-Ring-Marked Rock Photo Credit

Amateur archaeologist George Currie assists with the database project. He has tracked 670 examples of the ancient engravings which they think could be up to 5,000 years old.For the past 13 years, archaeologists have photographed, searched, and logged the locations of cup-and-ring markings. Ancient artworks as well include forms that resemble human footprints that are etched into the solid rock.

There are an estimated 6,000 rings and cup engravings known across Britain, a third of which are located in Scotland. However, their significance is still not well understood.

The Art and Humanities Research Council has awarded £807,000 to the Historic Environment Scotland to run the project that is called Scotland’s Rock Art.

Cup and ring marks survive in large numbers from Scotland and have been suggested to have a variety of meanings
Cup and ring marks survive in large numbers from Scotland and have been suggested to have a variety of meanings Photo Credit

This five-year project is set to be launched in January of 2017. Archaeologists say that some carvings have been discovered on stones embedded in the ground, while others were found buried in ancient grave sites.

One of the oldest of the carved rocks was found in association with a burial ground that dates back to 3,400 BC. It was already well worn, which proposes that the carvings were much older than the actual burial.

It might have been that these carvings held some importance long after they were created, Mail Online reported.

This project that is set to be launched will help unveil some of the mysteries of the ring and cup symbols.

Here is another story from us: Mystery surrounding a massive woolly mammoth graveyard

Perhaps it can also help to explain some of the links between ancient communities across the countries of Europe.

The team is looking forward to getting out into the field, creating new findings, getting new knowledge, and sharing this on an international stage.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News