Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

5000 year old mysterious ancient design carvings hailed as untapped tourist attraction

© Jamie WilliamsonGordon Morrison at the top of Waulking Mill Road in Faifley where there are some large rocks with cup and ring cravings possibly dating back to neolithic times…..
Gordon Morrison at the top of Waulking Mill Road in Faifley where there are some large rocks with cup and ring cravings possibly dating back to neolithic times…..

The patterns of circles, dots and swirls have mystified and intrigued the curious for generations but remain shrouded in mystery 5,000 years after being carved into unforgiving rock.

Perhaps, some have hypothesised, the complex patterns are messages to aliens or maybe they chart the movement of the stars or the passage of time.

But Gordon Morrison, who has studied them for decades, has a down-to-earth explanation – stone-age mums were trying to keep their kids occupied.

“My theory is that Neolithic mothers had to give their kids something to do, you know, something to occupy themselves,” he said. “So they said right, knock me a picture into that rock, and that’s how these things have come about.

“If you say that to an archaeologist they throw their arms up in horror and look at you as if you’re an alien, but it’s as good a theory as any other.”

Gordon is one of dozens of volunteers from Faifley in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, and further afield who have helped out a project to map and list ancient rock art sites in and around Auchnacraig Park.

Central to them is the best-known, the Cochno stone, said to be one of the finest examples of cup-and-ring marked stones in Europe.

There are about 20 other stones across many acres with similar markings.

Knowes Housing Association is hoping to turn the carvings – one of the finest collections of its type in Europe – into a tourist attraction that will help breathe life into businesses and help boost the estate, which features in the index of Scotland’s most deprived neighbourhoods.

There will be signs to explain what’s known about the rock art, such as how the carvings were done in the first place. It is thought the softer stone of the hillsides was probably carved using hard pieces of quartz, some of which can still be found embedded in the rock.

Why it was done, and why it’s always the same shallow cups, often with perfectly circular rings around them, is much harder to fathom.

As well as Gordon’s, there are around 100 other theories as to how the Faifley rocks came to be inscribed with the curious markings, according to Dr Kenny Brophy from Glasgow University.

The archaeologist is leading the project to clean, map and photograph the stones, with 3D imagery used to record every detail of the Neolithic or early Bronze Age carvings.

Around 15 years ago he led the re-excavation of the Cochno stone, covered up during the 1970s due to vandalism, carefully cataloguing its carvings using modern techniques.

He says the other stones are, in many ways, just as interesting.

They are common across Europe, and the Faifley stones are among thousands in Scotland, but it can never be known for sure what the markings signified.

“There has been lots of ink spilled in trying to make sense of what these symbols mean but ultimately that’s an impossible question to answer,” he said.

“Even if we had someone here now from the Neolithic era, who was actually carving the symbols, I still think we’d be scratching our heads over it. That’s because the cultural world people were living in, in prehistory, was so different from ours.

“If someone from the Neolithic was to turn up and see a car or a mobile phone, it’d blow their minds, and this is similar – we’d have our minds blown if we could go back in time and see what this is all about.”

But the fact that he’ll never know for sure doesn’t mean Kenny can’t use his imagination, just like Gordon.

“I sometimes wonder if you can see these sites as places that were believed to be portals to another world… or the underworld,” he said.

“These were places where the real world met the supernatural, the wormholes between the two.

“The symbols might be to stop things coming into this world, to protect people as magical symbols.

“They might be related to this being a place that’s mysterious or dangerous or powerful.

“These could have been exciting dangerous, magical places in prehistory and that’s why they had to be marked like this.”

It’s intended to become the centre of rock-art studies in Scotland, putting Faifley, with its four-storey blocks and grey-harled homes perched high on the hill above the Clyde, on the map as a visitor destination.

Brophy says the archaeological richness of the site means that should be perfectly possible.

“Some people might laugh at the idea of Faifley as a tourist attraction,” he said. “But the archaeology and the heritage here is spectacular so why not?”