Exploring Waterford's Ancient Monuments

Cup-Marks - early form of Rock Art




Cup-Marks were an early form of rock art.

They are a simple circular depression made in stone sometimes found elaborated with outer circle carvings. How they were made is unknown, as they don’t appear to have been chiselled by some tool but more likely made by some circular grinding method as very often the cup shaped circle seems quite smooth and uniform. A notable example of this art is the series of carvings on the Mothel stone which is exhibited at University College Cork.

Occasionally they are found on standing stones such as the ones at Kilmovee and Corbally More. The size of the cup marks on these stones is approx 40cm.

The true reason behind their creation is unknown. Some research suggests that on single examples, the markings indicate a focus of ancient earth energies or in local folklore the possibility of they being sacrificial stones.

Another theory is that chiseled out stone powder may have been placed along with burials as a talisman or that the revered stone may have even provided a key ingredient in certain medicines.

Interestingly, the Waterford examples found on standing stones have their cup marks at much different levels. The one at Kilmovee is quite near to the top of the stone while the Corbally is a lot more closer to ground level.


Article first published July 2010

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