Prehistoric Art Archive Reveals Ancient Skills of Britain's Cave Dwellers

Article excerpt

ONE OF the world's finest prehistoric "art galleries" has yielded more than 250 new works, underlining the extraordinary creativity of the cave artists.

The historic works, hacked out of rock on moorland settlements near the Scottish border in Northumberland, were unearthed during a 30-month search by archaeologists.

The experts are still grappling with the origins and meaning of these abstract carvings, believed to be the work of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age people between 3,500 and 6,000 years ago, although theories abound. One says they are symbolic expressions of the changing relationship Neolithic people had with the landscape and past societies. Another suggests the carvings fulfilled a human need to mark their landscape.

Like all UK rock art, most Northumberland specimens are in the "cup and ring" style, typically featuring cups and circles of various sizes, though a relatively recent 300-year-old carving of a face, heart and foot has proved more baffling. The British Museum and English Heritage have been drafted in to the quest to explain the carving.

Among the latest discoveries made by the archaeologists from Newcastle University is a collection at Goatstones, near Wark, Northumberland, where 14 carved stones were found. …