3.4.3 Rock Art

Over 700 rock art sites are currently known to exist in Perth and Kinross, with notable concentrations in the upland valleys of Strathbraan and Strathtay. Through a combination of antiquarian, amateur and professional endeavour, an extensive rock art landscape has been recorded and partly excavated on the northern side of Loch Tay. The group of prehistoric rock carvings found within the Ben Lawers Estate is considered to be one of the most extensive and best recorded in Britain (Bradley and Watson 2012, 29). Bradley and Watson’s investigations of four of the decorated rocks in this group, plus two undecorated outcrops for comparison, represents a significant contribution to our understanding of prehistoric rock carving, the rock selection process, the rock art’s wider environmental landscape setting, and the activities associated with its production (see Bradley et al 2013; Bradley and Watson 2012). Analysis of the recovered lithics, mainly hammerstones, large quantities of worked and flaked quartz plus two broad blades of Arran pitchstone has enabled the interpretation to consider the more performative aspects of rock art production and maintenance. These include the visual effect of triboluminescence as quartz glowed after deliberate smashing across a rock’s surface (Bradley and Watson 2012, 59–60).

Black and white image of a stone slab, irregularly shaped, with clear round dents across its face, surrounded by concentric rings. The shadows on the image show the depth of each dent.
Cup and Ring Marked stone from Gallowhill ©️ HES

Apart from the two pitchstone broad blades, dated to the Middle or Late Neolithic by cross-assemblage comparison (Bradley and Watson 2012, 49), this project did not produce any datable material. It therefore also serves as an illustration of the challenge to date the region’s rock art. That said, the fact that the pitchstone blades have signs of wear that may indicate that they were used, in some way, to create the designs, accords with the idea that Atlantic rock art was created between around 2900 BC and about 2500 BC. Nationally, rock art is subject to ongoing research by the ScRAP project with future investigation underpinned by a thematic national research framework, Future Thinking on Carved Stones in Scotland, which provides information on past, present and future carved stone research initiatives.