North Yorkshire Riddle

Received the following from Tristan Campbell:

I’m a landscape photographer based in North Yorkshire, UK, and over the last couple of years have been photographing the region of Guisecliff for a project I am working on. Last weekend I noticed some strange markings on the cliffs whilst scouting for new photograph locations. I can find very little rock art information specific to Guisecliff on-line and your images are the only ones I have found. I have noticed faint rings in at least two other locations on the cliffs. Are you aware of any markings on the cliffs themselves? I was hoping you may know if these are known markings (if they are indeed rock art) or if you have a contact who may be able to tell me?

Tristan provided the three photos above. The photo on the left shows a compass for scale.  The middle photo is a detail of the marking/carving of the under left corner of the photo on the right. More of Tristan’s photos can be enjoyed on his Landscape Photography Website.

We would be very happy to have your opinions on these marking/carvings. Thanks!


16 Responses to North Yorkshire Riddle

  1. I was there the same day, though at 6am in thick fog. They seem to have faded somewhat, I’m guessing due to the damp conditions. I’ve since also spotted similar marking on a rock right on the main path through the woods near the little lake which is a reasonable distance away.

  2. Geo Cur says:

    Briiliant , well done Rich. Just as well there were no bets .


  3. rockrich says:

    Howdo folks,

    I went for a bother around Guisecliff yesterday. Luckily I bumped into Mike Short after parking up and managed to convince him to come for a gander. We both felt the markings were almost certainly biological rather than being a petroglyph, pictogram or graffiti. On the several examples we encountered none had any depth and some were also fairly high up the cliff face. Of course, being the saddo I am, a photogrammetric model was created and yielded nothing breaking the surface.

    Not sure what species of lichen it is (or was) so further digging is ahead. Really quite a stunning looking things though.


  4. Geo Cur says:

    Hacksaw required (for the brass )

  5. rockrich says:

    Get that chopping block out G 😉

  6. Geo Cur says:

    Thanks Tristan great pics . I’m sticking me neck and and reckon man made 21st C AD Main influence Panorama stone.

  7. rockrich says:

    Hello Tristan,

    Thanks for the further info and stunning pictures. They’re all definitely looking and sounding increasingly lichen-esque, as Mr Wolf suggests.

    Does make you wonder what the ancient Brits would have thought had they seen them.


  8. Tristan says:

    Many thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.

    I cannot feel any depth to the rings on the surface, they appear more painted on than carved into the rock. I guess this suggests they are lichen markings. It is the apparent structure and sheer quantity of rings in this area that really puzzles me.

    Geo Cur:
    The column of rings is on a vertical surface facing north. It also overhung by a rock above which perhaps gives it a little protection.

    I also noticed they do appear very clean in some areas – the stone appears almost freshly uncovered around the rings (I was wondering if the recent freezing weather has somehow had an effect). They are still in the exact same condition as when I first found them – at the begining of this month.

    If you head to the far west of Guisecliff and make your way along the bottom of the cliffs you will easily find it. It is not far from the far west end where the cliff is not very high. If you were to head directly down into the woods you’d find yourself at the known marks (cups enclosed in a square).

    The rings are not limited to this one panel. If you look closely you’ll see dozens of single rings and groups of rings on many stones in this area.

    I’ve uploaded two more images here:

    The first is the location in context of its environment. The second is a much higher resolution image of the column and rings.

  9. rockartwolf says:

    Hi Folks,

    I assume the middle image is a blown up version of the right hand image?. I have seen alot of this type of thing at Townhead, the large mound of boulders next to the main group of carvings at Townhead are covered in this lichen formation, which do give the impression of rings.I did get the feeling the middle image had been cleaned, if so the removing of the lichen would leave a surface looking that way. Looking at the middle image i would guess the formation is only say 3inches wide?..

  10. rockrich says:

    The middle pic with the truncated rings does look to have depth, but the other patterns are reminiscent of lichen / biological growth (don’t ask the name). I suppose the usual photo rider needs mentioning pending further investigation.

    If I remember rightly, a similar looking thing was posted several months ago on Eavestone Crags which is about 5miles NE of Guisecliff. Whether this hints at something biological which creates rings liking this type of stone, conditions etc I’m not sure, but the person who found the Eavestone rings did think they were natural. Alternatively, you could have the carving tradition and all that sort of business.

    As an area of rock art, there is something quite different about this eastern end of Nidderdale compared to other Pennine sites. Stylistically, the carvings are almost Northumbrian with complex motifs being in the majority rather than minority. Another oddity of this small area is bedrock appears to have been carved rather than boulders. If these are carvings, they’d fit in quite nicely with the areas little tradition.

    If we can get a rough location I’ll go for a gander and carry out some phototricknology of the 3D kind.

  11. rockartuk says:

    I already told Tristan that lichen are able to play nice tricks and sent him some examples.
    In this case, I think its yet another -beautiful- lichen trick.
    That doesn’t count, in my view, for the motif on the middle photo were a bit of relief can be seen on the “rings”. However, it still doesn’t look like the other motifs in the area.
    For George and all: here’s a link to Tristan’s hi-res pics:

  12. megalithix says:

    Intriguing… The first & last images look somewhat like beautiful lichen-patterns. Damn good ones though! But the central image looks to me to have some depth to it. They need looking at “in the flesh” to say one way or the other.

    Beautiful images though…

  13. Geo Cur says:

    More questions than answers . Are they on the vertical or horizontal ? The markings look like they have been cleaned , were they like that before Tristan found them?
    Any chance of a higher res pic please ?
    They are not in praotwr which lists 6 separate sites ,one doubtful , in the woods .

  14. GraemeC says:

    …….Just seen George’s comment and looked again at the photo’s
    The concentric rings in the lower left corner look to have some depth to them?????
    or is it all an unussual lichen growth pattern?
    I think its maybe time i got some spectacles 🙂

  15. GraemeC says:

    This looks interesting, and i would not be suprised if it is a new discovery.
    Rich stroud knows this area of rock carvings pretty well so he is the man to ask, and then a check with Keith Boughey’s database.
    i will give him a nudge

  16. rockartuk says:

    George Nash e-mailed:

    I cannot say much about the close-up middle image but the two either side are the result of natural patterns…..I think.


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