Cup-and-Ring Stone: OS Grid Reference – SO 9875 2825
Archaeology & History
A rare find this! In October 1981, in deepest Gloucestershire on the edge of the Nottingham Hill Iron Age hillfort, archaeologists sifting through what they ostensibly called “occupational debris” along the western edge of the huge enclosed monument, found a singular piece of local oolitic limestone etched with an archetypal cup-and-ring design! The carving was on a typical ‘portable’ piece of stone and would not have been amiss had it been uncovered in a neolithic or Bronze Age cairn in our more northern climes. But this southern example is something of an anomaly.
In Morris & Marshall’s (1983) description of the stone they told how,
“it was found as a loose block lying with the worked surface uppermost, and half-embedded in the plough-soil, together with other slabs and irregular lumps of oolitic limestone of similar size, and of closely related rock-type. The object is a discreet slab with an unworked under-surface weathered by percolation of ground-water along a joint.”
They found that the carved stone was typical of other rocks making up the ramparts at the outer-edges of the hillfort, and at some point in its history may possibly having been included in the walled structures of the fortress itself. However, this is unlikely to have been the original use of the carving. Its inclusion in the Iron Age ramparts would more be a likely consequence of it being appropriated from another, much earlier archaeological site in the area — a chambered tomb or long barrow for example. This re-use of cup-marked stones in the Cotswolds is known to have occurred in the village of Salford, on the church cross-base, 18.75 miles (30.2km) east of here.
The Nottingham Hill cup-and-ring was described in some detail by Morris & Marshall (1983). The rock on which it was carved measured one square-foot in size and barely 3 inches thick. The central cup-mark measured,
“approximately 15.5cm in diameter, and a shallow radial groove (channel 1) leads from it to the edge of the stone. The central cup-mark is surrounded close to its lip by a penannular channel or ‘ring’ (channel 2), which has a small depression at one end. This end of channel 2 appears to be discontinuous with channel 1, but there is a very lightly pecked connection at the other end. Outside channel 2 is a second shallower ring or channel (channel 3) but because of its shallowness it is difficult to determine whether it links with the radial channel 1. Channel 3 contains a clear, small cup-mark part-way along its length, and is quite definite on one side of the central cup-mark, and on the other side it is possibly mirrored by a rather indistinct depression or cup-mark and length of channel. Channel 3 is not continuous throughout its length, ending where it meets the edge of the stone beyond the small cup-marks.”
It is obvious that the carving, whenever it was made, was not subjected to long-term exposure to the outside air, as the carved design would have eroded quite quickly on the oolitic limestone.
- Morris, Ronald W.B. & Marshall, Alistair, “A Cup and Ring Marked Stone from Nottingham Hill, Gotherington,” in Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Transactions, volume 101, 1983.
- Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, England, Ancient and Historical Monuments in the County of Gloucester: Volume 1 – Iron Age and Romano-British Monuments in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, HMSO: London 1976.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian