Motif from Roughting Linn

Hi Rock folk,

As a newcomer to this rock-hunting game I hope you will bear with me while I learn the ropes, acquire the terminology and undoubtedly ‘re-state the obvious’. Thanks to Brian and to Jan for inviting me to contribute to this long established group of very knowledgeable people. OK – about 2 weeks ago I visited Roughting Linn for the first time; this was my first ever visit to a Rock Art site – and I am still recovering from the shock of so much beauty, mystery and ancient culture in a single concentrated spot. The waterfall alone was worth the visit – and the Matthewson brothers – who farm at Roughting Linn were friendly and informative – told me much of the history of the early visits by Stan Beckensall and other academics from Newcastle and Durham universities. I spent an hour photographing the well-documented motifs on the main whaleback – which I then matched against Stan Beckensall’s expert drawings of the site. I was able to match all the motifs I photographed -except one – a small 3 inch motif which Jan characterised as ‘looking like a small swastika’. I thought it looked like an animal figure – but the main point is I can’t find it described in any of the various drawings or photos of the site.

The only photos I took that day were of the main rock and a few general ones of Goat Crag ( I could not find the ‘goat pictograms’) – so I am 99% certain this motif was on the main rock. I am going back again to double check.

Does anybody recognise this?


6 Responses to Motif from Roughting Linn

  1. Borderglider says:

    Well – it was another glorious day at Roughting Linn today – stunning sunshine, warm breezes and little wind. I nailed the ‘rogue motif’ – I had been looking at it all along yesterday but the light tricked me. It looks like modern (19thC) graffiti – the letters ‘JIP’ seem to stand out – though the ‘tripod’ motif below them doesn’t really fit with the lettering. The ‘tripod’ has three very small cups linked by shallow incised lines. The whole thing is only 10cm across. It is represented on drawing 18a of Stan Beckensall’s recordings of the site – as a small squiggle in the upper right. The visit was still worth it – and I took a drive across to Cuddy’s Cave on Gled Law above Doddington – then hiked across to Buttony. All in all a great day.

  2. Borderglider says:

    Well the mystery deepens – I spent an hour visually combing the main rock at R.L. yesterday but could not find this motif again – it was small I remember that. It is definitely there because I reviewed the EXIF data for the shot and it was taken within a minute of the ones preceeding and succeeding it. So it is confirmed that this motif is on the main rock and not at Goat Crags – which I visited about an hour later. This is giving me a good education about the challenges of recording rock art.

  3. rockartuk says:

    Hi Graham,
    A warm welcome to the blog. Good to have you on board!
    I went through my archive and the Beckensall Archive (125 pics!) and couldn’t find a trace of this motif. If you have the 2001 Beckensall book, on which of the drawings on page 25 did you find the motif; 18a, 18b, 19a, 19b, 20a or 20b?
    With regard to the (nick-) naming of the motif, I agree with you: it is no swastika!
    Crossed golf clubs or hockey sticks would be a bit more precise, I guess.
    Your find underlines the qualification of Roughting Linn being a picture book for RA-motifs; the ‘bee-bop’, flower-like motifs, arcs, and the common cup-and-rings in all variaties; it is all there!
    Looking forward to the catch of your re-visit.
    Good hunting!

  4. rockrich says:

    Hello Graham, welcome to the blog.

    A volunteer on the Northumberland & Durham Rock Art Project researched that particular motif & I seem to recall them finding something similar on a church or 2. which made them think Christian. My memory is a little fussy on the subject, but it may have even been Lindisfarne. I’ll have a word with chap & post his answer here.


  5. borderglider says:

    Thanks Brian – I think the reason I’m bitten by the bug is to realise that I am living right next to one of the epicentre’s of prehistoric rock art; I always knew it existed – inf act I saw it in Kilmartin many years ago – but it is compelling when you see it for real. BTW I would not describe this as a ‘swastika’ myself – it appears to be a couple of deeply incised lines with a tail at one end and a roundel at the other. You may be right about the ‘recent addition’ theory. The lines are very narrow and sharply incised – which might imply modern tools. the only way to settle it is to revisit and measure accurately. I’ll try to go this week if the weather improves.

  6. rockartwolf says:

    Hi Graham,

    Welcome to the blog, good to see a new face. It seems you have been bitten by the bug, which is something we have all had happen to us.
    The swastika is a new one to me, perhaps one of the other guys knows something about it, if its not one that Stan has noted perhaps it could be a modern day work? which is something you will find at a small number of sites around the uk. On the other hand is could be the genuine article.


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