viernes, 16 de diciembre de 2011

The Llwydiarth Esgob Stone

The Llwydiarth Esgob Stone

By George Nash, Abby George, Adam Stanford and Thomas Wellicome

The Anglesey Rock Art Project recently extended their programme to include excavation and re­cording of megalithic rock art on a stone at Llwydiarth Esgob Farm. The stone, made from a distinctive localised hornblende picrite, stands within the garden of the farmhouse and was moved there by the noted antiquary Thomas Pritchard at the beginning of the 20th century.

This intriguing stone was brought to the attention of archaeologist Frances Lynch by the owners of the Farm in the 1970s. Lynch noted that the stone possessed two cup-and-ring marks connected by linear grooves and cupules, and provided a rea­sonably accurate sketch plan. Although this boulder has not been designated a scheduled monument, it is registered with the regional archaeology authority, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, and is on the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments for Wales CARN database.[i] However, the primary function and location of this stone remains unknown.

Welsh assemblage in relation to the Llwydiarth Esgob stone

Rock art at Bryn Celli Ddu. Photo: © Aerial-Cam

In terms of rock art regions elsewhere in Europe, the Welsh assemblage can be considered relatively insignificant, numbering around 45 sites, and of these, 35 per cent are directly associated with Neolithic burial monu­ments. The rest are located on isolated standing stones (menhirs) or occur as portable stones.[ii] The repertoire of motifs mainly comprises single and multiple cupules which are usually arranged haphazardly or sometimes forming linear patterns on standing stones or rarely on exposed rock-outcropping e.g. Bryn Celli Ddu. However, in the case of the Llwydiarth Esgob stone, one side is decorated with three concentric cir­cles, cup-and-rings, cupules and intersecting grooves. The rear face has no obvious petroglyph but is covered by pitting, although it is not clear if this is the result of human agency or not. This stone is the only isolated monolith in Anglesey that has megalithic symbols that are ar­ranged in such a complex manner.

The excavation undertaken by the authors in June 2009 revealed that the lower section of the stone was embedded in gravel beneath a lawn area of the farmhouse garden with only around five centimetres lying beneath the current soil line. Several of the petroglyph motifs appeared to extend to the edge of the broken base, confirming that this stone had been damaged and probably once formed part of a much larger boulder, with indications that the broken base may have been relatively recently damaged.

A ritually significant area
The immediate topography around the farm is undulating with an altitude ranging between c. 50 and 75 metres AOD and it is probable that the stone originally lay close to the present farm, maybe occupying a slightly elevated part of the surrounding landscape. Assuming that the stone was sited locally and formed part of a larger monument, it would have shared a landscape with two surviv­ing standing stones and a Neolithic burial-ritual chambered monument, which may have been the original location. One of the standing stones is sited near the hamlet of Clorach and is locally known as the Thief Stone standing at c. 60 metres AOD with identical petrography to the Llwydiarth Esgob Farm stone.[iii] A second standing stone, the Llys Einion stone, located 1.2 kilometres north-west at c. 58 metres AOD, is sited near a possible Neolithic chambered tomb known as Maen Chwyf.[iv] This badly damaged burial-ritual monument is incorporated into a mature field boundary and may have an association with the Alter Stone, a single monolith that stands 50 metres to the east and within the curtilage of Llwydiarth Fawr Farm.

To the east of this fragmented monument group are the ridges of Mynydd Bodafon. The two standing stones, along with a third, located c. 1.9 kilometres to the south-east of Llwydiarth Esgob Farm near the settlement of Capel Coch, form a clear NW-SE alignment, or what we would term a procession way whereby pre-Historic people would have been guided from one monument to another through this landscape. The Maen Chwyf burial chamber appears to form part of this alignment.

The immediate area of the Llwydiarth Esgob Farm stone includes the discovery places of three Neolithic axes two of which originate from the axe factories of Langdale in Cumbria and Penmaen­mawr (Graig Lwyd) in north Wales.[v] The other axe originates from the Mynydd Rhiw axe factory, on the Lleyn Peninsula, Caernarvonshire.[vi] The presence of high status items such as axes, the location of the three standing stones and a ruined Neolithic chambered tomb, as well as the Llwydiarth Esgob Farm stone, suggest that the landscape around Llwydiarth Esgob Farm during the Neolithic and probably the Early Bronze Age was ritually significant. A Group XII axe hammer from Cwm Mawr, Shropshire, dating to the Early Bronze age was also found within the vicinity of the farm.[vii]

Methods and dissemination
As well as conducting a small excavation around the stone, the authors recorded the motifs using pho­tography and tracing methods. Based on our recent survey there appears to be much more rock art than previously recorded. The rock art is pecked on one side of the stone and comprises a number of generic megalithic art-type motifs, including two irregular concentric circles, lines that are both internal and ex­ternal to the two concentric circles, up to four cupules and a series of curvilinear grooves that may or may not have been produced via human agencies. Initial inspection of the stone was hampered by extensive lichen and moss growth across most of the surface, in particular in those areas where the rock art is present. Careful and systematic removal of this growth by hand was undertaken prior to recording, as well as the clear­ance of undergrowth that lay around the stone.

