Prehistoric Art in 21st Century; Mobile App Locates Rock Patterns

Article excerpt

Byline: TONY HENDERSON

PREHISTORIC rock art is being given a modern twist, thanks to a new mobile phone app to help users locate the creations made more than 6,000 years ago.

In a project by the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University, archaeologists have worked with digital media experts to create a mobile phone site enabling people to find the rock art panels.

The project sprang from the realisation that people were often left frustrated because they couldn't find the rock art easily, as most of the markings are flat and often difficult to spot in thick vegetation and overcast conditions.

Dr Aron Mazel, who led the project, said: "Some of the stones are quite weathered and it's not obvious unless you know where to look.

"You could be standing right next to it and not see it."

Annotated drawings, recorded commentary and photographs can also be downloaded to a mobile phone to enable visitors to see the patterns more easily.

The research initiative covers three significant locations in Northumberland, at Dod Law and Weetwood Moor, near Wooler, and Lordenshaws, near Rothbury, and makes use of mobile phone barcodes, known as QR codes, which link into an interactive mobile website.

Visitors can either type in the website address found on illustrative signs at the locations, or scan the QR barcode to be taken to the site automatically. "I've been talking to the public about rock art for about 30 years, but this is a very different approach for me," said Dr Mazel "Rock art has been here for about 6,000 years and we're still no nearer to working out exactly what it's all about and that's what's so exciting."

The team, which consisted of Dr Mazel, Dr Areti Galani, and research associates Dr Debbie Maxwell and Dr Kate Sharpe, carried out five workshops in Rothbury and Wooler to discuss the project with local people and rock art enthusiasts and to develop design ideas. …