LORDENSHAW - NORTHUMBERLAND ROCK ART CARVINGS
Lordenshaw is located near Rothbury. The sandstone promontory on which Lordenshaw stands is to the north east of the Simonside - Dove Crags range of hills. Its north west and south east flanks drop respectively to Whitton Dean, a tributary of the Coquet and to a narrow glaciated valley overlooked to the east by another outlying sandstone hill that rises to the same height as Lordenshaw. There is a rise to the hillfort from the south west, then the land slopes away to the north east, finger-like, to the Whitton Burn.
This raised, prominent extension of the Simonside Hills reaches 268m.OD, and is made up of outcrop Fell sandstone, with only a thin layer of acidic soil. There are patches of bright orange soil thrown up by rabbits, and a dark grey soil elsewhere.
The whole area has archaeology of many different periods, one of the most recent and most significant being the clearance of much of the land to the east for 'improvement' for the growing of grain on a regular close-running rig and furrow system. This must have destroyed some surface archaeology, and may have resulted in some of the stone heaps that could also be prehistoric burial mounds.
Prominent on the hilltop is a 'fort', a ditched Iron Age enclosure that has been re-used as a Romano-British settlement. The slope southwards to the modern road and car park has many field walls, some of cobble and soil construction, and others of vertically-set sandstones. Some of these walls cross one another, and represent different episodes in the use of the land.
The oldest features belong to either the early or late Neolithic period, represented by cup and ring marked rocks over a wide area. The motifs vary from simple cups to more complex ringed cups and grooves, but there is a characteristic regional phenomenon of long grooves or channels that follow the slope of the outcrop sheets on the east side of the hill. There are over 100 carved rocks at Lordenshaw making it the mostconcentrated assemblage of rock art in Northumberland and perhaps the UK.
It is impossible to date outcrop markings, but in this area three possible Early Bronze Age cairns have been built on marked outcrop rock, showing that the latter are either contemporary or earlier, and also showing that the sites were already of great importance in the landscape before the cairns were added.
Most of the marked rocks in situ are at prominent viewpoints, some commanding many miles of territory. A few cupped rocks in the hillfort allow the possibility that some marked surfaces may have been destroyed during its construction, and the medieval Deer Park wall may account for others being broken up and reused. Modern quarrying has certainly taken its toll, especially on the north west, where masses of freestone have been removed, leaving holes in the ground like bomb craters, and the main block of rock art (West Lordenshaw) bears every sign of the quarrying process. Add to that a network of other walls, including those for sheilings (temporary herds' houses and gardens), and it is likely that we have lost a large proportion of rock art. Lordenshaw represents a highly important archaeological area, given the number periods clearly represented, set in a stunning Northumberland landscape.
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