They have been found where the earth meets the sky, high up on the moorlands of northern England, a mysterious series of strange and ancient carvings hewn into the rocks and boulders.
More than 100 elaborate carvings dating back thousands of years have been discovered on rocks and boulders in the North of England.
The art, thought to be the work of Neolithic man, is open to the air but is so remote that it had lain undisturbed and undetected for thousands of years - until it was recently discovered by English Heritage.
It includes a series of intricate designs of concentric circles, interlocking rings and hollowed cups.
They are among only 2,500 examples which exist in England - having survived natural erosion, quarrying and field clearance.
Volunteers have found more than 100 examples of ancient rock art in places like the Ketley Crag in Northumberland
Around 100 volunteers, trained by English Heritage, have been recording the location, content, context and condition of rock art for the last four years as part of pilot project.
During the Neolithic period, 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, man moved away from the roaming existence of the hunter-gatherer who traversed the country, following his prey, to a more settled existence.
New Stone Age man preferred to stay put, tending cereals and domestic animals.How all of this fitted in with the abstract curves of their rock carvings is anyone’s guess.
Mysterious presence: A carved boulder at Baildon Moor, West Yorks
It’s not possible to date the art itself, but its age can be assessed by the context in which it is found. For example, if it is near burial sites which took the form of large cairns or long mounds in which people are buried in groups, it is more likely to date back to the New Stone Age.
The most interesting discovery includes a large carved panel found on a sandstone boulder on Barningham Moor, a 300m-high (984ft) area of Co Durham, on the edge of the Pennines.
It features abstract carvings — interlocking grooves and hollowed cups with surrounding circles. Tools of stone or bone were used to carve the symbols and the work is so well preserved that the ‘peck’ marks are still visible.
Barningham Moor has revealed an elaborately carved panel
Kate Wilson, inspector of ancient monuments at English Heritage, said: ‘There are many theories as to what rock art carvings mean. They may have played a role in fire, feastings and offering activities, or been used as signposts, or to mark territory.
'They may have a spiritual significance. In hunter-gatherer communities those places where mountains touch the sky or the sea reaches the shore are often considered the domain of supernatural ancestors. Most rock art is found in those areas.'
She said that the Neolithic Age saw the arrival of ‘a fairly sophisticated culture’, with the introduction of agriculture. ‘They were settling and cultivating something,’ she added.
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