Rock Art at Lordenshaws

Lordenshaws is home to some truly outstanding examples of rock art.  The large main rock is carved with an example of just about every symbol found in rock art. Cups, rings, circles, lines, and channels make up the complex decoration.

Cup and ring carvings are found across Europe. Similar forms of art are also found across the globe, examples can be seen in Mexico, Hawaii and Australia. The patterns typically feature a central ‘cup’, a carved depression a few centimetres across. This is surrounded by a number of concentric grooves. Often, a channel connects the central cup with the area outside the pattern. Sometimes called a gutter, this feature not only appears in the individual carved designs at Lordenshaws; it is possibly included as a larger feature of the whole of some of the rocks.

It is difficult to give precise dates for the creation of the rock art at Lordenshaws. However, similar carvings at nearby Hunterheugh Crags, part of the Bewick and Beanly Moors SSSI, are thought to be early Neolithic. A broken sandstone axehead typical of the era was found close to the carvings.

On the North West side of the rock are what appear to be several wedge marks suggesting the block has been split. Unlike any other rock art at Lordenshaws, the block stands in a very conspicuous location on the summit of a ridge with stunning views over the Simonsides and up over the Cheviots.

Running away from the main rock to the North West is the ridge of a medieval field boundary. By following this boundary for about 150m you will find what is known as the ‘Horseshoe Rock’. It lies to the North of the boundary not far from the marker post. The relationship between the main rock and the ‘horseshoe’ rock suggests that the line of this medieval boundary is superimposed on a much earlier track

As well as the normal cups and rings the rock has an unusual horseshoe-like feature from which it gets its name. The interior of the horseshoe is filled with pits. 

There are other examples of cup and ring markings on the rocks you can see South West of the main rock and to the North East of the hillfort. None have markings as well defined as those on the main and ‘Horseshoe’ rocks. In fact, I have tried, several times, to get lighting conditions just right so I can include a photograph of the shallow cup marks near the cairn on this site. The marks are quite shallow though and I am not blessed with good luck! It is thought that these decorated rocks date from the Neolithic or New Stone Age and are about 5000 years old. It is difficult to say exactly how old they are and impossible to determine their function.

I have created 3D models of some of the features at Lordenshaws. You can explore these on the Lordenshaws 3D page.