Prehistoric people are likely to have lived in a number of settlements scattered around present-day Glasgow, given the abundance of ancient rock art in the area, research has found
People are known to have lived in the area up to 10,000 years ago and now analysis of ancient rock art sites has identified a “ring” of probable Neolithic settlements around the city.
The findings come as Scotland’s Rock Art Project works with communities across the country to record in detail some 2,000 ancient sites where mysterious cup and ring carvings can be found.
Dozens of theories surround the meaning of the carvings which may have served as territorial markers, astronomical maps or made as part of a ritual. They may even have been made simply to pass the time.
Dr Tertia Barnett, principal investigator of Scotland’s Rock Art Project, said a concentration of 14 to 15 pieces of rock art have been recorded in a park on the edge of Faifley, a housing estate to the north of Clydebank.
She said: “There is probably an awful lot more in this area. There is actually a ring of sites around Glasgow. My suspicion is that Faifley is a relic of a much more expansive spread of rock art and I think it offers a really important little glimpse of what might have been around Glasgow. It is really important that it is protected and recorded.”
People were likely to have been drawn to the area given good farming land and access to communication route, Dr Barnett added.
She said: “It is likely the Clyde was an important artery, connecting different areas to the sea and to the islands. From Faifley it would have been easy to get round the coast to Bute and Arran, for example.”
The Cochno Stone, described as Europe’s most important Neolithic cup and ring-marked rock art panel, was excavated at Faifley in 2015 and 2016 by Dr Kenneth Brophy, senior lecturer in archaeology at Glasgow University.
The giant stone, measuring 13 metres by 7 metres, was buried in the 1960s to protect it from vandalism with it now buried again.
More than 100 prehistoric carved symbols – more than previously recorded – have been identified on the Cochno Stone following analysis of laser scans and photographs taken in 2016. Five colours of oil paint painted onto the stone by archaeologist Ludovic Mann in 1937 have also been recorded, along with 100 pieces of 20th century graffiti
Dr Brophy added: “Taken together, the Cochno Stone is one of the most decorated and vandalised rock art sites in Britain! But this also means there is an amazing story to tell here, and so research and analysis is ongoing and working with the local community here is fundamental in this process.”
Dr Brophy said local interest in the Cochno Stone and other Faifley rock art had “intensified” over past two years with “lots of discussion” about what to do next.
He said: “I hope that in the coming years the rock art and wonderful cup and ring mark symbols can become embedded in the identity and life of the local community and within Clydebank, with access, information and participation all encouraged and improved. There is huge potential to take the internationally significant rock art around Faifley and use this for social and economic benefit to the people who live there, and this aspiration has really been driven and embraced by local people and stakeholders.”
The Cochno stone is one of 30 rock art sites to have been recorded and mapped in West Dunbartonshire with a further 36 listed in Inverclyde, including three on Gourock Golf Course. A further concentration of rock art has been recorded at Rouken Glen in East Renfrewshire.
The rock art sites will be mapped out in relation to other Neolithic remains in an attempt to build a stronger understanding of how the markings fitted into the wider landscape of the time. The biggest concentration of rock art can be found at Kilmartin Glen in Argyll with Perthshire and Angus also key areas.