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Traprain Law Rock Art

Traprain Law Rock Art (cast) © National Museums of Scotland

Back in 1931, an exciting discovery was made on Traprain Law, an ancient and important hillfort which for years had been used for quarrying. The quarry superintendent was preparing a new area for blasting, when he noticed marks and lines on some of the rocks.

George Tait in the 1930s

George Tait, 1930s; courtesy of Jean McKinnon

He contacted a local archaeologist, JS Richardson, who was Inspector of Ancient Monuments. Richardson arranged for casts to be made of the rock before blasting, and the casts were taken to the Museum of Antiquities. However, George Tait, a local farmer, managed to keep one of the pieces of rock. George’s daughter Jean McKinnon donated it to the National Museum of Scotland. It is on display at the John Gray Centre for the first time.

Rock art

Traprain Law Rock Art (cast) © National Museums of Scotland

Recent research has shown how extraordinary the rock carvings from Traprain Law are. The rocks show cup and ring marks but uniquely they are covered by many incised lines making complex designs. They were made with a sharpened flint or a metal tool. The patterns show more similarity to the decoration on Bronze Age pottery than to other rock carvings.

Click on the picture of the cast of the rock art here for a larger version of the image. Which symbols can you find?

Can you find George Tait’s piece of rock in the main image?

Rock Art recovered by George Tait
Rock Art recovered by George Tait

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