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North Beachmore, rock art panels 220m E, 350m east and 385m ESE of

A Scheduled Monument in Kintyre and the Islands, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 55.6165 / 55°36'59"N

Longitude: -5.6679 / 5°40'4"W

OS Eastings: 169131

OS Northings: 641988

OS Grid: NR691419

Mapcode National: GBR DFDW.0LP

Mapcode Global: WH0LB.X363

Entry Name: North Beachmore, rock art panels 220m E, 350m E and 385m ESE of

Scheduled Date: 31 October 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13295

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Killean and Kilchenzie

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises an earthfast monolith and two rock outcrops in close proximity, all decorated with prehistoric rock art motifs. The motifs were carved probably during the early prehistoric period, between about 3500 BC and 2500 BC. The monolith now serves as the N side of a gateway between two pasture fields. It measures roughly 0.9m wide by 0.3m deep at its base, but tapers towards the top. It stands 1.5m high and now leans at an angle of 45 degrees, with the decorated surface facing SW. Over 50 cup-marks and variations of cup-mark designs have been recorded. The two outcrops are visible at ground level as small areas of exposed rock surface within pasture land. The easternmost is 1.5m long by 0.9m wide and is decorated with at least 12 cup-marks. The visible area of the second outcrop, 120m to the W, measures 1.2m by 1.2m and is decorated with at least eight cup-marks. The monolith and rock outcrops are located on the S and N sides respectively of the Allt Achapharick burn at approximately 120m above sea level. The former has a predominantly E-facing outlook to the Kintyre ridge, while the two rock outcrops are on the W-facing shoulder of the ridge, overlooking the Sound of Gigha, Jura and Islay beyond.

The scheduled area comprises three separate circles, centred on the monolith and rock outcrops respectively. The first, 5m in diameter, is centred on the monolith; the second, 8m in diameter, is centred on the westernmost rock outcrop; and the third, 6m in diameter, is centred on the easternmost rock outcrop. The area to be scheduled 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. Specifically excluded from the scheduling are the above-ground components of a post-and-wire fence adjacent to the monolith.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monolith may not be in its original position, but it retains significant intrinsic value because of the relatively good condition of the carved motifs and the overall design represented. Antiquarian accounts suggest it has not been disturbed since at least the 1930s. The unusual design includes: single cup-marks; kidney-shaped carvings formed from small groups of cup-marks; a single cup-mark with a concentric, crescent-shaped channel or part-ring; small groups of cup-marks joined by carved channels; and twin cup-marked designs joined by a single channel to form 'dumb-bell' shapes. The motifs appear to be spatially discrete, with few if any overlapping. The cups are between 35mm and 76mm in diameter and up to 19mm deep. The two ground-level rock outcrops are decorated with single cup-marks of around the same dimensions. Again, the individual cups are spatially discrete and do not overlap with each other.

Despite the vulnerable position of the outcrops at ground level and the location of the monolith at the side of a gateway, all of the carvings are in good condition. Excavations at similar outcropping sites in Argyll have uncovered further buried carvings and associated remains beyond the footprint of the visible panel, including further carvings, artefacts and environmental evidence. This may also be the case here. Any surviving remains associated with the carvings could help us understand the circumstances behind their creation and how the carved panels were used, as well as provide evidence for the nature of the local environment and vegetation at the time the carvings were produced.

In the case of all three panels, any development sequence or phasing of the carvings is difficult to determine because most of the components respect each other spatially. Collectively, however, they represent a significant undertaking by the person or people who carved these designs. As well as their high intrinsic value as decorated monuments, these carved panels can enhance our understanding of the carving process and techniques, the relationship between individual motifs and the overall designs, and the meaning and symbolism of the various motifs and designs.

Contextual characteristics

These three rock art panels are an interesting group, which could help illuminate the place and meaning of rock art in prehistoric life. Researchers have suggested that rock art panels are components of wider ritual landscapes and may have functioned at various levels: from the rock surface and decorated panel as an ancestral space; to the immediate area as a venue for ritual or ceremonial activity; to the wider landscape in which the panels are located and the likely connections they had with other broadly contemporary monuments. In this case, the presence of rock art motifs on a standing stone adds to the interest of this ceremonial monument.

The cup-mark motif is a Scotland-wide phenomenon. This group forms part of an unusually rich, regional concentration of rock art in Argyll, but the monolith includes some relatively uncommon motifs. Locally, these panels are part of a wider contemporary landscape along Kintyre, which includes similarly carved panels on monoliths and outcrops to the N and S, as well as other types of broadly contemporary monument, such as standing stones and chambered cairns (for example, 1.5km to the N). Along the Kintyre ridge alone, there are 25 or more recorded panels bearing similar motifs. Further N, in the wider Kilmartin area, there is an exceptionally dense concentration of over 250 panels. This rich assemblage of rock art indicates something of the significance which these enigmatic designs held for the prehistoric communities inhabiting Argyll. The North Beachmore carvings are located close to a water course and the two outcrops overlook natural land and seaward route-ways. These characteristics are common at rock art sites in Scotland, suggesting that landscape context and the proximity of natural resources were important factors in the positioning of rock art. Rock art is often sited at the junction of farmland and upland areas and may have marked the boundary between domesticated and wild landscapes. The North Beachmore carvings have the potential to enhance our understanding of the role of rock art in prehistoric life, both for those who carved the designs and those who used the sites.

National Importance

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 rock art motifs in archaeological landscapes where contemporary burial and ceremonial monuments survive. The monument has the potential to enhance our understanding of the placing, meaning and function of decorated 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 NR64SE 6, 7 and 31. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR PIN reference is 3171, 3180 and 3181.


Morris R W B, 1977, The prehistoric rock art of Argyll. Poole. Dolphin press.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1971, Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments. Volume 1: Kintyre. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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