Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Ripples Across 900 Miles of Ancient Landscape

During my summer visit to the Galician coast in northern Spain I was intrigued to visit one of the many sites of Cup and Ring rock art which look so familiar from prehistoric sites in Scotland. With the aid of a map, a patient interpreter (thanks Nuria) a long bus journey and a friendly taxi driver we arrived at Laxe das Rodas. The cravings here are particularly well executed, both neat and still deeply inscribed in parts although the rock surface is well exposed and appears to have weathered considerably. The interpretive panel attributes the petroglyphs to the late Bronze Age / early Iron Age. Considering that long-distance travel at that time was likely made along the coast in vessels just a bit more substantial than ocean-going canoes (although surprising sophisticated in examples such as the Dover Boat) it is remarkable to see such striking similarities in contemporary rock art at home, over 900 miles away.

For a point of visual comparison I have included photographs of Achnabreck rock carvings in Argyll, Scotland alongside shots of Laxe das Rodas in Galicia, Spain. Perhaps the most obvious distinction is the weather - unsurprisingly the wet photographs where taken in Scotland, the shots in baking sunshine taken in Spain!

One of the most distinct cup and ring carvings, Laxe das Rodas, Calicia, Spain.
A similar design at Achnabreck, near Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, Scotland.
Another apparent similarity is the choice of location for the carving sites which both command views across the entrances between the coast and inland areas. While Laxe das Rodas is positioned above the entrance to La Ría de Muros y Noya, and is in direct line of site with Castro de Baroña (see previous post), Achnabreck overlooks the modern day Lochgilphead, one of the approaches to Kilmartin Glen, which had much sacred importance in prehistory.

A complex spiral and dot pattern at Laxe das Rodas.
The carvings at Achnabreck include rare "horned spiral" motifs
Of the distinguishing features of the Galician rock art I was interested to see that representational artwork seemed a lot more common, certainly compared to the examples of rock art in Argyll where there are only a few representations of axe heads. There are very small and obscure marks on the Laxe das Rodas spiral above which may represent human figures and more extravagant representations of deer appear at nearby rock art sites. Despite the distingushing characteristics of the two sites, to the untrained eye the similarities in symbology and style are astounding bearing in mind the distances involved.

Note that Google Maps doesn't have the option to provide directions for canoe. Instead this map shows a suggested route between the two sites over land, one which was probably most impractical during the Bronze Age.

1 comment:

  1. thank you Kieran I enjoyed reading this, I wish I had found it some time ago; when I published a piece on the ancient landscape.
    anyway I have linked it to it, hope your ok with that - best ashar