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Latitude: 54.3968 / 54°23'48"N
Longitude: -0.5268 / 0°31'36"W
OS Eastings: 495744.411319
OS Northings: 501141.715872
OS Grid: NZ957011
Mapcode National: GBR SKRL.RN
Mapcode Global: WHGBC.WRB7
Entry Name: Prehistoric cairnfield, field system and cup and ring marked rock, 850m south east of Howdale Farm
Scheduled Date: 15 November 1934
Last Amended: 9 April 2001
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1019683
English Heritage Legacy ID: 34381
County: North Yorkshire
Civil Parish: Fylingdales
Built-Up Area: Robin Hood's Bay
Traditional County: Yorkshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire
Church of England Parish: Ravenscar St Hilda
Church of England Diocese: York
The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a cairnfield and
associated field system and a cup and ring marked rock. It is located on a
north facing slope on the south eastern flank of Howdale Moor. This is the
easternmost extent of the sandstone, heather covered moor characteristic of
the North York Moors. Today the moor is little used but archaeological
evidence indicates that this has not always been the case. The prehistoric
period in particular saw extensive agricultural use of the area. It was also
then being used for burials and activities associated with the carving of
patterns on exposed rock. Remains of these activities survive today.
The monument extends over an area approximately 250m north west-south east by
130m north east-south west.The cairnfield includes up to six clearance cairns.
These are composed of stony mounds measuring up to 5m in diameter and up to
0.5m in height. These are the result of stone clearance in the Bronze Age to
improve the land for farming. Evidence from other similar monuments in the
north of England shows that such cairns may also have been used for burials or
cremations. The field system associated with the clearance cairns is indicated
by a sinuous linear earthwork interpreted as the remains of a field boundary.
This comprises a low earth and stone bank 3m wide and up to 0.4m high. It
extends for 50m northwards down the slope. Approximately halfway along its
length there is a further bank extending west for 40m. This measures 2m wide
and 0.25m high. There is a clearance cairn built into this second bank
demonstrating that the cairns and field boundary were part of an integrated
system of land clearance and exploitation. The settlement from which this area
of land was farmed has yet to be identified, but it is anticipated to have
The cup and ring marked rock is located approximately 30m west of the field
system. It is an earthfast flat rock measuring 1m by 1m. The carvings include
12 cup marks, several eroded cups and a carved groove. It is unusual to find
such carved rocks associated with cairnfields and agricultural land use. Their
relationship is not fully understood, but it is thought that the carved rocks
represent an earlier pattern of land use on the moor when agricultural use was
not as extensive.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
Source: Historic England
Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one
another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone
cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture,
and on occasion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots.
However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without
excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials.
Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period (from c.3400 BC),
although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance
which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze
Age (2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and variation in the size,
content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on the
development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain
information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the
In addition to clearance cairns prehistoric fields were also defined by
earthen banks. These can vary in size and in some cases can be several
kilometres long, dividing the land into large elaborate complexes of fields.
Their longevity and their relationship with other monument types provide
important information on the diversity of social organisation, land division
and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.
Prehistoric rock art is found on natural rock outcrops in many areas of upland
Britain. It is especially common in the north of England in Northumberland,
Durham and North and West Yorkshire. The most common form of decoration is the
`cup and ring' marking where expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked
into the surface of the rock. These cups may be surrounded by one or more
`rings'. Single pecked lines extending from the cup through the `rings' may
also exist, providing the design with a `tail'. Pecked lines or grooves can
also exist in isolation from cup and ring decoration. Other shapes and
patterns also occur, but are less frequent. Carvings may occur singly, in
small groups, or may cover extensive areas of rock surface. They date to the
Late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods (c.2800-500 BC) and provide one of our
most important insights into prehistoric `art'. The exact meaning of the
designs remains unknown, but they may be interpreted as sacred or religious
Frequently they are found close to contemporary burial monuments and the
symbols are also found on portable stones placed directly next to burials or
incorporated in burial mounds. Around 800 examples of prehistoric rock-art
have been recorded in England. This is unlikely to be a realistic reflection
of the number carved in prehistory. Many will have been overgrown or
destroyed in activities such as quarrying. All positively identified
prehistoric rock art sites exhibiting a significant group of designs will
normally be identified as nationally important.
The prehistoric cairnfield, field system and cup and ring marked rock, 850m
south east of Howdale Farm survive well. Significant information about
the original form of the cairns and any burials placed within them will be
preserved. The cup and ring marked rock also survives well. Such monuments
are rare in the North York Moors however this example is part of a
concentration of similar carved rocks on Howdale Moor. It is unusual to find
carved rocks as an element of a cairnfield. The monument offers important
scope for understanding the changing patterns of ritual and social activities
in the area during the prehistoric period
Source: Historic England
Books and journals
Spratt, D A, Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, (1994), 109-122
Spratt, D A , 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology in North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, (1993), 109-122
Chappell, Cup and ring carvings-survey record sheets, (1997)
Source: Historic England
Other nearby scheduled monuments