Recording techniques

The rock art was recorded using tracing techniques previously employed by the team at Barclodiad y Gawres, tracing with permanent black marker pens onto acetate film. Much of what had been sketched by Lynch was also recorded during this project.[viii] However, there were a number of inconsisten­cies concerning the accuracy of Lynch’s plan. Further­more, absent from the original plan were additional sections to known motifs as well as pecked lines. (Fig. 2) The tracing exercise was supported by the photo­graphic survey, which was undertaken using oblique controlled light conditions.

(Fig. 1) The combination of both techniques plus the overlay of several tracings of the same surface resulted in what we believe is an accurate plan of the stone. (Fig. 2) The data taken during the tracing exercise and the controlled light­ing session was later used to produce a digital plan. The method for producing the definitive illustration was to combine the photographs taken with the ‘painting with light’ technique with digitally drawn representations of the art. This technique involves taking several photographic exposures at night, with artificial light directed from different angles to bring out the definition of the art.

The image with the high­est definition was used to redraw the primary image using computer graphics, and then repeated on five of the next clearest of these images in turn, making sure only clear pecking or engraving was recorded. The resulting images were superimposed and areas that were vague or suspect were taken out, leaving a clear, reliable drawing. This was then compared with the tracings taken by members of the group and again, a further judgement was made on the accuracy of the final image. The resulting illustration (Fig 2) is an accurate representation of the art as it stands today.

Motif repertoire
The motif repertoire included the following ele­ments: two concentric circles that were interconnected by a single grooved line, up to six cupules ranging from 10-68 millimetres in diameter, and a series of interconnecting linear and curvilinear (pecked) grooved lines. The left-hand concentric circle motif comprised four decreasing circles and a single cupule had been gouged to form the central element. It is probable that the concentric circle and the cupule were the result of a single production event. However, a further cupule roughly similar in size to the central one appears to be a later addition. By adding this addi­tional cupule the symmetry of the concentric circle has been broken. The act of adding additional cupules to an earlier petroglyph is not uncommon within the Irish Sea province.

“The right-hand concentric circle has been pecked deeper and wider, and it is probable that both concentric circles were produced by different artists using different pecking tools

The right-hand concentric circle is constructed from two rings, the inner ring encircling a centrally gouged cupule, and a diagonal groove extends from the cupule to the outer circle. We believe the elements of this motif constitute a single production event, but it is not contemporary with the left-hand concentric circle. This assumption is based purely on the observation that each concentric circle is pecked differently. The right-hand concentric circle has been pecked deeper and wider, and it is probable that both concentric circles were produced by different artists using different pecking tools. The same deeper and wider pecking technique has been employed to the linear and curvi­linear lines that extend around each of the concentric circles and therefore, they may be contemporary with the right-hand concentric circle.

With regards to phasing, we suggest that there are two production phases, the earliest being the left-handed concentric circle. It is from this initial design that other motifs are, arguably, symmetrically added. However, we are not confident how this surviving section relates to any missing rock art that once formed the lower section of a much larger piece of stone, nor are we clear of its original provenance, although Lynch suggests that because of its weight it was unlikely to have travelled far.[ix]

Validation and discussion
■There are a number of issues concerning the de­sign intentionality that require consideration. Firstly, a section of the Llwydiarth Esgob Stone is missing which may have possessed a plethora of motifs that would have placed the surviving elements into context.
■Secondly, the authors are unsure of the orientation of the stone. For example, was the surviving section buried or did it form the upper part of a much larger stone? We say ‘buried’ as there is evidence of rock art being buried or ‘in-turned’ into the mounds of Neolithic burial monuments and therefore away from public view — e.g. a number of kerbstones at Newgrange and Knowth in the Boyne Valley, Ireland.[x] An early 20th century excavation at the Robin Hood’s Stone, a large monolith in Liverpool, revealed a well-formed cup-and-ring mark which was surrounded by up to nine cupules. If we are to assume that the Robin Hood’s Stone stood with the rock art buried below the surface, we beg the question, who is seeing the art? One of the authors has suggested that rock art within a passage grave context is restricted visu­ally to social elites and the dead.[xi] If one is to assume that the mound is a house for the dead then any form of in-turning the art towards the mound restricts the visibility of the art to supernatural beings.

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