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Durham University

Special Collections

Palace Green Library Events

'These curious marks': Why the meaning of British rock art is still a mystery

15th August 2018, 13:00 to 14:00, Palace Green Library (Wolfson Gallery)

13:00 - 14:00

Free - no booking required

Kate Sharpe, Research Associate in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University

As part of the Dig Deeper talks and the Shattering Perceptions exhibition, Dr Kate Sharpe a (Research Associate inthe Department of Archaeology, Durham University) will explore British Rock Art.

In 1866, the Reverend James Simpson addressed the inaugural meeting of a new archaeological society in Cumbria, referring to ‘these curious marks’ recently discovered on a well-known standing stone called Long Meg. He concluded with a warning: 'That the mystery will be cleared up, I fully believe, though it may happen that those who first essay an explanation of these strange characters or curious symbols, or seek to assign them a date or a meaning will…err from the truth...' .

Since then, many researchers - antiquarians, academics, and armchair enthusiasts alike - have attempted to shed light on the purpose of similar motifs pecked onto stone surfaces across the British Isles. Now known to be a form of ‘rock art’ (known locally as ‘cup and ring marks’), and a worldwide phenomenon, these intriguing marks provide a unique yet elusive personal link with our prehistoric ancestors.

This talk will explore some of the many theories explaining the carvings, and the reasons why their meaning has so far evaded us.

This talk is free of charge and will take place in the Learning Centre at Palace Green Library. Booking is not required, but seating will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

For more information about the Shattering Perceptions exhibition created by Durham University's MA Museum and Artefact Studies students, please visit:

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