Historic Scotland

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The three groups of cup-and-ring-marked rocks at Drumtroddan probably belong to the Neolithic or early Bronze Age. Similar rock art occurs across Scotland, and has also been found in north-east Englandnorth-west SpainBrittany and Ireland. 

Rock art designs were carefully executed using hard stone tools, and often densely cover large expanses of rock face. Recurring patterns across Scotland include: 

  • cup marks 
  • cup-and-ring marks 
  • spirals 
  • stars 
  • linear grooves 

Axes are occasionally depicted, but the markings are mostly abstract. There are no animal or human figures, and few indicators of function or meaning.  

Mysteries etched in stone 

The carved stones at Drumtroddan are among the most visible legacies of this area’s ancient inhabitants. They are part of a regional group of cup and ring markings known in Galloway.   

One plausible explanation for such monuments is as territorial markers – they’re usually sited in conspicuous locations with good views. 

The meaning of the symbols is entirely lost, though theories abound. These include connections with mapping, with metal prospecting and with prehistoric belief systems. But the carvings probably had an immediate and practical use to the people who carved them, and they may not have been intended as ‘art’ as we understand it.