The Prehistoric Rock Art of England
A free companion booklet, The Prehistoric Rock Art of
England: recording, managing and enjoying our carved
heritage, is now available. To order a copy please
or telephone 01670 620305.
Alternatively you can download
a pdf copy from here.
Thousands of prehistoric rock carvings are
found on boulders and rocky outcrops in many parts of Britain and
Ireland. This rock art is an important component of our historic
environment but it is also one of the more mysterious and poorly
understood aspects of our past. We know very little about why it
was made and what it may have meant to the people who created
The carvings are concentrated mainly in
northern England, Scotland and Ireland. Certain areas have a more
complete record of the rock art than others. For example, almost a
thousand rock art panels are so far known in Northumberland. Here,
the enthusiasm of local groups and individuals has been
instrumental in building this record, but other regions have been
less intensively studied and many engravings may still be
undiscovered and unrecorded in these areas.
Although stone is a relatively resilient
material, the erosive forces of water and changing temperatures
make many carvings very fragile. The sedimentary sandstone on which
most of the carvings are found is particularly vulnerable. Most
motifs are heavily weathered and it is likely that many more are
now too faint to distinguish. It is therefore important that we
record and conserve those that remain and ensure that these
enigmatic marks in the landscape can be studied and enjoyed by
The Northumberland and Durham Rock Art Project
was set up in 2004 with funding from English Heritage. The purpose
of the project, run by Northumberland and Durham County Councils,
was to pilot the creation of a rock art archive which would be
publicly accessible over the internet and would form the basis of
the first ever national rock art database England's Rock
The project's success was the result of
the hard work and dedication of over 100 specially trained
volunteers who endured wet weather and freezing conditions to
record over 1500 rock art panels across Northumberland and Durham.
The project developed a recording system which means that rock art
across the whole country can now be recorded in a standardised way.
The record includes details and images of the rock art symbols and
also information on their condition and management - all
information which is vital to help ensure their preservation into
the future. With the help of specialists from English Heritage it
was possible to develop the use of both traditional and cutting
edge technology, including 3D computer models, to create a wide
range of images and information which can be used by the public,
researchers and those responsible for managing rock art sites.
England's Rock Art
Art incorporates the work of the highly successful Newcastle University Beckensall Archive
Project. It is intended that similar recording projects will
eventually be undertaken for all areas of England which contain
rock art and the database will be updated as the records become
available. England's Rock
Art was launched on 31st July 2008 and is now available
Related web pages
Northumberland Historic Environment
England’s Rock Art,
a website created as part of the Northumberland and Durham Rock Art
Pilot (NADRAP) Project which was managed by Northumberland and
Durham County Councils and funded by English Heritage. The website
and database build on and incorporate the Newcastle University
Beckensall Archive of Northumberland Rock Art.
Beckensall Archive is the
celebration of rock carvings made by Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
people in Northumberland in the north east of England, between 6000
and 3500 years ago.
The Journal newspaper online.
The Times newspaper online.
Telephone: 01670 620305