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Home > Auctions > 7th September 2021 > 'The Whixall' Early Bronze Age Cup-and-Ring Monolith

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LOT 0452

GBP (£) 5,000 - 7,000
EUR (€) 5,880 - 8,230
USD ($) 6,970 - 9,760

Bid History: 3   |   Current bid: £3,200

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Bid History: 3   |   Current bid: £3,200

'The Whixall' Early Bronze Age Cup-and-Ring Monolith

Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age, c.2500-1500 BC

A large Permio-Triassic new red sandstone block of roughly triangular shape with one broad face showing pecked ‘cup-and-ring’ and other marks including the main element comprising a central circular ‘cup’ enclosed within four concentric pecked rings extending to approximately 23cm in diameter; from the centre of this element extends a straight linear ‘gutter’ some 26cm long aligned directly towards the pointed top of the block and terminating in another ‘cup’ depression with pecked half ring above; in addition, several peck mark areas are seen below the main ‘cup-and-ring’ element. 56.7 kg, 64cm (25 1/4"). Fine condition, weathered. Unique and a find certainly of regional and possibly of national importance.

Found whilst excavating a driveway in Whixall, Shropshire, UK, by James Dowley on 16 June 2018 in a peat deposit at a depth of one meter; accompanied by a copy of the Portable Antiquities Scheme report number HESH-43C477 with discussion by Dr George Nash; a report including X-ray images by Peter Reavill, British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme; and a copy of Spring 2021 Whitchurch History and Archaeology Group news letter where this piece is featured; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10831-178319.

Portable Antiquities Scheme, reference HESH-43C477; Whitchurch History and Archaeology Group news letter, Spring 2021; see Nash, G. H., Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historic Society, forthcoming.

See Beckensall, S., Prehistoric Rock Art in Britain Amberley, 2009; Morris, R. W. B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Great Britain, Prehistoric Society 55, pp.48-88; Nash, G. H., Mazel, A. and Waddington, C., Metaphor as Art: The Prehistoric Rock-art of Britain, Archaeopress, 2007, pp.175-203; Wakeman, William F., Archaeologia Hibernica - A Hand-Book of Irish Antiquities, Dublin, 1891, figures, pp.32-34, showing very similar marks on stones found in County Donegal (copies of these included with this lot).

The oldest piece of art ever discovered in Shropshire.

Megaliths and other stones that have been enigmatically decorated with pecked cup-and-ring and other marks are well known in the British Isles and in Ireland, as well as in some areas of mainland Europe. They appear where the local geology provides a source of material or where erratic boulders, left behind when the glaciers retreated at the ending of the last Ice Age, are found. Examples have been discovered in Northumberland, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Cumbria in northern England but this appears to be the first example ever to have been found in the Shropshire area; others are known from Scotland and Ireland.

The purpose or meaning of these markings remains uncertain but it has been suggested that they could have been placed on boundary markers, on stones used in chamber tombs or have been connected with sacred sites. The design of a central cup depression surrounded by four concentric pecked rings appears quite frequently, at sites spread across Britain and northern Europe; some are on pillars or standing stones, others on very large in-situ boulders; many show very considerable weathering from being exposed on the surface for millennia.

The base of this piece appears to be less eroded and patinated than seen to the other surfaces so it has been suggested that this could be the apex of a standing stone monolith.

It has been stated by Nash that the closest parallel to the Whixall Stone is seen with the Llwydiarth Esgob Stone, now sited away from its original context, in a private garden.