Rock of ages - rare find in Brecon Beacons

Prehistoric rock art find in Brecon Beacons © National Trust

Prehistoric rock art find in Brecon Beacons

Rock art recently discovered on our land in the Brecon Beacons was probably a primitive waymarker helping Bronze Age communities to find their way around prehistoric Wales.

Alan Bowring, a geologist and Fforest Fawr Geopark Officer at Brecon Beacons National Park Authority unexpectedly noticed a series of prehistoric engravings late last year, while out investigating geological features on our land in the area.

He spotted a rock with some unusual markings on it and, sensing this was unusual, he sought further advice from Brecon Beacons National Park archaeologist Natalie Ward.

The finding was then confirmed as being Bronze Age and the first prehistoric rock engraved panel recorded in the Brecon Beacons by Dr George Nash, archaeologist and specialist in prehistoric and contemporary art, at Bristol University.

He concluded 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.

Unique discovery

Our own archaeological survey had already highlighted Bronze Age features in the area and gave some context to the stone’s past.

‘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’, said Dr Nash.

Joe Daggett, our Countryside Manager for Brecon, said: ‘This is a very exciting and special find. The confidence in its origins are 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 National Park Authority support, have been liaising with Cadw (the Welsh Government's historic environment service) to start the process.

As the largest conservation charity in Europe, we are all about looking after special places and things for people to experience, and this is a very unique find in a very special part of Wales.’

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's possible that it was once standing (further archaeological investigation may be able to confirm this). Dr Nash explained 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.

Alan Bowring, who discovered the stone, concluded: 'I often find myself working and walking in remote locations, and encountering hidden features in the landscape of south and mid Wales that few others will have seen. But this chance discovery, made whilst looking for clues to the site's exciting geological history, appears to be significant in our understanding of human cultural history in the region.'