Excavations at Copt Howe day 1: The project begins


Above: Copt Howe in winter (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2016)


Copt Howe, also known as the Langdale Boulders, is a remarkable place. Here, in the heart of the Lake District, Neolithic people carved two enormous rocks with abstract images. The composition of these designs is very similar to those found at passage tombs in Ireland, and yet Copt Howe is a geological formation. The close affinity with the Irish sites also allows a fairly limited period of time when the images could have been carved, since the currency of art upon the tombs is approximately 3300 to 2900 BC. 


Above: The main panel of rock art at Copt Howe (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2016)


Above: A 3D model of the main panel of carvings at Copt Howe (with an artificial texture to highlight the motifs). Please click on the button to navigate (Photogrammetry: Aaron Watson, 2016)


The Boulders clearly inspired people around five thousand years ago, but we know very little about what happened there. As a collaboration between myself and Richard Bradley, this project is investigating the possibilities through fieldwork. Preparation has included 3D recording and geophysics. Over the next couple of weeks, four small trenches will be excavated across the site.

On the morning of the first day of the excavation it is raining in Great Langdale. Proper Lake District rain. Undeterred, the team spend part of the morning exploring Copt Howe before beginning work on the trenches.


Above: Richard and I introduce the site to the team in the midst of a deluge (Photo: Ronnie Scott)


Above: Looking around Copt Howe on the morning of the first day (Video: Ronnie Scott / Edit: Aaron Watson, 2018)


Our first objective was to explore a low elongated mound set in pasture alongside the Boulders.


Above: The mound with Great Langdale beyond, photographed last year (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2017)


Was this mound a monument? If so, could it be Neolithic? Geophysics and a detailed contour survey had revealed few insights, so today we began to dig a trench to explore this ambiguous feature. 


Above: Richard, Pete and Ronnie discuss progress on the trench (Photos: Aaron Watson, 2018)


This trench may be resolved tomorrow, hopefully in drier conditions.

The excavations at Copt Howe were directed by Richard Bradley and Aaron Watson. Many thanks to Yvonne Luke, Diane O'Leary, Nick Russell, Ronnie Scott, Kate Sharpe, Moyra Simon, Peter Style, Sally Taylor and Emma Watson for helping us with the fieldwork.

Thanks also to Historic England for granting permission for us to work at this scheduled monument, and to the National Trust for their support throughout. The excavations were funded by the Prehistoric Society and the Royal Archaeological Institute.

I will update my website with further information as the analysis and interpretation of the excavation continues.