Excavations at Copt Howe day 6: Were these tools used to make the rock art?

A bright and dry day. In Trench 1 Pete continued to work in the area where two artefacts have been found. Not far from their location, and just a little deeper, several more pointed stones were found together. Could these also have been part of a rock art toolkit?


Above: The finds tray for Trench 1, shortly after the discovery of a number of distinctively shaped rocks which may have been used as tools to carve the art (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2018)


Above: Four of the tools, including the pointed implement (on the right) found yesteday (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2018)


The next step in Trench 1 was to remove the dividing blocks, revealing another surprise. Set against these rocks was what appeared to be a quarried block bearing a single circular depression. This hollow is a geological feature, and many examples can be seen across the surface of the Langdale Boulders. These hollows, however, may have been symbolic to Neolithic people since they resemble artificially created markings known as cup marks. In this case, the natural cupule had been embellished by the addition of a delicate pecked ring around its perimeter.


Above: The block bearing a natural hollow and narrow artificial ring, as revealed by the removal of the line of boulders (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2018)


Also revealed at the very base of the rock, in one corner, was a flat slab. This appeared to have been deliberately placed.


Above: Trench 3, showing the placed flat slab in the back right corner, near the stile (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2018)


Above: A 3D model of Trench 1. Please click on the button to navigate (Photogrammetry: Aaron Watson)


Later in the morning, sunlight revealed the freshly exposed carvings in Trench 1 to great effect. This might be the first direct sunlight these markings have seen for over four thousand years. Furthermore, other new markings are appearing as the light changes.


Above: Pete examines the newly revealed carvings. The full extent of the two arcs in the lower left is becoming clearer. Other carvings can be seen on the far right. Will these be a full circular motif? (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2018) 


Over the wall in Trench 3 progress is being made with removing the heap of stones against the rock. They are mixed in with tree roots and rotting leaves, and there many air pockets. The most likely explanation is that they have been added in recent times to consolidate the wet ground. Underneath should be the Neolithic layers.


Above: Sally, Moyra and Ronnie working on Trench 3 (Photo: Aaron Watson)


Above: A short film of highlights from day six (Footage: Ronnie Scott and Aaron Watson / Edit: Aaron Watson, 2018)


Today is the midsummer solstice, the longest day of the year. When viewed from the Copt Howe boulders, the sun sets behind the rugged peaks of the Langdale Pikes. This may have been significant in the Neolithic, since these fells were the setting for some of the most productive stone quarries in Britain. The relationship between the Boulders, the sun and these mountains may have lent Copt Howe a special significance.


Above: Evening sunlight over Great Langdale on the longest day of the year (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2018)


Above: The sun descends towards the Langdale Pikes on the solstice, with the Boulders in the foreground (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2018)


Above: The excavation team gather to watch the setting midsummer sun (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2018)


Above: The last rays of sunlight descend behind the Langdale Pikes (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2018)


Above: A short film of the summer sunset at Copt Howe (Film: Aaron Watson, 2018)


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.