Brecon Beacons first rock art discovered

The first prehistoric rock art to be found in the Brecon Beacons, was recently discovered on ground cared for by the National Trust.

rock art

Brecon Beacons first art?

Alan Bowring (Fforest Fawr Geopark Officer) unexpectedly noticed a series of prehistoric engravings late last year whilst surveying on our ground – thought to be made by prehistoric farming communities thousands of years ago.

Alan, a geologist, was out investigating geological features on land managed by the National Trust and spotted a rock with some unusual markings on it.  Sensing this was unusual – he sought further advice from colleague Natalie Ward (Brecon Beacons Nationla Park Archaeologist) who had experience of recording such artefacts in the North of England.  The National Trust’s own archaeological survey had already highlighted Bronze Age features in the area and gave some context to the stones past.  In collaboration the rock art has been announced today after checks have been completed on its authenticity.  

Dr George Nash, Archaeologist and specialist in Prehistoric and Contemporary art confirmed what Alan Bowring had discovered was the first prehistoric rock engraved panel recorded in the Brecon Beacons.  Dr Nash added that based on the shape of the stone and its engravings, it probably comes from the Early to Middle Bronze Age period (c. 2500 to 1500 BC) and it probably served as a waymarker in the form of a standing stone for prehistoric communities navigating around the ritualised landscape more than 2,000 years ago.

“We might have been able to predict a discovery of this kind considering the large amount of prehistoric ritual sites in the Brecon Beacons but this is the first evidence of prehistoric rock art to be ever recorded.  There are no other later prehistoric standing stones within this part of Wales that are cupmarked (small hollows), making this one rather unique”, says Dr Nash.

rock art closer

Can you see the cupmarks?

The stone is approximately 1.45m long and 0.5m wide and the face contains 12 cupmarks of various shapes and sizes.  It is currently lying flat on the ground but it is possible that it once was standing (further archaeological investigation may be able to confirm this).   Dr Nash explains that cupmarks are the most common later prehistoric rock art form in the British Isles and Europe, but their occurrence in mid-Wales is rare.

Joe Daggett, Countryside Manager for the National Trust in Brecon said:  “Although I was initially  sceptical  about this stone’s markings the confidence in its origins is now clear, and it fits with the Bronze Age archaeology we have previously recorded in this  area.  We are really keen to get the right protection for this artefact and with BBNP support have been liaising with Cadw to start the process.   It is of utmost importance to protect this stone for future generations and to share this discovery in an appropriate way – a core purpose of the National Trust.   Our CBA Community Archaeologist, Charlie Enright, is arranging a number of archaeological recording and survey days in the coming weeks.”

Over the course of next week we will be undertaking a range of archaeological activities including:

  • Recording the stone with Dr George Nash.
  • Conducting a geophysical survey in the area surrounding the stone to see if we can find any evidence of past human activity below the surface.
  • Condition monitoring and a topographical survey of the surrounding archaeology.

Charlie added: “This is a fantastic opportunity to get local people involved in a multi-discipline archaeological project, work alongside and learn from professional archaeologists and other likeminded people, acquire new skills and contribute to our understanding of this fantastic site.  If people are interested then they should phone me straight away to book – places are limited!”

If you are interested in taking part – places are limited so please book by contacting Charlie Enright, Community Archaeologist at the National Trust charles.enright@nationaltrust.org.uk

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