08/07/2016
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Scotland's Neolithic rock art to be subject of major new study

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Local communities and heritage organisations across Scotland are to be involved in a major new project: Scotland's Rock Art in Context: Placement, re-placement and engagement. For more on Scotland's past, read our archaeology features.

Historic Environment Scotland has been awarded £807,000 by the Arts & Humanities Research Council to carry out the project, which will focus on Scotland's Neolithic Rock Art - with over 2,000 rocks with 'cup and ring' carvings to explore. The carvings, thought to date from the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (c.4,000-2,000 BC), form part of a broader European rock art tradition. Their purpose and significance to prehistoric and more recent communities is currently poorly understood, something the project hopes to address. 

Project leaders hope to generate a digital database of Scottish rock art, including 2D and 3D models. The database will be used to inform a detailed, contextual analysis of the carvings, and to address key research questions.

SHARING OUR HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT

Rebecca Bailey, who led the grant application for Historic Environment Scotland, said: 'We are absolutely delighted to have secured our first very substantial research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project will be a co-production between our expert staff, academic partners and community groups, in keeping with our vision that the historic environment is understood, shared and enjoyed by everyone. We look forward to the teams getting out into the field, making new discoveries, generating new knowledge, and sharing that on an international stage.'

The five-year project will be launched in early 2017, and will be led for HES by Principal Investigator Dr Tertia Barnett, who spoke to History Scotland about the project: 'This is a very exciting opportunity to improve our understanding and awareness of Scotland's prehistoric rock carvings. We are looking forward to working with local people across the country to explore what the carvings may have meant to people in the past, and what they mean to us today.'

Co-investigators from Edinburgh University and Glasgow School of Art will also be involved, with project partners Archaeology Scotland, Kilmartin Museum, and the North of Scotland Archaeology Society.

(Images: Top - cup and ring markings near Tealing Earth House, Angus, copyright Otter; markings near Kirkcudbright copyright Jon Holland)

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