First prehistoric rock art discovered in the Brecon Beacons

First prehistoric rock art discovered in the Brecon Beacons
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Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and the National Trust in Wales are celebrating the discovery of the first prehistoric rock engraving ever recorded in the Brecon Beacons Alan Bowring (Fforest Fawr Geopark Officer at Brecon Beacons National Park Authority) unexpectedly noticed a series of prehistoric engravings late last year – thought to be made by prehistoric farming communities thousands of years ago.
Alan, a geologist, was out investigating geological features on land looked after by the National Trust and spotted a rock with some unusual markings on it.  Sensing this was unusual – he sought further advice from colleague Natalie Ward, who had experience of working to conserve such sites  in the North of England.  The National Trust’s own archaeological survey had already highlighted Bronze Age features in the area and gave some context to the stone’s past.  In collaboration the rock art has been announced today after checks have been completed on its authenticity.
Dr George Nash, archaeologist and specialist in prehistoric and contemporary art, from Bristol University, confirmed what Alan Bowring had discovered was the first prehistoric rock engraved panel recorded in the Brecon Beacons.  Dr Nash added that based on the shape of the stone and its engravings, it probably comes from the Early to Middle Bronze Age period (c. 2500 to 1500 BC) and it probably served as a waymarker in the form of a standing stone for prehistoric communities navigating around the ritualised landscape more than 2,000 years ago.

“We might have been able to predict a discovery of this kind considering the large amount of prehistoric ritual sites in the Brecon Beacons but this is the first evidence of prehistoric rock art to be ever recorded.  There are no other later prehistoric standing stones within this part of Wales that are cupmarked (small hollows), making this one rather unique”, says Dr Nash.

The stone is approximately 1.45m long and 0.5m wide and the face contains 12 cupmarks of various shapes and sizes.  It is currently lying flat on the ground but it is possible that it once was standing (further archaeological investigation may be able to confirm this). Dr. Nash explains that cupmarks are the most common later prehistoric rock art form in the British Isles and Europe, but their occurrence in mid-Wales is rare.

Alan Bowring, who discovered the stone, said: “I often find myself working and walking in remote locations, and encountering hidden features in the landscape of south and mid Wales that few others will have seen.   But this chance discovery, made whilst looking for clues to the site’s exciting geological history, appears to be significant in our understanding of human cultural history in the region.”

Joe Daggett, Countryside Manager for the National Trust in Brecon, said:  “This is a very exciting and special find. Although I was initially sceptical about this stone’s markings, the confidence in its origins is now clear, and it fits with the Bronze Age archaeology we have previously recorded in this area.  We are really keen to get the right protection for this artefact and with National Park Authority support have been liaising with Cadw to start the process.  As the largest conservation charity in Europe, we are all about looking after special places and things for people to experience, and this is a very unique find in a very special part of Wales.”

The National Trust’s Council for British Archaeology Community Archaeologist, Charlie Enright will be arranging a number of archaeological and survey days in the area in the coming weeks. He added: “This is a fantastic opportunity to get local people involved in an exciting archaeological project. They’ll be working alongside and learning from professional archaeologists and other likeminded people, acquiring new skills and contributing to our understanding of this fantastic site.  If people are interested then they should contact me straight away to book – places are limited!”

Volunteers will be undertaking a range of archaeological activities including:

  • Recording the stone with Dr George Nash.
  • Conducting a geophysical survey in the area surrounding the stone to see if we can find any evidence of past human activity below the surface.
  • Condition monitoring and a topographical survey of the surrounding archaeology.

If you are interested in taking part – places are limited so please book by contacting Charlie Enright, Community Archaeologist at the National Trust, at: charles.enright@nationaltrust.org.uk

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