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Achnabreck, prehistoric rock carvings 485m NNE of

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Argyll, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.062 / 56°3'43"N

Longitude: -5.446 / 5°26'45"W

OS Eastings: 185566

OS Northings: 690814

OS Grid: NR855908

Mapcode National: GBR DDYP.L6L

Mapcode Global: WH0J4.9WXP

Entry Name: Achnabreck, prehistoric rock carvings 485m NNE of

Scheduled Date: 19 July 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12957

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Glassary

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Mid Argyll

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument is an area of outcropping bedrock onto which prehistoric rock art has been carved. There are 11 main motifs, mostly comprising cupmarks and rings. The rock art was created in the early prehistoric period, probably between about 3500 BC and 1800 BC. The monument lies at 80m above sea level on relatively flat ground part way up slopes that form the E side of the valley of the Badden Burn. Today it lies in thinned plantation woodland but, in the absence of trees, it would offer views to Lochgilphead and the sea to the south and to Cairnbaan in the valley bottom to the west.

The rock art was discovered in January 2008 when a severe storm blew over a Sitka spruce tree. Archaeologists cleaned the outcrop and conducted limited excavation, leaving an exposed area of rock measuring about 10m WNW-ESE by 6m transversely. Additional carvings may exist on parts of the rock that remain below ground level. The largest visible motif is a large cup surrounded by six concentric oval rings, measuring 0.94m by 0.86m. Sixteen or more plain cups lie within the area of the rings, most forming a roughly circular pattern between the fourth and fifth rings. This motif occupies the highest point of the outcrop. It is adjoined and possibly cut by a second motif to the south-east, comprising a cup and four rings with maximum diameter 0.53m. Four plain cups lie within the rings of this second motif. Other relatively large motifs include a cup and seven rings with maximum measurements of 0.78m x 0.68m, and a cup and three rings 0.44m in diameter. Both have possible radial grooves, one apparently utilising a natural crack in the rock. There are also four cups with single rings, two cups with double rings, and a grouping of four cups surrounded by a sub-rectangular cartouche-like groove that exploits natural depressions in the rock surface and measures 0.26m by 0.23m. Other single cup marks also exist which, with one exception, cluster within or close to the more complex motifs.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around within them which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. To allow for its maintenance, the scheduling excludes the above-ground elements of the wooden board walk passing the outcrop on the W side.

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument displays a variety of carved motifs and represents a relatively complex piece of rock art. There is evidence to suggest that some markings overlie others and that two adjacent motifs may have a sequential relationship, indicating that the carvings may have accumulated over a period of time and exhibit a development sequence. The carvings survive in good condition although particular lighting conditions are needed to see them to best effect. The ground around the rock outcrop has the potential to contain additional buried carvings or other archaeological evidence for contemporary activity in the immediate vicinity. The carvings themselves would have had meaning for the people who created them and there is potential to study their meaning and function. Researchers have suggested that the art represents a series of messages, spread between monuments, with meanings dependent on their position in the landscape and relative complexity.

Contextual characteristics

This monument lies about 115m north of an area of extensive rock carvings in the care of Scottish Ministers and 215m north-west of a second group, also in care. These nearby carvings include cups with up to 12 rings, networks of grooves, exceptionally large plain cupmarks, and two double spirals and one triple spiral, the spirals showing similarities with art in Irish passage graves. Many of the patterns found on this monument have parallels among these nearby Achnabreck carvings, including the presence of adjacent motifs of concentric rings; the larger motifs of concentric rings appear particularly similar. The line of cup and rings is not paralleled at Achnabreck but resembles rock art at Achanarich on the Craignish peninsula and at Baluacraig near Dunchraigaig, both reasonably nearby. However, the cupmarks within a sub-rectangular groove have been likened to designs in parts of Ireland, particularly Donegal. Recent studies of rock art have stressed the importance of their position in the landscape, alongside their form and complexity. The complex carvings at Achnabreck lie on lower slopes close to the valley floor, a zone which has complex mortuary monuments as well as being favourable for settlement. They can be contrasted with simpler, sparser rock art, often found on higher ground.

The rock art at Achnabreck forms one part of the rich archaeological landscape of the Kilmartin Glen and overlooks Cairn Baan, an important monument sited in the valley floor. Further north along the valley close to Kilmartin is a very significant grouping of burial cairns, some of which incorporate stone slabs that themselves bear rock art.

Associative characteristics

The carvings enhance the natural landscape of which they are part. They are particularly attractive when viewed in low evening sunlight. Theories about their function include suggestions of ritual or spiritual meaning.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of early prehistoric rock art. The monument enhances and augments the other rock art in the immediate vicinity and improves our understanding of an important concentration of carvings. It also contains at least one motif not previously represented in the vicinity, adding to the evidence for connections between Argyll and Ireland. It also forms part of the internationally important grouping of prehistoric monuments in Kilmartin Glen. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the rock art of Argyll.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NR89SE 56. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR PIN references are 59605 and 61986.

References

Regan, R, Webb, S, and O'Connor, B 2008 'Achnabreck III, rock art excavation', Unpubl data structure report, Kilmartin House Museum.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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