Ancient Monuments

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Barmolloch Mhor, cup and ring marked rock 250m west of

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Argyll, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.1418 / 56°8'30"N

Longitude: -5.4202 / 5°25'12"W

OS Eastings: 187613

OS Northings: 699615

OS Grid: NR876996

Mapcode National: GBR FD0H.01F

Mapcode Global: WH0HR.QW5H

Entry Name: Barmolloch Mhor, cup and ring marked rock 250m W of

Scheduled Date: 29 August 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13286

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


The monument comprises a rock outcrop ornamented with more than 75 prehistoric rock art motifs. The motifs include a single cup design and combinations of cups surrounded by concentric rings and ovals (cup and ring marks), two of which have linear grooves or gutters cutting across the larger design. Rock art can be difficult to date accurately, but these motifs were created probably during the early prehistoric period, between about 3500 BC and 2500 BC. The outcrop lies 120m above sea level and is located above and to the W of the natural route northwards along the Clachandubh Burn. It overlooks land on the E side of the glen and has long views to the E and SE. The uppermost surface of the outcrop is at ground level and the currently exposed area measures approximately 11m SW-NE by 7m NW-SE. The rock panel and carvings are likely to continue to the SW under the grass cover and deeper soil.

The scheduled area is rectangular in shape and measures 21m E-W by 16m transversely. The scheduled area includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This outcrop of hard igneous rock is relatively level with the surrounding ground which slopes to the SE. A number of fractures and fissures are visible on the surface and the edges of some cup marks correspond with natural fissure lines; in other cases, a fissure line bisects the cups. Researchers have recorded 72 individual cups on this rock, measuring between 35mm and 100mm in outer diameter and up to 30mm in depth. They are distributed on a roughly NE-SW axis across the panel but, apart from three or four discrete clusters, there is no obvious pattern to the layout. One cluster of cups towards the NE end of the panel forms a rough cruciform shape. The remaining clusters lie towards the SW of the panel and tend to group around the more complex motifs.

The other motifs include a cup mark surrounded by three concentric rings, with a channel on its ESE side. Adjacent to this is a concentric arc of at least three large cups and, beyond this, a single cup mark surrounded by two concentric rings. The fourth type of motif is particularly unusual and is formed by two adjacent cups enclosed by two large and roughly pecked oval rings (referred to by researchers as a 'cartouche'). Adjacent to the single cup is a second, which has two concentric rings radiating from it and a channel on its W side, incised from the inner ring to the outer oval. In this motif the only intercutting element is the incised linear channel.

This is an impressively large and relatively complex collection of motifs with an unusual design. The monument is a fine example of the prehistoric rock art typical of western Scotland. All of the motifs have a fresh appearance and are in good condition. It is clear that the outcrop continues below the turf and deeper surrounding soil and there is high potential for the survival of additional carvings on the buried rock surface and other contemporary archaeological evidence nearby. Excavation at similar rock art sites has uncovered associated buried remains beyond the outcrop, including artefacts and environmental evidence. Such remains can enhance our understanding of the techniques of production, purpose and meaning of the carvings and the activities which took place in the vicinity of the outcrop. No development sequence of the carvings can be discerned here as most of the decorative elements respect each other spatially. Overall, this rock art panel represents a significant undertaking by the person or people who pecked out the design.

Contextual characteristics

Mid Argyll, and specifically the Kilmartin region, is one of Scotland's richest prehistoric landscapes because of the survival, visibility, density and variety of the surviving monuments. Within this complex of monuments, there are 250 or more recorded rock panels bearing peck-marked cups, cup and ring marks and more complex designs. Examples of rock art continue to be discovered in this part of western Scotland, indicating its importance to contemporary society.

Researchers investigating the significance of rock art panels believe they are components of the wider landscape and may have functioned at various levels: from the rock surface and panel as ancestral space; to the immediate area as a venue for activities (not just during the carving process, but the uses of the motifs and outcrop afterwards); to the wider landscape in which the outcrop is located and the connections between rock art panels and other prehistoric monuments. The River Add and Clachandubh Burn provide an alternative N-S routeway to the Kilmartin Glen (to the W) and this area was an equally rich focus for a complex of monuments, including standing stones, burial cairns and rock art panels. The position of this panel, overlooking a bend in the route way and with long-distance views to the E, reinforces the suggestion that these monuments have a wider significance in the landscape. Rock art is often sited at the junction between farmland and upland areas and it may have marked a boundary between domesticated and wild landscapes. This panel can enhance our understanding of the role played by rock art in prehistoric life, both for the people who carved the designs and for those who used them subsequently.

Associative characteristics

The carvings enhance the natural landscape of which they are part and 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, prehistoric rock art studies in Scotland and the context of these motifs in relict landscapes rich in contemporary burial and ceremonial monuments. The monument has the potential to enhance our understanding of the placing, meaning and function of decorated rock panels. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand rock art and its place in prehistoric society.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NR89NE 51. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR PIN reference is 59891.


Regan R, 2008, Dalriada Project Kilbride Farm, Kilmichael Glassary in, Milburn, P, (ed.), Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, vol. 9, p. 43.

Regan R, 2008, Kilbride Farm Walkover Archaeological Survey. Dalriada Project (= circulated typescript report). Kilmartin House Museum.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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