Prehistoric rock art found in the Lake District

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The Independent Online

Two of the most significant examples of British prehistoric rock art have been discovered in the Lake District. They are believed to be religious in nature, dating back between 4,000 and 5,000 years and might represent attempts to contact the spirit world.

Two of the most significant examples of British prehistoric rock art have been discovered in the Lake District. They are believed to be religious in nature, dating back between 4,000 and 5,000 years and might represent attempts to contact the spirit world.

The more elaborate one was discovered in Langdale. It consists of a dozen sets of concentric circles, each up to 50 centimetres across, a triangle of around 50 tiny pick marks, and sets of parallel lines up to one metre in length.

The second engraved panel, found 10 miles to the north-east in the Ullswater Valley, is different in style and consists of 11 parallel lines and 300 circular depressions, each one five centimetres in diameter and up to two centimetres deep. Three smaller rocks nearby also feature dozens more depressions, three of which are surrounded by single circles.

Nobody knows for sure what they represent but evidence suggests that they might have symbolised tunnel-like images seen by Neolithic shamanic priests during dance or drug induced trances. The "tunnels" could have been regarded as passageways between this world and that of spirits and tribal ancestors.

It is believed that the marks were made with a hard stone pick and a wooden mallet.They date from the last thousand years of the Neolithic period, the New Stone Age.

The Langdale site was discovered during a search for rock art being carried out throughout northern Britain by two amateur archaeologists, Paul and Barbara Brown.

Stan Beckensall, who recently published the first comprehensive survey of Britain's Stone Age art, said: "They are the most significant British rock-art discoveries for more than a decade. Out of several thousand groups of prehistoric art images known in this country they are among the most important."Prehistoric art is found in regions as far apart as southern Africa, North America, Australia and Britain.

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