Cupmarks

Cupmarks are simple round depressions carved on stone surfaces, probably created by using a pecking technique. They date from both the Neolithic and the Bronze Age periods (c. 4,400 BC – 1,000 BC). They are usually found on prominent natural boulders and rock outcrops, but are also occasionally found on standing stones, on the stones of stone circles and on stones incorporated into burial chambers and cists.

Cupmarks can form impressive works containing complex arrangements of cups with multiple rings and grooves, often with connecting gutters, although they are more often found as small clusters on a suitable boulder or outcrop. Such rocks have been explained as territorial markers, sacrificial altars or religious symbols.

As a cultural tradition of rock art, cupmarks would appear to have a long and complex history, with similarities among the regional styles all along the Atlantic seaboard. Such rock art is relatively common in Scotland and has also been found in Northern England, Ireland, Brittany and Spain. Many possible interpretations have been put forward, from maps and markers in the landscape, to use in rites of passage and ancestor worship.