Rock Art Is All the Rage; Volunteers Discover 100 New Examples

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Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor

ROCK art up to 6,000 years old has been discovered across the North East. English Heritage volunteers discovered 100 new finds in Durham and Northumberland in a four-year project.

And the striking pieces of prehistoric art have now been displayed on a new website, alongside other examples found in the last 50 years.

Logging of rock art and research into the subject was led for decades by retired Hexham headmaster Stan Beckensall, who donated his archive to Newcastle University, which developed an award-winning website. Then four years ago English Heritage funded a pilot rock art project with Northumberland and Durham county councils.

Around 100 volunteers, using modern equipment such as digital cameras, have been recording the location, content, context and condition of rock art .

The new database, which includes Dr Beckensall's Northumberland finds, runs to around 1,500 examples and is at http:// archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/era.

English Heritage is hoping the pioneering work undertaken as part of the Northumberland and Durham Rock Art Project will be continued in other counties to create a nationwide record.

The launch yesterday took place on Barningham Moor in County Durham, where one of the most interesting new discoveries is a large and elaborately carved panel which features many complex abstract carvings.

Richard Stroud, part of the team which discovered the Barningham panel, said: "We expected to discover one or two simple carvings. Instead we found a breathtaking panel, probably one of the most complex discovered in County Durham.

"Its true meaning is something we'll possibly never understand. But I am proud that our work has helped preserve this fragile link to our ancestors."

Edward Impey, director of research and standards at English Heritage, said: "The online record of the Northumberland and Durham examples will serve as the starting point for a national survey, and, we hope, help us understand their meaning and lead to the discovery of others."

Kate Wilson, Newcastle-based inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage, said: "There are many theories as to what rock art carvings mean. …