Yorkshire, in northern England, is famous for its beautiful countryside where hikers pass through remote moors and climb rugged hills. They can also explore an enduring mystery of Europe’s past.
Yorkshire has some of England’s largest concentrations of prehistoric rock art. Drawings of recognizable animals or objects are rare. Instead, most are abstract images like these “cup and ring marks,” seen here in this photo by T.J. Blackwell taken in Hangingstones Quarry above Ilkley Moor. They are shallow divots ground into the rock, surrounded by incised lines that often connect to the lines around other cup marks.
More examples can be seen on the so-called “Badger Stone,” also at Ilkley Moor, and shown below in this photograph by John Illingworth.
Archaeologists estimate them to be about 4,000 years old, dating to the transition from the late Neolithic to the early Bronze Age. They’re found in various regions of Europe and hundreds of them can be seen on Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire.
Nobody knows why prehistoric people went through so much trouble to make them. Some researchers have suggested they were territorial markers, or had a ritual purpose. Others think they were some sort of primitive writing. Now hikers can come to their own conclusions by downloading a GPS trail through Ilkley Moor that takes them to some of the best sites. The hike starts and ends at a parking lot and takes about two hours. The Friends of Ilkley Moor created this easy-to-follow hike and have created other hikes as well.
It’s good to note that all examples of rock art are Scheduled Ancient Monuments and it is a crime to damage them.
Photo courtesy John Illingworth.