Ancient Monuments

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Balnafoich, cupmarks 320m SSW of

A Scheduled Monument in Aird and Loch Ness, Highland

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Latitude: 57.3868 / 57°23'12"N

Longitude: -4.1907 / 4°11'26"W

OS Eastings: 268410

OS Northings: 835050

OS Grid: NH684350

Mapcode National: GBR J906.C3N

Mapcode Global: WH4GW.LLMK

Entry Name: Balnafoich, cupmarks 320m SSW of

Scheduled Date: 1 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11557

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cupmarks or cup-and-ring marks and similar rock art

Location: Daviot and Dunlichity

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


This monument comprises two large earthfast boulders bearing cup markings, prehistoric symbols between 3500 and 5000 years old. The boulders lie 16m apart from each other in unimproved pasture close to the confluence of the rivers Farnack and Nairn at 180m above sea level.

The W boulder at NH 68405 35052 measures 2m in length by 2m in breadth and rises to 1.2m high at one side with at least three cup markings on its sloping upper surface. The E boulder at NH 68419 35053 measures 2.4m in length by 1.2m in breadth and lies flush with the ground. It is partially obscured by turf but the exposed part of its upper surface contains at least 16 cup markings.

Prehistoric rock art (cupmarks, cup-and-ring marks and related designs) are found on Bronze Age and Neolithic funerary and ritual monuments, such as the Clava cairns in Strathnairn, and also on exposed rock surfaces or natural boulders. Why such hollows and grooves were carefully pecked or ground into stones is unknown. There are many theories about the purpose of cupmarks which are generally thought to have had some religious or ritual symbolism rather than being simply decorative art.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the cupmarked boulders and an area around in which associated evidence for their use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics: The two cupmarked boulders represent a well-preserved example of a form of rock art probably dating to the Neolithic or Bronze Age. Excavations in Ireland and Scotland, as well as Scandinavia, are now finding archaeological evidence for human activity in the immediate vicinity of such carvings.

Contextual characteristics: The monument is one of many ritual prehistoric monuments concentrated in Strathnairn, including several cemeteries of Clava cairns which themselves incorporate cupmarked stones. Comparing this monument's form and location to similar monuments in Strathnairn and elsewhere in NE Scotland would contribute to our understanding of regional identity and society in the prehistoric period.

National importance: This monument is of national importance because it is a well-preserved example of prehistoric rock art. Carvings such as these remain an intriguing enigma. It is probable that the monument relates to a wider prehistoric ritual landscape in Strathnairn. Therefore it has the potential to contribute to the understanding of funerary practice and prehistoric society in this locality and Scotland as a whole. The loss of the monument would damage our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NH63NE 47; Highland Council SMR as NH63NE0047.


Beckensall S 1999, BRITISH PREHISTORIC ROCK ART, Tempus.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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