Prehistoric Rock Art in Northumberland

By Chippindale, Christopher | Antiquity, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Prehistoric Rock Art in Northumberland


Chippindale, Christopher, Antiquity


STAN BECKENSALL. Prehistoric rock art in Northumberland. 192 pages, 244 figures, 30 colour photographs. 2001. Stroud & Charleston (SC): Tempus; 0-75241945-5 paperback 16.99 [pounds sterling] & $27.50.

This first-rate book gives a comprehensive descriptive account of the rock art of Northumberland, richest of English counties in these singular remains. It is written from Stan Beckensall's great knowledge with an inviting charm, splendidly illustrated with his photographs and drawings, well produced in a manageable size, and not expensive for what it offers.

Northumberland was amongst the first areas in Britain where prehistoric rock art was noticed when John Charles Langlands grasped the significance of two carved rocks at Old Bewick in the 1820s. Ever since, it has been hard to study. Dated now well back into prehistory, and allocated to the Neolithic rather than Bronze Age where it was formerly placed, it is far beyond any direct insight from ethnohistory which might allow approaches by `informed methods'. When it comes to the other approach of `formal methods', those that depend only on the material evidence and its archaeological context, British rock art is also recalcitrant. There is no painting. The engravings are limited in their enigmatic repertoire: most often quite deep cup-marks resembling the cupules found in so many rock-art regions; circles, singular or concentric; lines, straight, curved or wavy; and then more elaborate figures which combine these primary elements in varied ways. All these Beckensall calls, conventionally, `abstract', when in truth they may or may not be. All we can actually say is that we do not recognize what natural things they are images of -- save only for a handful of little animal figures at Goatscrag (but are these certain to be prehistoric? or do they go with the rare animal depictions of later date, like those at Wemyss Bay, on the Fife coast of Scotland?). They may be abstract, or they may be naturalistic images of which we have simply failed to recognize the subject depicted (stones, sticks, the marks made in water when stones and sticks are dropped in pools?). I do not myself like the words Beckensall uses to describe the main elements. He calls the small units -- cup, circle, line -- symbols, and the combinations they make when compiled together motifs. But why choose to call them symbols when we do not know whether they are symbols; and, if they are abstract as he says, then surely they are not symbols!

The book first sets the scene in an inviting introduction, beginning with a single panel, Lordenshaw, to explain by example what the study of British rock art involves. It is vivid, as if one were guided by the author in person, a genial companion with the virtues of an enthusiastic senior schoolmaster. Then more about the images and how they were made, ending in a sketchy geological map to make a key point: all bar three of the few hundred Northumberland sites are on sandstone, which occurs on a belt meandering across the higher part of the county, and covering only a tiny portion of its area. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Prehistoric Rock Art in Northumberland
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.